Dalit Feminism

M. Swathy Margaret

(First Published in Insight Youth Voices magazine in 2005)

I am a Dalit-middle-class, University educated, Telugu speaking Dalit-Christian-Woman. All these identities have a role in the way I perceive myself and the worlds I inhabit. I, as a Dalit woman, primarily write for Dalit women to uphold our interests. This statement of mine is necessary because if we do not define ourselves for ourselves, we will be defined by others – for their use and to our detriment. This voice is not representative of all Dalit women. However, I know that my voice is important because it is the voice of a socially denigrated category, suppressed and silenced.

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AIIMS: A Death Trap for Aspiring Reserved Category Students

Gurinder Singh Azad

[Gurinder Singh Azad, of the Dalit & Adivasi Students' Portal, was involved in the Death of Merit campaign against caste discrimination and suicides of Dalit, Adivasi students in India's premier educational institutions. The tragic death of Anil Kumar Meena, a tribal student from a marginalized background, in AIIMS brings back memories of the suspicious death, which was never fully investigated, of Dr Balmukund Bharti two years ago, also at AIIMS. Balmukund's death (please watch the testimonies of Dr Bharti's family on the circumstances, engineered in AIIMS, that brought about his death) had come three years after the Thorat Committee, appointed expressly to look into caste discimination in AIIMS had submitted its report. If the powers that be had bothered to seriously look into what the report said and worked on its recommendations Dr Bharti's death could have been avoided (please read what the Death of Merit campaign had discovered about 'Who killed Dr Balmukund Bharti in AIIMS?') and so could Anil Kumar Meena's death, perhaps.

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What is wrong with Bhagvad Gita? (Part III)

 

Rahul Bhalerao

Continued from here.

rahul_bhalerao_copy_copy_copyTo the question 'what do Karma and Guna exactly mean according to Gita?' a generic and philosophical meaning is proffered as the answer. According to this response, Karma is any act or deed, be it good or bad, which in turn produces good Karma or bad Karma respectively. But, irrespective of the best philosophical arguments one makes, based on one's own convenient interpretations, the subject dealt with in the Gita remains independent of those interpretations.

Yes, Gita does talk at length about good Karma, bad Karma, past Karma etc.; but it certainly does not use the term 'Karma' in a generic form throughout. This is why I said that defenders do not give a holistic picture while justifying Gita. Let us see what Gita says immediately after its declaration on the forming of the four-fold Varna system in verse 4.13:

From 4.14 onwards, Krishna goes on to explain what he means by Karma:

Chapter 4, Verse 15:

"Evam jnaatwaa kritam karma poorvair api mumukshubhih|

Kuru karmaiva tasmaat twam poorvaih poorvataram kritam||"

"Having known this, the ancient seekers after freedom also performed actions; therefore, do thou perform actions as did the ancients in days of yore."

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What is wrong with Bhagvad Gita? (Part II)

Rahul Bhalerao

Continued from here.

rahul_bhalerao_copyComing back to the justifications given by the supporters of Gita, one finds that they are merely based on a few ambiguous individual verses scattered around the Gita. They certainly lack the holistic understanding and message that Gita preaches; let alone the interpretations that have evolved in practice since the period of Gita. More significantly, what these theoretical interpretations display is the ignorance of the nature of the Caste system in everyday practice that has existed for thousands of years.

While one can make a hundred attempts at justifying that Caste as per the Gita is based on Karma alone and it is only meant for the good of society, but it would be a grave mistake to ignore the practical nature of Caste, which is based solely on birth for thousands of years, along with fixity of professions, disallowing of inter-dining and inter-marriages. Caste has not produced any good results for a large majority of the Indian society. It would be foolish to think that the wrong interpretations of a supposedly great text were only opportunistic and coincidental. To take a holistic look at what Gita really preaches, and what justifications its proponents give to its glorification of violence and caste, let us start by asking a few questions:

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What is wrong with Bhagvad Gita?

 

Rahul Bhalerao

rahul_bhalerao_copy_copyRecent controversies, both local and international, have sparked a series of discussions and debates in media and social networks about the Hindu holy book Bhagvad Gita. When the Karnataka Education minister decided to saffronize the education system by proposing Gita teachings to be made compulsory, the left, liberal and secular voices attacked the BJP for mixing secular education with religious propaganda.

On the other hand, when Russia decided to ban the holy book on the premise of its justifications for violence, the saffron parties found support in the same left, liberal and secular voices pitching against the Russian controversy, making it a national issue in the Parliament over cultural pride. So how is it that the book that is entitled to one faith is also accepted as the core of cultural values of the entire nation?

How is it that Hinduism, which can hardly be considered as one faith, a homage to hundreds of contradicting spiritual theories, a collection of traditions and rituals that are so exclusively different for each community, caste and region, with a bunch of religious texts including Vedas, Shastras, Puranas, Smritis, each one declaring themselves undisputable, unquestionable and still exhibiting contradictions both within and among themselves, has revered Bhagvad Gita which is only one section of the epic Mahabharata which had a singular purpose of justifying war, to be the one book that is the essence of the entire religion? And more than the one religion, why is it now being showcased as the essence of the entire Indian culture?

The proponents of Hinduism do not criticize one book in favor of the other. They do not even try to highlight the differences between these texts. What they really do is to interpret them in order to highlight how everything in them is highly spiritual, how they contain high moral values, how they are equivalent and coherent with the theories of modern science and how they alone propose solutions that are good for individuals and society at large. 

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'We will do a Chunduru on you!'

Desecration of Ambedkar statues: Truth is the first casualty (Part II)

Continued from here

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In this concluding part on the issue of desecration of Dr Ambedkar's statues in Andhra Pradesh, G Jhansi, of Dalit Sthree Sakthi,  maps for us the morphing forms of atrocities on dalit assertions. In her analytical narrative of the complex caste politics that sustains such horrendous acts, she brings to us the powerful message of 'We'll do a Chunduru now', the message of the Dalits who waged long, heroic battles against the perpetrators of organized killing and violence in places like Chunduru, Karamchedu, Pippara, Padirikuppam in the eighties and nineties, for justice. Symbolizing the Dalits' resolve, tenacity and conviction in the Ambedkarite path of confronting caste oppression.

~~~

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Desecration of Ambedkar statues: Truth is the first casualty

Truth, they say, is the first casualty in any war. Was it a caste war which triggered the series of desecrations of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statues in Andhra Pradesh, starting with the destruction of four statues in Amalapuram on the night of 22nd January? Was it the result of inter-group rivalry among State Congress leaders? Was it an effort to destabilize the Kiran Kumar Reddy government? Was it a clash of interests between elected Dalit and Kapu leaders in Amalapuram which provoked the destruction? Was it just a group of drunken young boys looking for excitement who damaged the statues? Was it a part of a plot conceived by some local Kapu leader with criminal antecedents?  

G. Jhansi, Convener of Dalit Sthree Sakthi, who visited Amalapuram as member of a fact finding team, shares her views on what actually happened there, on the politics fuelling the continued desecrations and the vested dominant caste interests protecting the accused. What come through in this conversation are valuable insights gained from her many years of activism and struggles for Dalit rights, apart from her frank and forthright observations on what and who are inciting such despicable acts as the desecrations. 

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Reconstructing Silenced Histories

Cynthia Stephen

(Book Review)

debrahminising_history[Debrahmanising History : Dominance and Resistance in Indian Society By Braj Ranjan Mani, Manohar, New Delhi, 2005, pp.456, Rs 895 (Hb), Rs 395 (Pb), ISBN 81-7304-640-9 (Hb) ISBN 81-7304-648-4 (Pb)]

In recent years, Indian Historiography has had its share of controversies. The 'saffron' rewriting of the history textbooks and the stoppage of the publication in its final stages of major reference works by the Indian Council of Historical Research are cases in point. The latter controversy has ended with one of the leading researchers resurrecting the reference works, essentially restoring status quo ante and thus hopefully ending the controversy, which saw Indian historians from both the 'saffron' Right and the 'secular' Left arguing that their version of history is the most nationalist, authentic and scientifically valid.

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Gujarati Dalit Literature: An Overview

G K Vankar

It is difficult to say when first Gujarati Dalit writing came into existence. But undoubtedly the publication of Aakrosh, a poetry journal of Dalit Panthers, on 14th April, 1978, was an important milestone. The anti-reservation agitations in Gujarat in 1981 and 1985 generated intense awareness about dalit rights and led to a surge of creative output of dalit literature. Within almost three decades Dalit literature in Gujarati has established itself firmly as a genre which cannot be ignored.

Like all dalit literatures, Gujarati dalit literature is about assertion of human rights, self-pride, revolt against social injustice, chronicles of personal and collective suffering, and hopes and aspirations for a new society devoid of discrimination. It definitely is a weapon for the struggle; it addresses primarily dalits but the other readers are also considered. As Neerav Patel puts, “I wish you to be not only my reader but also an empathizer, then and only then perhaps my pain would end.” The authors range from college professors to primary school teachers, unemployed youth to politicians, IAS officers to factory workers. There are only a few women writers. There is Jayant Parmar who writes in both Urdu as well as Gujarati, Neerav Patel published two of his poetry collections in English before he published a Gujarati collection!

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Analyzing the ‘OBC-Minority’ Sub-Quota--Part IV

Khalid Anis Ansari

Continued from here.

[IV]

4.5% Sub-Quota for OBCs within Minorities: The ‘Political’ Dimension

The approach that merely concentrates on government jobs and seats in higher educational institutions is indeed a very savarna (upper caste) view of reservation policy. From the perspective of upper caste discourse, which has little appreciation for dignity of labor and looks down upon other skills and occupations with disdain owing to the parasitical values of caste thereby producing voluntary unemployment, the site of public sector jobs and higher education is a very privileged and a closely guarded one. The image of upper caste protestors mopping the roads with brooms in their hands when reservations for OBCs in public sector employment at the Centre were first announced in 1990, or when the same symbolism was replayed during the Mandal II agitations in 2008, is therefore a very telling one. In contrast, the thrust in lower caste articulations on reservation policy has been on adequate representation in power structures in order to play a more proactive role in decision-making. The policy of reservations has therefore been an out-and-out political issue and the categories of recognition have been understood as a means to legitimize and produce counter-hegemonic subaltern solidarities for the lower caste ideologues. If we look closely at Indian political economy then those who are really interested in unemployment and poverty the more promising issue is not really reservations but rather the democratization of the private sector and reduction of the huge gulf between the jobs in the organized and the unorganized sectors of the economy [See (Harriss-White 2005)].

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Analyzing the ‘OBC-Minority’ Sub-Quota--Part III

Khalid Anis Ansari

Continued from here.

[III]

4.5% Sub-Quota for OBCs within Minorities: The ‘policy’ and ‘technical’ dimensions

Let me state right at the outset that the recent 4.5% sub-quota was not a demand raised by the pasmanda movement but rather is informed by the second recommendation of the Ranganath Mishra Report which is as follows: “[…] we recommend that since according to the Mandal Commission Report the minorities constitute 8.4 percent of the total OBC population, in the 27 percent OBC quota an 8.4 percent sub-quota should be earmarked for the minorities with an internal break-up of  6 percent for the Muslims (commensurate with their 73 percent share in the total minority population at the national level) and 2.4 percent for the other minorities […]” (Justice Ranganath Mishra 2007, 153). That is why the statement of the Minister of Minority Affairs in Lok Sabha on 28th December 2011 is misleading when it suggests that: “For several years, members of other backward classes belonging to religious minorities have been demanding that a separate quota should be earmarked for them out of the 27 percent reserved for OBCs” (Ministry of Minority Affairs 2011). Quite clearly this was never a pasmanda demand but is much closer to the second recommendation of the Ranganath Mishra Commission to be considered in case the first recommendation of a blanket 10% reservation for all Muslims faced any ‘insurmountable obstacles’! With this opening remark let me first of all examine the major objections to the sub-quota raised by various sections.

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Analyzing the ‘OBC-Minority’ Sub-Quota--Part II

Khalid Anis Ansari

Continued from here.

[II]

The Muslim Quota Debate

The recent lower caste movements within the non-Hindu religions like Islam, Christianity and Sikhism have foregrounded the presence of caste-based differentiation and discrimination within these communities in the public sphere. As far as the Muslims are concerned the caste cleavages within them were duly recognized by the Sachar Committee Report when it remarked quite unambiguously: 'Thus, one can discern three groups among Muslims: (1) those without any social disabilities, the ashrafs; (2) those equivalent to Hindu OBCs, the ajlafs, and (3) those equivalent to Hindu SCs, the arzals. Those who are referred to as Muslim OBCs combine (2) and (3)" (Sachar, 2006, p. 193; emphasis added). Apart from these three groups there is a small section of Muslim adivasis (STs) as well.

As earlier mentioned the backward (ajlaf/shudra) and dalit (arzal) caste groups among Muslims have been organising themselves under the rubric of the Pasmanda Movement since 1990s and have challenged the ashraf hegemony in Muslim politics. One of the most contentious issues on which the pasmanda and ashraf Muslims have struggled against each other in this period has been the issue of reservations for Muslims (K. A. Ansari 2011). In this context the ideologues of the pasmanda movement have consistently argued that the ashraf (upper caste) Muslims cannot be included within the reservation policy for OBCs as they do not qualify as a 'socially and educationally backward community' (SEBC) required for the purposes of granting reservations under Articles 16 (4) and 15 (4) of the Indian Constitution. In contrast, the ashraf sections have either raised the demand of a separate quota for all Muslims or have tried to sneak into the existing OBC lists through various means (Yadav and Ansari 2011). Both these moves have been strongly contested by the pasmanda organizations. But before taking this discussion further it would be pertinent to point out at the guidelines and positions of the Supreme Court on this contentious issue as expressed in the Mandal (Indra Sawney) Judgment (1992).

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