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. 


'We will do a Chunduru on you!'

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

Continued from here


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.



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. 



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.


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!


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

Khalid Anis Ansari

Continued from here.


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)].


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

Khalid Anis Ansari

Continued from here.


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.


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

Khalid Anis Ansari

Continued from here.


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).


'I Have a Dream' for Dalits of India

Pardeep Attri

(Pardeep had penned down this inspiring dream for the new year, but it is equally appropriate for the Republic Day-- Round Table India)

There is no nation of Indians in the real sense of the world; it is yet to be created. In believing we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into thousand of castes be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not yet a nation, in a social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us. – Dr B R Ambedkar.

As all of us welcome the year 2012 and greet each other with open arms, I visualise a dream. I have always said that I am a dreamer. Yes, I do have a dream, a dream (Begumpura) like the one that Guru Ravidas saw about 650 years ago for everyone, or like the dream (Utopia) that nourished Dr Ambedkar or I have a dream like the one Martin Luther King Jr. saw for the blacks of America. Here is my dream for Dalits of India, almost along the same lines as the dreams Guru Ravidas, Dr Ambedkar, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others saw for a better world.



Analyzing the ‘OBC-Minority’ Sub-Quota


Khalid Anis Ansari


The recent announcement of a 4.5% sub-quota for backward sections within minorities in the overall Central OBC quota by the UPA government on 22nd December, 2011 in the wake of elections in five states, including the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, has drawn in a number of reactions, some valid and others not. Even though the media has often presented the sub-quota as one for the Minorities, or in extreme cases a quota for Muslims by default, thereby providing wind to the wings of the votaries of a hegemonic bipolar politics (Congress vs. BJP) revolving on a secularism-communalism axis, there can be nothing further from the truth. As we know a number of backward caste groups from the minority sections were already included in the Central OBC list and were availing the benefits of reservations from 1993 onwards. What the UPA government has done is to club together all these already recognized and enlisted backward caste groups within minorities (especially, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs) into a 4.5% sub-quota, thereby by default reserving the remaining 22.5% for OBCs within the majority community (Ministry of Minority Affairs 2011). While this move has been received with much speculation by the intended beneficiaries so far, it has also met a number of criticisms from the BJP and a few other OBC groups. There are broadly two aspects to this debate: one, the policy (or technical) dimension, and, two, the political dimension. But before I take up these two aspects, an indicative description of the larger transformations in Indian democracy would be helpful in making sense of this recent move by the Congress Party.


Caste atrocity in Lathor: Over 50 Dalit homes burnt by upper castes


Jadumanilion Boudha & Dhammachari Ratnakumar

An incident involving a small boy led to horrific caste violence in Lathor, Balangir district of Odisha, leaving 50 Dalit families homeless and destitute. On January 22, 2012, at around 3.00pm, Ganesh Suna, a 9th class dalit boy went to a shop to buy a new shirt, which he wore over the shirt he was already wearing. After he left the shop, the shopkeepers Bharat Meher and his brother Daya Meher, called him back and accused him of being a thief and beat him. When the boy was returning home helplessly, he met an old man Gouranga Suna and told him about the incident. Gouranga Suna asked the shopkeepers: why did you beat the boy? If he has stolen the shirt we can pay the money for that but you should not have beaten him. But, the shopkeepers did not listen to him and instead beat the old man (Gouranga Suna) too with their footwear. The old man reported to his family members, and then 4-5 youth from the Dalit community went to the shop and fought with them. These are the facts as they occurred at the beginning of the incident. And this set of events seems to have fueled the feeling of hatred of the upper castes (Savarna) against the Dalits (Asavarna).


In reaction to this incident, the upper castes took advantage of being in a heavy majority over the Dalit minority, and attacked the Dalits with their weapons, sticks, and muscle power. Because the Dalit were in a minority, they could not face the violent force of the upper caste mob. So they tried to save themselves from this brutal violence and ran way from their homes. Some Dalit men went into the forest, some went to the nearest villages and some women saved themselves in other untouchable Ghasia Vasti (Scavenger colonies).


In this way, the upper castes created terror among the Dalits. The violent upper caste mob even looted gold ornaments and expensive materials from the Dalit homes. They burnt all the certificates of the students and other kinds of valuable documents. At the same time, they abused all the Dalit women with derogatory language. The upper caste traders, like Marwadi Agrawals, even distributed liquor and petrol freely to burn the Dalit houses. Meanwhile, some Dalits tried to register an F.I.R., in the Lathor police station, but the police refused to register the case and were unable to handle the catastrophic situation. The violence in the wake of the incident became very serious, and so uncontrollable that no one was able to stop the upper castes; the mob even beat up a local news reporter of Kanak TV and threatened the Dharitri reporter, Bhubaneswar Barik. The upper caste mob marched on the roads and blocked all traffic; they burnt tyres on the road and dug up the road so that all vehicles and communication towards Lathor was stopped.


Buddhism and Politics in Uttar Pradesh: Recent Developments (Part II)


Shiv Shankar Das

( Continued from here)

shiv_shankar_das_copyThe promotion of Buddhist cultural symbols in public sphere by Mayawati led government is driven by the following three strong factors.

1. The Ideology of Kanshi Ram (1934-2006): Cultural Change is a Durable Change

Kanshi Ram's ideology to emancipate the Bahujan Samaj is very important to understand the present nexus between Buddhism and politics. He defines three ways to emancipate the Bahujan Samaj, viz. 1. social action (awakening to induce arousal which is a short term solution), 2. political action (to strengthen an independent political party for 85% people of the country, the dalit-soshit sections, which would be a long term solution) and 3. cultural changes and control (a durable solution by which anti-caste culture should be promoted by the dalit-soshit people)12. In his own words: 'to usher in the  Bright Age, will be the toughest task before us, before this generation or even before the coming generations. It will need a complete cultural change and an altogether different control (controlled by the victims of the present system). Only such thing can bring about a durable solution.'13


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