Why Dalit History Matters


Pardeep Attri

pardeep singhIf you want to destroy a society, destroy its History and the society will get destroyed automatically – Dr. Ambedkar

Nobody till now has questioned winners; neither will anyone in the future ask them, how have they won? Fiction is "generally accepted falsehood" or "non factual literature", whereas the History is "systematic continuous record of events". Dalit history has been maligned and distorted since ages. Historians ought to be freeless, sincere, open minded, open hearted, truth seeking & also courageous to show the truth at any cost but it is the misfortune of the Dalits of India that historians have always presented a distorted picture & never showed the truth to the people. Being Dalit, we have been taught to hate ourselves, we have been taught that Dalits' don't have any history; we have been taught Dalits can't do any good. Who taught you all this? The upper castes did. Hence, almost everyone confuses history with fiction & historians have made people blind, deaf & dumb – have disabled people from thinking rationally. Historians have made us believe and worship fictitious characters such as Krishna and Rama.

A few years ago, the Punjab School Education Board came up with a 4th standard book in which Guru Ravidas was shown worshiping King Rama and Sita. But in reality, Guru Ravidas was against idol worship and he never worshiped any of these two deities. Not only this, the names of Guru Ravidas' parents, his date of birth and even the Guru's name were wrongly published! Further, it was taught to us that Guru Ravidas was a disciple of Ramanand but nowhere in Guru Ravidas' bani (teachings) will you find Ramanand's name mentioned even though the names of other saints such as Saint Kabir, Saint Namdev etc., are mentioned in his bani. A few days back, Mohan Bhagwat from RSS was claiming that Dr. Ambedkar believed in RSS' ideology!


How can we exclude the storyteller from the story being told?


Gaurav Somwanshi

gaurav somwanshiOne of the grave problems with Indian academia, and the general discussions involving upper castes, has been that although we have had our share of Spivaks, Roys, Srinivases, Dipankar Guptas, Andre Beteilles and Gudavarthys, we've never really had any Peggy McIntosh. The one thing common among the former and latter is that they're both a part of the dominant and oppressor camp, but the important difference is that while our Indian upper caste academics and mainstream authors focused their magnifying lenses to stereotype and reify entire oppressed communities, Peggy McIntosh on the other hand, being White, focused her attention on unpacking the huge baggage of White Privilege1. Thus, as a result of this deficiency, one can see that in the context of caste we don't even recognize any concept of how privilege works but instead what we have produced are commonplace phrases such as 'Brahmin-bashing' (ब्राह्मण-द्वेष).

But what is casteism? Is it the mere inclusion of the 'word' caste in your minds? Is it the mere consideration of the 'caste angle'? Can anyone, irrespective of their caste location, become a casteist if he/she so wishes? And is the held belief/wish the sole criteria for solving the entire caste riddle?


Men are mortal, so are Ideas


Arvind Boudhh

arvind boudhh"Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die." -Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

 Babasaheb must have made this statement when he felt the applicability of the same across all spheres of life. When we gaze through human history there are ample evidences to support this statement. With whatever little experience I have gained, I too, feel the infallibility of his statement.

Irrespective of the mode of production prevalent in any given society, certain ideologies were used to defend the ownership of the resources by a few over the masses. In the feudal societies, the church/religion provided these ideologies legitimizing the exploitation of masses by the monarchs and feudal landlords.

The roots of today's globalized world can be found in the onset of trade and commerce activities that were achieved through the colonization of most of the countries in the world. While some countries were monopolizing the world's markets there was the need for an ideology to support these conquests of continents and exploitation of local resources across the globe by a few strong countries. This ideology was an imperative to make this system of business work, flourish and grow without many hindrances. Mercantilism equipped the trading nations with this ideology. This legitimized the exploitation of other nations as power and wealth were said to be zero sum games, meaning one cannot have them until unless someone else loses them.


Dalit History Matters


Dalit History Matters Collective

(Vee Karunakaran, Christina Thomas Dhanaraj, Asha Kowtal, Sanghapali Aruna, Manisha Devi, and Thenmozhi Soundararajan)

I am Dalit History
YOU are Dalit History
WE are Dalit HIstory

And we believe that
it's not just HISstory, but HERstory, and OURstory
that are necessary to set us free.

dhm poster

Founded on these beliefs, Dalit History Month is committed to sharing our rich historical contributions with the rest of the world. It is a love letter to our ancestors - our great foremothers and forefathers who struggled to pass on dignity while suffering unspeakable violence. Weaving their proud legacy in poetry, dance, song, or drum, they prepared future Dalits, our generation, to survive, endure, and fight. Today, we are their voice, as they were ours.

Every Dalit is born with this powerful spirit of resistance and endurance. Together, we are re-writing our story and toppling generations of counterfeit history spun by our oppressors. To learn our own truth, we put one foot in front of the next to unlearn their sham history.

With each confident step forward we challenge their narratives. For, we are more than corpses laying in the wake of their conquest. Our lands and our bodies may have been stolen, but our spirits burn with justice!


Interpreting the passage of Hindutva in Maharashtra


Yogesh Maitreya

maitreya yogesh 2The ideology of Hindutva, or the revival of the Vedic dharma or Brahminic religion, represents the starkest contradiction to the Indian constitution, in Maharashtra and throughout India. Its infusion into the soil of Maharashtra can be traced back to the reign of the Peshwas, the period during which untouchability had attained its worst form. In fact the oppressive reign of cruel Peshwas (Brahmins) was built on the destruction of the secularist reign of Shivaji who 'had never allowed his soldiers to disrespect mosques, Quran or Bible.... And if he found a Bible or a Quran among the property seized during battle, he would receive it with great respect and hand it over to Muslims or Christians in his entourage'(Patil, 1992).

The complete reinterpretation of the image of Shivaji or, perhaps, the deliberate veiling of Shivaji's secularist personality and his egalitarian philosophy, had attained political salience with the inception of the Shiv Sena during 1960s. The Sena's formative decade, the 1960s, was filled with uneasiness and anxiety over linguistic issues and the inclusion of Bombay (as it was then called) as a part of Maharashtra. Despite such an atmosphere, 'Maharashtrian society was from early on highly politicised, and probably one of the most secularised in India'2 (Hansen, 1996). Though this sounds true at a virtual level, what Hansen interpreted in his study about the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra was that the idea of secularism in the newly formed state, both in theory and practice, was actually propounded and nurtured by shudras and dalits, and later majorly by the dalit movement through its many facets. And Ambedkar was the major force behind it.


Does ActionAid International support caste discrimination?


Karthik Navayan

In India there is no escape from the Brahmanical caste structure, it is a story that needs no retelling. It has been the case since ages, and, quite distressingly, it will be so for at least few generations to come. My 18-month tenure in ActionAid Hyderabad Regional Office and my subsequent year-long fight with ActionAid India and ActionAid International not only affirmed my conviction, but it enlightened me about another phenomena, too; that an international aid agency's "International Office", which committed themselves to the poor and unprivileged, can also become as casteist and discriminatory as Indian casteists. To put it more bluntly, individuals from India's dominant castes and the ones who believe in Brahmanical ideology rule those agencies.

Please read my earlier article, for more background: Caste Discrimination in Modern Workspaces: The Case of ActionAid India  

1. Indian caste system is becoming a world problem

syam ingos

Caste system and Chaturvarnya1 principles of hierarchy is spreading across countries of the world; the caste Hindus carry their caste along with them wherever they go. As observed by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, "As long as caste in India does exist, Hindus will hardly intermarry or have any social intercourse with outsiders; and if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem."2 What Dr Ambedkar foretold in 1917, has become the truth today.

The people who migrated from India to different countries have formed their caste organisations in places like the United Kingdom, United States of America, Canada, South Africa and UAE. The table below lists a few of the websites of caste-based organisations across the world:


Ban on cow slaughter: a social conspiracy


Arvind Kumar

arvind kumarThe state of Maharashtra has issued a complete ban on cow slaughter. It is now a non-bailable offence to kill a cow. One can get a bail in the case of the murder of another human being but not for killing a cow. Those who have got this law to come into place are celebrating as if they have won a victory over Pakistan. Some think of it as a non-issue: ban or no ban, what do we care? Some are worried that those who managed to get the ban issued will now push their agenda more brazenly. But in this ban, I see the beginnings of a reversal in the process of 'social change'.

The 'social change' that began after the British arrived. The change which was further accelerated with the framing of the constitution and the introduction of reservation for Dalits. Mahatma Phule was of the opinion that the struggle for independence began only because the British started meddling with the caste system in India.

Is that 'social change' in danger? To be able to answer that, let us first look at what Babasaheb wrote in the conclusion of his research:The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?

~ These are the two limits, upper and lower, for determining the birth of Untouchability (200 AD and 600 AD resp.) Can we fix an approximate date for the birth of Untouchability? I think we can, if we take beef-eating, which is the root of Untouchability, as the point to start from. Taking the ban on beef-eating as a point to reconnoitre from, it follows that the date of the birth of Untouchability must be intimately connected with the ban on cow-killing and on eating beef. If we can answer when cow-killing became an offence and beef-eating became a sin, we can fix an approximate date for the birth of Untouchability. When did cow-killing become an offence? We know that Manu did not prohibit the eating of beef nor did he make cow-killing an offence. When did it become an offence? As has been shown by Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar, cow killing was made a capital offence by the Gupta kings some time in the 4th Century A.D. ~ Dr B.R. Ambedkar (BAWS: Volume 14)


The Brahmin Problem


Anu Ramdas

"That which is not destroyed when the upadhis of time, space, and causation are destroyed, is Brahman, the immortal Reality.*"

The foundational belief system of the Brahmins as per their own foundational texts is unapologetically supremacist. When confronted, one expects the present day brahmin with stakes in rational thought to readily agree to its invalidity. The buddhist discourse, anti-caste movements and literatures have all repeatedly explicated the hollowness of the Brahmanic claims of innate and never reducible superiority. Ambedkar had pointed out that this literature refuses to be accountable to historical verification and piously claims divine authorship and therefore, has to be relegated to the realm of myths. Yet, the supremacist belief system of the Brahmin receives continuous validation in the social discourse of the subcontinent.

group of brahmin women

Source: Library of Congress

Let us step back and familiarize ourselves with the term—supremacy. The most commonly discussed form is: white supremacy, which is a belief system of persons who believe that the white race is better than all other races and should have control over them. The less discussed one is: Brahmin supremacy, which is a belief system of persons who believe that the Brahmins are better than all other humans who have been divided into lesser castes, and should have control over them.

In human history, Brahmin supremacy is one of the oldest forms that has not waned. Instead, it thrives vigorously while other supremacist forms have disappeared, or are withering or have at least entered the stage of being shamed and critiqued at a common sense level.


Political Economy of Ghar Wapsi: A perspective from below


Nikhil Walde

nikhil waldeAfter its electoral victory, BJP's entire politics revolves around the Hindu religion which has brought about a dismal political scenario in India. The state seems to be departing from constitutional democracy- from the modern function of a state to the traditional monocratic form of state. All this is quite evident, for instance, in the demand for making the Bhagvad Gita (the sacred book of Brahmins) the national book; or the current prime minister of India gifting Bhagvad Gita to the US President, and most recently the 'Ghar Wapsi' programs (the conversion of minorities to Hinduism) organized in different parts of the country. These programs have been systematized by Rashtriya Swayamsevak  Sangh (RSS) and its affiliated organizations like Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, and are mainly aimed at converting non-Hindus into the Hindu religion.

All this is in line with the political ideology of RSS-led BJP to make India into a 'Hindu Rashtra'. And for achieving this end they have started this dictatorial program of Ghar Wapsi, whose targets are the poor "Minorities", particularly Christians and Muslims. The State and the civil society organizations should focus on the nation's socio-economic development and to protect the rights of people, particularly those who still live below the poverty line and even suffer from discrimination and marginalization. Instead, this government is busy in forcing religious conversions under the name of so-called Ghar Wapsi.


On regressive ideas and Idea's ads


Anitya Sanket

sanket garudWith the coming of android phones, we have witnessed many creative offers from companies inviting people to use their internet networks and packages. The competing companies have made sure they stay in the race by offering people high-speed internet which is better than others' and at competitive prices as well.

Idea has always grabbed attention of smart phone users through its innovative and unique ads. It made an impact on the users by trying to cash in on topical social debates by incoroporating them in its advertisements, mixed with humor. The recent IIN (Idea Internet Network) ads have similarly gained the attention of android phone users by making unusual internet offers and assuring high speed internet This time, the IIN ads have focused on education. However, these ads appear irrelevant and do not make the slightest sense.

On a serious note, are these ads supporting the ideals of women's rights? In this Idea IIN ad (watch the video here) we see a group of women in a Haryana village who under male dominance have never been allowed to step outside their homes since ages. In the ad, they are shown to be dedicated to education and are seen making efforts to come together and learn through the Idea Internet at their homes. In the end, the woman leading the group is seen thanking the phone, for having let them educate themselves, by bowing her head to the phone. In a place like Haryana where the Sex Ratio is 879 females for 1000 males, below the national average of 940 (as per census 2011, one can imagine the kind of impact these ads could have.


Hindutva and its False Consciousness


N. Sukumar and Shailaja Menon

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.

Luke 6:29

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

 ~ Mathew 7:12

The poster boy of Hindutva- Yogi Adityanath inadvertently played the devil's advocate when he proclaimed, "The West followed Krishna's philosophy of punishing devils even if they are your relatives" but Indians had become 'soft' and followed 'Christ's philosophy of offering another cheek if slapped on one". "It is time to be Dronacharya who carries a bow, arrows with his message of peace of leave. "Shastra ke saath Shaastra"1.

beef vote bank

The mandate of 2014 was premised on the twin principles of development and governance, "sabka saath, sabka vikas". Gradually, the conspiracy is unfolding and the same group which eulogized Mr. Modi is getting a huge dose of reality check. Instead of rising foreign investment, agricultural growth, gleaming infrastructure, what is this 'ghar waapsi'? One of the ardent supporters of Mr. Modi, Ms. Tavleen Singh lamented in her column in the Indian Express, "Why is the Prime Minister Allowing the RSS to steal His Mandate"2. In similar vein, Arun Shourie too commented, "'Modi may be an agent of change, but he has to reshape an entire ocean'3. Did these seasoned journalists willingly walk up the garden path, eschewing all disbelief? Was Mr. Modi the 'false god' to whom the nation entrusted its destiny?


India’s Patriotic Feminist Daughters


Karthick RM

Karthick RMThe recent documentary "India's Daughter" on the 2012 New Delhi gang-rape case by Israeli born filmmaker Leslee Udwin has come under criticism from certain leftist feminists for being 'Western racist' and the likes. A particularly trending article in these circles is one by Kavita Krishnan, who is a central committee member of CPI (ML) – Liberation. Comrade Krishnan is pained that Udwin has shown "India as a place of ignorance and brutality towards women, that inspires both shock and pity, but also call for a rap on the knuckles from the "civilised world" for its "brutal attitudes"." She laments that there is a "racist profiling of Indian men" that informs this documentary. And so on and so on.

To start with, yes, Leslee Udwin's documentary is problematic because it is not well informed. It picked a most brutal gang-rape that caught worldwide attention and tried to show some light on violence against women in India – but it failed to adequately pay attention to the systematic most brutal forms of rape and sexual violence that millions of Dalit, adivasi and lower caste women endure on a daily basis. The problem with the documentary is not that it demonizes Indians and India's (Hindu) misogynistic culture. The real problem is that it has NOT demonized them enough!


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