Hindustan vs India

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahEver since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power, issues related to Muslims in India are zooming into focus.

Though during the election campaign Narendra Modi indirectly talked about "appeasement", "votebank" politics and the preferential treatment meted out to Muslims by the Congress Party, he did not make their identity an issue. He appeared to be ambivalent on that count.

However, after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Modi has consciously chosen to treat "Indian Islam" as "un-Indian", even though the BJP boasts of a few Muslim members. One of the first indicators of this was that in his capacity as Prime Minister he did not wish Muslims "Id Mubarak", Id being the most significant festival celebrated by the community on the completion of the holy month of Ramzan. He also consciously avoided hosting an Iftar party, a tradition upheld by earlier Prime Ministers. His refusal to wear a skull cap on an earlier occasion is also an indication of his bias against Islam.

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Ambedkar Needs No Introduction

 

Gail Omvedt

Gail Omvedt
Book: The Annihilation of Caste
Author: BR Ambedkar
Publisher: Navayana
Pages: 415 pages
Price: Rs 525

The annotated edition of Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste is prefaced by an article by Arundhati Roy entitled 'The Doctor and the Saint,' which takes up one aspect of Ambedkar's theoretical and philosophical work. Roy's essay is listed as an introduction but is actually an independent essay. It is a long, critical account, mainly of Gandhi, though it deals with Ambedkar too. The focus on Gandhi prevents her from dealing with the issues raised in Annihilation of Caste. For this reason, many Dalits have been angry with Roy and with Navayana for the inclusion of Roy's essay as such a prominent part of the book.

Of the issues raised in Annihilation..., perhaps the most important is that of the authority of the Hindu scriptures. Ambedkar argues that inter-dining and intermarriage are of no use, that the power of caste rests on the belief in the authority of the shastras, and that this has to be destroyed. Religious revolution must precede social reform.

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HRD: It’s not Hindu Resource Development

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahWhen a religion treats the labouring castes as impure, naturally the indignity of labour becomes the essence of the nation. Does not this situation need to change?

The Modi government seems to believe that a change should be brought in school curriculum by re-working the text books that NCERT brings out. To this effect the ministry of human resource development, it appears, is taking steps. According to reports in the media, lessons from Vedas and Upanishads will be incorporated in the text books to educate the student community about ancient Indian civilisation and culture. There is not just one view of ancient India. The so-called Vedic view is nothing but the Brahminic view.

No one should have any objection if those sections of Vedas and Upanishads which focus on human equality in the realm of spiritual systems of India are included in the text books. But along with such portions from Vedas and Upanishads, the egalitarian teachings from the Buddhist Suthas and Pitakas, and Jain theories of non-violence should also be included. Equally important are the materialist discourses of Charvakas, which injected the earliest rational thinking among our ancestors. The Dalitist narrative of ancient India, which focuses a great deal on production and science, is also extremely relevant to the discourse of development today.

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Of Caste Massacres and Judicial Impunity: Bloodstains in Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe...

 

Anand Teltumbde

(Text of the Third Comrade Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture, delivered by Anand Teltumbde) 

At the outset let me thank DSU for giving me this opportunity to pay my homage to comrade Yalavarthi Naveen Babu, who was martyred at the young age of 35 in Andhra Pradesh. I personally knew Naveen as a young man bubbling with revolutionary zeal and energy as an editor of Kalam, the organ of the AIRSF formed in 1990 and an organizer of the International Seminar on Nationality Struggles in Delhi in February 1996, which I attended. The last I met with him was in Chennai just a few months before his martyrdom. I complement DSU for instituting this memorial lecture, which would help young students in JNU to see how one of their own had lived and died for the cause of Indian revolution.

If Naveen had been living today, he would have been in forefront in protesting against the obnoxious pattern of judgements coming from Patna High Court in the cases of massacre of Dalits taken place in 1990s. As such, the topic decided for this memorial lecture is quite in tune with the memory of this revolutionary.

All of you know Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, the small obscure hamlets in Bhojpur and Arwal districts of Bihar respectively, which were catapulted to the world map in mid 1990s for their infamous massacres of Dalits. About Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, the then president of India, K.R. Narayanan, had expressed his indignation saying it was a 'national shame'. Unfortunately, Laxmanpur-Bathe was not to be the lone such shame; there were scores of them before and after Laxmanpur. A quarter century since, the process of law has reached to put a lid on these cases, reminding Dalits of the laws of Manu after 86 years they had burnt Manusmriti in Mahad and after 63 years the country had installed Bhimsmriti in its place. It only wakes them up to the hollowness of such rhetoric which unfortunately informed the Dalit movement after Babasaheb Ambedkar, during the last 56 years. It verily tells us that nothing has changed; if at all, it has changed only for worse. Worse, because in Ambedkar's time Dalits, approximately were a homogenous mass, appeared like a giant getting up from his deep sleep of millenniums; now it is a hopelessly fragmented mass, splintered into classes and subcastes, pretending to be awake but actually in self imposed stupor to the reality around.

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Going backward

 

Surinder S. Jodhka

surinder jodhkaThe Jats, without doubt, have been the most important and powerful caste community in the rural landscapes of northwest India. The sources of their dominance have typically been their control over agricultural lands, their demographics and their networks beyond the village. However, unlike the other "dominant castes", such as the Marathas of Maharashtra, the Patels of Gujarat, the Reddys and Kammas of Andhra Pradesh or the Lingayats of Karnataka, the Jats of northwest India have also been the "superior-most" community in terms of their status in the local rural caste hierarchies. Even though the institution of caste is pretty strong in the region, the hold of Brahmanical ideology has always been rather weak. The values of khudkasht (self-cultivation) that have dominated this region for long also provide the frame of reference for social hierarchies of caste in the region. No one was as good as a zamindar, and the category did not imply an absentee landlord here, as it did in Bengal, Bihar or eastern UP. Anyone who cultivated his own land and did not have to work for others as a farm labourer could qualify to be a zamindar, provided he belonged to the right caste community.

Even a Brahmin in rural Haryana would choose to identify himself as a zamindar if he owned agricultural land. However, given the social, cultural and economic significance of land, only the most valued could own it. Landownership and social status have been synonymous in the region. During my fieldwork in Haryana, I found rural Brahmins easily conceding to the status superiority of Jats and other landowning dominant caste communities. No wonder Dalits in the agrarian landscapes there have been almost completely landless. It is their landlessness, and not their "ritual status", that accounts for their vulnerability in rural areas. Caste in the region has always operated within the framework of land relations. The Banias, Brahmins or Punjabi Khatris/ Aroras could claim superior status in urban centres but never in the rural areas.

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Elephant Corridors

 

Vivek Kumar

Why walking alone will always work for the BSP

Canard, controversy, condemnation, criticism, caricature, the Bahujan Samaj Party chief, Mayawati, has seen it all in her long and tortuous journey to the top. But the fact is, as the 2014 Lok Sabha polls near, she poses the most formidable challenge to BJP icon Narendra Modi's prime ministerial ambitions. Shrewdly, she's also staying away from the media glare, bent more on quietly consolidating her core constituency of Dalits with additional bolstering layers—minorities, chosen OBC gro­ups (she banks heavily now on Most Backward Castes), with a cushion of the savarna jatis, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. This silence is deliberate, for she feels that as soon as the BSP begins to look formidable to the eyes of the opposition, their casteist mindset sets in and they unite, cutting across ideologies, to try and defeat the party. To substantiate her point, she cites data from the 2012 UP assembly elections.

However, she's confident that if any state can put the brakes on Modi's caravan to Delhi, it's UP—and within UP, she sees the BSP as the prime actor in this project. It's no empty boast. On the turf of ideology, organisational strength and mass perception (as a tough administrator), Mayawati's party will be the one to beat in UP. Especially if her pitch of 'Jai Bhim' (against the bjp's 'Jai Shri Ram') wins the confidence of the Muslim minorities.

Indeed, her savdhan rally in Lucknow was a clarion call for this. On January 15—in the wake of the winter deaths in the Muzaffarnagar camps—she drove home the point that, during her regime (2007-2012), there had been alm­ost no riots. This despite the opposition trying to create such situations. She also highlighted instances of how the Muslims and Dalits helped each other during the recent riots in western UP. In a fervent appeal, she called for the Dalit-Muslim brotherhood to be maintained at any cost, especially in the current atmosphere where communal forces were creating havoc freely in a Samajwadi Party- ruled Uttar Pradesh. In a frontal attack on Modi, she reminded supporters how BJP regi­mes—whether in UP or Gujarat—are prone to orchestrating communal violence. Modi, as CM of a small state with just a six crore population, could not check the 2002 carnage, so how will he manage one billion Indians of different castes and religions at the national level, she wanted to know.

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