Ambedkar and the Left

Gail Omvedt

(From her blog 'seeking begumpura')

An article by Anand Telbumbde, "Not Red versus Blue" has been recently arousing controversy. Dalits have attacked it. In attempting to "mediate" between Ambedkarites and Leftists, Teltumbe according to many has fallen into the trap of turning Ambedkar into a semi-Marxist.

In fact, Teltumbe does distort Ambedkar in a subtle way. He writes, ""Ambedkar practiced class politics, albeit not in the Marxian sense. He always used 'class' even for describing the untouchables." The one example Teltumbe gives is to Ambedkar's essay on caste, which was written in 1916 for a seminar. In this essay, "Castes in India: Their Genesis, Mechanism and Development", Ambedkar begins by describing a caste as an "enclosed class." However, this is a beginning point, not a conclusion, and it is far from absorbing castes into a Marxian notion of class. Ambedkar's elaboration of the mechanisms and development of caste make it clear that caste is a very different category from the openness of class as determined by division of labor. He is apparently using "class" in a somewhat general fashion in his phrase, "enclosed class," not in any specific economic sense.

Read more...

A Life Lived Well, and Lessons Thereof

Braj Ranjan Mani

phule_savitri_copy

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.)

Read more...

It’s Not Red Vs Blue

Anand Teltumbde

Ambedkar was more about class than caste, but the Left won’t see it that way 

India is a land of paradoxes. But no paradox may be as consequential as the divergent histories of the Dalit and the Communist movements. Both were born around the same time, spoke for or against the same issues, grew or splintered similarly, and find themselves equally hopeless today. And yet, they refuse to see eye to eye. A large part of the blame for wallowing in this attitudinal abyss is attributed to Ambedkar, simply because of his explicit critique of the Communists and Marxism. This is simplistic, if not grossly wrong.

Read more...

Supersexualised Market and the New Body Politic

Braj Ranjan Mani

The supersexualised market and its mindless validation encourage the assumption that feminist and all equalitarian struggles have ended, that equality for all women and men has been achieved, and the deserving lot can now have anything they want. Its sexy-selfish template trivialises all social commitment and mocks any serious engagement with arts, literature, politics, or spirituality.

In the market culture, money forms the ties of affection and love. Personal relationships, like other things in life, are the function of wealth and possession. Promotional ads seldom depict a man's economic success without possessing a playgirl or a trophy wife, the more (women) the merrier. This fits in with the concept of possession—possessing property leads to possessing fetching and fertile females. The neatness of the fit between economic success and sexual success is not surprising since both are manifestations of the same dominant ideology and value system. This is in sync with the traditional—patriarchal—concept of woman as a maal (property). The modern capitalist commodification of woman is just an updated version of the patriarchal objectification of woman. The commercial culture just packages the old heterosexual stereotypes in a new feisty vocabulary of female empowerment and an exuberant celebration of the body.

Read more...

More of the Same in the Global India

Braj Ranjan Mani

The tyranny of capitalism in India cannot be grasped, let alone resisted, in isolation from its wider social context. Capitalism is far more dangerous in India than in the Euro-America because of the culture and economics of caste.

Today, India (after China and the US) has the world's third largest middle class (250-300 million); 49 enlisted dollar billionaires (black market economy and overseas banks allow some crooks to remain unlisted); and the single largest concentration of the world's poor (800 million), most of them illiterate or semi-literate, considering 70 per cent in India's 1.2 billion are either illiterate or have no more than a primary education. A political analyst, representing the views of Indian elite, calls this "a new triad of India's political economy," and adds, "The poor were always with us, but billionaire businessmen and a huge middle class were not. They constitute a historical novelty for India." A more empathetic view with compelling stories and statistics, delineating the depredation of the elite and the suffering of the people, is brought home in a new book which demonstrates that the economy "may be in good statistical health," but "it is by no means in good social or ecological health." Unravelling the social consequences of the growth story, the authors point out that the footprint of the wealthiest Indians is 330 times that of the poorest 40 per cent; and that with each new Special Economic Zone, India loses the capacity to feed 50, 000 to 1,00,000 people each year. * [Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kothari, Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India (New Delhi: Penguin, 2012).]

Read more...

Questions of name

Gail Omvedt

"Dalit", "Scheduled Caste", "Ex-Untouchable" and "Harijan". These are only some of the many words used to refer to the most oppressed sections of Indian society, "untouchable" in the traditional caste order, performers of the most degrading task, and still today caught in the throes of poverty, discrimination and the remnants of untouchability.

"Dalit" is still probably the most widespread of these terms, but it is not uncontested. Many are uncomfortable with its apparent militancy. It means literally "crushed" or "ground down", and it has an interesting history. It is first found, apparently, in the '30s, when it was used as a Marathi and Hindi translation for the British term "Depressed Classes." (As elsewhere, "classes" here meant "castes", something to remember when we are discussing OBCs.) Ambedkar used it in this way to refer to his Depressed Class conferences, though in English we most often find him using the simple and descriptive term "Untouchable". His conflicts with Gandhi in the early '30s were at least partly a matter of terminology. Gandhi had, for him, the brilliant idea of using the term "Harijan", taken from the bhakti movement. Ambedkar resisted this, just as he resisted Gandhi's attempt to turn an Untouchable League (which Ambedkar thought should take up general issues of civil rights) into a paternalistic organisation controlled by upper-caste Hindus. Ambedkar, and militant Dalits ever since, have seen the word "Harijan" as demeaning and false, hence oppressive.

Read more...

Other Related Articles

Vayalar Rebellion: A Rethought
Thursday, 23 March 2017
  Anilkumar PV There is no other grand claim about history as that of Hegel's inimitable remark: "God is God only in so far as he knows himself." It was Marx who liberated thought from the... Read More...
"I don't have much belief in the system": Actor Vinayakan talks to the Media
Thursday, 23 March 2017
  Rakesh Ram S Vinayakan, a Dalit actor from Kerala, began his career as a dancer and has been an actor for more than 20 years now in Malayalam and other south Indian movies. Initially he played... Read More...
Institutional Discrimination in Academic Agrahara
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
  Bansidhar Deep "When equality is denied everything is denied. There is no equality in M.Phil/Ph.D admission, there is no equality in viva-voce, there is only denial of equality, denying prof.... Read More...
The Death of a Historian in Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Sunday, 19 March 2017
  Jitendra Suna Speech made at the protest by BAPSA on 16th March, 2017 against the Institutional Murder of Muthukrishnan (Rajini Krish) I am Jitendra Suna, and I am from a remote village named... Read More...
I am someone who thinks in an Ayyankali thought: Vinayakan, best actor
Sunday, 19 March 2017
  Dwija Aami and Sreerag Poickadan Malayalam actor Vinayakan has received the Kerala State government's Best Actor Award 2016 for the Malayalee film Kammatpadam, recently. His interview by... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Parched and Feminism: Are All Women's Stories the Same?
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
  Asha Singh In the past few days, I have noticed that a few of my Dalit-Bahujan friends are engaged in an uncritical celebration of Leena Yadav's feature film titled 'Parched'. I would like to... Read More...
Who’s your Perfect Dalit Woman?
Tuesday, 04 October 2016
  Christina Thomas Dhanaraj "The oppressor is solidary with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them as persons who have been unjustly dealt... Read More...
Presenting Angela Davis, the Savarna Style
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
  Sukanya Shantha On Friday, a friend and I walked into a movie hall to watch an American romantic musical, La La Land. Enticed by the cinematic beauty and the dreamy two hours spent in the... Read More...
In the name of the Nation: Historicizing Caste in Indian Universities
Thursday, 01 December 2016
  Nidhin Shobhana In the name of the Nation: Historicizing Caste in Indian Universities (with special reference to Jawaharlal Nehru University) Setting up the Stage The 'idea' of a... Read More...
Babasaheb for Me Is Like an Inner Voice
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
  Essay series on 'What Babasaheb Ambedkar Means to me' Madhura Raut It was neither my family nor my school that introduced Ambedkar to me. It was because of my friends, either classmates... Read More...

Recent Articles in Hindi

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

पेरियार से हम क्या सीखें?

  संजय जोठे  इस देश में भेदभाव और शोषण से भरी परम्पराओं का विरोध करने वाले अनेक विचारक और क्रांतिकारी हुए हैं जिनके बारे में हमें बार-बार पढ़ना और समझना चाहिए. दुर्भाग्य से इस देश के शोषक वर्गों के षड्यंत्र के कारण इन क्रांतिकारियों का जीवन परिचय और समग्र कर्तृत्व छुपाकर रखा जाता है. हमारी अनेकों पीढियां इसी षड्यंत्र में जीती आयीं हैं. किसी देश के उद्भट विचारकों और क्रान्तिकारियों को इस...

Read more

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

कृष्ण: भारतीय मर्द का एक आम चेहरा...!

(कृष्ण की लोक लुभावन छवि का पुनर्पाठ!)मानुषी आखिर ये मिथकीय कहानियां किस तरह की परवरिश और शिक्षा देती हैं, जहां पुरुषों को सारे अधिकार हैं, चाहे वह स्त्री को अपमानित करे या दंडित, उसे स्त्री पलट कर कुछ नहीं कहती। फिर आज हम रोना रोते हैं कि हमारे बच्चे इतने हिंसक और कुंठित क्यों हो रहे हैं। सारा दोष हम इंटरनेट और टेलीविजन को देकर मुक्त होना चाहते हैं। जबकि स्त्री...

Read more

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

राष्ट्रवाद और देशभक्ति

संजय जोठे धर्म जो काम शास्त्र लिखकर करता है वही काम राष्ट्र अब फ़िल्में और विडिओ गेम्स बनाकर बनाकर करते हैं. इसी के साथ सुविधाभोगी पीढ़ी को मौत से बचाने के लिए टेक्नालाजी पर भयानक खर्च भी करना पड़ता है ताकि दूर बैठकर ही देशों का सफाया किया जा सके, और यही असल में उस तथाकथित “स्पेस रिसर्च” और “अक्षय ऊर्जा की खोज” की मूल प्रेरणा है, यूं तो सबको...

Read more