A film that celebrates the memory of Bhima Koregoan

 

Amarnath Sandipamu

In January of 2017, at the screening of my film Bommalollu - The Puppeteers in Bangalore, Karthik Navayan, who then worked at Amnesty, introduced me to a young man as an apprentice at his organisation. He said he was interested in filmmaking and was enthusiastically happy about meeting me and another friend Rohan Arthur who organised the screening in his apartment community hall. He was full of questions about me, my body of work and my politics. When asked about him, he said he was working on a film on Bhima Koregoan. And today Somnath Waghmare is known as the filmmaker who etched out the memory of the great battle of the Mahars of Pune in his committed debut The Battle of Bhima Koregoan: An Unending Journey.

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A Narrative Celebrating Pride

On the first day of every year, lakhs of people throng a lesser-known memorial site near Pune, making it seem like a carnival. Locating the film in this carnival-like atmosphere, Somnath opens the film on the Samata Sainik Dal street performance raising Jai Bhim slogans, setting a celebratory tone to the film's narrative capturing the energy around the Bhima Koregoan Victory pillar. While we see glimpses of women, men, children rushing to the gathering, the flowers-adorned victory pillar is shown standing tall in the background of Buddhist chants.

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Reading India in the time of protest!

 

Thongam Bipin

thongamTime and again we have seen how India unfolds itself to its margin during protests. It is violent and oppressive. It has made itself clear through its actions that the state machinery is not for the protection of the public but to protect the government from the public. The public is increasingly seen as an enemy of the state. Violence and oppression get exponentially over the par when the enemy of the state belongs to a minority community. It is the design of the state to be ruthless against the protestors in the Northeast (NE), in Jamia, in Aligarh and in other parts of Uttar Pradesh. The ruthless design of the state is extracted from and sanctioned by the dominant community.

There are many who suffer not because of their own designs but somebody else’s. Yet, they cannot speak of their sufferings. Their suffering is an unspeakable suffering for the nation is greater. Because their suffering is lesser in the scale of national importance, it does not reach the masses which constitute the core of a nation. It becomes untranslatable in the language known to the nation. Thus, it does not outrage the national conscience. Simply put, the sufferings of some are mere and routine. They cannot be understood without their sufferings. It is who they are. They will cease to exist without their marginalization. Their marginalisation is the design of the nation. However, a privileged person's suffering exhorts outrage, shakes the national conscience because it is not normal for a privileged person to be suffering. She cannot and should not suffer.  It is not usual for a brahmin or a person from a privileged class/caste to be suffering. It becomes our collective task to solace her because she is the nation. 

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The unsure stage of Indian democracy...

 

Shiva Thorat

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It was around the time that the Constitution of India was delivered to Rajendra Prasad: after Gandhi's assassination by Godse and in response, the former home minister Sardar Patel banned the then fledgeling right-wing organization - Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The Prime Minister's modern-day Sanghi agendas are more brutal than those of the leaders of the past. Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi—who was a Congress leader and led many movements like the salt satyagraha at Dandi and the Quit India Movement. PM Modi introduced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the name of Gandhi and worshipped Godse on his birth anniversary.

Construction of Patel's statue during this regime made popular material for news, memes and stand-up comedians. Madan Mohan Malaviya—a staunch leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and an Uttar Pradesh Brahmin, other than being the President of the Indian National Congress four times—had to be on the list of names to be commemorated by PM Modi. Malaviya was also the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and produced many Sanskrit texts during his lifetime. Interestingly, Malaviya is not discussed in this light today; he is known as just another freedom fighter or one of the political leaders who were part of the formation process of this country. But it is an indirect statement by the Sangh Parivar--naming schemes, erecting statues in the name of Gandhi, Patel and Malaviya--that he was a significant part of nation-making. Hence, the national mission for teachers and teaching materials is in Malaviya's name.

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NRC and CAA are as anti-Dalit as anti-Muslim!

 

Dharmesh Ambedkar

Jai Bhim Friends,

You are aware of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC). The media is continuously saying that both these are anti-Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has even said that those opposing CAA and NRC can be identified from their clothes. If you also think so then you certainly should read this pamphlet.

mass detention centre goalpara

Detention centre coming up in Goalpara, Assam

According to an Indian Express report1, more than 19 lakh people excluded from Assam's NRC list won't have voting rights. 14 lakh out of this 19 lakh are Hindu. The government has not released information related to their castes2. It also shows that maximum people out of this 14 lakh would be Tribes from Jharkhand who have gone there to work in tea gardens, Dusadhs, Chamars and Mehtars of Bihar and the Dalits and OBCs of Assam. Now it is clear that these Dalits, Tribes and OBCs will remain deprived of their voting rights, which was granted to them after tireless struggle of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Not only this, but these deprived Dalits, Tribes and OBCs will be imprisoned in detention camps.

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The legacy of B. R. Ambedkar and his contribution to social justice and equality

 

Kavita Chohan

kavita chohanThere is a false perception among Indians that Dr. Ambedkar's work addresses the concerns of Dalits and Dalit women only. This perception is not only found among those from "upper" castes, but also within the Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and women from the "upper" castes. Thus, the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar is claimed largely by Mahars and seems to remain unacknowledged by other sections of society. This article explores the origins of this false and limited propaganda that severely limits Ambedkar's thought legacy.

Ambedkar has said that "I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved". He does not say that he measures the progress of the community by measuring the progress of Dalit women--he is addressing all women. Even then, one does not find Dr. Ambedkar's name in the list of feminists cited by Indian feminists. The reason for this is simple—caste hegemony never allows a universal, egalitarian identity to a Scheduled Caste person. Throughout his life, Dr. Ambedkar fought for the rights of Indian women. He was instrumental in proposing the Hindu Code Bill in the parliament and expressed his urgency in reforming the status of Hindu women. However, it was the "upper" caste women who opposed the bill, without having understood it fully, and demonstrated in front of Dr. Ambedkar's house. The caste system has not allowed Dr. Ambedkar's thought to reach the masses. His work has been deliberately silenced, as can be seen from the unavailability of his books in the market and absence of his work in the educational curriculum.

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Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and the Tribal Community (Adivasi)

 

Jawar Bheel

jawar bheelStudents' protests have rocked the country since the passage of Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB). CAB has already become Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Also, on November 20th, Union Home Minister, Amit Shah had made a statement in the Parliament that the National Register of Citizens (NRC) would be prepared for every state in the country. This package of CAA and countrywide NRC has been criticized, opposed and protested against on various grounds such as violation of the spirit of Indian constitution, formalization of inequality on the basis of religion and its communal intent. In North Eastern states of India, CAA has been opposed for protection of the indigene against migrants. But what has been overlooked is how it creates a state of limbo for a big chunk of Adivasis in the country.

Religious beliefs of Adivasis vary from tribe to tribe and it is a known fact that their religious beliefs and practices vary to a considerable extent from the mainstream religions practiced in India, specifically those which are mentioned in CAA. Take an example of Jharkhand. According to 2011 census, Jharkhand's total tribal population is 86,45,042. When looked through the religious prism, 46.71 % of them fall into two groups which are "other religions and persuasions" and "Religion not stated". This brings out the fact that almost half of Jharkhand's tribals do not belong to the religions mentioned in CAA (These figures are different for each state).

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CAB-NRC, a double edged sword against Minorities

 

Mohammad Javed Alig

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An extremely controversial, polarised and much-heated debate on Citizenship Amendment Bill is at the centre of local and intellectual discussion. It seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955, aimed at making non-muslim refugees from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan eligible to apply for Indian citizenship if they faced any persecution there on the grounds of religion. They will not be considered illegal immigrants if they have entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

Home Minister's logic on CAB is not consistent because it does not protect all religious minorities, nor does it apply to all neighbours. The Ahmedia Muslim and even Shias face discrimination in Pakistan. Rohingya Muslims and Hindus face persecution in Burma, and Hindu and Christian Tamils in neighbouring Sri Lanka. Shah's logic is very clear and straightforward that Hindus in India's neighbourhood have faced hardship, violence and persecution. These migrants deserve rights and dignity — and where else but in India can they get it?

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Can an 'encounter' deliver justice in a democratic state?

 

Sheetal Dinkar Asha Kamble

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The last 12 years' experience of working on the issue of violence against women gave me the insight to deeply understand gender and caste politics. From 2007 to 2011, I worked with Maharashtra police on the issue of violence against women. I was placed at the Special Cell for Women and Children in the Office of Commissioner of Police in Mumbai. I have dealt with 440 cases of domestic violence, molestation and rape during that time. My whole journey of taking up cases regarding violence against women, and especially Dalit women, helped me gain an understanding about the caste and gender relationship.

This article aims to question many misconceptions about rape and the theory of social justice. I, a Dalit researcher, study the Hyderabad rape case where the accused were 'encountered' by police without following the democratic process of justice. It was an outburst of the community and the whole society looking at rape as a punishable offence. But due to the time-consuming process of justice, people feel that 'encounters' can create fear among the people for gender equality. The encounter happened and the whole picture of rape and justice was completely changed. However, rape laws are strong instruments to control the social behaviour of society.

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Untouchability wall in Mettupalayam: Segregating SC/MBCs from Caste Hindus

 

Dr. Ravichandran Bathran

At the outset, untouchability or caste is never an issue until it takes lives. Similarly, the wall is in discussion, also, only due to the lives it took. The collapse of the 20 feet high and 80 feet long wall in #Nadoor a small village situated in Mettupalayam has attracted a lot of attention. It came to discussion not for the size of the wall or the place it was built, or the person who built it, Sivasubramaniyan the owner of Sakravarthithugilmaligai, but the discussion erupted because of the impact this huge wall has had on 17 human lives.

untouchability wall 1

17 lives killed is news, be that at any place across Tamil Nadu and for the 24/7 Tamil news channels, this should be a newsworthy of attention, irrespective of the place where it happened. But not sure whether it's because of Dalits deaths even the YouTube creators did not engage with the issue much. 24/7 channels restricted their broadcasts only to rescue operations and covering CM or opposition parties' visits. The police arrested most Dalit activists, who were very critical on this issue, on the day of death itself and remanded them. Not sure when they will release them.

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In lieu of an autobiography: B.R. Ambedkar and his 'Waiting for a Visa'

 

Umesh Kumar

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Today is December 6: the death anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, affectionately called Babasaheb by his followers. To his followers, the day is hardly a reminder of his death. On the contrary, they usually see it as the occasion to celebrate the greatness of his life and not the lack of its longevity. Further, by alluding to a crucial Buddhist belief of Mahaparinirvana, and ascribing it to the day, Babasaheb's followers concede that he was as blessed and enlightened as Buddha himself was and did not leave behind any karmic debt-–thanks to his hugely meaningful life of sacrifice, devotion, compassion and empathy for the subjugated, among others.

The question, however, is what did Ambedkar himself think about his life? In an era where it was both fashionable and normative for public figures to write their autobiographies, he seems to have missed the bus. Or was it a deliberate choice on his part to miss it? However, there are shreds of evidence that he wanted to write his autobiography, in English. In fact, the editors of his Writings and Speeches claim in Volume Three that he had an intention to pen down the life of Mahatma Phule and the history of the Indian Army beside, his own life account. But an autobiography doesn't seem to have been too high in his list of literary priorities, because he never wrote it. Or was it the fact that he hardly imagined any distinction between his personal and public life–unlike his contemporaries?

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An Enquiry Beyond Citizenship Amendment Bill

 

Veewon Thokchom 

veewon3The question of migrant population in the “Northeast” - Land of the rising sun, Land of festivals, Scotland of the East, Jewel of India - has always remained elusive in the popular discourse of the country, just as the question of occupation in Kashmir – a Paradise on Earth. These artfully contrived phrases used to describe certain regions of the country are rooted in the colonial production of knowledge about the “native” who always needed the civilizing hand of the West. Presently, however, the narrative of “national security,” “unemployment,” “underdevelopment,” “insurgency” etc. is prevalent in these regions. “Northeast,” more a capricious idea than a geographical location, is an imagination enforced from outside rather than emerging independently through a historical process of self-identification. This imagination, howsoever shrouded unsoundly, has no common standard except a shared marginalization from the mainland.

 

Today, Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 (hereafter CAB), remains the most contentious bill in Manipur and the seven states of the “Northeast.” The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955, which till date has been amended nine times in the Indian parliament. The numerous amendments are rendered possible because Article 11 of the Indian constitution allows the Parliament citizenship rights regulation by law at any time when deemed necessary. CAB was first proposed in the Lok Sabha on 19 July 2016 and was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 12 August of the same year. After the Committee submitted its report on 7 January this year, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 8 January, introduced by the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. On 13 February the bill lapsed as it was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha as a result of a wide mass protest from all over the entire “Northeast” region. Interestingly, the bill acted as a catalyst for the first united mass protest in these regions with the formation of pan body organizations like Northeast Forum for Indigenous People (NEFIP) and Northeast Students’ Organization (NESO).

 

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What is the significance of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion framework in Indian Higher Education?

 Bharat Rathod

bharat rathod

After Rohith Vemula’s Institutional murder in 2016, public protest and media discussion had created a political pressure on the Government of India to take institutional measures to prevent such type of incidents. Therefore, as a reactionary measure, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had announced that a new policy will be prepared to tackle issues of discrimination against students from disadvantaged sections of society. Three years after the announcement, there is no progress in the formation of a new policy or public discourse on the same. It indicates that the current government is not serious to eliminate caste-based discrimination from Indian higher education. In the last decade alone, several incidents of discrimination against the oppressed caste students have been reported. It has also been stated in academic studies that caste-based discrimination is pervasive in Indian higher education, specifically, in elite institutions. This scenario raises a critical question – why is there no institutional response to curb caste-based discrimination in Indian higher education?

 It is a well-known fact that higher education has been dominated by the higher castes in the country. However, in the last two decades, due to the reservation (affirmative action) policies and the gradually increasing education levels in the historically oppressed castes are now challenging the hegemony of the higher castes. Increasing enrollment of the oppressed caste students has considerably changed student demographics of higher education institutions. Nonetheless, faculty demographics and leadership of these institutions have been dominated by the higher castes. This phenomenon has created a social tension between the oppressed caste (SC/ST/OBC) students and the higher caste faculty and leadership. Elite higher education institutions have been denying caste-based discrimination; moreover, they have defamed the oppressed caste students as “uneducable” or “non-meritocratic”. It is high time to accept that discrimination against the oppressed caste students is a reality in higher education and it is institutionalized.

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