The ‘Dalit’ President and the question of representation



The year was 2009, I was in my final year – under graduation and there happened a week-long orientation towards facing campus placements. In one of the group sessions, a debate on the policy of Reservation was arranged. The session evidenced angst, typical of upper caste students against 'Reservation'. Being naïve, and a novice, yet with a conviction and burden to defend the policy, I still ended up being silenced by a powerful rhetoric that day.

"Ambedkar fixed a timeline of 10 years to end Reservation"
"Ambedkar wanted to end Reservation, as and when a Dalit could become President of India"

ram nath kovind meira kumar

It is amusing as to how Dr Ambedkar could be misquoted and falsely attributed with such an authority by men and women who despise him and his ideals. The person who falsely attributed the second quote to Dr Ambedkar was referring to K R Narayanan and how this feat should seal any further claims for Reservation. The premise was that the feat of becoming a President of India is somehow untenable for Dalits and an impression that Dalits are worshippers of Dr Ambedkar and how the mere appellation would help one win an argument over Dalits, even if it's a false attribution. This scheme had its larger canvas during the debate on Shankar Pillai's caricature of Dr Ambedkar published by NCERT1, a debate which involved repeated quotation of Dr Ambedkar on hero-worship and how the same was thrust on Dalits who were pointing to the obvious contempt in Shankar Pillai's Cartoon.


Justice Karnan: A man caught up in the whirlwind of ideals


Dharmaraj Kumar

dharma raj kumarI have been thinking of whether to write something to pursue the so-called 'curious case of Justice Karnan'- the title that flooded the mainstream media and finally brought Justice Karnan behind bars.

So many articles, editorials, cover stories, social media reports etc., have been published in mainstream newspapers, magazines, research magazines and video channels on this matter. And unsurprisingly, all of them have categorically declared him a culprit on the charge of contempt of court. From where I see it, all of them started with the title 'curious' and ended in the brutal murder of all such 'curiosity', even compromising the legal acumen in the process.

Well, I fail to restrain myself from opening up as to how I think about the case of Justice Karnan.

The case was first brought to my attention through one of my colleagues, who is Tamil. It was being laughed off as some idiotic behavior and the discussions were mostly about blaming him for making a mockery of the justice system.

I have been pursuing the story of Justice Karnan from 2013 when Frontline published his interview on his verdict over 'live-in relationships'. He became more vulnerable with each passing year, for being in the judiciary, as he had already filed a case of corruption against the judges of the Madras High Court in 2011.


Why RSS can’t accept even a Sanghi SC/ST/OBC Judge?


S Kumar

Nomination of Mr. Ram Nath Kovind for the presidential position has again brought the caste politics to the forefront of Indian politics. While a Brahmin appointment like the outgoing President Pranab Mukherjee was free of caste noise, the appointment of Mr. Kovind with his Dalit identity is the trending topic across media.

indian judiciary

Congress had also earlier supported a Dalit President's election (K R Narayanan, nominated by the United Front in 1997) and a Lok Sabha Speaker. However, Congress hardly made any effort to appoint any Dalit or OBC in the judiciary. Only a few Dalits have entered higher judiciary in the last 70 years. Even the few Dalits i.e. Justice Ramaswamy, Justice Dinakaran, Justice Karnan, Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, who got any chance to work in the judiciary, had to face severe discrimination and mostly left the office in disgrace.


आर्य आक्रमण और भारत के पतन और अपेक्षित उत्थान के प्रश्न


संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe)

sanjay jotheअभी एक महत्वपूर्ण जेनेटिक रिसर्च सामने आई है जो आर्य आक्रमण थ्योरी को सही सिद्ध कर रही है. अभी तक मेट्रीलिनियल डीएनए (स्त्रीयों से प्राप्त) की रिसर्च इस दिशा में बहुत मदद नहीं कर पाई थी. लेकिन अब हाल ही में जो वाय क्रोमोसोम (पुरुषों से प्राप्त) डीएनए की रिसर्च आई है वह सिद्ध करती है कि अतीत में (जो काल आर्य आक्रमण का काल माना जाता है ) उस दौर में भारतीय जीन पूल में एक बड़ा बाहरी मिश्रण हुआ है. ये संभवतः यूरेशिया से आये आर्यों के आक्रमण और धीरे धीरे उनकी मूल भारतीय जनसंख्या में मिश्रण को बतलाता है.

इस नई रिसर्च को कुछ हाल ही की अन्य रिसर्च से जोड़कर सरल भाषा में यहाँ रखना चाहता हूँ. ये नवीन रिसर्च उन पुराने अध्ययन परिणामों के साथ एक गजब की कहानी कहते हैं. आये इसे विस्तार से समझें:


Why the Sangh needs Ram Nath Kovind


Mangesh Dahiwale

mangesh dahiwaleThe President of India is a ceremonial post. It is often compared with the "rubber stamp". But as the head of state, it is also a prestigious post. The orders are issued in his name and proclamations bear his name. He is the Supreme Commander in Chief of the armed forces. The post is powerful in different ways and the President of India is elected by the electorate college constituted by all the members of the state legislative assemblies and members of the houses of Parliament.

By all calculations, the NDA has an upper hand over the UPA. The candidate nominated by the NDA is sure to win the Presidential polls. Hence, soon-to-be His Excellency, Kovind, is set to become India's President. Mr. Kovind is a Dalit. But like many other castes, his caste also been put in different categories in different states. His caste comes under SC category in the state of UP, and the same caste comes under the OBC category in the state of Gujarat. In the state of Gujarat, the Kolis constitute 18 percent of Gujarat population. Kolis in Gujarat are an interesting category for various reasons. Mr. Kovind is the President of Akhil Bhartiya Koli Samaj.


यूजीसी के इस फैसले से बदल जाएगा भारत में उच्च शिक्षा का परिदृश्य


अरविंद कुमार और दिलीप मंडल

'नीयत' यानी इंटेंशन अगर सही नहीं हो तो भारतीय दर्शन परंपरा में महिमामंडित 'न्याय' और 'नीति' का समागम भी समतामूलक आदर्श समाज की संरचना नहीं कर सकता।

 विश्वविद्यालय अनुदान आयोग ने 'राष्ट्रीय पात्रता परीक्षा (नेट)' में एससी, एसटी, ओबीसी व विकलांग वर्ग को दिये जाने वाले आरक्षण के नियम में भारी बदलाव किया है। नए नियम के अनुसार अब केवल 6 प्रतिशत कैंडिडेट्स को ही नेट परीक्षा में सफल घोषित किया जाएगा, और उसके बाद विषयवार रिज़र्वेशन दिया जाएगा।

syam phd

 यूजीसी ने ऐसा नियम, केरल हाई कोर्ट के जनवरी में दिये गए उस निर्णय के अनुपालन में बनाया है, जिसमें कोर्ट ने आरक्षित समूह के कैंडिडेट्स को दिये जाने वाले कट आफ मार्क्स में छूट को अनारक्षित वर्ग के कैंडिडेट्स के खिलाफ भेदभाव पूर्ण करार दिया था। हाई कोर्ट के इस निर्णय के अनुपालन में यूजीसी ने एक कमेटी बनाई है, जिसने पिछले दो दशक के अपने डाटा के अध्ययन में पाया है कि पिछले दो दशक से लगभग 68-92 प्रतिशत आरक्षित वर्ग के कैंडिडेट्स ने नेट की परीक्षा पास की है, जबकि सभी वर्गों को मिला कर औसतन 5.5-6 प्रतिशत कैंडिडेट ही नेट परीक्षा पास करते हैं।

 ऐसे में इस कमेटी ने सुझाव दिया है कि सबसे पहले कुल 6 प्रतिशत कैंडिडेट्स को ही नेट परीक्षा में पास होने दिया जाये, और उसके बाद उस 6 प्रतिशत में चयनित कैंडिडेट्स में से ही कैंडिडेट ढूंढकर विषयवार नेट पास करने का सर्टिफिकेट दिया जाये। इस मामले में केन्द्रीय रिज़र्वेशन प्रणाली पहले 6 प्रतिशत के चयन पर लागू ना करके, केवल विषयवार लिस्ट तैयार करने में लागू की जाएगी। यह पूरा मामला उत्तर प्रदेश के त्रिस्तरीय आरक्षण के मामले जैसा दिखता हैं।


'The Manu Smriti mafia still haunts us': A speech by a Pakistani Dalit Rights Leader


Surendar Valasai

Probably the first comprehensive political statement for Dalit rights in Pakistan framed in the vocabulary of Dalitism was given in 2007 by Surendar Valasai, who is now the Media Cell Incharge, Bilawal House of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Although Dalit activists have been agitating and struggling in Pakistan since last 30 years, their articulation of Dalit issues remained confused and limited to social activism. Surendar Valasai was the one, along with Dr. Khatumal Jeewan (another PPP leader) who brought Dalitism on the macro political scene. Dalit leadership of PPP is the typical example of how the Dalit case can be projected within a political party; a party which has become the symbol of waderaism, landlordism and the upper caste hegemony. When any issue related to minority rights, human rights or Hindus is raised, these Dalit leaders try their best to argue essentially for Dalit rights despite all political compromises in a political milieu which is nothing but a political system based on caste democracy.

surendar valasai bilawal bhutto

Surendar Valasai, who is also founder-President of Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan, delivered a speech on July 1, 2007 in a workshop at the Central Secretariat, Pakistan People's Party, Karachi, in which he elaborated upon Dalit issues. I share here the text of that speech.



Vaishya vs. Vaishya


Bobby Kunhu

kunhuSince Amit Shah exclaimed on June 9th at Raipur, "Aur isi liye Mahatma Gandhi ne durandesi ke saath, bahut chatur baniya tha woh, usko maloom tha aage kya hone waala hai, usne azadi ke baad turant kaha tha, Congress ko bikher dena chahiye" (Translation: and this is why Mahatma Gandhi with much foresight, and he was like a clever Baniya who knew what was to come, suggested after independence the Congress be disbanded) – a storm has been raised – essentially by the Congress. Many otherwise well-informed and well-meaning people also have condemned Amit Shah because they are shocked that someone could refer to Gandhi in non-deferential terms.


Babasaheb’s Statue Vandalized: Bengal’s Realm of Caste maliciousness


 Pinak Banik

On the midnight of 29th May, a marble bust of Babasaheb Ambedkar was found disfigured. This statue was installed 17 years ago inside the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Sishu Uddyan (Children’s park) at Shayamaprasad Nagar, Nimta, North Dumdum, Ward num. 9. The bust was found by joggers the next morning in the sewer drain beside the park. 15 days have passed since then and no administrative intervention has yet been conducted in this regard. A FIR was filed on 4th June and till date, there is neither any information provided by the police regarding the perpetrators behind this act of casteist infraction nor any clarification of the details of the atrocious affair. Ambedkarite individuals and organizations are agitating in various places around the region since the very day of the incident. Some Bahujan journalists have already reported this on few Bangla dailies, web portals and outrage is spreading on social media.  

 pinak statue4


Gandhi's Caste and Guha's Upper Caste Identity Politics


Nidhin Shobhana

n shobhanaIn today's editorial page of Indian Express, Ramachandra Guha has written an essay by the title 'Does Gandhi have a Caste?'[1] In the essay, Guha tries really hard to establish how Gandhi swept against caste, weaved against caste, sanitized toilets against caste, so on and so forth. He also quotes extensively from a White Jewish friend of Gandhi to argue how he was a Vaisya, Brahmin, Kshatriya and Shudra in his actions, all at the same time. What is interesting is how the White Jew and Guha seem happy with the basic Varna scheme and its fixed definitions for Brahmins (Teacher), Kshatriya (Protector), Vaisya (Entrepreneur) and Shudra (Servant).

If we were to apply Kancha Illiah's definitions to the Varna Scheme, a Brahmin would be a 'Spiritual Fascist', Vaisya would be a 'Social Smuggler' and Shudras/ Ati-Shudras/ Adivasis would be 'unpaid teachers, scientists, economists, social doctors, engineers and food producers'. So can we say that Gandhi was a spiritual fascist and a social smuggler and a food producer at the same time? A difficult proposition indeed.

Dr. B.R.Ambedkar in his reply to Gandhi in the aftermath of Annihilation of Caste (AoC) points out that the Varna Scheme, in whatever form, will degenerate into or produce castes leading to practices of caste-supremacy and untouchability.


Archiving the Complex Genealogies of Caste and Sexuality: An Interview with Dr. Anjali Arondekar


Anjali Arondekar

This interview emerged as a series of email exchanges between Rohan Arthur and Dr. Anjali Arondekar who works on the Gomantak Maratha Samaj archives, following Rohan's tribute essay on Kishori Amonkar titled Kishori Amonkar: Assertion, Erasure, Reclamation. The interview was conducted with inputs from James Michael and Akshay Pathak.

kalvant amonkar

Can you describe the historical origins of the Gomantak Maratha Samaj, its bifurcation into the Naik Maratha Samaj and Nutan Maratha Samaj? Most importantly, can you talk about the Samaj's complex relationship with OBC classification? Some news reports suggest that the Samaj did not want to be classified as OBC. Does this have something to do with the caste constituency of the Samaj? Was/Is the Samaj being ideologically driven by the relatively more affluent castes within its fold? What do the other lesser-privileged castes within the fold think of this conflictual relationship with the classification?

First, let me begin with some broad historical information, and then I'll get to the more weighty and thorny question of how caste mutates as an attachment within different regional formations of the collectivity. My sense (from now having worked in the Gomantak Maratha Samaj archives for over a decade) is that its history is an open secret (to borrow a phrase from sexuality studies!). Often referred to as Bharatatil ek Aggressor Samaj (an aggressive community in India), this collectivity is routinely lauded (by the left and the right in India) for its self-reform and progress. From the immortal Mangeshkar sisters (Lata and Asha), to the first chief minister of independent Goa, Dayanand Bandodkar, there are few sectors of Indian society where the presence of Samaj members cannot be felt. In other words, we celebrate the Gomantak Maratha Samaj's (henceforth the GMS) success as a collectivity, even as we disavow or simply erase the very histories of sexuality that produce its success in the first place. The recent passing of Kishori Amonkar is a case in point. While she has been memorialized as the stalwart musician and pioneer that she was, most of the articles I have read about her routinely elide her relationship to the GMS. Even when that relationship is cited (as it has been in the pages of this site as well), it is cast in the usual language of tragedy –- calling on readers to remember her as an OBC, via an iconography of loss and paucity. I have always found such tragic recuperations of the GMS troubling as the history I know, have studied, and indeed lived (as a member of GMS myself) speaks to more complex genealogies of caste and sexuality. Kishoritai, for example, was a very visible and supportive member of the Samaj, and I myself remember attending many Samaj functions in which she participated and or sang. In fact, the most recent monthly publication of the GMS (the Gomant Sharada) celebrates her many contributions and significance to the GMS in lively and joyful terms. The challenge here is how do we tell a history of caste, gender and sexuality that is not always a history of loss and erasure?


Mission Impossible: RSS Goal of Hindu Rashtra by 2023


Mangesh Dahiwale

mangesh dahiwaleIt has become clear recently that the RSS/BJP is making its agenda open. The agenda is to make India a Hindu nation by 2025 to mark 100 years of foundation of the RSS. One of the outfits of the RSS, Hindu Janajagriti Samiti (HJS), the offshoot of infamous Sanatan Sanstha founded by Pandurang Athawale is holding a seminar to this effect: the point of discussion is how to make India a Hindu country. The readers who might be unfamiliar with Sanatan Sanstha should know that this is the terrorist organisation that gunned down Dabholkar, Pansare, and Kalburgi. It claimed the responsibility of the killings. This organisation brainwashes the youths and makes them terrorists.

 What would the Hindu Rashtra look like?

 When the RSS/BJP talks about Hindu nation, they ultimately talk about the rules of the Smriti, particularly Manu Smriti. They abhor the idea of India for all. For them, India belongs to the Brahmins, it was a dying wish of Tilak that he wanted the rule of the Brahmins back. He opposed the rights of the OBCs and SCs tooth and nail. The Hindu Rashtra will be run by the deep state in the form of RSS. Actually, though on the papers India is not a Hindu Rashtra, in practice, it is a Hindu Rashtra. The RSS is right at the centre of all powers. It is running the Government and it provides a steel frame to further its hidden agenda.


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