The Double Dhamaka of being a Brahmin Revolutionary


Rajesh Rajamani

Rajesh Rajamani newRecently, when 'Kabali' director Pa Ranjith introduced 'The Casteless Collective', an initiative that attempts to politicize and mainstream 'Gaana' music (considered to be a musical form of the oppressed), he was accused of bringing caste into art. Popular Tamil singer Srinivas from the Iyengar community rubbished the initiative on his social media account and termed it 'pseudo' and 'pointless'. He wanted Pa Ranjith to talk about caste elsewhere and not bring it to music. News 7, a Tamil news channel went on to carry a debate titled "Is Pa Ranjith forcing caste into art?" On the other hand, when another Iyengar TM Krishna initiated the Uroor-Olcott Kuppam Marghazi Vizha in 2015, an effort that took Carnatic music to a fisher-folk village, he was hailed across various quarters for making music transcend caste barriers. (Because, why not?)

Unsurprisingly, caste seems to work this way. Even the privilege to remain casteless is only made available to Savarnas. Which is why in spite of all the half-baked things that TM Krishna says, writes and does, he is going to be thrust on us as a revolutionary. Whenever one remarks something critical about TM Krishna's 'radical' initiatives, it is always met with responses that claim "But hey, he is at least doing something. So we can't completely reject him!" or the even more boring, "Do you know how many Brahmins hate him for the radical things he is doing?" (A big yawn.)


Bhima-Koregaon is History not a Myth: A Rejoinder to Teltumbde’s Lie


Ratnesh Katulkar

ratneshAnand Teltumbde in a recent article claimed that the Dalits' role in the legendary Bhima Koregaon battle is just a myth. But it is promoted well by the Dalits, including Dr Ambedkar. While leveling this charge Teltumbde, however, doesn't present any evidence to support his argument. His approach in this statement was similar to the approach of one biased brahmanic-Marxist Ramvilas Sharma, who in one of his books, 'Gandhi, Ambedkar and Lohia Aur Itihas ki Samasyaein', challenged the existence of the caste system and untouchability in medieval India by saying that if King Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda helped Ambedkar in getting his higher studies abroad, how could the caste system and untouchability still exist at that time. Sharma's second argument is 'if it is expected that the Gaikwads of Baroda were themselves Sudras then how could the caste system exist.' Thus based on these two stupid comments he argues, that both the statements together or independently suggest that there was no caste system or untouchability in India, the way it is presented today1.

Any ordinary student of history or a lay Dalit activist could easily understand the bluff and the stupidity of Ramvilas Sharma's above comments but despite this and much other wrong analysis, Sharma is a favorite author of Hindi's renowned publishers. Similar is the case of Teltumbde, who is famous for his biased rhetoric and his illogical comments but is a beloved author of mainstream media. It is even strange that though Teltumbde always opposes reservation for SCs and STs, but the famous journal Economic & Political Weekly reserves a column 'Margin Speak' exclusively for him!


As I witnessed Bhima-Koregoan


Sharda Navale

prachi navaleThe Vijay Sthamb (Victory Pillar) at Bhima Koregaon, is a symbol of pride and self-esteem for Bahujan Samaj. It’s the source of inspiration for many. To pay homage and respect to the ancestors and great martyr soldiers of the Bhima Koregaon Battle and also to participate in ‘Rajya-sthariya Bouddha Sahitya Sammelan’ (State-level Buddha Literature Convention) held at Sanaswadi, other poets and I along with activists were present at Bhima Koregaon for two days namely 31.12.2017 – 01.01.2018

On 01.01.2018, an armed mob violently attacked Bhima Koregaon, Shikrapur, Sanaswadi, Perne and brought these villages to halt. Peaceful and un-armed Bahujan who gathered at Bhima Koregaon, to pay homage, were cowardly attacked by casteists mobs in which many vehicles were damaged, and several people were injured and bleeding. The roads were blocked, and right from morning they forcefully closed shops in order to deprive gathered people of food or water. People from buildings nearby were pelting stones and bottles. Even you must have seen news and videos of the same.


Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra-wide updates


Bhima-Koregaon 2018 statewide updates

Round Table India is documenting the ongoing large-scale combing operations and arrests of young men from dalit communities in an atmosphere of near complete mainstream media blackout. 

Updates from Aurangabad

Criminal cases have been lodged against 7500 over the issue of stone pelting and rioting. 3000 have been booked under section 307. In CIDCO Police station alone cases against 6000 persons have been booked, says the following newspaper report. 

bhima cidco

Source: Sanjwarta Bureau, Aurangabad, 4th Jan 2018   

All across Maharashtra the authorities and mainstream media have neither confirmed the number of arrests, the number held nor rebutted the figures emerging in social media and local newspapers, few of them reporting as high as 20,000 persons being taken in. 

In Aurangabad, Round Table India's writers attest to the police action and extensive combing operations and arrests, some have been released while there is little known about the others.

When a group of women was going to Kranti Chowk to protest against Bhima Koregaon violence they were stopped and were asked to return. Then one old lady was seen confronting the police asking them 'what did they do in Bhima Koregaon?' All the women were reluctant to leave and that's when Police fired in the air. This was reported in the mainstream quoting the police version "Senior police officers said it was disturbing that women were spotted participating and pelting stones" whereas unarmed men and women who had gathered to protest were surrounded by armed police, lathi charged and taken into custody. 

Bhima cidco women

Aurangabad Police Commissioner, Yashasvi Yadav (of Muzzafarnagar riots fame), said that if "I had been in office during the combing operation in Aurangabad, I would have fractured 50 people at least. I would have shown them what police means."

Harsul central jail capacity is 800, activists believe a large number of arrested people were crammed here and rest were sent to nearby taluka jails. The open air jail in nearby Paithan has a capacity of 700 plus. Leaving the question wide open to imagine the state in which the protestors and the systematically targeted youth from dalit communities have been kept during the last week. This scale of civil rights violations of so many people is going bear heavily on dalit movements for a long time to come. 


Battle of Bhima Koregaon, Mahar Legacy and Contemporary Politics

Nitin Dhaktode

nitin daktodeIt is  to rvieting to witness the 'Akhil Bhartiya Brahman Mahasangh (ABBM) and Udaysinh Peshwa, a descendant of the Peshwas, ask the Pune police to deny permission for the Shaniwar Wada ('Elgar Parishad')event. Despite the fact that permission was granted by the Pune Municipal Corporation and Police Department, the Brahmanical organisations submitted their application to Mrs. Mukta Tilak, Mayor of the Pune Municipal Corporation (BJP) and Police Commissioner, Pune. Mrs. Mukta Tilak is known for her anti-reservation views and belongs to the family of Bal Gangadhar Tilak who was a strong opponent of Mahatma Phule and Dr. Ambedkar's anti-caste ideology.

Brahmanical groups have expressed their opposition to 'Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyan' (Campaign for the Celebration of Bhima Koregaon Victory) starting with the 'Elgar Parishad' on 31st December 2017 at Shaniwar Wada and the paying of tribute to Vijay Stambh (Victory Pillar) at Bhima Koregaon 30Km away from the Shaniwar Wada on 1st January 2018. Shaniwar Wada, the Peshwa's Mahal (House), is the place where the programme is being organised. The slogan of the organisers is: "Fight Against the Modern Peshwai"! The Peshwai is known for its brutality towards the formerly untouchable and Shudra communities.


The Great Gamble: Dr Ambedkar on Parliamentary Democracy (With transcript of his 1953 BBC interview)


Prameya M

Why did parliamentary democracy collapse so easily in Italy, Germany and Russia? Why did it not collapse so easily in England and the U.S.A? To my mind, there is only one answer. It is that there was a greater degree of economic and social democracy in the latter countries than existed in the former. Social and economic democracy are the tissues and fiber of a political democracy. The tougher the tissue and the fiber, the greater the strength of the body. ~ Dr. B.R Ambedkar1

dr-br-ambedkar seated

This year, 6th December 2017 marked the 61st Death Anniversary of Dr. B.R Ambedkar and a few days back (probably on 7th of December 2017) a video was released by BBC. The video is an interview of Ambedkar where he answered questions about the fate of parliamentary democracy in India. Many of us are aware that on several occasions he has wrestled with the idea of democracy in general and parliamentary democracy in particular. He firmly believed that "Parliamentary System of Government is much more than Government by discussion" and its successful working depends on two important aspects 1) Opposition 2) Free and fair elections. A "functional opposition" is important for a "free political life" without which democracy cannot sustain and "free and fair elections" ensure a peaceful transfer of power from "one section of the community to the other".


नितीन आगे हत्याकांड - खर्डा येथे नितीन च्या पालकांशी साधलेला संवाद


Bhagyesha Kurane

नितीन आगे हत्यांकाड प्रकरणी पुण्यातील काही विद्यार्थ्यांनी खर्डा या गावाला  भेट दिली व नितीनच्या आई वडिलांशी या घटने संदर्भात संवाद साधला.ह्या हत्यांकाडाचा तपास एकूणच कशाप्रकारे झाला, आरोपी निर्दोष होण्यामागील काय कारणे  होती, सरकारची भूमिका, इत्यादी बाबी जाणून घेण्याचा प्रयत्न केला. दलित हत्यांकाडाच्या केसेस हाताळत असताना सरकारी अनास्था कशाप्रकारे कार्यरत असते हे त्यांच्याशी केलेल्या संवादात अतिशय तीव्रतेने स्पष्ट होते.

एक अशिक्षित माय-बाप आजवर आपल्या मुलाच्या शिक्षणासाठी संघर्ष करत होते.पण येथील जातीयवादी व्यवस्थेने त्यांच्या मुलाला शिक्षण घेण्यापासून रोखले आणि जातीय हीनतेच्या भावनेतून त्याचा  खून केला. आज तेच माय बाप इतर कोणत्याही मुलामुलीवर ही वेळ येऊ नये म्हणून लढत आहेत, ते ही सनदशीर मार्गाने. नितीन च्या कुटुंबियांशी केलेला हा सर्व संवाद मुलाखत स्वरूपात आम्ही आपल्या समोर मांडत आहोत.

nitin family2

 प्रश्न - आपले मूळ गाव कोणते व खर्डा या गावात आपण किती वर्षे वास्तव्य करत आहात ?

उत्तर- राजू आगे (नितीन चे वडील) –आमचे मूळ गाव बीड जिल्ह्यातील धनजरवडा हे आहे.आम्ही यापूर्वी खर्डा पासून तीन किलो मीटरवर असणाऱ्या वाडीवर रहात होतो. पण गेली पंधरा वर्षापासून आम्ही खर्डा येथे राहात आहोत.


Caste system and the chains of mind


Tereza Menšíková

terezaVisiting India was my dream since childhood. Many stories were told by journalists, travelers, and fiction writers about the mysterious land of Mother India and they fascinated me. Therefore, as a young student of Sociology and the Study of Religions at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, my greatest wish was to travel beyond the borders of Europe and explore this land with my own eyes. Later, during my studies, I came across one book that changed the course of my academic and personal life for many years. It was a collection of poems and short stories by Dalit writers from Tamil Nadu. Their testimonies were filled with such strong emotions that I cried during the reading.

It had left me with a desire to learn more about the Dalit situation and the caste system in India. One name was mentioned in that book quite often and I had never heard it before, so it stuck in my mind. It was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. A person whose living legacy followed me later throughout India and gave me much inspiration. Finally, when the time came, and I could pursue my studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, I already knew what will be my research about – Buddhism, which Dr. B. R. Ambedkar revived, as a Dalit strategy of fighting against discrimination and social exclusion, and its connection to the caste system in Maharashtra. It seemed like a clear and simple task. How little I had known back then.


Why Dalits in Pakistan are reluctant to convert to Islam en masse!

Sufi Ghulam Hussain

sufi 2Mukhi, the panchayat headman of Oad [Dalit] community begged in the name of holy Gita and even threw his turban at Seetal's feet, but Seetal just didn't care much and replied:
"Mukhi! Do whatever you like, but I shall change my religion.
Mukhi: "But why after all you do, you want to change your religion?
Seetal: My choice, my wish simply.
Mukhi: Even then?
Seetal: I just don't like my religion. That's it.
Mukhi: Alas! Why on earth don't you like your religion?
Seetal: Alright Mukhi. Tell me who are we?
Mukhi: We are Hindus.
Seetal: Why then Hindus cremate the dead, whereas we bury them?
Mukhi: It's our ritual.
Seetal: Alright, Why do we eat goat after butchering it (like Muslims)?
Mukhi: This too is our ritual—since the times of old ancestors.
Seetal: But these are the rituals of Muslims!!
Mukhi: These are theirs. But ours too!!
Seetal: Then how can you say, we are Hindus?
Mukhi: Then what the heck are we, crank?
Seetal: Half-Half Hindus, half Muslim. Body of sheep, head of goat."

(Excerpt translated from Kafir, a short story by a renowned Sindhi writer, Naseem Kharal1)

This fictitious exchange of persuasive dialogue depicts many such events that have actually happened in the history of Sindh and brings out the dilemma of being an 'untouchable' Sindhi. Oad is a Dalit caste having the tradition of building mud houses by loading mud on donkeys. In this conversation, Seetal stands accused before the Oad community of betraying it by proclaiming that the Hindu religion is based on falsity. It infuriated all Oad attending that panchayat but they remained calm believing that Seetal has been bewitched by a Mullah (Islamic cleric). Mukhi just threw the final blow and said "Remember Seetal! No matter how lavishly you harness donkeys like horses, they will remain donkeys, and never become horses."


'I would differentiate between the Bahujan movement and Bahujan politics': Prof Vivek Kumar


Round Table India

Continued from here.

This is the second part of the transcription of Round Table India's interaction with Prof Vivek Kumar, Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, for the Ambedkar Age series of films.

Prof Vivek Kumar III

In the interview, Prof Vivek Kumar touches upon a vast range of subjects, including the contours of Indian politics in the last four decades, the Bahujan movement, Dalit assertion and literature etc. He talks about the conceptualisation of the Bahujan Movement by Saheb Kanshi Ram, and its evolution and growth over the years. He also shares experiences from his own participation in the movement as a journalist, researcher, teacher, writer and public intellectual.

The interview was conducted by Kuffir along with Pushpendra Johar, a research scholar, and produced by Gurinder Azad. It has been transcribed by Khushahal Thool and Vinay Shende.

In the Ambedkar Age series of videos, Round Table India aims to produce documentaries, interviews, and talks on contemporary issues, and debates from a Dalit Bahujan perspective.


Kuffir: After Mandal phase 1 & phase 2, Rohith Vemula happens. It is nearly 70 years since SC/ST reservations have been implemented. I was looking at the latest All India Higher Education Report and in central universities (around 58 or so), the combined population of SC/ST/OBC students is around 23%. In places like HCU (Hyderabad Central University), it was more. It was reaching a danger mark for the upper castes. So it was only natural that Dalit student groups were attacked. But this has been incessant. This has been the only opposition to the Modi Raj. Even national political parties have been trying to place themselves in the company of these student movements. But they (political parties) don't have not gone through any ideological challenge. They don't pose any ideological challenge to Modi. How do you view this whole situation - students being used as fodder and as the only energy that has been directed towards the state and the Modi raj?

Vivek Kumar: There are two ways to understand this. One, that there is an oppressive state acting on the democratizing university. Because there is a brahminical/manuwadi ideology which doesn't want that the lower strata, the suppressed, the excluded majority should be educated and there should be an emancipatory agenda of education. That is one way to look. Secondly, for me, which is more problematic is 'university as a site of discrimination'. This discrimination is devoid of state. Whether the state wants or not, this Institution, which is (becoming) the new home for the SC/ST/Minorities/Backward classes; they are thronging to these universities, and they will, because numerically they are dominant.


Defining Ambedkar: Icon or Ideal?


B. Prabakaran

Every year Ambedkar is celebrated and remembered across the globe, at least twice a year, on his birth and death anniversary by the political parties, social movements, NGOs and committed individuals at different venues. Of late, the dates are being observed in various international forums too. For the very first time, in the history of United Nations he was remembered last year on the 125th year of his birthday, more to the point Ambedkar has become a symbol for other marginal groups as well.


 There was a time if we look back when his writings were ignored; his photographs had been shunned in the government offices, seminars on his thoughts were deliberately precluded. No university had come forward to bring out his writings and speeches. Some of the academic institutions still maintain an intentional silence on Ambedkar and his 'ism'. Even today only few research centers have a full set of his voluminous writings.


From Brahmanism to Ambedkarism: An Ongoing Ontological Expedition


Yashwant Zagade

yashwant zagade 1I was raised in the suburbs of Mumbai in the 90s, at a time when Hindutva politics reached its peak for the first time after independence. I still remember how this political atmosphere influenced my childhood — I grew up sloganeering "Tai, Mai-Aakka vichar kara pakka ani magach dhanushybaanavar mara shikka" (sister, mother, and aunts, think clearly and decide firmly, pick only Dhanushybaan {bow and arrow} at the ballot box). I lived in Chunabhatti, which was traditionally dominated by the Shiv Sena. During my school days, I was not part of any socio-political activity. Later, when I began attending Junior college, I joined the newly formed local group called Janta Raja Sangahtana. The group had staunch belief in Hindutva ideology and were followers of Shivaji Maharaj. The group's main aim was to protect the Sanatan Hindu religion. It often used the tagline 'Mam Diksha-Hindu Raksha' (my oath: To protect Hindu Dharma) in their public programmes. The formation of this group was a political outcome of the strong presence of Shiv-Sena in Mumbai. The group was led by Maratha-caste youths. Through this group, at the age of eighteen, I began my socio-political life.

Looking at this past, I can now say that my caste location being Mali1 (gardener) played a critical role in the following of this ideology. My family traditionally followed 'Hinduism' and Warkari Sampradaya2. This cult of the Bhakti movement has historically upheld 'Hinduism' and strictly follows vegetarianism. So, until I completed my bachelor's degree, I did not encounter any alternate perspective other than 'Hinduism' towards understanding the world. Hindutva politics has its own way of operating – one born as a 'Hindu' unconsciously becomes a part of the Hindutva political project.


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