Law And Society Committee, NLSIU
Conference organized by the Law and Society Committee, National Law School of India University in collaboration with Centre for Social Justice and UN Women.
The impact that caste has on people’s lives is real and far-reaching. However, caste is, at present, a subject that is greatly misunderstood by a largely savarna academia which approaches the caste question with preformed assumptions regarding the very identity of the oppressed. This arises from the commodification of the ‘dalit’-ness of the movement, failing to realize that caste is not a singular identity but is compounded by all other existing vulnerabilities based on class, gender, and sexuality. It is not surprising then, that the academic discourse on caste fails to accommodate its ever-growing manifestations in the contemporary world. The intersectionality between caste, untouchability and other vulnerability factors occupies a space in academic discourse which is highly disproportionate to its impact and implications.
The result is that academic production on the subject is rendered paradoxical and reductive: while it is ever-growing, it fails to reach the lowest rung; the oppressed within the oppressed. Caste is not just the Indian apartheid, but is also India’s hidden apartheid. This conference seeks to abandon the monolithic lens with which the subject has hitherto been approached, and paint a fresher, and more accurate picture of the real extent of vulnerability in India.
In 1997, NLSIU hosted India’s first ever LGBTQ conference. The same started a conversation on LGBTQ rights in India and has to a large extent shaped the queer friendly culture we see in NLS today. Many of the participants of that conference have also gone on to become legal scholars working in the field of gender and sexuality. This is the spirit with which we approach the subject.
We believe that this is an extremely important time to talk about issues of caste. With the recent incidents including the death of Rohith Vemula, the gang rape of dalit women, and the Una protests in Gujarat, the issue of caste can no longer be ignored. We want to provide a platform to discuss the new, mutated forms that caste based oppression, that seeks to make a large proportion of our populace into second class citizens, takes in the India of 2016.
JANUARY 10, 2017
SESSION I: CASTE AND EDUCATION
Rohith’s death in January 2016 brought public attention to the casteism that has been plaguing the Indian education system for centuries together. From violently enforced segregation and exclusion to subtle, insidious marginalisation, education in India has not only been a stark
THE INDIAN APARTHEID
LAW AND SOCIETY COMMITTEE, NLSIU
reflection of the caste oppression in but also an effective instrument through which casteism has been perpetuated and strengthened. Indeed, it could be said that that one of the biggest challenges on the discursive plane is the growing currency of the Brahminical reduction of the problem of casteism to ‘reservation’. When one debates caste today, it is this misplaced (and widely accepted) simplification that brings to mind the “unjust” system of reservation rather than the everyday oppression faced by the dominated castes.
In this session, we shall begin with a historical account of casteism in educational institutions. The discussion shall then move on to an analysis of the notion of ‘merit’, the concept of ‘affirmative action’ based on caste, and the impact of caste-based reservation. This discussion shall include scrutinising the role of the State – historically as well as for the future. Thereafter, an NLS student from the Dalit-Bahujan community shall narrate her/his experiences in Law School, followed by a Q&A session.
SESSION II: CASTE AND INTERSECTIONALITY
Like all battles against oppression, the fight for annihilation of caste also needs to take stock of the variegated experiences of different groups within the Dalit-Bahujan community. Often, various other realities compound the suffering of those already marginalised by caste. Among these intersecting oppressions, class and gender attain particular prominence. Both of these are very intrinsically linked to the caste system itself. For centuries, a person’s social class corresponded almost exactly to their caste, and this continues to be a reality for the vast majority of people today. Gender, as a social construct seeks to control interactions between caste, thereby maintaining its purity.
In this session, we shall begin with a discussion on intersectionality of caste and gender, with panelists discussing the problems faced specifically by women and transpersons. The discussion will then proceed to analysing how the class inequalities affect the oppressed castes, during which the panel shall also throw some light on the resurgent Dalit movement in Gujarat. Participants are encouraged to ask questions in the Q&A session that shall follow.
JANUARY 11, 2017
SESSION III: STATE LEVEL CONSULTATION MEETING, THE REHNUMA LAW CENTRE: AN
ENTITLEMENT AND FACILITATION UNIT FOR THE VULNERABLE AND THE MARGINALIZED.
THE INDIAN APARTHEID
LAW AND SOCIETY COMMITTEE, NLSIU
Rehnuma is jointly anchored by National Foundation of India, Human and Institutional Development Forum, SAHARA, Nari-O-Sishu Kalyan Kendra, Gender at Work and the Centre for Social Justice. The Rehnuma Law Centre deals with socio-legal intervention and legal aid for marginalized and vulnerable communities. This project operates through its law centres in seven states across India. This project is funded by UN Women and European Union. The Gulbarga centre works to further this initiative in some of the most backward areas of Karnataka.
The Rehnuma Law Centre is unique in its ability to address socio-economic issues and raise voices to a bridge the gap between citizens and the government, while providing one of the most accurate perspectives on ground-level realities. Rehnuma looks forward to bringing all public spirited and concerned individuals to one platform in order to disseminate knowledge, discuss matters and redress issues. In furtherance of this objective, the Rehnuma Law Centre is organizing a State Level Consultation Meeting in Bengaluru on 10th and 11th of Jan, 2017. The consultation shall be conducted in a seminar mode with special focus on vulnerability. The objectives of the consultation are as follows:
I. To review the implementation of the Prime Minister’s 15 Point program and locate the lapses.
II. Discuss the various approaches to address the socio-economic issues of the vulnerable and the marginalized communities in the state of Karnataka.
III. Discuss the feasibility of the contemporary mechanism with a rights based approach.
IV. Collate the recommendations and best practices to champion the efforts for the welfare
of the vulnerable and the marginalized communities.
V. Prepare a roadmap for the next best step to be taken.