(Un)Touchable in Durban

 

Martin Macwan

(First published in the December 2001 issue of Seminar)

The UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) held at Durban had three major agenda themes among others: identification of the sources and causes of discrimination, identification of victims of discrimination, and working out a programme of action including possible compensatory measures to combat racial discrimination.

Racial discrimination has been broadly defined as discrimination based on grounds such as race, colour, descent, and national or ethnic origin. With a special reference to India that declined to accept 'descent' as a ground of discrimination intrinsic to the caste system, maintaining that the term is applicable only in relation to racial discrimination, the ICERD, in 1996 observed that, 'The situation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes falls within the scope of the convention' (ICERD).

It needs to be reiterated that the issue of caste based discrimination has been raised by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and others on the grounds of descent which, incidentally was incorporated in the convention on Indian insistence in 1964. The National Human Rights Commission of India has opined that all nations must respect treaty bodies, especially when they have signed and ratified international conventions.

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Caste, corruption and romanticism

 

Kancha Ilaiah

The Dalit-Bahujan theory or Ambedkarism cannot negotiate with funny theories of sociologists like Ashis Nandy. The best way to counter them is to write a better theory.

kancha ilaiahUtsa Patnaik, a noted economist said in a small note that she circulated "Ashis Nandy had earlier made approving remarks on the 1988 Deorala burning to death of a young widow in the name of sati (terming it a courageous act in a piece in the Indian Express), and more recently has reportedly made a factually baseless, highly offensive comment on Dalits and corruption. Given the crudity of these positions one wonders how 'nuanced' and 'ironic' can an academic get. There is nothing here to surprise us, for Nandy has always projected a consistent intellectual position.

"His writings, starting from The Intimate Enemy clearly represent an Indianised version of Romanticism, the much-analysed trend of thinking which valorises pre-capitalist traditions, local cultures and subjectivities while critically opposing the rationalism and homogenizing values of industrial capitalism." This is a perceptive observation of Mr. Nandy's academic romanticism. Such romaticisation of caste and culture has deeper scholastic roots.

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The ugly truth

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiah'You labelled the SC/ST/OBCs as corrupt to equalise them with upper castes who are not merely corrupt but also exploit '

Dear Ashis Nandy,

On the question of corruption — how to deploy that concept, and which section of the Indian society (not of the state) deserves to be deployed — it seems you displayed a deep diabolism at the Jaipur Literature Festival. With your statement the debate on corruption shifted from individuals to communities/castes. This is in a way good.

The recent countrywide debate on corruption was confined to individuals, most of them coming from the higher echelons of the Indian civil society and state. Now you have, however, labelled the OBCs, SCs and STs as communities that are most corrupt without saying anything about the corruption of the upper castes, except a cursory reference to upper-caste nepotism. In any case, none of the upper-caste intellectuals in the realm of social science have accepted, so far, that the upper castes are corrupt as a community. Your presumption on that count is also wrong. In fact, there is no debate on castes and communities in relation to corruption.

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Delhi Gang Rape Case: Some Uncomfortable Questions

 

Anand Teltumbde

The brutal attack and gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy intern in Delhi on 16 December 2012 provoked countrywide angry reactions and foregrounded the issue of increasing incidents of sexual assaults on women in general and rapes in particular. It compelled the otherwise apathetic administration to take several exceptional measures such as flying the woman to a super-specialty hospital in Singapore and fast-tracking the trial of the perpetrators. Unfortunately the victim could not be saved. Now that she is gone and the issue has faded from the television screens one can think dispassionately and raise some questions that remained suppressed in the heat of agitation. For instance, dalits who suffer alone when their daughters are raped and murdered with impunity are annoyed by this sudden burst of concern for rape as though it was some strange occurrence in the country. They poured out their anger in their blogs and e-mail groups asking why all those candle bearers did not shed a single tear over the rape and murder of Surekha and Priyanka Bhotmange that was committed in a festive mode by Khairlanji villagers. What indeed is the character of these television-induced agitations? Do they really serve the purpose of diminishing social evils or trivialise them? What, for instance, did this agitation do for the cause of women's honour?

Why Only Nirbhaya?

Rapes are a part of our environment. Only a small fraction of their actual incidence comes to light because of the social stigma associated with them; mostly, such occurrences are deliberately suppressed by the victims and their families. To a varying degree, this is a world phenomenon. For instance, the American Medical Association (1995) considers sexual violence and rape, in particular, as the most under-reported crime. As such, only a few of these incidents get into police records and get counted. And still, on the basis of this count by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), rapes currently take place in India at the rate of one every 22 minutes. The total number of rape cases reported in 2011 was 24,206. From 2,487 in 1971, when the NCRB started to record cases of rape, this spells a rise of 873%! One may be reasonably sceptical about this distant benchmark as there have been signifi cant changes in the country, particularly in people's attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviour as a result of the free market reforms instituted in 1991. But even if one considers the recent period, say 1991 onwards, the incidence of rape is seen rising at an accelerated pace. From 10,410 cases of rape in 1991, the figure rose to 24,206 in 2011, an increase of over 230%. Delhi, where this heinous rape took place, has been the rape capital of India. The corresponding figures for Delhi were 214 and 572, recording a 267% rise over two decades. Never before did any of these incidents evoke even the slightest of public reaction. The question arises, why did only this incident create such a public uproar?

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Casting corruption

 

Mallepalli Lakshmaiah

mallepalli lakshmaiahThere is nothing new in the social scientist, Ashis Nandy's formulation that "most of the corrupt" people in India "come from the OBCs (Other Backward Classes) and the Scheduled Castes (SC), and now increasingly Scheduled Tribes (ST)".

Those defending Nandy as an original thinker and so-called public intellectual may be reminded of a similar statement made by another learned professor, while delivering a guest lecture at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie in 1990, during the height of the anti-Mandal Commission agitation.

At that time, this Delhi University professor told the 300-odd probationers that "all SC and ST officers who got in through reservation in the civil services were corrupt". Moreover, "since the reserved category officers came from poor economic backgrounds, they couldn't resist the temptation of money".

Inglorious traditions

As for Nandy, what can one say about somebody who, in the past, even projected 'Sati' as an act of courage reaffirming efflorescent Indian traditions against the onslaught of modernity and a market-oriented political economy?

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Who’s here for the tribals?

 

Babulal Marandi

In recent times, the issue of coal block allocation has seen unprecedented discussions in the media, Parliament and legislative assemblies of various coal-bearing states. But amidst the heated political discussions, what has clearly been missed, is a serious effort or thinking in setting things right. While CAG's revelation vis-a-vis allocation of coal blocks has given enough ammunition to various political parties to sling mud at each other, it's the poor tribals who continue to lose out as ever before.

In the wake of recent economic developments, there is no denying the fact that natural resources like coal, iron ore, etc, need to be put to prudent use. Unfortunately, policymakers at various levels have inevitably failed to gauge the hopes and aspirations of the poor and marginalised tribals of the country.

In the last eight years itself, 138 coal blocks have been given away to the private sector almost free of cost in the name of captive usage. Often, a picture is painted that tribals are anti-development, but if any sane person would bother to analyse the conditions under which these coal blocks have been allocated, he would realise the apathy with which the poor tribals have been treated.

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