On the evening of 5th of December, I, along with my friend who is a photographer, paid a visit to Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar East, Mumbai. At the entrance of the colony, a huge statue of Ambedkar stood. Open space in front of it had been cleaned with water, and preparations for decorating the statue with garlands were being made. Sound systems were set up. Preparations were being made to pay homage to their lifetime idol and emancipator, Dr. Ambedkar.
I, having been born in a Dalit basti and raised there, did not find these activities in Ramabai Nagar unfamiliar. Inside Ramabai Nagar, the roads were narrow, the houses clung together, the bazaar was fully active with the high pitched cries of vegetable vendors, bargaining customers, shops being opened, bikers going crazy and blaring horns – this was the background music of what was in motion.
It looked so common a scene. But something has made this Dalit colony the memory which humanity can never forget. It was the symbolic message of how Dalits, who have been resisting the tradition of being excluded, could be repressed, sabotaged by the established casteist authorities in modern India.
Flex hoardings at Ramabai Nagar on the evening of 5th December 2013. Photograph by: Daisy Katta
11th July 1997: as the day started, it was discovered that the statue of Dr. Ambedkar had been vandalised, desecrated with a garland of shoes and sandals. Local police were informed, but that only contributed to the frustrations of the infuriated group as the police paid no serious heed. The police have failed to catch the perpetrators even until today.
As a response to the non-stop suicides in the campus, especially among the Dalit students, over the past few years, various student organisations and concerned active University students have come under the platform of 'Raju-Venkatesh Solidarity Committee' and started an indefinite hunger strike from the morning of December 06, 2013, i.e. on the day of Dr B R Ambedkar's death anniversary. Four students - Mr Siluveru Harinadh, Mr Prabhakar Gummadi, Mr Sunkanna Velupula and Mr Naveen Emmadi sat on a hunger strike at the University shopping complex in the main campus. These four research scholars hail, equally, from Mala and Madiga Scheduled Caste communities of Andhra Pradesh. All these four students are very senior research scholars in the University.
The University administration headed by Vice Chancellor Prof Ramakrishna Ramaswamy failed to effectively address this issue, satisfying neither the students nor the other sections.
At midnight, on December 8th, 2013, the police arrested the above four students who were on an indefinite strike and shifted them to the Apollo Hospital in Jubilee Hills. The University appears to be bearing all the medial expenses in this respect. And, they may get discharged from the hospital on the morning of December 10, 2013.
In any normal political chat, the general upper caste tendency is to accuse the Dalits of politicizing the lower caste identity against the nationalist concerns of citizenship and secularism. This is an easy option to hide the actual domination of brahmanical culture over the public institutions. The social psyche of 'governamentality' in India is not secular-rational in a Weberian sense but channelized with the rooted sense of traditional-cultural religious values. The cases of brutal caste violence in Bathani Tola (1996), Lakshmanpur Bathe (1997), Nagari (1998) and Miyapur (2000) were the demonstrative examples that the rural society in Bihar is still gripped in the violent and inhumane control of the feudal-upper caste assertions. The only faith for justice relied on the judiciary. However, the recent judgments by the honorable Patna High Court on the above mentioned cases have shocked the aspirants of justice. All the accused were set free by the Court, as if no one had killed the Dalits. The judgments overtly reflect that the judges have acted with a biased upper caste self-consciousness and protected the criminals, belying the hope that the judiciary will act in a rational fair manner to uphold the cherished modern value of social justice.
India: the Modern Rational Nation
The newly independent India had begun its operation by noticing three forms of human sufferings: socio-economic inequalities, religio-cultural differences and the absence of a moral thread that can bind the diverse subjectivities towards a normative consensus. In a desperate crave for justice, peace and equality, the hopeful people posed their faith in the rational-secular institutions of the state. It was a revolutionary hope, as in the Constituent Assembly, the nationalist leaders showed readiness to invite a grand idea that can replace our particular conscious of communal 'self' with a new collectivist idea of 'citizenship'. In the language of psychology, it is thought that the 'neurosis' created by our regimented internal differences can be cured by adopting new modern 'schemata'. The new state is heralded as a replacement for all the singular powers of various guilds, tribes and caste communities that used to rule the pre-modern societies. The Constitution is the epitome of justice and an assurance that the law will not succumb or be biased towards any individual, caste or community. The quasi-distribution of power between Parliament, Executive and Judiciary is visualized so that the people are now secured under the new garrisons. However, the post-colonial experiences with our democratic institutions are a demurrer against such celebrated utopian ideals.
"Today if my grandmother was alive she would have been ecstatic to see me as a bride but at the same time heart broken to see me not decked up in gold from head to toe!!
From a very young age I knew I didn't want to wear so much gold for my marriage.. For aesthetic reasons..
But as I grew up the feeling grew stronger on many other levels and today when I am getting married , i want to use this beautiful life I have and this amazing platform that cinema has given me to send across my strong vote of protest against the dowry system that we still shamelessly silently follow and dedicate my decision to the millions of parents who have spend their life time earnings on their children's weddings!
Today I won't be wearing a single gram of gold:)"
The above quote is from Rima Kallingal's (a film star) status message on the day of her marriage. I saw this when one of my upper caste friends proudly uploaded her marriage photo, and recollected her 'no gold' marriage, along with Kallingal's status message. I felt so uneasy for a moment when I thought of my own marriage for which I managed to wear some gold that my parents and relatives had given me. I had the same uneasiness when many of my feminist friends stopped talking to me after my wedding for the reason that I had worn gold for the day. But the moment I compared myself with Rima's as well as some of my feminist friends' socio-economic conditions, I realised that there is no need to be guilty or feel embarrassed.
"Today if my grandmother was alive she would have been ecstatic to see me as a bride but at the same time heartbroken to see me not decked up in gold from head to toe!!"
UDSF strongly condemns the caste-based harassment and torture by the University of Hyderabad (UoH) faculty and administration which led to the death of a Dalit student in the university. This is the third killing of a Dalit student by the administration and faculty in the university.
M. Venkatesh, a 3rd year PhD Scholar from Advance Centre for Research in High Energy Materials (ACRHEM), University of Hyderabad, committed suicide in his hostel room. He was a CSIR-JRF Fellow. He joined UoH for PhD in 2011 at ACRHEM. With his own efforts he published two international papers. But even after three years, he was not provided a supervisor and a lab to do his research work.
ACRHEM director, the faculty members and the management of HCU grossly neglected to provide the basic academic logistic support to a brilliant research scholar from a marginalized section, thus exposing the caste arrogance of the UoH administration. Though the deceased made continuous efforts to request the administration to provide him with a regular guide, they responded with a very indifferent attitude throughout the last 3 years. This very indifferent and casteist attitude by the administration and faculty had compelled him to commit suicide.
Barely able to speak in Hindi or Marathi, Rakhuma,18, and her husband Girish Madiga, 19, Friday jostled their way from Dadar station to Chaityabhoomi to pay homage to their icon Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar on his 57th death anniversary.
The newlywed had boarded a train from Gulbarga to come to Dadar a day earlier. It was Rakhuma's first ever train journey. "I had only been to the railway station as a child... Today traveled in it, too. It was a strange feeling," Rakhuma said, struggling to keep her excitement under check.
Married just a few months ago, the couple thought it was an apt day. "I had only heard lakhs throng to the city. I saw it, too," Girish said, a carpenter back in Kodagnur village at Gulbarga district.
(Impressions from the first National Dalit and Adivasi Women's Congress held on February 15-16, 2013, at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)
We live in nature! We die in Nature! It's our life, if you occupy our land where should we go and how do we live? Whose land is this?
The hall is echoing with the furious voice of Dayamani Barla, veteran Adivasi activist from Jharkhand. She is trying to unite people against mining in Jharkhand, around 108 mining companies are waiting to destroy Adivasi life in the name of mining, first they come for coal, next they say power houses, it continues, we are pushed out and out further. How do we live without our land?
(The Annual meet of D.I.E.T was held on 5th May, 2012, in Hyderabad. We thank Sujatha Surepally for sharing this report on the event)
Dalit Information and Education Trust's (DIET) Annual meet was held on 5th May, 2012 at Hotel Grand plaza, Nampally, Hyderabad. It was a memorable event. Though it was titled as 'Book Reviews and Felicitations', there was much more to describe, feel proud about at the meet, and to celebrate our own people's contribution to dalit literature, criticism, rediscovering Ambedkar etc. A culmination of different views and perspectives, bundles of experiences, thoughts of different generations, the agonies and strategies of building movements for dignity. It presented a rare opportunity, and indeed was a marvelous day.