The linked caste slavery of the Kolhatis and the Bedias

 

Rupali Bansode

rupaliDuring my field work for research on female Tamasha artistes, I was fascinated by a few interesting links I found between the two communities: Bedias and Kolhatis. In a recent conference, where I presented my paper on Tamasha dancers, I pointed out the link between these communities and was questioned on its validity by few researchers, working on the same line. Therefore, this is an attempt to discuss the association between these two communities, with special reference to the lives of women. The debates on the axis of Caste-Gender-Sexuality-Labour are important topics, and are discussed by Dalit women and feminist groups. Though I have discussed these debates in brief, I am more interested in understanding the underlying intersectional links and realities of caste, gender and labor relations of our society that force women from these communities to remain in extremely marginalized states, with very few choices for equal and upward mobility.

In the initial phase of selecting this theme for my research, my hypothesis was that only Mahar and Mang communities of Maharashtra are involved in Tamasha. With more research and field work, I realized that even Kolhatis are involved in this profession. My zeal to know more about the community led me to an outstanding work by Kishore Shantabai Kale, who himself was from the Kolhati community and the son of a female Tamasha artiste. Despite facing humiliation and anguish from family members, peers and teachers at college level, Kale succeeded and become a doctor. He wrote his autobiography called, 'Kolhyatyache Por' which was highly acclaimed.

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Years ago…

 

Pradnya Jadhav

pradnya-jadhavYears ago, she had a dream of attending school, completing graduation, getting a job and settling down. But yes, it was just a dream. The reality was all different, her parents arranged her marriage, and she lived with her husband for almost three years, by now she had two babies. So she thought she would raise her children, educate them and make their life better. It was never that easy though, one day she saw her husband entering home with another woman. Yes, her husband had got married to another woman and asked her to leave his home with her two children. Later, the caste panchayat approved their divorce, and then she started staying with her parents. One day, her parents came to her with another man, and told her that they are going to get her married to him. He was almost 20 years older than her, was a widower and had a son from his previous wife. She never wanted to remarry but couldn't help herself, and got married to him. Now everything was going somehow well for her and in a year she gave birth to a baby girl...

The baby was now nine months old, it was late midnight and she found that her daughter – her only world – was not beside her on the bed. She started searching for the baby... screaming out, weeping, but her daughter was not there. After an hour, her husband and step-son came home along with the baby, told her that they had taken the baby along with them when they went out. She was surprised, shocked to see her baby didn't move, didn't cry, and didn't open her eyes... The baby was covered in a cloth, she took it off and found that the baby had cuts on her body, her vagina... She was almost going to faint thinking about what must have had happened to her daughter. Yes, she realised her husband gave her sleeping tablets so that he could take the baby away while she was asleep and rape her, her husband and step-son had raped the nine month old baby.

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Out of the Box – Televisualised Identities and Their Politics

 

Shaheen Ahmed

shaheen"The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth – it is the truth which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true"

~ Baudrillard1

No truth about television can be truer than this quote – television is a reality, a reality which is nothing but simulacra. As Jean Baudrillard explains the real is produced from miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models – and these can be reproduced an indefinite number of times. It no longer has to be rational, since it is no longer measured against some ideal or negative instance. In fact, since it is no longer enveloped by an imaginary, it is no longer real at all. It is hyperreal: the product of an irradiating synthesis of combinatory models in hyperspace without atmosphere2. Thus, it becomes the question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself which means that the real will not be produced again.

Probably, we can use the logic of the hyperreal to argue about the creation and re-creation, the assertion and the re-assertion of certain hegemonic identities in the television serials being aired prime time in Indian television. A lot has already been written about the soap operas especially the ones that were produced by Balaji Telefilms which aired primarily on the Star network since the early 2000. Here I intend instead to look at so-called family comedies which are currently on-air in Sab TV, a satellite channel with emphasis on the hit comedy serial "Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chasmah". Here I will attempt to not only look at the regressive portrayal of women but also how stereotypes of certain communities are created and reinforced through the garb of these family oriented serials. This engagement becomes all the more pertinent during this time as the general elections have hugely polarized the populace and there is the looming possibility of a right-wing government heading the country.

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Gender Outlawed: The Supreme Court judgment on third gender and its implications

 

Gee Imaan Semmalar

geeJustice KS Radhakrishnan Panicker and Justice AK Sikri delivered a Supreme Court judgment on April 15,2014. That is all that can be said clearly. Who the judgment includes or excludes in its understanding of transgenders, whether transgenders can identify as male/female or third sex, what is being guaranteed to us as citizenship/civil rights etc is characteristically lost in legalese as is the case in a lot of judgments.

Who filed the petition?

The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, to provide free Legal Services to the weaker sections of the society and to organize Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes, filed a social interest litigation on providing third gender status to hijras, on reservation and other issues in 2012. In 2013, this matter was tagged together with a petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Poojaya Mata Nasib Kaur Ji Women's Welfare Society, an organization working for kinnars, a transgender community. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a transgender rights activist from Mumbai intervened in this case with the help of lawyer Anand Grover (project director of HIV/AIDS unit of Lawyer's Collective in Delhi).

Who is being granted third gender status by the SC judgment? How are they described?

It is not clear who is understood as transgender in this judgment:

"TG may also take in persons who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth, which include Hijras/Eunuchs who, in this writ petition, describe themselves as "third gender" and they do not identify as either male or female. Hijras are not men by virtue of anatomy appearance and psychologically, they are also not women, though they are like women with no female reproduction organ and no menstruation. Since Hijras do not have reproduction capacities as either men or women, they are neither men nor women and claim to be an institutional "third gender". Among Hijras, there are emasculated (castrated, nirvana) men, non-emasculated men (not castrated/akva/akka) and inter-sexed persons (hermaphrodites). TG also includes persons who intend to undergo Sex ReAssignment Surgery (SRS) or have undergone SRS to align their biological sex with their gender identity in order to become male or female. They are generally called transsexual persons. Further, there are persons who like to cross-dress in clothing of opposite gender, i.e transvestites. Resultantly, the term "transgender", in contemporary usage, has become an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide range of identities and experiences, including but not limited to pre-operative, post-operative and non-operative transsexual people, who strongly identify with the gender opposite to their biological sex; male and female" pg 10

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Of Caste Massacres and Judicial Impunity: Bloodstains in Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe...

 

Anand Teltumbde

(Text of the Third Comrade Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture, delivered by Anand Teltumbde) 

At the outset let me thank DSU for giving me this opportunity to pay my homage to comrade Yalavarthi Naveen Babu, who was martyred at the young age of 35 in Andhra Pradesh. I personally knew Naveen as a young man bubbling with revolutionary zeal and energy as an editor of Kalam, the organ of the AIRSF formed in 1990 and an organizer of the International Seminar on Nationality Struggles in Delhi in February 1996, which I attended. The last I met with him was in Chennai just a few months before his martyrdom. I complement DSU for instituting this memorial lecture, which would help young students in JNU to see how one of their own had lived and died for the cause of Indian revolution.

If Naveen had been living today, he would have been in forefront in protesting against the obnoxious pattern of judgements coming from Patna High Court in the cases of massacre of Dalits taken place in 1990s. As such, the topic decided for this memorial lecture is quite in tune with the memory of this revolutionary.

All of you know Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, the small obscure hamlets in Bhojpur and Arwal districts of Bihar respectively, which were catapulted to the world map in mid 1990s for their infamous massacres of Dalits. About Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, the then president of India, K.R. Narayanan, had expressed his indignation saying it was a 'national shame'. Unfortunately, Laxmanpur-Bathe was not to be the lone such shame; there were scores of them before and after Laxmanpur. A quarter century since, the process of law has reached to put a lid on these cases, reminding Dalits of the laws of Manu after 86 years they had burnt Manusmriti in Mahad and after 63 years the country had installed Bhimsmriti in its place. It only wakes them up to the hollowness of such rhetoric which unfortunately informed the Dalit movement after Babasaheb Ambedkar, during the last 56 years. It verily tells us that nothing has changed; if at all, it has changed only for worse. Worse, because in Ambedkar's time Dalits, approximately were a homogenous mass, appeared like a giant getting up from his deep sleep of millenniums; now it is a hopelessly fragmented mass, splintered into classes and subcastes, pretending to be awake but actually in self imposed stupor to the reality around.

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Going backward

 

Surinder S. Jodhka

surinder jodhkaThe Jats, without doubt, have been the most important and powerful caste community in the rural landscapes of northwest India. The sources of their dominance have typically been their control over agricultural lands, their demographics and their networks beyond the village. However, unlike the other "dominant castes", such as the Marathas of Maharashtra, the Patels of Gujarat, the Reddys and Kammas of Andhra Pradesh or the Lingayats of Karnataka, the Jats of northwest India have also been the "superior-most" community in terms of their status in the local rural caste hierarchies. Even though the institution of caste is pretty strong in the region, the hold of Brahmanical ideology has always been rather weak. The values of khudkasht (self-cultivation) that have dominated this region for long also provide the frame of reference for social hierarchies of caste in the region. No one was as good as a zamindar, and the category did not imply an absentee landlord here, as it did in Bengal, Bihar or eastern UP. Anyone who cultivated his own land and did not have to work for others as a farm labourer could qualify to be a zamindar, provided he belonged to the right caste community.

Even a Brahmin in rural Haryana would choose to identify himself as a zamindar if he owned agricultural land. However, given the social, cultural and economic significance of land, only the most valued could own it. Landownership and social status have been synonymous in the region. During my fieldwork in Haryana, I found rural Brahmins easily conceding to the status superiority of Jats and other landowning dominant caste communities. No wonder Dalits in the agrarian landscapes there have been almost completely landless. It is their landlessness, and not their "ritual status", that accounts for their vulnerability in rural areas. Caste in the region has always operated within the framework of land relations. The Banias, Brahmins or Punjabi Khatris/ Aroras could claim superior status in urban centres but never in the rural areas.

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