Civic Education for the Oppressed and the Oppressors: How different it should be


S Karthikeyan

karthikeyan sA young 27 years old Muthukrishnan Jeevanantham aka Rajini Krish who was pursuing Ph.D. in Jawarharlal Nehru University (JNU) allegedly committed suicide on Monday, March 14, 2017. I say 'allegedly' since I firmly believe it's another institutional murder thanks to discriminative practices that exist in Indian campuses. Such unfortunate incidents have taken place earlier as well. All of us are yet to recover from the loss of another young man, 27 years old Rohith Chakravarti Vemula's institutional murder in the campus of University of Hyderabad that took place on January 17th 2016. Rohith is the 6th victim since 2008 in University of Hyderabad.i

Reasons were analyzed, debated and solutions proposed how to stop such institutional murders and address discriminative practices that exist in the campuses which is the primary reason for such murders. Prof. Sukhadeo Thoart has written a seminal article in the Hindu on January 26th 2016, 'Discrimination on the campus'.ii He has proposed a four pronged solution namely (i) legal safeguards against discrimination, (ii) civic education, (iii) academic assistance to students who need support, and (iv) participation of Dalits in all decision-making bodies of universities/colleges.

As one of the solutions, Prof. Thorat insists on civic education for the oppressors. He continues in the same article, "Civic education in schools, colleges and universities can help students unlearn discriminatory and undemocratic values and behaviour that they pick up through socialisation and sensitise them to how the practice of discrimination associated with caste, ethnicity, gender, race, religion and other identities undermines the citizenship values of equity, freedom and brotherhood". In this article I would like to expand a little bit and share my opinion on civic education for the oppressed. It's equally important for the Dalits to understand why they are discriminated as it is important for the oppressors to 'unlearn discriminatory and undemocratic values'. Dalits should learn that their glorious past in challenging Brahmanism is the reason for social exclusion and oppression rather than the ahistorical and mythical origin of untouchability.

Who Are Dalits?

Dalit is a socio-political term and the legal term is Scheduled Castes. The term Scheduled Castes was introduced as per Government of India Act 1935. Till 1935 the same people were referred as 'Depressed Class / Caste'. The term 'Depressed Class / Caste' was introduced in the 1911 census to differentiate the Hindus whose certain practices differed from other Hindusiii. These Hindus whose certain practicesiv are different are those who:

(1) denied the supremacy of the Brahmins,
(2) did not receive the Mantra from Brahmana or other recognized Hindu Guru,
(3) denied the authority of the Vedas,
(4) did not worship the great Hindu Gods,
(5) were not served by good Brahmanas,
(6) have no Brahman priests at all,
(7) have no access to the interior of the ordinary Hindu temple,
(8) cause pollution,
(9) bury their dead and
(10) eat beef and do not revere the cowv.

Out of the 10 points, 6 points emphasise that the group of people who stood against Brahmanism were excluded by the Brahmanic caste and made as chandals or untouchables.

Humiliated are Responsible for Humiliation

The Hindus' mythological reason for the origin of chandals is that they are born from the union of Brahmin women and Shudra men. Babashaheb Ambedkar exposes this very historical distortion profanely. It's very important to note that Babashaheb never resorts to profanity except when exposing gross historical distortion. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar writes, "All those who study the Caste System are naturally led to inquire into the origin of it. Manu being the progenitor of Caste had to give an explanation of the origin of the various castes. What is the origin which Manu gives? His explanation is simple. He says that leaving aside the four original castes the rest are simply baseborn!! He says they are the progeny of fornication and adultery between men and women of the four original castes. The immorality and looseness of character among men and women of the four original castes must have been limitless to account for the rise of innumerable castes consisting of innumerable souls!! Manu makes the wild allegation without stopping to consider what aspersions he is casting upon men and women of the four original castes. For if the chandals—the old name for the Untouchables—are the progeny of a Brahman female and a Shudra male then it is obvious that to account for such a large number of Chandals it must be assumed that every Brahman woman was slut and a whore and every Shudra lived an adulterous life with complete abandon. Manu in his mad just for debasing the different castes by ascribing to them an ignoble origin seems deliberately to pervert historical facts."

The zenith of this unscrupulous method is that Brahmanism which indulged in justifying the creation of numerous castes blamed the women for the same! Humiliate the oppressed (Chandals) by citing that the very reason for such humiliation lies with the humiliated (women) instead of the humiliators. This is the civic education Dalits should pursue to learn their own history and historical distortions to challenge the caste system in general and caste discrimination in particular. Such historical understanding may make the bright Dalit students bold and give them confidence to continue to live rather than end their lives in a miserable way.

An ABVP member and former joint secretary JNUSU tweeted: "why were the anarchist-leftist gangs so prompt in reaching the site of suicide? Is it a case of criminal conspiracy? Was Rajini murdered?"vi We have to tell the ABVP and Sangh Pariwar that it's the criminal conspiracy of Brahmanism and historical distortion which are the reasons for institutional murders.


iii. From Millions to Fractions by Dr. B.R.Ambedkar
iv. Government uses different methods to identify the SCs in different states since the practice of untouchability is different. Ref: From Millions to Fractions by Dr.B.R. Ambedkar
v. All italics in this paragraph are mine



S Karthikeyan works as a Software Consultant based in Santa Clara, California and is the Convener of the AKSC (Ambedkar King Study Circle) of the San Francisco Bay Area. He has volunteered for Free Software Movement Karnataka and was one of the organizers of national seminar on reservation in private sector held in Bangalore in Feb 2014.


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