Art for Social Justice

 

Dr. Sunil Abhiman Awachar

sunil abhiman awachar[Recently, the painting exhibition of Dalit artist/painter Dr. Sunil Abhiman Awachar was held in February 2016 at the 'International Conference on Voices of the Oppressed and the Marginalised' in Mehsana, Gujarat. It was organised by the Social Justice Department, Government of Gujarat, and ICSSR, New Delhi. The title of his painting exhibition was 'Paintings of Dalits'. His paintings were appreciated by many guests, some of whom came from Germany and Austria. In this conference, Dr. Sunil Abhiman Awachar spoke about his journey to become an artist and how from his Dalit background, he grew as an artist of the people.

This write up illustrates his journey as a Dalit, as an artist, and poet and conveying the issues of his people through his art.]

I have been interested in paintings and poems, ever since I was a child. I remember that while I was in third or fourth standard, during summer vacations, I used to visit my maternal uncle's village. My maternal grandmother Sakhrabai loved me immensely and would fulfill all my demands. She would bring white mud from the Deshmukhvada (house of the upper caste landlord) and paint the walls of the house with it. Hand-painted-white-walls became my canvas and the 'black charcoal' became my chalk. With such walls, my journey of painting began. The economic conditions of the family made it impossible for me to afford colors and canvas. Then, my heart would be filled with a tinge of jealousy and envy towards people who could afford them. Such kind of unfulfilled desires resulted in me being sensitive to my surroundings. The mind of this innocent child awoke to an insatiable desire to understand nature, human beings, society, literature etc.

My father served in the police department hence, he used to be transferred to different places. It was as if he was a snail, carrying its home on its back, all the time. These transfers gave me an exposure to different kinds and varieties of people. It would be difficult for us to get a house on rent. Since the police quarters would often remain full, we had to hunt for houses. Discussions would center on the theme that since 'we belong to a lower caste' people would not rent out to us. Again, an innocent mind would get anguished and beg for an answer to the question: why do people treat us in such a manner?

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On immanent tendencies of the Brahmin

 

Kuffir

There have been lots of discussions in the recent past about the rising tendency among the Sanghis to use 'science' to justify totally absurd claims about India having invented planes, plastic surgery, cloning etc., thousands of years ago. Were they talking science really? Similarly, if the brahmin left keeps talking about Marxism, are they talking about equality etc., really?

Science and Marxism are just words to them, attractive excuses to justify their past glory and current domination in all fields. But, when probed closely, while the Sanghis give up all pretensions of science and uphold the primacy of belief and faith, the Indian 'marxists' don't give up so easily. Consider this latest piece of wisdom by Prabhat Patnaik.

Capitalism, he interprets Marx, is 'a self-driven system that is subject to a set of immanent tendencies. These tendencies are independent of human will and consciousness (nobody for instance wanted the Great Depression of the 1930s to occur, or the current world capitalist crisis which even persists despite all conscious efforts to get out of it); what is more, the human behaviour that goes into the constitution of these immanent tendencies is itself not a matter of volition on the part of the human (economic) agents. They are coerced into acting in particular ways because not doing so would cost them their place within the economic system..'

In other words, capitalists have no free will, they are mere agents of the system, like all others. So let's look at Motilal Oswal: 

motilal oswal

That seems to be his spontaneous reaction to the Kolkata flyover collapse. If he was acting 'spontaneously' as a capitalist to secure his economic interests, he wouldn't be talking so derogatorily of such a large majority of his countrymen, or market. His spontaneity here seems entirely driven by his caste self. And he isn't the first - right from Rahul Bajaj to Narayana Murthy, they've all talked in a similar fashion, from the Mandal moment in 1990 till now. And this episode comes only a couple of days after the disgusting Havells fan's advertisement was withdrawn.  

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A place called Kranti

 

Pradnya Jadhav

A place called Kranti-Chowk in Aurangabad city is an extremely important site. This place is famous for numerous reasons, most importantly for Shivaji's statue. The localities around this Chowk primarily comprises of Muslim and Dalit population. Historically, this area was considered to be the outer part of the town. This area would have witnessed thousands of protests, rallies, programs etc., through time.

Since this morning (1/4/2016), some people had started gathering at Kranti Chowk carrying canvases and painting tools; they started unpacking their bags, setting up drawing boards, and began painting-- it was a group of local Dalit Bahujan artists and activists. This was a protest against the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and caste discrimination in educational institutions. This was a day long protest, and was unique in itself, where the artists expressed their protest through their paintings, along with several people sharing their views, and discussing about innovative and effective forms of anti-caste protest. Some of the artist activists engaged in this protest were, Nandu Jogdand, Mahendra Khajekar, Kailas Magare and Buddhapriya Kabir and several others.

I was fortunate to be there today, listening and documenting the protest traditions of my hometown. It is my privilege to share some of the protest paintings here on SAVARI and Round Table India.

~

kranthi 1 3

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'The police acted as Appa Rao's personal security guards'

 

Muhammad Ali Jauhar

muhammas ali jauharTurbulent protests followed after the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula, a bright Dalit research scholar in the University of Hyderabad. The university gained normalcy when the VC, who was the primary culprit in Rohith's death, had no other option than to leave. Another VC was appointed, but he also had to face resistance and go on leave as he was involved in an earlier suicide of another research scholar. The next incharge VC was popular among the students, and they had faith in him regarding justice.

The protest took a turn and it changed its mode. The students were busy after the protest and were getting ready to appear for their end semester examinations. The innocent students thought that VC who had gone on leave might not come back due to fear of protests. But that silence was an indication of an upcoming storm. Behind the curtains, a bigger conspiracy was active. It was on 18th march, one of my friends said that, the VC might come back. Because in some department, a few faculty members who are known for their right wing affiliation were regularly enquiring with the students about the status of protests and participation of students. So he guessed that there is a chance of the VC coming back. But we never thought it might happen so soon.

On the morning of 22 March, when we opened Facebook it was a shocking news for us that the VC Appa Rao is back in the campus. It was also updated on the university website that he has resumed charge. In the Facebook posts we came to know that the students are rushing towards the 3 crore rupees palatial home of the VC in the campus. So even we rushed towards the VC's home. The students were in anguish and pain. There were slogans inside the VC's home. A few students entered the VC lodge breaking the glasses and were sloganeering. We came to know the shocking truth that there were ABVP members already inside the VC lodge. And that a few faculty members were having meeting with them.

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Dontha Prashanth: It is Appa Rao who is anti-national!

 

This is a transcript of the speech delivered by Dontha Prashanth at Velivada in the University of Hyderabad campus after his release from jail on March 29, 2016; it was transcribed by Vinay Shende. The speech has been captured in two videos: Prashanth's speech starts at around the 26:15 minute in the first video, and continues all through the second video. Any discrepancies or errors in interpreting the speech are ours ~ Round Table India

Jai Bhim everyone. At this time, the people who deserve this applause more are the students that made this moment possible and not the arrested students. Rohith Vemula wanted a sense of humanity to be established in this country, where there is no humanity. People are divided in the name of caste, religion, community & creed.

 

Prashanth's speech starts at around the 26:15 minute

Friends, first we would like to thank all the students, all the faculty, even non-teaching staff and the civil society organizations, different political parties, our advocates viz. Damodar Reddy, Bheem Rao, Bojja Tharakam, Raghunath and a few more and several other people whose participation has been there in this issue. Would like to thank each and everyone of those who have been part of this movement and are willing to take this movement forward.

My friend was whispering in my ear that on 22nd when we were lathi charged and taken in vans, it was the girl students who came and stood in front of us. In fact, it is they who have saved most of the boys who were running out of that scene. I think that appreciation must go to the Girl students who stood there despite receiving severe blows, abuses and humiliating comments. And secondly, it is these brave students. Students were beaten, lathi charged. They were made to run from VC's guest house. Stones were pelted. The way women students were - I can't find a word, but for molestation. Students were beaten badly. If Harish takes his clothes off, the injuries are still physically visible. But what happened after that must be commended. Even after all these beatings, abuses from police, the students have still resisted the entry of police, resisted the entry of Appa Rao who made sure that all students are arrested. They got themselves arrested to save Justice for Rohith. This is unprecedented.

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Learning from Ambedkar: Who's really standing with the Dalits now?

 

Nilesh Kumar

nilesh kumar 3"The reason for their anger is very simple. Your behaving on par with them insults them".
~ Dr. Ambedkar

Recent history

The University of Hyderabad (UOH) student Mr. Rohith Vemula (26), PhD scholar committed suicide on 17th January 2016. Hailing from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, Rohith came from a marginalized poor Dalit family, his mother is a tailor and father (divorced from his mother) works as a security guard. Rohith's suicide is just one more addition to the growing list of Dalit Bahujan students committing suicides in the country's premier educational institutions. This growing number of suicides and the several cases of discrimination reported by the national dailies in India's premier educational institutions is itself an indication to investigate the ubiquitous nature of caste in these institutions and the feudal nature of these university spaces towards Dalit and Adivasi students.

Rohith was an active member of the Ambedkar students association (ASA) of UOH, which is a very assertive students organization founded in 1993 by a group of Dalit students. There are formal and informal Dalit groups on campuses, such as ASA, which have been actively participating in the students' union elections and campus politics, negotiating with the administration on different issues etc. One of the major issues which students suffer from is the difference in marks they receive. Other issues include: the non-receipt of scholarships/fellowships; taking up the issues of cultural celebrations of Teachers' day on the birth anniversary of Savitri Bai Phule or the birth anniversaries of different leaders like Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Mahatama Phule and also the celebration of Mahishasur Martyrdom day (which in many colleges has become a regular event) by Bahujan students; and most crucially, the issue of caste discrimination which also results in suicides as seen in Rohith's case.

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Prof Ratnam: Appa Rao has no moral right to be on the campus!

 

This is a transcript of the speech delivered by Prof K Y Ratnam at Velivada in the University of Hyderabad campus after his release from jail yesterday; it was transcribed by Vinay Shende. Prof Ratnam's speech starts at around the 17th minute of the video which can be found here. Any discrepancies or errors in interpreting the speech are ours ~ Round Table India  

I must appreciate all students who went to jail. I must salute them as they are very courageous. The way they put up the fight against the system was marvelous. The fight is against the system.

prof ratnam

On 22nd March, there was a huge fight against the system. I was there in the Interview Board on 22nd March. I came at around 3 o'clock with some of the faculty. I saw that a very decent, very democratic protest was going on. It was happening on the lawn and not somewhere else. The lawn is grass, the students did not have any arms and they were only raising slogans against the Vice-Chancellor. They were saying that "The culprit entered the University". He is a culprit because there are many cases on him. He filed a petition in High Court that is pending. The enquiry commission is still going on and is yet to be completed. The Ministry of HRD also said he was not able to reach out to the students.

When he could not reach out to students, he had no moral right to enter the official guest house. If he wanted to enter, he should have tendered an apology to the students. The way the democratic protest was dealt with by Appa Rao was very despotic, very authoritarian. You (Appa Rao) have no mechanism to address their dissent. You have not understood their dissent. You are supposed to address their dissent. Instead of addressing it, you resorted to violence. For what reason you used violence against the students?

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Dalit Capitalism: Is it the Way to Emancipation?

 

Vishal Thakare

vishal thakareThe recently concluded national conference of SC/ST entrepreneurs on 'Dr. Ambedkar's Thoughts and Ideas on Industrialization and Entrepreneurship' poses many questions. The message given in the conference raises many concerns for dalits as to whether they should embrace its version of 'Dalit capitalism', what DICCI calls 'Be Job Givers', or continue their struggle for emancipatory ideals as advocated by Babasaheb Ambedkar and other organic Bahujan leaders. Does 'Dalit Capitalism' really enjoy legitimacy among larger dalit population or is it just an agenda driven by a few elites within dalits who enjoy disproportionate power and interest? This essay attempts to take an inquiry into dalit engagement with capital and assess its possibilities in the context of larger dalit welfare.

The emergence of Dalit engagement with the 'capital' has gained much attention over the last few years, especially when capitalism in India is gaining its momentum rapidly with the opening up of various opportunity structures, here economic, which were historically denied to dalits, both in the public and the private sphere. The question of rising dalit entrepreneurs has also been deliberated, contested in academia, media and several knowledge production spaces. But the question is whether the emergence of the dalit millionaire really reflects the current status or conditions of dalits, if it is so, then to what extent it has really transformed the lives of dalits and other underprivileged communities at large remains unexplained.

Dalit Capitalism and Some Questions

Proponents of 'Dalit Capitalism' argue that engagement with capital, or what they call 'Dalit Capitalism', will make dalits better off and increase their economic well-being and make them less dependent on upper castes for employment. It aims to emancipate them from the shackles of poverty and as wage labourers of upper castes and intends to prepare them to become potential capitalists who in turn will employ other dalits. And for this, there have been organised attempts by organisation like DICCI, Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry on many fronts. This envisioned Dalit Capitalism conceptualized by a 'few' needs to answer a few questions. First, how this class consciousness of the dalit capitalist will replace 'caste consciousness' of the upper caste capitalist? Even if a dalit succeeds in accumulating capital, his relative positioning in the Indian society as 'Dalit' doesn't change and he is still treated as Dalit, the only difference is it makes him a 'Dalit Millionaire'. Second, would improvement in material assets or wealth of dalits ensure well-being of dalits in public life or society? Third, would it really contribute to larger welfare of entire dalit population or simply of a few people in the dalit community? How does it plan to engage with gender relations within dalit community? To find answers to these questions, it is necessary to understand capital and labour in relation to caste in India.

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Havells' Ad: Another instance of Stereotyping of Reservations Policy in Media

 

Amar Khade 

amar khadeThe offensive Havells Fan television commerical has been removed from Youtube and the company's Facebook page, and also apparently from television, thanks to the vociferous opposition expressed by Ambedkarites and others. Congratulations friends! But the structures of prejudice that gave birth to it need to be constantly critiqued, as this article does ~ Round Table India

The Indian summer has begun and so has the bombardment of television advertisements on cooling products .One can see the change in the pattern of consumer durables advertisements when there is a seasonal change or any big sports event or any festival is happening. Now since the advent of summer, advertisements dealing with Air Conditioners, Refrigerators and Fans have increased.

During my daily tryst with Television yesterday, I came across an ad with a song titled "Mai Pankha hoon" advertising the "Havells" range of ceiling fans. Initially, I didn't pay much attention to the ad. But after seeing two times I sensed some sort of "subliminal message" being propagated in the ad .While I was watching television, an update from my Facebook friend Kuffir regarding it cleared my doubts about the "subliminal message". So first of all, the transcript of the song of the ad (though the ad video has been removed from the YoutTube page here, it can still be found here):

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Havells fans new ad fouls the air: Withdraw it!

 

Read the reactions to the new, disgusting Havells Fans' television commercial (featured below) on social media, compiled by Vinay Shende. Go ahead and read. But first file a complaint against the advertisement with the Advertising Standards Council of India as directed in the first update - Round Table India

Vinay Shende

Appealing to all Bahujans to file online complaint against the latest Havell's ad. I have done so already. I mentioned that this is against the Directives of the Constitution (Sec 16). We cannot have Anti-Constitutional ads going on and they need to be opposed. If anyone is unable to do it, do get in touch with me.
A few things that are being shown incorrectly in the Television commercial are:

1. Availing Reservations is a crime/favour;
2. People wearing Blue Bandanas (indicating Ambedkarites) indulge in violence/protests;
3. People in Blue Burn Books. It would have been better if the Burnt book was shown as the Manusmriti.
It is also implying that people should not avail Reservation.

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Interim Report of the Independent National Fact Finding Team on UoH

 

Title of the Case: Interim Report of the Independent National Fact Finding (FF) team into the Campus Violence on 22nd March, 2016 at the Hyderabad Central University

Date of the Fact Finding: March 24th - 25th 2016

uoh protest 5

Members of the Fact Finding Team:

Henri Tiphagne, Human Rights Defenders Alert, India, Tara Rao, Amnesty Intl, Burnard Fatima, International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, Kuffir Nalgundwar, Round Table India, Kiruba Munusamy, Supreme Court Lawyer, Beena Pallical, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Ramesh Nathan, National Dalit Movement for Justice, Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, Paul Divakar, Asia Dalit Rights Forum

Mandate of the Fact Finding Team:

 1. To ascertain and understand the sequence of events that led to the escalation of violence on the 22nd of March at Hyderabad Central University (HCU).
2. To identify the human rights violations that transpired as a result of the events.
3. To contribute towards a restoration of normalcy, peace and an environment of non-discrimination in the University Campus by making key recommendations to the concerned parties – the University Administration, the Central Government, the State Government and University Students and Faculty.

The team comprising of senior activists, academicians and lawyers have met with the students, faculty members, the police, the Home Minister and local civil society organisations. The team will be presenting a more detailed report at a later date based on the compiled narratives and testimonies. This team was constituted as a response to the terrifying news of the escalation of violence at HCU on March 22, 2016.

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Police Broke All Laws to Arrest Students, Teachers in University of Hyderabad

 

Justice For Rohith

This is a transcript of lawyer Gunratan's brief talk as he updates UoH students after returning from the court on March 24th. He is part of the team working on the fictitious cases made on students and faculty of UoH. This video is part of the narratives recorded by Justice For Rohith youtube channel. 

....I am also a faculty member from an Institute in Kolkata, but I am involved in legal matters of people who are victims of state repression. I had also come over here when Ambedkar Students Association including Rohith and all were here. I was here in the campus at that time, and after this happened the day before yesterday, I came today morning. So, basically the legal situation is that there are three FIRs which have been filed. One is by the police, the other is by the Registrar of the university, these are two cases, one is 113, and the other is 114. And the police have also revived another FIR which is case number 22, which was filed on the night of the death of Rohith Vemula.

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