Hatred in the belly: Speaking Truth to Power


Sruthi Herbert 

[Talk given at the Manchester Launch of Hatred in the belly: Politics Behind the Appropriation of Dr Ambedkar's Writings, held on October 6th, 2016]

sruthiIt's an honour to be on this stage with all the others who are here – both in this room and over skype.

In these ten minutes, what I would like to do is to pick two important pieces in this book: the questions to Arundhati Roy by Dalit Camera in their letter, and Roy's response to it. I believe these shed light on some of the larger questions that need to be discussed, may be not just in this talk but in the future too.

Some of the pointed questions addressed to Roy by Dalit Camera are these: Do you share the view that Dalit activists and scholars are better qualified to introduce AoC both in terms of their engagement with Ambedkar and their life experiences? Another question to Roy was: "Do you feel you are an authority (in terms of your research or involvement in Dalit politics) on Ambedkar and therefore, you are competent to assess Ambedkar's position on Adivasis, Brahmanism, caste etc? Yet another was: Dalits feel cheated that you and Navayana GOT all the media attention but the title Annihilation of Caste by Dr Ambedkar is just used. Why did you use Ambedkar in this manner? Do you feel now that it is unethical?


In the name of the Nation: Historicizing Caste in Indian Universities


Nidhin Shobhana

In the name of the Nation: Historicizing Caste in Indian Universities (with special reference to Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Setting up the Stage

nidhin shobhana1The 'idea' of a university and its connections to democracy, nation-building and knowledge production have been historically discussed and debated by several social scientists and policy-makers in great depth1. Such discussions have often avoided perceptive historical analysis of social structures and actions which established shaped and sustained universities. In other words, the 'idea' of the university is often not contextualized in the specific histories of its place or players.

 This essay would think of Universities as a complex system of buildings, committees, senates, courts, councils, financial budgets, affirmative action, student's unions, teacher appointments; dominated by historically powerful groups, endowed and subsidised by the nation-state in various degrees. Such a view is not new2. Nevertheless, this essay also identifies Universities as dynamic places of on-going political struggles by all groups (and not just the marginalized or excluded). These struggles could be inside (university streets, courts, selection panels, staff quarters etc.) or outside the universities, shaping its future in many different ways. However, these groups historically embody unequal social, economic and cultural power. Thus, the politics of the historically oppressed to enter various ranks of the university should always be studied along with the politics of the historically powerful to sustain their influence, not concede to opponents or make compromises of varying degrees. Thus this essay understands university as a tangible reality marked by specific, conflicting histories (of social groups, their mobilizations and places) and not simply as an abode of 'unmarked, abstract, priceless knowledge' suspended in a national scale. Again, the ideational and tangible aspects of a university are not exclusive to each other. They share a reciprocal relationship.


The Janeyu in My News Story


Rahi Gaikwad

rahi gaikwad 1Years ago, while studying journalism, a remark made by a foreign national classmate during a class discussion on caste has stuck in my mind till date. From what I remember, she said that she had many Indian friends who told her they did not believe in caste, but somehow mentioned they were Brahmins. Had I noted her words, quoting them verbatim would have sounded more perceptive.

 The memory of my classmate's observation came gushing back to me as I read an article in The Indian Express on Monday, November 28, 2016, titled: 'When a professor played translator for a terrorist'. (Link 1 below)

 The story is about an Indian-origin professor who had a telephonic conversation from the US with a terrorist at Nariman House, Mumbai, during the 26/11 serial attacks in the city. All is well till the report states, "Born in Kerala and schooled in Mumbai, the Tamil-Brahmin Viswanath has been in the United States for nearly four decades. A PhD holder in economics and finance, he teaches corporate finance at the Lubin School of Business, Pace University, New York. Keenly interested in languages, he speaks French, Spanish, Tamil, Hindi, Urdu and Yiddish fluently, as well as some German, Italian, Hebrew, Marathi, Malayalam and Bengali."


Poverty and Malnutrition in Odisha: Who is responsible?


Bansidhar Deep

bansidharIndira Gandhi used the "Garibi Hatao" rhetoric to defend her contempt for constitutional morality, while the present BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government uses the rhetoric of "Sabka Vikas" and "Shreshth Bharat" to adopt the same cynical approach (Suhas Palshikar, Indian Express July 15, 2016). There was a time when India, after independence, was talking about production of food grains and crops, so that the country's people will not face food grain shortage. That is why the so-called "green revolution" was ushered in the sixties-seventies although it was confined to northern India only. Today there is enough production, but people are not getting food and lack of food is causing deaths. Most recently, in Odisha (Jaipur district, Nagada village) 26 children died due to malnutrition/poverty. And this can be seen in most of the places in Odisha in particular and India in general.


Wherever Caste exists in the World, Ambedkar and Marx will remain Irreconcilable


Dr Manisha Bangar


manisha bangarIn India, and wherever in the world Caste exists, Ambedkar and Marx will remain Irreconcilable.

Starting from the happenings in Hyderabad Central University in August 2015 when the students of ASA were ostracized, more so from the time of the Institutional murder of Rohith Vemula in January 2016, from the Una atrocity in July 2016 to the ongoing victimization and brutal institutional and non-institutional atrocities on Muslims and Scheduled Castes, the Communists of India through their network of political parties (CPI, CPM etc) and Students' Organizations (SFI, AISA, DSF etc) have been seen in the forefront staging protests inside and outside University campuses or rather they are more often shown, more than required, to be in the foreground in the struggles of the oppressed.

They have also had the exclusive privilege of being highlighted by a thin stream of mainstream media as being the only resisting force against the Fascist (a word communist use for BJP-RSS combine, while at the same time consciously avoiding the usage of the words Brahmins, Brahmanvaad and Brahminism) Government.

However this deliberate, sudden projections in favour of the Communists has in many ways worked to the detriment of the Mulniwasi Bahujan movement and may continue to harm the process of social polarization of the SC, ST, OBC, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians if the Bahujans remain ignorant of the ways in which the predominantly Brahmin leadership in Communist Organizations is executing its agenda to stall the unity of Bahujans and prevent it from becoming a force to reckon with, which can break down the shackles of Brahmanism and Casteism.


Rise of BSP and Dalit Politics in U.P.


Saquib Salim

saquib"In 1962-63, when I got the opportunity to read Ambedkar's book, Annihilation of Caste, then I also felt that it is perhaps possible to eradicate casteism from the society. But, later on when I studied caste system and its behaviour in depth gradually there was a modification in my thoughts. I have not only gained knowledge about caste from the books but from my personal life too....................... So if the people have so much affection for their caste then how can we think of annihilating it? That is why I have stopped thinking about the annihilation of caste."
~ Kanshi Ram

This excerpt from one of the speeches of Kanshi Ram, the founder of BSP, clearly shows a new type of understanding in Dalit politics which emerged after Ambedkar, who along with Periyar, Phule and others believed in the annihilation of this social system based upon caste. BSP, which was floated as a political outfit by Kanshi Ram in 1984, has had a huge impact on the way Dalits were perceived in the socio- political circles of Uttar Pradesh (U.P) in particular and north India in general. Political scientists during the last two decades have argued that political mobilisation led by Kanshi Ram in the form of BAMCEF (Backward And Minority Communities Employees Federation), DS-4 and BSP can not be considered as a Dalit movement. However, here I would like to differ.


Bhima’s force shall keep growing…!


Essay Series on What Babasaheb Ambedkar Means to me

Pradnya Jadhav

aniket babasahebs sketch

Babasaheb's people have held him high in their hearts without waiting for him to die and appear in any textbooks. The supreme form of Ambedkarism is reflected in the songs about Babasaheb, which are popularly known as Bhimgeete, way before he became a matter of intellectual inquiry. The masses who were deprived of education were the first people to understand Ambedkar. They honoured him with a respectful name as "Babasaheb" and often conversed with him by addressing him as "Bhima". These songs by our foremothers documented the history of Babasaheb's life in a wholesome manner. The songs would start with the mention of Babasaheb's birth in 1891, the happiness it brought to his parents Ramaji and Bhimai, the difficulties Babasaheb faced being an untouchable student, his journey abroad for higher studies, the contentment of his community when he received the degree of Barrister-at–law, and becoming the Minister of Labour. The songs mark the events when he laid the foundation of Scheduled Caste federation and Samata Sainik Dal, and when he erected the stone of social revolution, the Mahad Satyagraha-Kalaram Mandir Pravesh. The verses take the listeners through the preparation of Hindu code bill followed by the agony he faced with the signing of the Pune pact, while celebrating Babasaheb becoming law minister and drafting constitution for India. These songs further claimed that our Babasaheb created an equal law for all, despite facing betrayal by this Nation and that he attacked the rigidity of fundamentalist religion and offered us Buddhism which is humane. The Bheemgeete with such rich meaning and historical rendering of his life events as a founding father of a large democracy are sung in our families and communities to keep reminding how hard Babasaheb's life was and how we should not let him down.


The Making of the Region: Perspectives from a Non-Savarna Newspaper (Part II)


P. Thirumal

Continued from Part I

Disciplinary axis

hospet junctionFrom a certain disciplinary and a temporal axis, region has been studied as an objective entity in the form of center-state relations.[43] Presently, the behaviorist-functionalist paradigm referred to as institutional approach seems to be giving way to a more nuanced cultural studies paradigm.[44] A certain dominant strand of Cultural Studies sees the effects of colonialism as pervasive and encompassing the contemporary moment.[45] The effort of this intervention is to locate contemporary as providing a rupture to the colonial times. The contemporary itself consists of several presents. It is the heterogeneity of the contemporary that requires elaboration. While the institutional approach perceives region and more particularly region-state as a monologic and homogenous entity, cultural studies approaches have a potential to render region especially the practices of its community as  dialogic and heterogeneous entity.  This paper suggests that there is a need to work with both institutional and cultural studies approaches in order to enrich the variegated content and form of the category ‘region’. In an oversimplified sense, the institutional approach appears to emphasize the content and the cultural studies seem to emphasize the form.[46] It is true that different pictures of the region emerge with these two different analytical/explanatory tools and both are apparently an incomplete portrait of region.[47] 

More specifically, the study broadly addresses two major areas of communication studies namely Development Communication and Cultural Studies. The study seeks to retain the emancipatory character of development of the 1960s and incorporate the programme of differences initiated by the contemporary Cultural Studies practitioners. The field of Development Communication has either dealt with larger units of analysis like the nation or very micro-units of analysis like village societies. Region as a political form has not been attended to in the field of Development Communication. Communication constitutes nations, regions and village societies as well. 


Caste Atrocities and Government Accountability


Santosh Kumar 

Rohith Chakravarti Vemula (30 January 1989 – 18 January 2016) was a PhD student at the Central University of Hyderabad and his suicide on 18 Jan 2016 sparked an outrage throughout India, highlighting the cases of systemic discrimination in educational campuses across India. Many cases of caste atrocities have been reported recently. One of them was that of a Dalit man killed in Ahmednagar in 2015 for keeping a mobile ringtone that had Ambedkar's praise. In another case, Dalit children were burnt alive in Faridabad, which a cabinet minister VK Singh compared with the death of dogs.

university dalits

Similar to the protest in the case of Rohith Vemula, protests across Maharashtra took place in 2006 against the brutal killing and raping of a Dalit family in Khairlanji, Dist. Bhandara in Maharastra. The cases of Dalit atrocities are not very unusual in independent India. However, a nation-wide outrage and protest are reported in few cases only, particularly due to media apathy and systemic suppression of Dalits' Voice by the upper castes.


The Making of the Region: Perspectives from a Non-Savarna Newspaper (Part I)


P. Thirumal 


karnatakaThis intervention concerns itself with elaborating the administrative category ‘region’. The federal units qualify as administrative regions of the Indian Union. This paper argues that in the initial decades after independence, region(s) tend to be reproduced and affirmed largely through region-state(s) or Indian State practices. Though the prime mover of the region/s in the initial decades is the region-state, the counterparts of the region namely the community and the economy appear to participate in the reproduction of the region in the later decades. This intervention has two sections. The first section deals with some aspects of a generic understanding of the reproduction of region/s in India after the massive reorganization of states in 1956. The supposedly primal autonomous character of the region is pitted against the bureaucratic logic of the administrative region. It appears that the supposedly primal character of the region is generally neither antagonistic nor completely subsumed by the bureaucratic logic. The primal is as much transformed as the bureaucratic logic. The administrative region seemingly surfaces as more inclusive than the former. Space is deployed as an analytical tool to understand the administrative category referred to in this piece as ‘region-state’. The second section elucidates a study related to the reproduction of Karnataka in the editorials of a widely circulated newspaper ‘Deccan Herald’ between the years 1958-83. In this latter section, the state is used interchangeably as region. This study primarily engages with the Karnataka’s demand for adequate communication infrastructure for itself. In the process, the capacity for simultaneously building the regional community and the economy is expressed. The differential material and symbolic articulations of sub-regions apparently display a field of heterogeneous power networks. Notwithstanding the heterogeneity of the region, the region-state does manage to create a regime of power.    


Babasaheb for Me Is Like an Inner Voice


Essay series on 'What Babasaheb Ambedkar Means to me'

Madhura Raut

madhuraIt was neither my family nor my school that introduced Ambedkar to me. It was because of my friends, either classmates or facebook friends that I got introduced to Babasaheb Ambedkar. It is a fact that I never felt a strong connection with Babasaheb, Jyotiba Phule and Savitri Bai in school and never heard about these three leaders in my family. I felt that connection only after I came to Pune for my graduation.

 I heard stories in my school about 'Bapu', 'Bal Gangadhar Tilak' but not about 'Babasaheb'. There would be competitions in my school like reciting 'Manache Shlok' (Sanskrit prayers) or elocution competition on Tilak but Babasaheb was completely absent there. Babasaheb would be there only for one day -14th April and this day too would be a holiday in school. We never had any competition or celebration even before or after 14th April to know about Babasaheb Ambedkar. There would be discussions among some of my friends on how they danced with Lezhim on the roads for long hours on that day. But I never heard about this celebration either in my family or my school. The efforts that were taken in school to make us feel connected with Gandhi, Tilak or Nehru were not to be found in the case of Ambedkar. Today, I feel that we studied Ambedkar only in books. If there were extra efforts, at least in the school, we could have known more about Babasaheb Ambedkar and not just Ambedkar.


Loan Write-Offs vs Black Money - Explained


P V Vijay Kumar

pvv vijay kumarAfter SBI announced write-off of loans worth about Rs. 7000 cr including what it had lent to the nefarious Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines. There has been an uproar from the general public and also from many intellectual and political quarters as well, that this write-off is denotation of waiver of loan. During this season of economic crisis, post-announcement of Modi's historical decision to curtail on cash circulation 500 and 1000 Rupee notes, to contain black money at the cost of common man's perils, the write off has been attributed with a kind of 'cheating' of public by Govt. owned Banks and the Govt. itself.

When a loan is disbursed, it is meant to create an asset. The loan disbursal is directly proportional to the value of the asset to be created out of it. That is the moment the money goes into circulation out of the bank's cash balance, raised in the form of deposits, capital etc. The value of the asset is actually notional or, in fact, based on certain market valued bench marks and there can be a plus or minus to it. That is the moment many entrepreneurs take advantage of valuation of asset/project and get the loan disbursal out of the actual asset and utilize the 'surplus' for other business or personal purposes. This becomes unaccounted money, in other words, it is called black money. For now, we will confine to this piece of creation of asset out of debt funds giving rise to black money creation, which is one of the most common methods.


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