Caste Census and Indian Muslims A rejoinder to Abusaleh Shariff : by Khalid Anis Ansari

 

Khalid Anis Ansari

In a recent piece Mr. Abusaleh Shariff (‘Casting the Caste Net’, Indian Express, 23 August 2010) has attempted an imaginative intervention in the debate around the caste census. While he enters the debate both in his ‘professional’ capacity as a renowned economist/demographer (to ‘discuss alternatives for collecting caste data’) and as a ‘communitarian’ (to ‘highlight implications for the Muslim community’), it is not really apparent which is having the upper hand in his articulation.

Also, when he indicates that ‘Muslims are considered a caste-less community’ it is not obvious which body of sociological knowledge he is alluding to and by whom are they considered so.This is moreover amazing given the fact that now organised lower caste Muslim movements, employing the trope of dalit-pasmanda, are quite conspicuous in the public sphere, at least in North India. With each passing day the hegemony of ashraf (upper caste) sections within Muslims is being increasingly interrogated by the ajlaf (shudra) and arzal (dalit) sections and the demands for democratisation within the community resonate louder than ever before.

But let me revert back to his main arguments first. To start with he advocates an ‘open-ended question method’ for the upcoming census wherein the informants’ response to their caste-names can be filled in and codified later. This will enable us to get the actual numbers for each caste. However, he posits that this method should be applied only for the OBCs and not for the SC/STs as updated codified lists are already available for the latter. He further casts doubts on whether such a method will be actually adopted for this census and speculates that the social, economic and educational data that the census would return may not be adequate for classifying any particular caste as backward or forward.

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New vistas for deprived students

 

Urvashi Sarkar

The need to highlight positive stories of Dalits and adivasis and the desire to spread awareness about higher education abroad prompted the Insight Foundation to organise an interactive discussion on opportunities for Dalit and adivasi students here on Sunday.Discussions centred mainly on universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

 Rama Devi, a first-generation educated person in her family who completed a Master's degree in human rights from the University of London, said that her decision to study further was influenced by the subtle and direct discrimination she experienced as well as the inability of many Dalit women to articulate themselves in English causing Dalit men to represent them in most forums.

 Ms. Devi, an International Ford Fellow, said a major hurdle faced by students from marginalised communities was the language proficiency test. “A minimum of six months preparation is needed to crack the language tests,” she added.

Plenty of scholarships were available for Indian students and “surprisingly there is little competition for them”, Ms. Devi said, explaining this was because of lack of awareness of scholarships. Choosing the right university for study, contacting previous scholarship holders and creating a peer support group in the university was also important.

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Adi Dharam World Mission Objects to Amrit Bani

OUTLOOK

Adi Dharam World Mission, a Dalit body today extended support to radical Sikh organisation, Damdami Taksal Bhindrawale, and declared that newly-floated Ravidasia dharm was a conspiracy to drive a wedge between Adidharm samaj and the Sikh community.Kishan Pal Sood, President Adi Dharam World Mission, today told newsmen here that Amrit Bani, new granth of Ravidasia dharma, was not a complete granth but an extract of Guru Ravidas hymns from the holy Guru Granth Sahib.

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A History of the Untouchables: The Buraku and the Dalit

 by Katelyn Coyle

The Buraku of Japan and the Dalit of India remain the lowest caste of their respective countries. Experiencing more than just poverty and low status, the Buraku and the Dalit have been described as being lower than human, filthy, and contaminated. Members of these castes are considered to be the untouchables. Highly discriminated against, the untouchables remain outcastes, even in modern society. Both the history of the caste systems in Japan and India, andmodern reformation movements must be discussed to fully grasp the current situation of the Dalits and the Buraku.

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A Noun, Not A Verb

 

Oliver Mendelsohn

Could Kanshi Ram in '84 have imagined the BSP of '09?

noun verb 1

Formative years: A young Mayawati at the mike; Kanshi Ram is second from left

In 1984, Kanshi Ram founded the Bahujan Samaj Party, just in time for his young colleague Mayawati to stand for a parliamentary seat in a byelection the next year. Twenty-five years on, the electoral achievements of the BSP and of Mayawati herself have been extraordinary. It is doubtful that in 1984 Kanshi Ram could have done so much as even daydream of dominating the politics of India's largest state. With the limited exception of the still young Ram Vilas Paswan from Bihar, at the time there was no strong, independent Indian leader of Dalit origins.

Kanshi Ram was already middle-aged in 1984 and a veteran organiser in Maharashtra, the heartland of Dalit politics of the 20th century. As a young science graduate, he had moved to Pune from Punjab—his family was Raedasi Sikh, from a Chamar community converted to Sikhism—to take up a position reserved for the scheduled castes in the defence production industry. In Pune, he soon gravitated towards associations of the Dalit followers of Ambedkar. D.K. Khaparde, who became Kanshi Ram's closest colleague and friend in Pune, recalled to me the electrifying effect that a reading of Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste had on him. Kanshi Ram was instantly radicalised by Ambedkar's attack on caste and on Brahminism in particular.

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