(Participant of the Dalit Panther movement in the 70s, Sunil Dighe reminisces here about its hopes and failure. The movement would have been 40 today.)
Each nation has its share of movements but some movements are such that they compel society to give a thought to their calls and demands. They have long-term effects. The Dalit Panther was one such thrilling and stormy movement.
In 1972, a small news item appeared in 'Nava Kaal'. Leading Dalit writers were about to come together in a classroom to discuss the ineffective leadership in the Republican Party and find an alternative answer to it.
Litterateurs like Raja Dhale, J V Pawar, Namdev Dhasal, Avinash Mahatekar, Latif Khatik as well as Baburao Bagul and Bhai Sangare were going to attend the discussion. The approved agenda of discussion was the then Republican Party 's submissive stand on the question of Dalits and their leadership wagging its tail before the Congress Party.
Raja Dhale, a fine writer and poet, ran a newsletter using new methods. Its name was 'Vidroh' (rebellion). In 'Vidroh', his articles, poems, thought-provoking and shocking caricatures shot to fame. Namdev had slowly started gaining fame as a poet.
K. C. Sulekh
The renowned author of more than dozen published works on Buddhism and Dr. Ambedkar, Mr. DC Ahir is no more. He breathed his last at his Janakpuri residence of Delhi on 12th July after protracted illness (learnt through my talk on phone with his son Nirmal). Born in 1928 at his native place Baath (Jalandhar), he settled in Delhi as an employee in the central govt. service and retired as Director to the Govt. of India in 1986.
(Renowned Buddhist scholar and Ambedkarite thinker D. C. Ahir passed away on 12th July, 2012)
D. C. Ahir was one of the few Punjabi Ambedkarites who had the honour of sitting in the company of Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar at his residence in Delhi. That was the time when a large number of educated young men from Doaba Punjab made a bee line to Delhi for the purpose of seeking government jobs over there and to offer themselves for the mission of Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar. Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar was a Messiah for them. Following the clarion call of his beloved Master (Babasaheb), D.C. Ahir embraced Buddhism and opted for not to take any advantage from the system of caste reservation while keeping himself outside the Hindu fold. He earned all promotions in his job without counting on the policy of reservation. He especially emphasised on this point in one of my conversations with him at the residence of Mr. K. C. Sulekh at Chandigarh.
Public Meeting on Bhagana's Dalits and Caste Atrocities in Haryana
Dalits from Bhagana village (Haryana) have reached Delhi covering a 200 km journey on foot in this sweltering summer heat, half naked, as a protest against the Khap Panchayat of Bhagana Jats. They have sat on a Dharna at Jantar Mantar, in the hope that the government will intervene on the matter and render them justice. Dalits of Bhagana are the victims of the notorious Khap, which has not only grabbed the land of Dalits but also imposed a complete social boycott on them. Not just this, the Jats have built a wall on the street to prevent Dalits from going to their fields, and also did not let their cattle drink water in the public pond. They openly started harassing the Dalit women. For few days, the Dalits faced the situation and later approached the district administration for relief. To live in the village in this dangerous situation was very painful, but approaching the administration turned out to be a futile effort. Therefore all the 126 Dalit families, along with all their belongings and cattle, moved to the Mini Secretariat of Hisar district and started their protest demonstration which is going on for the last two months.
Braj Ranjan Mani
Intellectual compromise of the best gives rise to the worst. Amartya Sen's sanitised, caste-blind perspective on social unfairness, Hinduism and Indian culture, despite the show of reason, eclecticism and inclusive sensibility, is a gross distortion of historical reality, and a classic example of the limitation—and danger—of elitist liberalism.
Amartya Sen is India's leading public thinker, an intellectual star at home and abroad. A guru of welfare economics, a Sanskritist and a scholar of Indian philosophy and culture, he is distinguished for his outstanding work on inequality, democracy and justice. His sensitivity to injustices of class, gender and ethnicity has made him write with passion and precision about the pains of social asymmetry and disadvantage. It is astonishing, though, that such a conscientious scholar who has built his career on researching social unfairness and exclusion has hardly ever engaged with caste and its consequences. Caste, for whatever reasons, fails to qualify as a worthy subject of his scholarly engagement. Of course, sometimes he names caste in the categories of inequalities but just in passing and in a manner which raises questions about his approach to the axis of hierarchy and oppression in India. Whenever he mentions caste, he shows a strange inclination to minimise its negative impact or significance by invoking the all-powerful and crushing asymmetry of class. It is surprising since Sen is no impassioned believer in class radicalism, Marxism or socialism; he is, in fact, contrary to popular perception, a career academic and (at least now) a neoliberal intellectual, though of an ultra-refined kind. (Sen is himself responsible for such a public misconception about his Marxist credentials. He, in fact, cultivated the self-image of some sort of a Marxist and a radical intellectual in the days when socialism not only held popular appeal but was also in academic vogue in India and abroad. This becomes clear when we learn that Sen's favourite philosophers, as he himself affirms now, have all along been the iconic liberals John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith, not Karl Marx who comes poor third in his list of thinkers who have influenced him the most.)