The Piano Man outrage: Calling out casteist mentality in elite circles


Jyotsna Siddharth

jyotsna 3Them and Us

I, me, mine, we, us, ours
You, them, they, theirs, those people.

"It's just a band name" is what the tombstone should read when the Calgary post-punk band, Viet Cong, finally decides to put the offensive and self-confessed dumb band name to rest. It was those exact words from lead singer and bassist Matt Flegel that revealed their flippant attitude towards the Vietnamese community and their complaints that detail how the name is a reminder of the atrocities committed by the real VC. It also convinced a concert promoter to cancel their show at Oberlin College earlier this year."1

This piece is centred around an event at The Piano Man, a popular jazz club in Delhi. For those who are unaware, the club hosted a music band's event called Bhangijumping. Bhangi is a lower caste engaged in manual scavenging practice in India. When brought to the notice, the owner of the club shushed it as unintentional and covered it as "art and supporters of artistic expression." The issue escalated into a series of exchanges via social media arguing that this was a casteist slur with serious connotations, causing humiliation to the dalit community.2


'Perspectives’: Social Experiment or Caste Conservation?


Kanika Sori 

In February this year, a young Savarna woman from Srishti School of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore, created a photo-project that went viral. It was hosted by fifty different kinds of media portals. Recently it was recycled by an e-zine called Storypick for public consumption. Its creator called the album ‘Perspectives,’ and it was meant to be an assignment submission for a course she was taking. Her college happens to attract the most elite of the Brahmin-savarnas from all over the country as both teachers and students. So, these expressed ‘perspectives’ of fear and safety in the public spaces come from the Savarna women's gaze, with the vast majority of working castes being used both as the canvas and the drawn monster. 

syam DV

In the photo-project, the female protagonist seems to have left the ‘safety’ of her modern house in one of the exclusively upper-caste colonies to step into an ‘unsafe’ open neighborhood with differently dressed unsuspecting Bahujans going about their daily business. Her friend clicks her photographs as she poses deceptively with them in the frame. An outlandish activity for these other people in an otherwise uneventful day of usual, ungrateful labour for a meagre living. This was a local street bazaar that can be seen hosting very small shops and stalls, the kind which are not frequented by Savarna women unlike, say, Khan Market or Brigade Road. Her bizarre placement in their everyday work scenes evoked expressions of shock and curiosity, as it would have in any Savarna ‘middle-class’ person who might have been there, simply because these aren’t the caste locations for Savarna socializing. These expressions are then captured on camera and published without consent. This exercise is projected as the ‘difficulties of being a girl’ in the streets.


Trucked: A Comic


Favita Dias and Anjora Noronha

TRUCKED e-version F.Dias and A.Noronha-01


Ravidas, Thakur arrogance, and the Double Game


Mangesh Dahiwale

Judging by the influence and popularity of Ravidas, he was perhaps India's most influential saint-revolutionary. He stood for the annihilation of caste and his impact reached all over the Hindi belt. The geography he impacted was vast and the society he influenced was diverse and huge. He was the king among the saints. If history is to be believed, he defeated the Great Kabir in debate. Though Ravidas came from the so called Chamar caste, his disciples included Meera, the poet from Rajastan. He envisioned "Begumpura": the land of no sorrow, the vision of an exploitation-free world. Bur Ravidas was the career of the great message of the Buddha. Both Ravidas and Kabir had roots in Buddha's teachings and vision. A lot is written on this aspect. Also Ravidas has emerged as the symbol of pride, particularly among the Chamars of Punjab, and they pride themselves in being called Ravidassia. It is natural to feel pride in one's ancestors.


One of the reasons that instigated the Saharanpur riot was the arrogance of Thakurs to play their loudspeakers loudly near the Ravidas temple during a procession to celebrate Rana Pratap, the local warlord, whose contribution to community's welfare is unknown. However, the thakurs are looking for symbols to assert their pride. This is true all over India, the dominant caste try to assert through their ancestors' work. Sometimes, such an assertion leads to violence. The perpetrators of the crime were the Thakurs, the caste that Adityanath represents and mobilised militantly through Hindu Yuva Vahini. In the aftermath of the violence, over 400 members of the Bhim Army have been held in policy custody by the whimsical Thakur Adityanath. They are looking out for Chandrashekhar, the founder of Bhim Army.


क्या भारत सभ्य है?


संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe)

सोशल साइंस की एक कांफ्रेंस के बाद एक स्विट्जरलैंड के प्रोफेसर मित्र से बात करने का मौका मिला। बैठक के दौरान हमारी बात हो रही थी अलग अलग देशों की समाज व्यवस्था पर, वे मध्यकालीन यूरोप के सामाजिक ताने बाने की बात बता रहे थे। सामाजिक मानवशास्त्र के विशेषज्ञ के रूप में उनका यूरोप, साउथ एशिया, अफ्रीका और मिडिल ईस्ट का गहरा अध्ययन रहा है।

nature caste hindus

उनकी बातों में जनसामान्य और 'नोबेल्स' (श्रेष्ठीजन) की दो श्रेणियों का जिक्र निकला। असल में बात यूँ निकली कि क्या यूरोप में वर्ण व्यवस्था या जाति व्यवस्था जैसा कुछ रहा है? चर्चा में उन्होंने बताया कि अमीर गरीब और सामान्य, नोबेल का अंतर जरूर रहा है लेकिन कोई भी सामान्य व्यक्ति या गरीब कारीगर किसान मजदूर या कोई अन्य पिछड़ा आदमी या स्त्री अपनी योग्यता के बल पर ऊपर की नोबेल श्रेणियों में प्रवेश कर सकता/ सकती था/थी। इन श्रेणियों के विभाजन पत्थर की लकीर की तरह कभी नहीं रहे जैसा कि भारत मे होता है।


The difference in being a Babasaheb and a Pandit


Tejaswini Tabhane

The following tweet has made all my nerves rebel. I am restless. I am constantly wondering what my identity is. I am not able to digest this hatred. I am surprised how anyone can carry so much hatred in their belly. Many Twitter users, just like me, saw that meme. They moved on, but I am not able to. You may say I am overreacting. But I can't help it. My mind isn't allowing me to stay calm!

babasaheb pandit

We encounter many casteist abuses everyday on social media. The Twitter user who shared this meme is just another Twitter troll who calls himself 'Anpadh (illiterate) Hindu'.


God qua Impotent Witness: Geoffrey Hill’s “Ovid in the Third Reich”

Anilkumar PV


non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
(Amores, III, xiv)

I love my work and my children. God
Is distant, difficult. Things happen.
Too near the ancient troughs of blood
Innocence is no earthly weapon.

I have learned one thing: not to look down
So much on the damned. They, in their sphere,
Harmonize strangely with the divine
Love. I, in mine, celebrate the love-choir.

 Despite or because of the worked out sexism of the first line with the erasure of the woman who is the mother of “my children,” which is unavoidable the why of which will be evident from the following exposition. The first line relates to man’s spiritual existence. This sexism is valid insofar as we believe that the speaker here is Ovid – the canonical figure of Latin poetry – and the place he describes is the Third Reich, Hitler’s Germany. Let us avoid other possibilities and the ensuing complications and stick to the spirituality embodied in first line: one has to accept that a male human’s love of one’s children is an intense spiritual/moral act because, unlike the mother-child relationship whose spiritual/moral bond can be traced back to their natural umbilical connection in the womb, fatherhood has no such support in nature. Father is purely a cultural construct, whose truth can only be established through a cultural process like marriage or DNA test. ovid cupid

Frontispiece with the Bust of Ovid


Atrocities on Dalits and Rights to Self Defence


Deepak Kumar

deepak kumar

The Indian Constitution envisaged the words of Buddha, "war is not the solution", in its text and other legislative provisions. The Indian Constitution in Part IV makes the provision to maintain international peace and security[1]. The individual is a subject in national as well as international law and the individuals enjoy rights and duties for and against each other as well as the State. Law is the gift of civilisation and it makes a fundamental difference between a human being and an animal to govern the society in an organised and civilised manner. Discord is in the nature of the human being and therefore, he needs to be regulated either by society or by the State. In other words, the State makes laws to protect the citizen not only against the individual but also against the State.

There are laws that protect individual freedom from infringement by individuals as well as the State. It is the duty of the State to protect the body and the property of the individual within and beyond its territory. But there are certain conditions where the State is not ready to provide its assistance immediately, so it provides some power to its citizens that can be used as a right to protect themselves, even up to the extent of causing the death of someone who is threatening their lives. It is the unique feature of the Indian Penal Code, that allows you to protect yourself or others when you have reasonable apprehension that someone is threatening your or others' life.

In India, for 2,500 years, a certain community has faced humiliation, discrimination and has been forced to live in inhuman conditions due to a casteist and religious order. Everyday, one gets to read 3 to 4 news stories in every newspaper regarding atrocities against SC/ ST and minorities by certain sections of the so-called upper caste people. These people are citizens of India and also have the right to self-defence. The State made laws to protect these communities but after the experiences of 70 years of free India, we can say laws are good but the implementation is bad. The State machinery has failed to protect the rights, liberty and freedom of deprived sections of society.


"भीम आर्मी" का प्रदर्शन: मीडिया का मुंडन


सुरेश जोगेश (Suresh Jogesh)

सुबह से भीड़ जमा होनी शुरू हो गयी थी जंतर-मंतर पर. देखते ही देखते आसमान का रंग जमीन ओढ़ने लगी थी. वही आलम सोशल मीडिया का भी था. हर ओर नीला ही नीला. मुख्यधारा मीडिया का काम इस बार सोशल मीडिया बखूबी निभा रहा था. जो तस्वीरें आती रही उनमें फ्रांस, अमेरिकन और जर्मनी के कुछ पत्रकार कैमरा और माइक के साथ थे पर दिलचस्प बात यह रही कि भारतीय मीडिया घरानों के दिल्ली के दफ्तरों में बैठे संवाददाताओं और एंकरों ने बाहर निकलने की जहमत नही उठायी. एक-दो नही, लगभग सभी. हालांकि इस बात की पहले से ही प्रबल उम्मीद थी. भारतीय मीडिया के 180 देशों के मीडिया में 136 वें नंबर होने के प्रमुख कारण को यहां साफ देखा जा सकता था. जो मीडिया दबे-कुचलों, शोषितों की आवाज नही बन सकती, शोषक जाति से सवाल नही कर सकती. जिस पर सिर्फ अप्पर कास्ट का एकाधिकार है. जो निष्पक्षता और न्याय की जगह राष्ट्रवाद और धार्मिकता को पैमाना मानता है उसके 180 वें नंबर होने पर भी भला कोई सवाल हो सकता है क्या?

Talk on Bheem army on NDTV

पेश है जंतर-मंतर पर भीम आर्मी के प्रदर्शन की कवरेज पर खाश रिपोर्ट:


दलितों बहुजनों का बौद्ध धर्म स्वीकार और हिन्दू शुभचिंतकों की षड्यंत्रकारी सलाह


संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe)

सभी दलितों ओबीसी और आदिवासियों द्वारा बौद्ध धर्म अपनाने सलाह पर कई शुभचन्तकों की टिप्पणियाँ आतीं हैं जो बहुत कुछ सोचने को विवश करती हैं. ये मित्र बहुत सारे मुद्दों पर विचार करके कुछ लिखते हैं और उनका एकमात्र आग्रह यही होता है कि दलितों को हिन्दू धर्म नहीं छोड़ना चाहिए. इसका एक ही कारण नजर आता है कि वे हिन्दू धर्म को सामाजिक राजनीतिक रूप से कमजोर होता नहीं देख सकते. उन्हें दलितों शूद्रों आदिवासियों की कोई चिंता नहीं है, उन्हें केवल तथाकथित हिन्दू धर्म की चिंता है जिसकी न कोई परिभाषा है न ही जिसकी कोई नैतिकता या नैतिक आचार शास्त्र ही है. एक ऐसा धर्म जो अपने ही बहुसंख्य जनों को जानवरों से भी बदतर समझता है उसमे दलितों शूद्रों और आदिवासियों को रोके रखने का उनका आग्रह विचित्र लगता है.

hindu varna society

दलितों शुद्रो और आदिवासियों के धर्म परिवर्तन के कदम पर कई दार्शनिक सवाल उठाये गए हैं। ऊँचे स्तर के दार्शनिक और मनोवैज्ञानिक सवाल उठाये गए हैं। मैं सभी मित्रों का हृदय से धन्यवाद करते हुए कुछ निवेदन करना चाहूँगा। इसमें मैं यह जोड़ूंगा कि इस ऊँचे स्तर पर सोचने के लिए दलितों गरीबों ओबीसी आदिवासी समाज को लंबा समय लगेगा। इसलिए नहीं कि वे कमजोर या पिछड़े हैं बल्कि इसलिए कि वे शोषक धर्म की घुट्टी कुछ ज्यादा ही पी गए हैं और बौद्ध शैली का नास्तिकवादि सुधार भारत में हजारों साल से हुआ ही नहीं है। जो पाखण्डी सुधारक आये भी हैं वे भी घूम फिरकर आत्मा परमात्मा पुनर्जन्म को मानकर ही सुधार करवाते रहे हैं। ये धूर्त लोग हैं जो बीमारी और इलाज दोनों एकसाथ बेचकर धंधा चलते हैं।


MODI-fest or MODI-jest: Making of Deaf India


Mangesh Dahiwale

mangesh dahiwaleAs predicted, the RSS/BJP Government is going for a massive public campaign to display the achievements of the Government after three years. The campaign will be run from a control room in New Delhi and the programs called "MODIfest" are arranged all over India. MODI stands for "Making Of Developed India". Modi is also the surname of the Prime Minister. We do not know what are the achievements of the Government in the last 3 years, but we know that it is a campaign for the elections. They are planning ahead. If the RSS/BJP is not careful, the bubble of Modi might just burst, like the previous NDA government that went with a campaign on "India Shining". Modi must deliver before he goes for a festival, else it will be an exercise in jest. To the credit of Government, it has been innovative in making up acronyms. For example, like UDAN (Udega Desh Ka Aam Nagrik) etc. But it faces a dearth of heroes to name the schemes after and therefore all the schemes are named after "Deen Dayal Upadhyay": an obscure brahmin figure who went to found the BJP. If the schemes do not find suitable prefixes they are prefixed with "Pradhanmantri XXXXX Scheme". Adityanath is following the trends with "Mukhyamantri XXXXX Schemes".


भारतीय सिनेमा का सुपरस्टार - जातिवाद और सामंतवाद का सहज उत्पाद


संजय जोठे (Sanjay Jothe)

विश्व सिनेमा में धाक जमाने वाले फ्रेंच निर्देशक गोडार्ड ने जोर देकर कहा था कि हमें सिनेमा में सबकुछ शामिल कर देना चाहिए. यह कहते हुए उनका आग्रह था कि समाज में और जिन्दगी में जो भी जैसा भी है उसे वैसे ही रखना चाहिए. तत्कालीन फ्रेंच और हालीवूड सिनेमा के लिए भी यह एक रेडिकल विचार था. गोडार्ड हालाँकि सीधे सीधे भारत के सुभाष घई, सूरज बडजात्या और चोपड़ाओं के साथ नहीं रखे जा सकते लेकिन कल्पना में ही सही इन्हें एकसाथ रखकर बहस तो की ही जा सकती है. शायद गोडार्ड के साथ हम सत्यजीत रे या श्याम बेनेगल की कल्पना आसानी से कर सकते हैं. लेकिन भारतीय सिनेमा में जिस तरह से एक गैर जिम्मेदार और चलताऊ किस्म का सुपर स्टारडम फैला हुआ है उसका निदान करते हुए हमें सत्यजीत रे या श्याम बेनेगल को तस्वीर से हटाकर देखना होगा तभी हम समझ सकेंगे कि भारत में अभिनेता की बजाय स्टार क्यों पूजे जाते हैं.

royal family

भारतीय समाज और सिनेमा की समस्या को जानने के लिए गोडार्ड को इस तरह देखना जरुरी है, मनुष्य और समाज की समस्याओं को उघाड़ने के लिए, उनके शरीर और मनोविज्ञान की सुरंगों फैले हुए अनजानी नाड़ियों के एक दुर्निवार और भयानक रूप से उलझे हुए ताने बने को दोपहर की धूप में सबके सामने ला पटकने की ये हिम्मत और साफगोई उनमे कूट कूट कर भरी थी. इसीलिये उनके सिनेमा ने विज्ञापन, साहित्य, व्यापार, कला और फेशन सहित न जाने किन किन आयामों को गहराई से प्रभावित किया. द्वितीय विश्व युद्ध से उबर रहे एक समाज में सार्त्र और मार्क्स की क्रांतिकारी प्रस्तावनाओं के नजरिये से समाज और सिनेमा के संबंधों को बार बार परिभाषित करने की उनकी तडप ने उनसे जो इनोवेशन करवाए वे अद्भुत रहे हैं. साम्यवाद और अस्तित्ववाद के दर्शन की तरफ उनका झुकाव उन्हें एक नास्तिक और व्यावहारिक जमीन देता है जिस पर खड़े होकर वे भारतीयों की तरह किसी मिथकीय कल्पना लोक को नहीं बुनते बल्कि गरीबी, दमन, शोषण और नए समाज के निर्माण की सच्चाइयों से न्याय करने वाले सिनेमा की नींव रखते हैं. इसीलिये उनका सिनेमा लोगों की जिन्दगी को इतना प्रभावित करता है.


Other Related Articles

Caste system and the chains of mind
Tuesday, 12 December 2017
  Tereza Menšíková Visiting India was my dream since childhood. Many stories were told by journalists, travelers, and fiction writers about the mysterious land of Mother India and they... Read More...
Defining Ambedkar: Icon or Ideal?
Wednesday, 06 December 2017
  B. Prabakaran Every year Ambedkar is celebrated and remembered across the globe, at least twice a year, on his birth and death anniversary by the political parties, social movements, NGOs and... Read More...
From Brahmanism to Ambedkarism: An Ongoing Ontological Expedition
Friday, 01 December 2017
  Yashwant Zagade I was raised in the suburbs of Mumbai in the 90s, at a time when Hindutva politics reached its peak for the first time after independence. I still remember how this political... Read More...
Making of the Indian Constitution
Sunday, 26 November 2017
  Dr Jas Simran Singh Kehal India observes its Constitution Day this Sunday, 26th of November, as it was on this day in 1949 the constituent assembly adopted the constitution. The idea of a... Read More...
Speech and the Speaker's Identity
Monday, 13 November 2017
  Tejas Harad In 2016, famous Indian author Chetan Bhagat published a novel called One Indian Girl. This book was criticised by some women because the book's narrator, who is also its... Read More...