Comrade Riyaz: Blood on the hands of the State


Karthik Navayan & Karunakar

(This is the translation of a Telugu article written on 3rd July, 2005)




Riyaz, who had come for peace talks*, was killed by the Government. He was detained around 10 pm in the night on 30th June, 2005, in Barkatpura area of Hyderabad, and was shot dead around 3 am in the early hours of 1st July, 2005, within 5 hours of his arrest, in a mango orchard near Badankal village of Karimnagar district. There is nothing more unjust than this. Riyaz was a member of the Central Committee of the CPI-ML. He had spent 14 years in revolutionary politics. The passing away of Riyaz-- an exemplary communist worker, leader, young revolutionary intellectual, and strategist— is an irreparable loss not only for CPI-ML (Janashakti) but for the entire revolutionary movement. For the activists in the revolutionary movements, for its well-wishers and followers, Riyaz's death comes as a great shock, a bolt of lightning. The killing of a peace envoy was unheard of even during the days of monarchies and itihasas but has been accomplished under democratic rule. It is shameful that this kind of rule has to be endured.

Riyaz belonged to a family of fishermen in Tamil Nadu. He came from a caste that had had to bear its share of 'graded inequality' and oppression doled out by the caste system. He was only the second individual in the whole community to have completed higher education (Engineering). Riyaz, despite being born in a community excluded from education and knowledge for ages, acquired higher education and grew up to become a fearless, lion-hearted revolutionary who sacrificed his life for the cause of changing society.


Confessions of a confused Dalit Woman!

Jyotsna Siddharth

jyotsna_1_copy_copyToday's status quo bites me. The upper-caste, upper class, elitism in feminism, the hypocritical pretension about issues and a bit of everything is disturbing. I would not have come up with this piece if I did not have the opportunity to attend an event recently in Delhi and would like to thank Zubaan for such a thought provoking event that gave me a push to reflect on contemporary feminist politics and where it's heading.

The event was part of a series called Zubaan Talkies, the specific instalment 'Take 5: Why did the Feminist Cross the road?' held at The Attic in Connaught Place. I went there for two reasons: a) firstly I wanted to talk about the cartoon that was imprinted on their invite which I found anti-feminist and trivialising a serious issue b) and secondly for the simple fact that it was a Zubaan event and I wanted to see what happens there. I also wanted to know why the feminist crossed the road, as there were many old flavours of the feminist movement still present with some new emerging feminists trying to build their space in the movement. Not expecting to have received a fixed, final response, I was disappointed that it failed to provide any thought-provoking responses.

zubaan_copyCourtesy: Zubaan 


Greatest Indian Debate: Gandhi versus Ambedkar

Harish S. Wankhede

Greatness is a loaded and complex term, especially in a country like ours, it has sheer subjective meaning. Recently a heated debate has gripped the social networking sites over the CNN-IBN and History Channel initiated hunt for 'the Greatest Indian after Gandhi'. Some of the Dalit groups are agitated over the fact that the survey has already ranked Gandhi as the greatest and this hunt is mainly to select the second best after him. Very passionate arguments are flamed in the debate not only to argue that Babasaheb Ambedkar was the greatest among the given lot but also that he is better and bigger than Gandhi. It seems that on the parameters of greatness the two icons will again ignite the political debate.

Dalits' emotional and sensitive attachment to Ambedkar as a prophetic figure is sufficiently visible in the country and more particularly in Maharashtra. Any curious visitor will get this impression that he is almost omnipresent at the public spaces. His statues have outnumbered the busts of any modern political leader, masses get mobilized in thousands to celebrate his birth anniversary, there is continuous explosion of written material in Marathi, Hindi and English and most importantly no political party can make the mistake of not providing him a respectable space in its election manifesto, posters-banners and hoardings. It appears that Ambedkar is an inseparable part of socio-political life in Maharashtra. However, this public display of love for Ambedkar is mostly associated exclusively to the Dalits and even in the intellectual discourses this phenomenon is noted with paternalistic tone as the 'democratic assertions' of the erstwhile 'suppressed' groups. Ambedkar is castigated as a Dalit icon, worshipped and followed mainly by the Dalits.


Karamchedu in Lakshimpeta

Kathi Padma Rao

(This is a translation of his recent article 'Lakshimpetalo 'Karamchedu'')

The oppression of the Dalits continues unabated in the state. Whichever dominant castes are in power, people belonging to those castes continue to conduct violent attacks on the Dalits. When NTR was in power, six Dalits were brutally killed in Karamchedu, his samdhi's village. When Nedurumalli Janardhan Reddy was in power, they chopped off the heads of eight Dalits in Chunduru of Guntur district, and dumped them in the Tungabhadra. Now when Botsa Satyanarayana, who calls himself a BC, is the Pradesh Congress President, Botsa Vasudeva Naidu and his horde of Toorpu Kapus, armed with swords and axes, have tortured and killed the Dalits of Lakshimpeta in Srikakulam district.


What really happened? The landowning Toorpu Kapus of Lakshimpeta village in Vangara mandal of Srikakulam district surrounded the Dalitwada of the village at seven in the morning. Groups of around twenty people each, armed with deadly weapons, laid siege to every house. They dragged the people from their homes and showered inhuman abuse and insults on them. 'You Mala ba#$%^s, you think you've grown big enough to be cultivators?' they ranted in their caste arrogance. Shouting 'You think you can till fields alongside us?' they launched a brutal attack on Nivirti Venkati (60), his son Nivirti Sangamesu (35), Burada Sundar Rao (35) and Chittari Appadu (25).


We will agitate for the arrest of the Lakshimpeta killers

[This is a translation of the statement on the Lakshimpeta massacre issued by social, human rights organizations and activists on 17th June 2012 - Round Table India]

On 12th June, 2012, caste arrogant Toorpu Kapus, misidentified as BCs, carried out a murderous attack on the Malas of Lakshimpeta village in Vangara mandal of Srikakulam district in Andhra Pradesh. This inhuman attack was not an unplanned, minor incident. And it is definitely not an event caused by vendetta or a conflict arising out of some land related dispute between two groups, not directly connected with caste discrimination. This disinformation, spread with the intent to suppress the main reason of caste discrimination and reduce the gravity of the heinous attack and to divert the attention of progressive social, democratic forces, is not true. This was a pre-planned, carefully orchestrated one-sided massacre by caste arrogant Kapus. The fact that only Dalits were killed and injured in this violent attack provides ample proof of the true nature of the attack.



Buddhism in Lucknow: History and Culture from Alternative Sources

Shiv Shankar Das

The history of Buddhism in India was brought back in its glory mainly by the colonial period's excavations, when many statues and other Buddhist symbols were found by archeologists. Besides, the Bhikkhus who came to India, chiefly Bhikkhu Dhammapal, Bodhanand and Pragyanand, from Sri Lanka during the last and the first quarter of 20th and 21st century, respectively, contributed immensely to the revival of Buddhist history and culture in the northern part of the country. The Buddhists in Lucknow quickly name these Bhikkhus in the history of Buddha-Dhamma in Lucknow. Among Barau Buddhists, Bhikkhu Kripasaran is very much credited with spreading Buddha-Dhamma here. The role of Dr. Ambedkar is duly credited by both: Ambedkar-Buddhists as well as Barau-Buddhists.


The 'dirt' in The Dirty Picture: Caste, Gender and Silk Smitha

Jenny Rowena

Jenny_2_copy_copyOn first or second Saturday coming after the Hindu New Year's Day (Gudhi padawa), the devadasis, who are mostly dalitbahujans, were openly sexually enjoyed in public, about hundred years ago.

This is now replaced by another tradition called "Okali", which was in vogue till 1987. It is a festival like 'Rang Panchami'. The young boys from higher castes assemble around a pool of coloured water in front of town temple. Young devadasis in the town stand in front of them in a row, and each receives a sari, a choli and a flower garland. The coloured water is poured over the devadasis who appear virtually naked as the cloths given to them are very thin, scanty, delicate and transparent. The boys play with the bodies of devadasis as they like, doing everything just short of sexual intercourse. All assembled enjoy the scene. This happens in the name of god 'Bili Kallappa'. [Uttam Kamble, Sugawa, p. 81]

Vasant Rajas describes another custom, called "Sidi attu" in town Madakeripura in Karnataka which was in vogue till 1987, when it was banned by the Govt. Here a devadasi is suspended [on a rope balanced on] a hook in her back on one end of a transverse rod placed on a vertical pole planted in ground, and rotated by a rope at the other end. She salutes the gathering, while her garments fly and all the naked lower part of her body is visible to all, for their amusement. This was supposed to bring prosperity to town, and the devadasi used to get a sari, a choli, a coconut and a betel nut, for which she thanked the gathering. [p. 27]


UP Heading for Dark Age


Raj Kumar

Ever since the change of government in Uttar Pradesh in the month of March 2012, the state is witnessing very bizarre, obscurantist and lamentable politics and some of the decisions of new government are profoundly baffling to democratic civilized society. The people of Uttar Pradesh voted Samajwadi Party (SP) to power with absolute majority, but by now, they must have started realizing the Frankenstein they have created, if one analyzes the retrograde decisions taken by Akhilesh Yadav government devaluing social diversity and inclusive growth. A change of government is supposed to bring exuberance to the state apparatus and extricate the masses from the lethargy and banality of the outgoing government. But the new government in the name of change is apparently involved in the most backward looking misadventures. Specially its decision to scrap girl child education incentive scheme is most perplexing and smacks of its feudalistic orientations. Constitution envisages justice to all and makes special provisions to the deprived sections to make India a truly egalitarian and sane society. The goodwill of illiterate, poor and half starved masses towards constitution is the testimony of the constitutional commitment it has with the neediest.



The warriors who slayed babies and other tales

Rahi Gaikwad

rahi gaikwadThe name Ranvir is usually given to a boy. It means brave warrior or battle hero. This is the name a section of landed castes in Bihar, chiefly the Bhumihar landlords, adopted to christen themselves as an army of warriors, the Ranvir Sena

In Hindu mythology, the idea of the warrior king who wages a battle against demons to root out evil is all-pervasive. These god-vs.-demon battles involve killing, beheading, slaying and using all kinds of tricks to ensnare the enemy. The warrior in Hindu faith, epitomised in the legend of Ram in popular myth-making, is ascribed the quintessential "masculine" virtues of physical strength by virtue of which he is able to be the guardian and protector of the religious moral order.

Hindutva extremist groups share and draw upon this concept in their aggressive pursuit that takes on battle-like proportions, to maintain their supremacy in a certain social order they believe has been ordained by religion and tradition.


Cartoons, Caste and Epistemic Violence


Nilesh Kumar 



'These upper-caste authors who are forever miles away from reality and who can only make ceremonial and meaningless speeches in big meetings, can never understand what we the shudras and atishudras have to suffer and what calamities we have to undergo. All this is not entirely unknown to the high-caste founders of various conferences and organizations. They pretend to be modernists..' - Jotiba Phule

The conscious acts of the NCERT advisers in the selection, inclusion and now defense of Shankar's cartoon on the 'delay' in the constitution making process is up for examination by one and all. Depending on the location from where it is being examined all these processes can be read as complex or simple, moral or immoral. From an anti-caste perspective with respect to Dr Ambedkar's representation in school textbooks: violence lies in the acts of exclusion, selective inclusion and misrepresentation. I would like to elaborate on this systematic and strategic alienation of Dr Ambedkar in mainstream literature, textbooks and even in caste studies as a type of violence that enables the maintenance of status quo or caste hierarchy.



Critical Reading of NCERT text ‘Indian Constitution at Work’

Lalit Khandare

The National Curriculum Framework 2005 for social sciences states:

"In the social sciences, the approach proposed in the NCF recognises disciplinary markers while emphasising integration on significant themes, such as water. A paradigm shift is recommended, proposing the study of the social sciences from the perspective of marginalised groups. Gender justice and a sensitivity towards issues related to SC and ST communities and minority sensibilities must inform all sectors of the social sciences. Civics should be recast as political science, and the significance of history as a shaping influence on the child's conception of the past and civic identity should be recognized " (pg. ix)[1]

Indeed, the National Curriculum Framework 2005 attempts to disembark from the uncritical, undemocratic, pedagogic practices to advance towards a critical, democratic and an egalitarian outlook.


"It's really cruel burdening kids like this. I had to hire that boy to help my son!"

Source: Page 77 of National Curriculum Framework, 2005


The Cartoon Controversy: Inside the Mind of one ‘fanatic’ Dalit -II



Continued from here.

Anoop Kumar

When I saw the cartoon - and at the time I googled, there were only 3 images available - I spontaneously recoiled at the violence in the cartoon. I had to check again and again to confirm if it was indeed the controversial one because the cartoon was so plainly disgusting that I could not see why there should be two sides about it. It did not merit discussion before condemning it. The violence of the whip, the violence against Dr Ambedkar and the obvious symbolisms conveyed themselves so starkly that I did not have to think twice about what was wrong with it. I needed no discussions, or read any posts to convince me that the cartoon was an act of upper caste violence. And I am surprised that instead of unequivocally condemning it, apologizing for the violence, and rushing to make amends, many are still discussing it, hoping to justify the cartoon, and forcing those who lack the funny bone to get one. I think the controversy is about the gaze. Is yours an upper caste gaze? You may not feel so violated after all.

- Sruthi Herbert, a friend, writes in Facebook on NCERT textbook cartoon controversy


I think the controversy is about the gaze. Is yours an upper-caste gaze?

On 13th May, a couple of days after the controversy on Dr Ambedkar's cartoon in NCERT Text Book had erupted in the Indian parliament, a PhD student from JNU, New Delhi, himself a brilliant cartoonist, Unnamati Syama Sundar posted a cartoon made by K. Shankar Pillai which was published originally in 1933, in 'Hindustan Times', an English daily. This cartoon was later reproduced in Telugu newspaper 'Krishna Patrika' with accompanying text that says:

M.K. Acharya is trying to increase the taint of untouchability in Hinduism and M.K. Gandhi is trying to clean it, whereas B.R. Ambedkar is trying to break the foundations of Hinduism called Varnashram, while the Western society is laughing at the whole situation.


Unnamati posted the scanned copy of this cartoon, taken from the Telugu newspaper, on his Facebook profile without leaving any interpretation of his own. Instantly, this cartoon became an internet rage, getting hundreds of "likes" and massive "sharing" on the social networking site and a little later it got picked up by various websites, blogs too.


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