This Diwali, think why we celebrate death

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahThere are two prominent stories around the celebration of Diwali. One, this is the day on which Ram returned to Ayodhya and coronated himself as king after killing Ravan. It is also the day when Krishna and his wife Satyabhama killed Narakasur, known as the evil rakshasa. It's the death of the enemy that is celebrated.

Perceptions differ from north and south India about Ram killing Ravan and Krishna killing Narakasur. Diwali day just does not remain a day of lighting lamps, wearing new clothes, worshipping whom one considers god, but also burning massive amount of crackers that pollute the atmosphere so much so that even the health of the forces that keep celebrating would also get damaged. The emissions in urban areas on that day rise to the level of choking people. And several people, especially children, die because of fires and pollution.

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Dalit Women’s Writing in Telugu

 

Challapalli Swaroopa Rani

(Published in EPW in 1998)

It has taken a long time for dalit women to overcome their oppression as women, as dalits and put to creative use the gains of social and literary movements. There are of course common issues that bind dalit men and women, like untouchability and caste oppression. But women also suffer from patriarchal oppression. These concerns are constantly foregrounded in dalit women's poetry in Telugu and is evident in the form, content and the emotions that they express. However, dalit women's poetry in Telugu still needs to develop beyond the confines of patriarchy.

The alphabet is now a weapon in the hands of 'untouchables' - a weapon to attack the oppression perpetrated by brahminism for centuries, Dalits denied learning and respect, have now crafted self-respect from their humiliation, strengthening their castes and destroying 'sanatana' values and traditions' People who have been denied a basic humanity and have been outcasts for centuries, have now stormed into literary avenues' roaring. Today 'untouchable' voices rule Telugu literature. That is the fierce wind of dalit poetry.

What is Dalit Poetry?

Before beginning a debate on which poetry is dalit potery it is necessary first to look for some clarity on who are dalits. There was recently a wide ranging debate on 'who are dalits' among literary friends. Some people argued that along with the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and backward castes, minorities and women should also be considered dalits. After some discussion, they came to the conclusion that only 'malas' and 'madigas' who belonged to the SC category should be considered dalit. In general, there is considerable confusion as to who are dalits. Notwithstanding the above debates, dalits could be defined as people who have been subjected to untouchability and denied social, economic, political and cultural rights. What is dalit poetry? Whose poetry is dalit poetry? These questions have also generated considerable debate. Writing by dalits that is based on dalit consciousness will reflect the painful lived experiences of dalit people. The fact of being born a dalit alone is not enough to write dalit poetry. Dalit consciousness is a critical factor in dalit writing, The question of whether non-daiits can write dalit poetry has also come up from time to time. Writing by upper castes that expresses dalit reality in terms similar to that by dalit writers can be called sympathetic poetry. There is an unanimous view that only those who suffer oppression can adequately represent that oppression.

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Chithralekha's family attacked again

 

Eramangalathu Chitralekha

chitraOn October 21st I was attacked again. This time they rounded up and beat my husband Sreeskanth because now they are scared to touch me.

Sreeskanth has been living a life of social exclusion for a long time now. His relatives have abandoned him, his friends don't talk to him, except very secretly, and no one in the auto stand also talks to him. But they keep taunting him saying that he is under a Pulachi (Pulaya/Dalit woman) and is a good for nothing. But he bears it all silently. After my auto was burned there was an attack on his life. At that time they mistook my brother-in-law for him and he was stabbed on his back very badly and only escaped death very narrowly. Then we had to run away from our house. Later we came back and we started driving our auto in Edattu.

After I was beaten up in the mob attack on May 18th, which I had written about earlier, my legs have swollen up and am unable to drive the auto regularly. So recently Sreeskanth was driving the auto and was earning some money. I, in the mean time, was trying to fight the many cases.

On October 21 st they started taunting him again as usual and as usual he just bore it without saying anything. Then all of them including Rameshan who is one of the culprits in the case for burning my auto, started beating him up. Sreeskanth is all alone in the auto stand, and no one supports him or even talks to him. So very quickly they outnumbered him and beat him down. They also took his money and his mobile, which has all our numbers and with which we contact everybody when in trouble.

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Popular mythologies and their implications for violence against women

 

Violence against women in India – A review of the popular mythologies and their implications for VAW

Cynthia Stephen

India's reputation as a destination for spiritual seekers seems to have faded in recent years. Reputed worldwide to the be the land of the oldest living civilisation, with a rich culture, living tradition, and a climate of ahimsa (non-violence), as exemplified by the struggle against the British colonisers which was almost bloodless, and resulted in the Independent Indian nation on the 15th of August, 1947.

A part of this tradition, it is claimed, is revering women in the form of the mother or the goddess. Proponents of this viewpoint cite a verse to the effect that "Where women are worshipped there the gods reside". But there has always been ample evidence that this was more observed in the breach; that the societal structures discriminated severely against women in all arenas: economic, social, legal, political, personal. The evidence came in the 1970s, in the form of the Report "Towards Equality" – A report of the Status of Women in India. The elite women who formed the study team, set up by the Central Government, were stunned at the disparity between men and women in India. It was in the aftermath of this study, which was prepared for the first UN World Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975, that the government of India began to undertake policy measures and provide funding for work among and for women.

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In capitalism, you can buy a Merc and hire a Brahmin driver

 

Arati R Jerath

The launch of the first Dalit venture capital fund was a red-letter day for Dalit entrepreneurs. But can the rise of a handful of Dalit billionaires empower a historically oppressed and exploited community? Dalit intellectual and writer Chandra Bhan Prasad believes it can. Defending the market as a liberating force, he tells Arati R Jerath that despite its drawbacks, capitalism, not quotas, is the way to go.

Black capitalism in the US is the inspiration for Dalit capitalism. But statistics show that African-Americans continue to languish behind on all socio-economic indicators. So how will Dalit capitalism benefit Dalits?

Black capitalism has brought visibility with recognition to the Blacks. If you compare their situation today with their immediate past, there is a landmark change. In absolute terms of course they remain unequal to the Whites. In India, capitalism is emancipatory because in capitalism, nothing is fixed by birth. The only permanent thing is competition and a Dalit has the opportunity to move ahead through competition. In the caste order, you cannot buy Brahmin status. In capitalism, you can buy a Mercedes and hire a Brahmin driver. That's the difference capitalism is making.

But you will agree that capitalism introduces a different set of inequities. And Dalits are the worst sufferers because they are still at the bottom of the ladder.

Capitalism may have class-based problems but these are radically different from caste-based problems. A caste-based system is a system of humiliation. In capitalism, there is poverty of course but that is universal to everyone regardless of his birth. Anyone who is lazy, who doesn't want to compete, will face the problem of poverty but minus the humiliation.

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Interview with Gowthama Sannah, Propaganda Secretary of the VCK (Part 3)

 

This is the third and final part of the interview with Gowthama Sannah, Propaganda Secretary of the VCK - Chennai, 26th September 2012

(Please read the second part here and the first part here)

[This interview was first published in Vol 2, No 1 (2013) issue of 'The South Asianist']

Hugo Gorringe: Where was this?

Gowthama Sannah: In a village near Dindugal. There are such problems in many places, but it is only when we become aware of these issues that everyone realises that the problems exist. There are so many villages which have not come to public attention, what can we say about them? Now we in the VCK need to tackle court cases, protest, lead struggles, stand against caste- Hindus, stand against exploiters, stand against the police, address the concerns and doubts of party comrades, address the concerns of non-Dalits in the party – it is within this multitude of concerns that we have to address any problem. We cannot directly confront any problem, but have to be mindful of all these in finding a solution. In some areas we get an immediate resolution in others – like in Munjanoor (Namakal District) – it took 20 years to get a solution. In those 20 years what will the people have said? They will have said: 'this lot come and go, and come and go', that is what they will have said. Today we were successful on the back of continued protests – this was not a one-off demonstration or a problem that arose the other day. Caste is an issue that has been ongoing for thousands of years and you cannot resolve that in two or three days. It takes years of sustained protests. If the VCK back off from such protests then you can condemn us. If they accuse us of selling out even when protests are ongoing then it is our job to help them understand the ground realities.

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