The need to revisit conversion as a tool for fighting caste


Srutheesh Kannadi

srutheeshThe issue of caste faced by Dalits is too complex to explain in the context of post-colonial modernity. The structural existence of caste has attained much flexibility and transformed into the behaviour of an amoeba where it appears to not follow any pre-defined principles. This illusion of caste made it invisible but at the same time it informs all kind of inhuman and discriminatory practices. The post-colonial modernity has paved the way for the ruling castes/class to maintain their hierarchies and Hindu social order by covering up themselves with the liberal/progressive masks. By creating an illusion of flexibility over caste discourses the structural position still appears to be more rigid as defined in the Hindu social order. So it is in this context that the idea of conversion needs to be revisited as a tool against the caste inequalities.

Many anti-caste philosophers and intellectuals, including Ambedkar, have suggested conversion as a method to resolve the humiliations and atrocities of the caste structured Hindu society. Ambedkar talks about both the social and spiritual aspects of conversion, especially to Buddhism, by imagining the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity. He argues in favour of conversion from Hinduism since it negates the identity of an individual and recognizes only the privileges of caste/class groups. But to talk about conversion or to get converted, the primordial state demands the Dalits to be accepted as Hindu in the beginning. So how have the Dalits become Hindu is the primary question that needs to be addressed.

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Hindu religion is the real culprit: Why do people avoid talking about it?

 

Vaishali Khandekar

vaishali khandekar

"In spite of what others say the Hindu will not admit that there is anything evil in the Caste System and from one point he is right. There is love, unity and mutual aid among members of a family. There is honour among theives. A band of robbers have common interests as respects to its members. Gangs are marked by fraternal feelings and intense loyalty to their own ends however opposed they may be to the other gangs. Following this up one can say that a Caste has got all the praiseworthy characteristics which a society is supposed to have. It has got the virtues of a family inasmuch as there is love, unity and mutual aid. It has got the honour known to prevail among thieves. It has got loyalty and fraternal feeling we meet within gangs and it also possesses that sense of common interests which is found among robbers." ~ Babasaheb Ambedkar in "Triumph of Brahminism"

Yesterday, India witnessed a Diwali ahead of Diwali. What was different about this Diwali was that instead of celebrating just Ram's homecoming, it celebrated the supreme leader PM Narendra Modi. It was rather a celebration of Hindu Religion, marking its presence and a decalaration of victory through this Hindu orchestra, directed by their king. While I was witnessing this mayhem, I was enraged by the diyas and the sound of conches being blown. People went to the extent of chanting Jai Shri Ram and Bharat Mata ki Jai.

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The Supreme Court’s decision on reservations in promotion is a step back in the fight against social injustice


Tanishque Gedam

tanishque gedamReservations in promotion for people belonging to the Scheduled Castes(SCs) & Scheduled Tribes(STs) in public services and government employment has been subject to intense debate and severe criticism ever since it first came into effect. However the issue was in the limelight again after the apex court in February ruled that reservation in promotions isn’t a fundamental right, meaning that the states are not legally bound to grant reservations to SCs & STs in government jobs and services.

The ruling reiterated that under Article 16(4) of the Indian Constitution, the government is empowered to undertake such legislation at its discretion.

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This lockdown is completely against the Dalit-Bahujans


Pradnya Jadhav

(SAVARI and Round Table India are doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)

pradnyaj 2020Anu: How are the people at home and the neighbourhood responding, and preparing for the prolonged lockdown due to the pandemic?

Pradnya: I would say, uncertainty prevails. First of all, there is no clear communication between the authorities and the people. It is neither about the gravity nor about how the authorities themselves are preparing to respond to the needs of the people. It is no different than what we are witnessing at the pan-India level. The lockdown was abruptly announced giving no window for us to prepare ourselves.

In fact, the preparation is a lot more about having the capacity to afford it, with the majority of the people in my neighbourhood working as daily wage labourers. A few of them work at the sawmills, and a few as domestic helpers, security guards, sweepers, etc. The foremost concern, to survive during this lockdown, is to have enough groceries at home which not many of them have been able to purchase. The supermarkets are unaffordable, in each lane of the locality there are small kirana shops, and the owners keep daily essentials at their homes, from milk to the grains. As of now, most of them are buying groceries on credit from these kirana shops, this is an adjustment for the time being and not a long term solution. The PDS shops are far from here, going outside is risky since the police will beat them up and later the long queue waits at the shop.

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Why Dr. Devi Shetty’s 25 (or 2500) ‘ways to manage Covid-19’ should be rejected outright

 

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam

Sylvia pixFor far too long, Dr. Devi Shetty has been giving advice on a range of things, the most recent being the Covid-19 pandemic. This is a crucial public health period for India, laying bare all the strengths and weaknesses of the system, and offering a significant window of opportunity to reimagine India's public health system in a more comprehensive and holistic manner. Dr. Devi Shetty, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Chairman of one of the largest chain of corporate hospitals in Karnataka has become, and projected as, the singular advisor on all types of healthcare issues - a veritable one man army!

However, one little fact that gets sidelined is that, being a cardiothoracic surgeon by training, he is unlikely to have expertise in public health, epidemiology, statistics, planning, management etc. Secondly, being the Chairman of a corporate chain of hospitals, he has a terribly strong conflict of interest. Given a chance to 'plan' crucial budgets with public money, what are the chances that he will give up a wonderful opportunity to further the cause of the private healthcare sector? What are the chances that he won't?

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Lighting candles, telecasting Ramayan: Is that the best PM Modi can do?

 

Dr Manisha Bangar

manisha bangarWhy don't you instead make everyone believe that "lighting a candle" will take away the hunger of the hungry trapped in the Corona crisis, Mr Modi ??

The total number of deaths in India due to Corona has touched 56 and 2301 patients are Covid positive.

By this time you all know that I did not burn any candle on 5th April Sunday at evening 9:00 p.m, and refused to be a part of PM's voodoo events. But this time what bothers me more than the fact that many again gave a full toss to physical distancing, that the candle burning (you never know what that enthusiastic moron bhakts will be burning other than lamps to create that extra energy) will play havoc with the environment and divert all (taking a stand on either side of the senseless event) from more immediate concerns in the path of Corona Control, is the fact that the PM, in his second address, rather than appraise citizens of what milestones we have achieved so far, has chosen to maintain a deafening silence on matters of paramount importance.

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The pandemic destroys livelihoods before it destroys lives

 

Gaurav Somwanshi

(Round Table India is doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)

gaurav 2020 Anu Ramdas: As a tech entrepreneur whose work is aimed at innovating processes that bring in price transparency, particularly with fresh produce, give us a background of what supply and demand look like from your location?

Gaurav Somwanshi: Last year, the monsoon lasted long enough that a good amount of crop was destroyed, especially in Maharashtra. 30-40% of grapes were destroyed, and what happened to the onion crop and resulting price hikes became a matter of memes. To take the example of grapes, and my experience of working with Mr Vilas Shinde, founder of India's largest farmer collective of small-landholding farmers, in a single district of Nashik alone, over 30,000 acres worth of grapes remain to be harvested. This is approximately 4 lakh tons of grapes yet to be harvested and sold. Add to that, we had a hailstorm in the month of March in districts of Marathwada, resulting in the destruction of primarily the wheat crop.

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How the Brahmin beat Corona

 

Kuffir

(Round Table India is doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)

Anu Ramdas: I would like to ask two questions. First, the updates you posted on the callousness exhibited by India in terms of not checking and isolating incoming travelers, can you please elaborate on them?

Kuffir: No, it is not callous. There is a structural problem. It basically means that the structures don't enable the rulers to function outside the frames they have set for themselves. It's like a machine, it's programmed to function in a certain way. Even though it might seem like it is programmed to function for everyone, equally and with fairness, that is not the way it actually works.

nidhin myth

'The burden of a myth': illustration by Nidhin Shobhana

Look at the exodus of migrant workers from Delhi. Do they have any rights? They're supposedly in their own country, but forget the rights of citizens, they don't even seem to deserve the protections offered to even illegal migrants residing in any country, internationally, especially in such extraordinary circumstances as during disasters, etc.

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COVID-19: Fallacies about Social Distancing


Istikhar & Lochan

istikhar and lochanIndia is a myth-dominant country. Different phases of life: birth, marriage, diseases, death go through the prism of myths portraying true colours of this country. These myths tend to be deadlier than a disease. Similar is the conditioning of social distancing in the times of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Although the virus was borne out of elite classes, it is socially mobilized from the upper class to the lower class. It does not matter if the 'rich infections' are penetrating to the poorest; the mentality and stance of government appear to be quite clear. Their political and economic interest would act favourably for the riches, and the poor have to be the sufferers, yet again. But who cares?

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The virus or the ruling castes' response to it: What’s more dangerous for Bahujans


Rahul Bansode

rahul bansodeWhen Covid-19 started affecting the entire world, many countries globally began enforcing strict lockdowns to prevent its spread. Following suit, Indian government announced the lockdown of entire country on 23rd March. Thousands of migrants, most of them Dalit-Adivasi-Bahujans were found stranded across India without food and water. Many of the migrant workers started walking hundreds of kilometers with families consisting of wives, children and elders. Some of them travelling crammed in trucks, containers and tankers as they were left with no choice other than putting their lives in danger due to the government's inability to ensure their safe travel back home. Amidst this chaos, police in many states resorted to heavy handedness against migrants, adding insult to injuries of migrants, with few exceptions.

Recently, author of the new book, “Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present,” Frank M. Snowden, a professor emeritus of history and the history of medicine at Yale, while giving interview to an American weekly magazine The New Yorker said: “Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are. That is to say, they obviously have everything to do with our relationship to our mortality, to death, to our lives. They also reflect our relationships with the environment—the built environment that we create and the natural environment that responds. They show the moral relationships that we have toward each other as people, and we’re seeing that today.”

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Caste, Class and Corona

 

Dr Jas Simran Singh Kehal

jas kehal'Epidemiology is like a bikini; what is revealed is interesting; what is concealed is critical'. This statement by Peter Duesberg, a cancer epidemiologist, at the time of corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic carries significance if we take into account gender, social, economic and demographic inequities in India.

With about 500,000 confirmed cases worldwide and approximately 22000 deaths till date, in spite of the fact that it is still in stage II/III in most parts of the globe, COVID-19 seems to be catching up with Spanish flu which struck exactly a century ago and is estimated to have infected 500 million people (one fourth of the world’s population at that time) with estimated deaths around 50 million. India is foreseeing a minimum of one million confirmed cases and 30,000 deaths by this May end.

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3 Cs - Corona, Caste and the Country


Arvind Boudhh

arvind boudhh 1The outbreak of the COVID-19 has caused havoc globally and different countries have taken different measures to curb the spread, and to treat the infected people. The deadly virus in a way has revealed the gory truth about the governments’ priorities and the extents to which they can go to meet these priorities.

India has the world’s largest diaspora so it is always vulnerable to communicable diseases which may originate in other parts of the world. The COVID-19 is one of such threats.

COVID-19 was first reported in India at the end of January 2020 and since then the number is increasing, the situation on 26th Mar 2020 afternoon looks like this:

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