Death every night: Travails of an Ambedkarite in the Corporate Sector

 

The Guilty Warrior

To begin with, I work in the so-called "Corporate" sector in India. I was brought up in a small town, in a Mahar stronghold in Maharashtra and grew up under the strong influence of the philosophies of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. I was fortunate in academics to do well, mostly with the grace of Babasaheb and support systems like caste based scholarships. I would not like to go into an account of my family, except to say that my family situation was a hindrance rather than help for my career.

asa ambedkar

The fire and passion in me for Babasaheb, Phule, Periyar etc., was tremendous and I owed everything in my life to them. I would argue vehemently against upper castes on several topics related to caste, right from school. I used to distribute newspapers on a cycle every summer to take care of my expenses, but never did financial pains come in the way of me and Babasaheb. Once, I was hit with sticks by upper castes for drinking water from a well, when I was 12. But that never dampened my spirit. That fire continued till my graduation. I had to study in a private engineering college and that was the time when one felt being surrounded by demons (physical & mental), some direct while some others indirect. Lots of micro inequities. Be it in group studies, sharing notes, projects- it was there everywhere.

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‘Safe’ Queer Spaces - How Inclusive is Inclusive?

 

moulee

chandra mouleeQueer folks are perhaps misunderstood in many aspects. One among those is that every queer person is either progressive and/or liberal. In reality though, given my context and political experience as a cis-gendered queer man, I have observed that LGBTQ communities are not entirely homogeneous. We are as diverse as mainstream society; and so labelling the entire LGBTQ community as either progressive and/or liberal, by default, is by and large a huge mistake. Apart from this being untrue, it also prevents any kind of introspection to take place within the community. I strongly believe that we need critical voices both from the outside and the inside, in order to become movements that drive social change.

In India, close to all queer spaces that label themselves 'safe' portray as being egalitarian. My question is, 'How inclusive are these "safe" spaces really?' 'Do these spaces have plural representation?' 'And most importantly, do these spaces not alienate those who do not fit the celebrated profile of a brahmin gay man?'

Speaking Inclusive, Acting Exclusive

In my experience, the existing oppressive social structure transcends into queer safe spaces as well. I have observed that, invariably, non Dalit-Bahujan individuals dominate these spaces. And while a small section of cis-gendered queer savarna men acknowledge the importance of intersectionality and understand the detrimental role caste plays in these safe spaces; it almost never transforms into action.

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Happy or Hapless: Dalit students with Dalit professors

 

B. Prabakaran

b prabakaranRohith Vemula's 'social death' has had a disastrous impact on students, scholars, professors and the Dalits in general across Tamil Nadu. It has opened doors for having debates to understand the plight of Dalit students who study Masters and Ph.D, at the higher educational institutions of India. My friend and research scholar, who is pursuing his doctorate in Chennai, wrote an article recently in an leading English daily, which briefly speaks of the general circumstances of Dalit students. According to him, even Dalit professors humiliate Dalit students more than non-dalit professors. To what extent is the statement honest? Is it true or merely a jargon? The readers, especially non-dalits, who had read the column, would have been perplexed.

We might have heard about many incidents of cruelest behavior of the caste Hindu professors against oppressed sections. A short time ago in Tamil Nadu, a Dalit youth who wanted to do Ph.D, got the seat under the guidance of a caste Hindu professor. As the student belongs to scavenging caste, the professor used to compel him to come to his residence not for the lessons or discussions but for cleaning his home. And whenever the student used to go to his home, even for proofreading, he insisted that he do the cleaning work. The student, furthermore, was asked to help out the professor's wife in drying her clothes and to carry out other domestic chores.

Another student who is studying the subject of beef eating and social exclusion did not/could not get any government fellowship till today as the title, probably, makes the government of the day upset. The topics or the subjects, in most cases, Dalit student wishes to explore is not taken into consideration. If the topic consist words like Ambedkar or Dalit, the respective supervisors would be harassed so as an alternative they suggest the students to change the topic or change terminologies to something like poor, disadvantaged, deprived, and economically backward.

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Place and Time… Not a Single Story

 

Noel Didla

noel didlaRecently, I was asked to be a panelist at a policy conference. I seldom participate in conferences when invited because I’m a Dalit who’s part of a black cooperative community. I believe my living and growing in this community is a conscious, lifelong commitment that is not to be tokenized by anyone. As a result, I mentioned to one of the organizers that my choice to participate comes from a cautious and conscious place. I ended up taking part in the conference via Skype. Most often, conference participation can be much enhanced and very limited through how the questions are framed, the time allotted and by the language used to share information via instant social media output. Therefore, I’m storifying my responses in a self determined space such as Savari.

The presentation follows.

Jai Bhim and Jai Savitri sisters! Free the land!

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Dalit Student Life of Social Exclusion

 

Wesly Kumar

wesly kumarEven though the Dalits form one fourth of India's total population they are still in the lower strata in Indian society. The caste sentiments are still rising in the land where Ambedkar relentlessly strived for the abolition of the caste system. We now have instances of discrimination in higher educational institutions. Being temples of learning, the universities should inculcate in the minds of faculty and students that people should protect and defend the dignity of each individual through respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Individual and collective violence against Dalits is on the rise, according to reports of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). A crime is committed against a Dalit by a non-Dalit every 16 minutes. At least four Dalit women are raped by non-Dalits every day. Thirteen Dalits are murdered and six Dalits are kidnapped every week. In 2012 alone, 1,574 Dalit women were raped and 651 Dalits were murdered. Other offences against Dalits include rape and butchery, stripping of women and parading them naked, forcing them to eat human feces, seizing of their land, social boycott, denying access to drinking water etc. All the cases that take place are not reported to the police; the reported ones are not always recorded.

In India, for Dalits, higher education and employment are still a distant dream, since there is high level of school dropout, lack of access, denial of opportunities and also social exclusion. The students of Dalit background depend on the benefits of the reservations policy. The students who come through the reservations are seen as less intelligent by upper caste students who object to the meddling with the merit of higher educational institutions. The opponents of the reservations feel that the entry of Dalit students will drop the academic standards of the institution.

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The “Cultures of Violence” in CSSSC, Kolkata


Koonal Duggal

koonal duggalI am writing this public note in the light of a recent incident of casteism that I, along with others, have faced from the organisers of the Cultural Studies Workshop at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata (CSSSC henceforth). The call for participation in the workshop titled 'Cultures of Violence' highlighted that "Priority will be given to students from dalit, tribal and minority backgrounds."However, when it came to providing accommodation to the selected participants the workshop organisers emailed a list to us, which contained the names of the participants, their permanent addresses and the caste category they belonged to without reflecting on the implications of such division where they foregrounded the caste of three dalit participants as SC, while the rest of the twenty six participants' (presumably belonging to the general category) caste was left blank or was marked as N. A. (Not Applicable).

 With this recent incident of caste discrimination I would also like to reflect upon how casteism works in the reputed institution of CSSSC where I was doing my MPhil. And by narrating my experience with this 'reputed' institution I would like to assert that I do not see this recent incident as a 'mere' technical fault or exception. In fact, I see it as a historical norm. In addition to the ongoing discourse around the conditions and nature of caste discrimination and it's functioning in the institutions of higher education after the suicide of Rohith Vemula where the experiences of dalit students (those who have/had been discriminated in such institutions or those who have been institutionally murdered in the process of such discrimination and humiliation) has also given me the courage and urgency to share my experience in CSSSC in the public, which I had earlier only spoken about in private.

I joined the MPhil course at CSSSC in the year 2009 and I must admit that the initial moments were filled with the excitement of being able to study in an institution where some of the finest scholars teach. And I feel that a part of excitement was also because of the shift that I was making from the discipline of Art History to that of Social Sciences and because I was getting back to academics after a year of working at IIT Kanpur, where I was also offered to join the PhD programme in Humanities and Social Sciences. However, after clearing the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF henceforth) exam, conducted by UGC, I decided to join CSSSC where a two year MPhil Programme had just started in the year 2009.

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Against the wind.. हवा के खिलाफ यहां तक...

 

Manisha Mashaal

manisha mashaalहवा के खिलाफ यहां तक...

मेरा नाम मनीषा मशाल है। मैं जमीनी स्तर की जाति-विरोधी कार्यकर्ता, वक्ता और गायक हूं और फिलहाल अखिल भारतीय दलित महिला अधिकार मंच के हरियाणा राज्य की संयोजक हूं। मैं हरियाणा के एक छोटे-से गांव से हूं। आज जहां मैं हूं, वहां पहुंचने के लिए एक दलित स्त्री होने के नाते मुझे बहुत सारी ऐसी मुश्किलों से जूझना पड़ा है, जिन्हें सामान्य स्थितियों में अलग से देखने की जरूरत नहीं समझती जाती। मेरे परिवार का जो अतीत रहा है, उसमें किसी तरह पढ़ाई-लिखाई करने वाली मैं पहली पीढ़ी की लड़की हूं। हालात चाहे जो रहे, लेकिन आज मेरे पास दो डिग्रियां हैं- कुरुक्षेत्र यूनिवर्सिटी से महिला अध्ययन (वीमेन स्टडीज) में स्नातकोत्तर और वहीं से जनसंचार में स्नातकोत्तर। और इसी अनुभव से मैं आपको यह बताना चाहती हूं कि #JusticeForRohith के लिए लड़ाई खत्म नहीं हुई है।

जिस दिन मैंने पहली बार रोहित वेमुला की आत्महत्या, उसकी वजहों और पृष्ठभूमि के बारे में सुना, तो मेरे अपने अतीत के संदर्भ मेरी आंखों के सामने नाचने लगे और तब रोहित के लिए मैं गहरे दुःख में चली गई। लेकिन इसके बाद मैं जितना ज्यादा उसके मेधावी और प्रभावशाली व्यक्ति होने के बारे में जानती गई, मेरा सदमा और गहरा हुआ। यह एक व्यक्ति नहीं, एक सपने, एक उम्मीद का जाना है। मुझे लगा कि अगर हैदराबाद यूनिवर्सिटी तक पहुंचने के रास्ते में जाने कितनी बाधाएं पार करने वाले और हिम्मती मानस वाले रोहित को आत्महत्या करनी पड़ गई तो निश्चित रूप से यह उसकी "कमजोरी" की वजह से नहीं हुआ, बल्कि उसे अमानवीयता के उस स्तर तक परेशान किया गया, जहां उसके पास लड़ने का कोई विकल्प शायद नहीं बचा था। मैं रोहित की कहानी जानती हूं, क्योंकि यह मेरी अपनी हो सकती थी। मैं भी वहां तक पहुंची हूं। मेरी पढ़ाई के दौरान कई ऐसे मोड़ आए जब मैंने वास्तव में सोचा कि ऐसे अपमानों को सहने से बेहतर है मर जाना। लेकिन मैं बची रही...!

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Building the Idea of India: Conserving Brahmanism and the Brahmanical State?

 

Pinak Banik

Pinak Banik(This is a three part essay dissecting the much celebrated 'idea of india' from an anti-caste perspective, attempting to lay bare the machinations of the Brahminical knowledge producers)

Many of us have recently come across a haphazard, yet systematic procession of essays, articles, reports, lectures, coverage, debates broadcast on electronic and print media, all of which tend to say that the idea of India - secular, socialist, tolerant, progressive, inquisitive etc., is in danger and must be saved at any cost. Some of the headlines in this context read as:

• "We need to save the idea of India: Nayantara Sahgal" (http://www.thehindu.com/)
• "Building the Idea of India | Irfan Habib" (http://awaam.net/)
• "Which India Will Endure, Tagore's or Golwalkar's?" (http://www.thecitizen.in/)
• "What The Biryani Says About 'The Idea Of India'" (http://www.huffingtonpost.in/)
• "Let us stand for what "Idea of India" means (http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/)
• "Dear India, don't be like us please: a friend from Pakistan"(http://www.catchnews.com/)

In response (from the instigators of such claims) we see a series of another set of haphazard but systematic acts of returning awards, resignations from state institutions, protests on streets and social media, shutting down of educational institutions, public meat-eating (beef) parties, talk shows, seminars, open letters, new t-shirts with secular messages, Bollywood figures becoming socially concerned etc. So, undoubtedly a lot of revolution is in the air.

This "growing" chorus of protests is explained based on a stated observation that there seems to be a tendency of "growing" intolerance in the recent past and it has intensified after the BJP government has taken charge. That, the Narendra Modi led BJP Govt. under the directions of the RSS, is 'attacking the secular and socialist values of India, distorting and saffronising the emancipatory Indian history, obstructing India's thirst for progressive sociological, cultural and scientific explorations and enquiries, vandalizing India's great humanist traditions, reducing India's democratic ethics into fascist instruments.' They lament that RSS through BJP, is trying to manipulate and rewrite India's history to maintain a narrative to justify their communal propaganda, and locate RSS in a favourable position in the history of freedom struggle, by appropriating and disqualifying the original heroes.

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The Confession: Experiencing JNU

 

Kshirod Nag

kshirod nagI joined JNU as an M.A. student of Sociology in the year 2008. I didn't have any idea about 'caste', 'class', 'gender' 'social change', 'revolution', 'Ambekarism', 'Marxism', 'Maoism' or any other 'ISM' for that matter, except Gandhism and Hinduism (as if in India, one has a birthright to know these two isms). I had come to JNU with a baggage of norms and values, ingrained in my mind and heart through the socialization process available in my surroundings. That was imposed on me with a particular standardized colour and flavour. During those times, I was proud of being a Hindu to malign 'others', especially the religious minorities. I was proud of doing it, precisely because, I had guts to do that. After all, I could defeat my 'enemies' with the endless weapons of my 36 crores deities. I was only and only a proud Hindu. After I came to JNU, I was desperately searching for a shelter here, which could conform to my norms and values and also could be protected and perpetuated. 'Fortunately', with the help of my best friend Sandeep Kumar Rao, I found a shelter under the umbrella of ABVP. I was very happy for getting it to share my aspirations of becoming a 'true nationalist'.

'Luckily', with 'God's grace' I was able to stay in Periyar in my friend's room and was introduced to many persons of my thought (I was allotted to stay in Narmada Hostel, but most of the time I would stay in Periyar). I was feeling excited for the kind of 'acceptance' I got from my seniors, namely Sameer Bhai (a born Muslim but Hindu practitioner), Manoj Kumar, Sakti Prasad Srichandan and many others. It was like a sense of pride, especially in the time of Durga puja, to be part of an organisation like ABVP. I was feeling more enthusiastic and 'inclusive' on the assignments being given by my seniors to be fulfilled, to make programs like Durga puja a huge success. After all, a strong Hindu devotee at heart and mind. We had a close peer group for fulfilling all these 'patriotic' activities. I used to maintain the Vivekanand version of brotherhood and reverence in front of my seniors. I used to feel a strong bondage of brotherhood along with other members. Some of my fellow brothers, who were also part of that same fraternity, include Pyarimohan Maharana, Chinmaya Maharana (now also they are close to my heart) and many others. I used to feel proud of collecting money (Durga puja Chanda) from door to door (I, along with my friend Sandeep Kumar Rao, was assigned to take care of Periyar hostel), arranging flowers and fruits to offer 'Devi Durga', and so on. Oh, how can I forget not being considered as 'pure' to sit nearby the 'Devi Durga' unless I took a bath. Therefore, I used to take bath everyday twice, once in the morning and again in the evening, to prove myself 'pure' like a 'Brahmin'. To prove myself more 'pure' even than a Brahmin, I was keeping 'half day fast' for whole six days during Durga puja. I was a 'complete' person, a true nationalist, both in theory (RSS) and practice (looking at Muslims as an enemy). I was immensely happy to get fraternal support from the organisation (ABVP) to actualize my notion of nationalism.

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Oh God! One shot…so many birds!!

 

P V Vijay Kumar

pvv vijay kumar3000 years back, one day a Brahmin said to himself, before he went to sleep "How do I protect my livelihood and retain all the luxuries I am enjoying today. I am scared...I don't want to rule dynasties and run a risk of dying in a war for enjoying my life. I have an option, to be wealthy, of doing a good business, but that is again another risky affair. My priest's job and my representative role of Gods is too good. I have to sustain this. But , can I retain this only for me ?......Naaa...people will alienate me!..I need to portray myself as altruist. I have an option to protect myself in a group. Let me talk to my co-priests and see what can I do..."

Can you imagine the kind of grotesque thoughts that would have come to the brahmin, which generalised his individual problem and turned it into a social phenomenon? Can you imagine how imaginative and cunning one should be to superimpose one's personal problems across  of society? Can one imagine that even "skin pigmentation", as a basis, can be used to drive the selfish agenda of a group?

Having taken this country through the path of painful polarizing politics for ages, the conscience of so many Brahminical forces in the country was pricked by Rohith's death. It has been seen, for decades, that there is a wide condemnation of attacks on Dalits in Keelvenmani, Karamchedu, Chunduru, Kanchikacherla etc. by brahminical forces, as it directly questions the feigned democratic nature of brahminism. But the fact remains, the liberal brahminists remain in utter silence about the kind of circumstances that forced Rohith's death, but choose to moan about the death alone, in isolation.

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Casteless-ness in the Name of Caste

 

Akhil Kang

There seems to be a lot of questioning in the sexuality discourses over how would one bring the ‘caste angle’ within its fold. Among the many dilemmas that our beloved queer folks seem to be grappling with is how do we ‘address the caste question’. The queer spaces in India are, let’s face it, trying too hard to be neutral. And I say this as “the caste person” (whatever that means). The objective of this neutrality is not just to attain swachh desire-controlling cis-gendered human being, but a casteless one. Let me admit, that being queer myself, I too have dilemmas in these ground-breaking progressive spaces; where almost everyone is perpetually caught up with the next cutting edge story to tell and exploring the provocativeness of queer! My first dilemma is that caste is not even acknowledged, let alone debated upon. The queer subject is a casteless one. My second dilemma is that even when the queer acknowledges their own caste, it is to make it caste-neutral.

pride1

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Understanding Caste & Casteism in Higher Education and Academic Institutions

 

Lata Pratibha Madhukar

Lata P MCaste is deep rooted in the Indian collective consciousness and subconsciousness, this article is based on my experiences, standpoint and understanding of caste and casteism in higher education, academic institutes and among educationists. It aims to give a rationale for the urgent introducing of Phule-Ambedkarite ideology and perception in the realm of education, based on anecdotal and factual evidences. Further, it attempts to explain the need to develop an understanding of the relevance of Phule-Ambedkar consciousness in different domains of knowledge production and for the creation of an egalitarian society that is protective and nurturing of all human beings and nature, and progresses towards wisdom.

 

Key words: Phule-Ambedkarite consciousness, education, casteism, discrimination

Caste bias among educationists

On 16th January 2016, I presented a paper at the Indian Institute of Education, Pune, titled "Absence of Phule-Ambedkarite consciousness in Higher Education and Academic Institutes". Local and national level educationists were present there, as I started talking about Jotirao Phule-Savitribai Phule, Shahu, Babasaheb and Periyar's contribution in education, some of them became restless. A senior educationist had this to say, "What is the contribution of Phule? He was just teaching in the school established by the British." I was surprised to hear such a version in a Gandhian institute, as this version is totally plotted and recounted by the RSS. Then, I responded by asking, if there was such an opportunity available for all to teach in British schools to Shudra, Atishudra and women, then why had no learned person from upper castes/Brahmin caste taken the opportunity to teach? Why did the contemporary reformists not open any schools for women, at least for their own community, between the period 1848 to 1900?

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