Recently, a two day National Level Seminar was organized by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Chair, Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, on 12 and 13 March 2016. The venue of the Seminar was the historical “Convocation Hall” of Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University. The convener of the Seminar was Prof Dr Pradeep Aglawe, Head of Department of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Chair. The members of the organizing committee included Dr S K Gajbhiye, Dr Ramesh Shambharkar, Dr Sanjay Gajbhiye, Prof Shailesh Dhongde, Dr Shankar Khobragade, Dr Dhanraj Dahat and Prof Mangesh Junghare. Following is a brief outline and summary of the event.
Day One: 12 March 2016
The formal inauguration was held on this day at the above-mentioned venue. The seminar was inaugurated by Dr. V. J. Kattimani, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor, Indira Gandhi Tribal University, Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh.
The chairperson of the inaugural session was Dr. Pradeep Aglave, Head of Department of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Chair, RTM Nagpur University. The Keynote Address was delivered by Dr. K. Y. Ratnam, Prof. & Head, Center for Ambedkar Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. Mr. Puranchandra Meshram, Registrar, RTM Nagpur University was the Guest of Honour.
Dr. K Y Ratnam expressed his concern regarding the various kinds of discrimination students face in the educational institutes due to caste, tribal origin of the students etc. He also expressed his concerns regarding the spread of the monolithic mainstream “Hindutva and Brahmanical ideology” and “Radical Leftist ideology”, both of which are suppressing the voices of dissent of the subaltern or the Bahujan discourses across various educational campuses.
Day Two: 13 March 2016
There were two sessions on this day. The first technical session was titled “Educational Atrocities on Scheduled Castes and Tribes”. This session was chaired by Justice Yashwant Chaware, Satara. The various resource persons for this particular session were Dr Dhamma Kirti, Ex-Professor of Philosophy, renowned author from New Delhi, Dr Prof V G Ratnakar, Moulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, Mr. Sundarlal Takbhoure, famous activist from Nagpur and Mr. Prashant Tambe, Research Officer, BARTI, Nagpur.
Justice Yashwant Chaware expressed his concern regarding the lack of imbibing of ‘constitutional moralities’ which is one of the reasons for the various discrimination students face in educational campuses. The perpetrators of this sort of discrimination are in total grab of the caste system and under the influence of Manusmriti. Various constitutional measures can be used to punish the culprits. But on the whole the notional changes regarding “caste” have to be established in society to annihilate caste. He gave a detailed talk on the historical legalities of the Prevention of Atrocities Act right from the famous “Untouchable vs. Brahmin” case in the colonial province of Madras to the recently amended Prevention of Atrocity Act, 2015. He also stressed that there is lack of various definitions of “caste based atrocity” that are faced by the student community in the educational institutes in the current amended Prevention of Atrocities Act, 2015. He also put forth a motion to enact a very specific law to curb this menace of discrimination due to caste.
Dr Dhammakirti gave a detailed picture of the historical origins of discrimination. He shared his academic experiences of demotivation of the Dalit students in schools, colleges and universities. He stressed on the need for a value system of compassion, wisdom, fraternity, and morality to build a better society and better India.
Day 2. First Technical Session
Dr Prof G V Ratnakar shared his various observations on the recent institutional murder of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University. He shared his experiences of his association with Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA). He said, “various fissures in the Ambedkarite Students movement were due to the sub-caste contradiction of Mala and Madigas in the Hyderabad Central University. It is high time to forge unity and decimate the internal contradiction of the sub-castes. The current radical leftist discourses are hijacking the whole movement created in the name of Rohith Vemula. There can’t be any admixture of two different ideologies of Jai Bhim and Lal Salam. The current leftist people in power are misguiding and giving wrong directions to the Ambedkarite movement. There is lack of coordination among the various Dalit organizations too. Rohith was totally confused and the people associated with ASA take only the name of Ambedkar and actually do the work of leftist ideology. To convert ASA into radical left is the current aim of left. Recently, after the Rohith Vemula incident there is sudden rise of leftist organizations in Hyderabad Central University campus. The whole Kanhaiya issue was created to divert the “Rohith issue”. “Rohith issue” was a democratic movement of Ambedkarites which got hijacked by the red radical leftist groups. Current ASA movement is totally directionless.”
Prof Prashant Tambe gave his presentation on the meta-narratives and the pedagogical dimensions of the educational atrocities. He conveyed the various symbols of oppression used in the current academic syllabus which are totally derogatory to the subaltern masses in India. He stressed upon both the informal and formal way of learning and how it creates a certain casteist mindset which further results in carrying out of discrimination by various individuals in the society. Denial of caste is also one of the tools of oppression used by casteist people. Previously there was denial of education on the basis of caste but now the discrimination has changed to:”pedagogy itself resulting in the atrocity on the students”. There are various case studies and documentaries exploring the forms of caste discrimination for example, India untouched and Death of Merit.
Day 2. Second Technical Session
The Brahmanical conscience and Manuvadi thoughts are expressed in various forms like socio-economic-cultural –educational–political discourses. The very notions of bad culture and good culture are defined by certain groups of elitist people sitting across the board in academia. There is constant character assassination of various leaders of the historical past who are associated with the subaltern masses – right from Shivaji to Tukaram to Chokamela. When certain discourses are not won by logic and reasons, the murder of the person is the last resort this Brahmanical ideologues carry out. New equations of purity and patriotism are made to oppress people of certain groups which also results in atrocities in educational campuses. The concept of “merit” is also used to derogate the student from certain social backgrounds.
Sundarlal Takbhoure threw light on RSS chief Golwalkar’s views on the issue of caste and varna. The very ideology of Golwalkar and Sangh Parivar is contradictory to the universal values of Indian constitution. All the conflicts arising are due to “culture war” where one culture dictates the inhumane culture of slavery, superstitions, violence, and the other culture dictates the humane universal values of liberty, equality, fraternity, social justice and compassion. The fundamental roots of the various forms of atrocities lie in the Brahmanical and Manuvadi ideology. The current Indian academia is the monopoly of certain sections of dominant castes which further results in insensitivity towards the students from other lower castes and tribes. The centers of power (executive, legislative, and judiciary) are totally under Brahmanical hegemony which supports the other centers of powers like academia, media, and business. Even the regressive ideology is spread at the expense of the exchequer of the state. For example, the formation of the “Punar-uttan University” in the state of Gujarat which spreads the Brahmanical and Manuvadi thoughts.
Formal release of Dr Ratnakar’s books
Books of Dr Ratnakar were also inaugurated at the seminar and a Special Life Time Achievement Award was conferred on Dr Dharmakirti to mark his contribution towards the literary works in Ambedkarism and Buddhism. Dr Dharmakirti has penned 90 books so far and has triple PhD. He was previously a professor of philosophy.
The second technical session was titled “Remedies to Resolve the Educational Atrocities”. The chairperson of this session was Dilip Mandal, former editor of India Today (Hindi) and research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The resource persons for this session were Mahendra Pal Singh, New Delhi, Sanghapalli Aruna Lohitakshi, research scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and Anoop Kumar, activist and educationist working in Wardha, Maharashtra.
Mahendra Pal Singh shared his various experiences of caste based atrocities in Delhi University. He called for unity among the various Dalit, Tribal student organizations to fight collectively against the discrimination faced by the students. He also shared his views on the malpractices of job roster filling in various departments in Delhi University and also in the admission process where the quotas of SC/ST students are not filled even when the students are available for the seats. He advised the student community to be in top position in their academic exams so that the “quota” stigma notion will vanish in due course and it can serve as motivation for the other aspiring students.
“Many people in Nagpur have asked me about Kanhaiya because he also spoke about Dalits and Ambedkar. Well, even Narendra Modi speaks about Dalits and Ambedkar but that does not make him a leader of Dalits. The ideology of Ambedkarites is very different from the left and right”, said Sanghapalli Aruna Lohitakshi.
She further added, “we must have committees to ensure coordination among Dalit groups across the country. Why should we raise our voice only when incidents like the Rohith Vemula suicide happen? Babasaheb rightly diagnosed that caste system is the root of all problems.”
Anoop Kumar stressed on the need for a stringent law. He said, “I don’t believe that there will be a change of heart in people who commit atrocities by simply reading books of Babasaheb or listening to our plight. The fear of law has to be there and that’s the only way to prevent atrocities”.
The Organising Committee
“Caste discrimination is truly alive in educational institutes even today. Unfortunately, the elite class refuses to acknowledge it. It’s as if the problem does not exist. A court threw out our PIL when we asked justice for Dalit students at a Delhi college, but it got later accepted when we asked for ‘help’ for students of ‘weaker socio-economic status’. We ultimately got what we wanted but it was not justice, it was alms”, he shared with the audience.
“Friction across educational institutes will increase because now in classrooms the caste and gender dynamics have changed completely, but staff rooms continue to be dominated by upper castes. We as a country have to take cognizance of this problem and work out a solution else the friction will increase,” said Dilip Mandal.
The valedictory session was presided over by Dr Prof Pradeep Aglawe. He talked about the importance of “Rohith Act” to prevent this kind of incidents in future. The chief guest of the Valedictory Ceremony was
Hon’ble Prin. Haribhau Kedar, Ex Vice Chancellor, RTM Nagpur University
Amar Khade is a self-employed engineer by profession and an anti-caste activist by choice.