Muslim-Dalit Relations

Gail Omvedt

Islam is a religion of egalitarianism and brotherhood. After the defeat of Buddhism, it maintained these values in India for centuries. Not only did those who became Muslims benefit by escaping from caste restrictions, but Muslim rule also provided a social and political context for the growth of Bhakti movements.

Within these, to a greater or less degree, Dalits and low castes sought a religious equality and expressed a devotionalism which heralded a supreme deity not very different from Allah. Syncretic cults also emerged, large and small, and the masses sought to memorialize holy men of whatever faith. The larger of the new cults, such as Sikhism and the Kabir Panth, probably never saw themselves as separate religions or as part of Hinduism or Muslims until recently.

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Khairlanji Dalit Massacres: Justice for the Victims Aborted

 

A K Biswas

(First published in 'Mainstream Weekly' in September 2010)

Part I

"If someone takes someone's life (deliberately and not accidentally) then he forfeits the right to his life".

~ John Stuart Mill

The judgment delivered by a Division Bench in quadruple murders of members of the Bhotmange family, village Khairlanji, district Bhandara in Maharashtra left everyone with a sensitive mind shocked and dismayed. Surekha Bhotmange and her 18-year-old daughter and two sons, including one who was disabled, were brutally murdered by an upper-caste mob on September 29, 2006.

The Bench concluded that the accused, who were sentenced to death by the District and Sessions Court, Bhandara, were not driven by hatred against the Bhotmange family members, who were Scheduled Castes. The High Court held that the accused took revenge! This sounds like a joke widely prevalent in pre-independence India. The bureaucracy often termed starvation death as death due to malnutrition.

Justice and fairness of treatment for the victims belonging to the socially disadvantaged is practically non-existent in India. In denying justice, very sound and cogent reasons and arguments couched in ceremonial legalese are advanced on behalf of the aggressors to satisfy analytical quest. However, the caste system, needless to note, prompts discrimination, which undoubtedly is the root cause for denial of justice to the Dalits and adivasis. Khairlanji is a case in point.

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Categorisation: A Poisonous Proposition

 

Anand Teltumbde

Not even Manu, that much maligned protagonist of castes also could have imagined the infinite instrumental value castes would assume in governance of globalising India at the hands of the ruling classes. Poor Karl Marx had prophesied in 1845 that with the spread of railway network in India and consequent industrialisation the traditional social structure of castes would crumble.

Over a century, thereafter, India acquired the second largest railway network and one of the biggest industrial bases in the world but saw no signs of that happening. Castes are very much around and kicking and will possibly remain so for a long time to come.

While the lament over the failure of Marxian prophesy is very well known, the precise nature of surviving castes and their dominant source in the supposedly modern institutions (and not in the Hindu Dharmashastras) remains largely unappreciated. The divisive prowess of castes was recognised and deftly used by the ruling classes but the dalits, whose movement appeared to echo the Ambedkar’s call for annihilation of castes, have also rushed forth strangely asserting their caste identities. The book under review foregrounds this sad development in recent years.

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A Life Lived Well, and Lessons Thereof

Braj Ranjan Mani


phule_savitri

Jotirao Phule, and his wife Savitribai, declared war on brahmanic-casteist culture and religion. This Maharashtrian couple presented the first major anti-caste ideology and led a mass activism against the ascriptive norms and values. Their distinct brand of socio-cultural radicalism was based on uniting all the oppressed, whom they would call stree-shudra-atishudra. (Literally, stree means women, shudra is productive servile caste at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, and atishudra means ‘those beyond the shudras’, earlier despised as outcastes, or untouchables. 
In contemporary language, shudras and ati-shudras are other backward classes and dalits, respectively. But the Phules included in their notion of the oppressed, other marginalised groups as well such as adivasis and Muslims.)

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Sub-Castes within the SC/ST

 

Dr. K. Jamanadas

(First published in Dalit Voice in March 2000)

dr. k. jamanadasThis has reference to the article on rivalry of subcastes Madigas and Malas among the SCs, and a frank debate welcomed by our editor (Dalit Voice, vol.15, no.21).  Our editor has welcomed the rivalry among the subcastes in these words: "There is nothing to be ashamed of or worried about the inter-Dalit bickering. Rather this should be welcomed." This attitude is quite in keeping with his old known notion that if you could strengthen each jati and make them strong enough to demand their rightful share according to their population from the 'evil' jati people (to use the phraseology of Annamalai), then the system of jatis will crash. Unfortunately I beg to defer with him. Some time back Bojja Tharakam from Hyderabad had argued that it is against Ambedkarite principles to think of strengthening any jatis. I fully agree and endorse his view. Dr. Ambedkar had specifically advocated that the process of abolition of castes must not start with abolition of subcastes. He averred that if the process stops at that level, we will end up by strengthening the caste system. What applies to subcastes equally applies to castes within the SC/ST group. Annihilation of castes was what Dr. Ambedkar wanted. It could only be achieved through social amalgamation by inter caste marriages, and to promote that the sanction behind the sastras must end. This was what was intended.

Your contention is that, when castes, individually, become strong enough, will fight with BSO and get their rightful number of positions, and thereby reduce the power of BSO. Unfortunately this does not happen in practice. When Ambedkar said educate, agitate and organize, he meant agitate against BSO oppressors. We took it to mean struggle amongst ourselves. We fight amongst ourselves for every thing and we beg for favors from others. We have become subservient dummy stooges of others, popularly termed 'chamchas'. Though we do not have enough strength to get elected in Parliament, we rush to the feet of men in power, and that too individually and separately,ignoring the so called unity, and beg for a berth in ministry for self and get kicked out. All our self respect vanishes that time. This is the state of affairs. How do you expect that such a people will be able to fight with the oppressors for the rights of masses, they can only beg for self prosperity. First we have to increase our strength, then and then alone we can bargain. Power is something that cannot be obtained by begging, begging only begets petty alms.

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Kanshi Ram: Champion of the poor

 

Kanshi Ram-

Kanshi Ram will be remembered as someone who almost completely changed the rules of Indian politics over the last two decades. Few political analysts would disagree that his unique brand of social engineering and organisational skills succeeded in uniting India's low caste Dalit community into a formidable political force in several states.

 

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