Independence for whom?

 

Parth Shrimali

parth shrimaliOn 14th August, a day before the 71st Independence Day, a Dalit man was assaulted in Sojitra village in Anand district of Gujarat for skinning a dead cow. Earlier this year, in May, caste violence led to the torching of 25 Dalit houses by Rajput men in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. In July 2016, 4 Dalit youth were flogged for skinning a dead cow in Una, Gujarat. A month later, two Dalits were beaten up in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh for skinning a cow, killed due to electrocution.

Over the course of the last 70 years, India has made tremendous progress. From a country that could barely feed its own people to a potential economic giant, India has engineered a dramatic turnaround of its fortunes. Yet, 70 years later, the question that continues to persist is this - prosperity, development and independence for whom?

On the question of Dalits

Violent attacks on Dalits are hardly anything new. Newspapers are rife with reports of assaults against Dalits, either by riots or by the ritualistic protection of Savarna 'honour' which often translates into death for Dalit men and rape for Dalit women. More repulsive than the grisly nature of these acts of violence are the reasons which 'provoke' these and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

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Women's Empowerment: History and Policy

 

Rahul Pagare

rahul pagareIt was 1848 AD when India got its first woman educator in the form of "Savitribai Phule". This year marks the rise of women's empowerment in India as Savitribai Phule busted the social norm that a woman cannot be educated. The impact of this movement was so profound that 100 years later, India, as a nation accepted the leadership of a woman and Indira Gandhi, was sworn as the first female prime minister of India. It is said that sky is the limit, but the term "women's empowerment" broke that thought and Kalpana Chawla became the first Indian woman to travel in space. All these activities are the fruits of women's empowerment.

Women's empowerment as a concept was introduced at the UN's Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi in 1985, which defined it as a redistribution of social and economic powers and control of resources in favor of women. The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNDFW) includes the following factors in its definition of women's empowerment.

 Acquiring knowledge and understanding of gender relations and the way in which these relations may be changed.

 Developing a sense of self-worth, a belief in one's ability to secure desired changes and the right to control one's life.

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From Brahmanisation to Privatisation: The Case of Tata Institute of Social Sciences

 

Arun Mahanand

From Brahmanisation to Privatisation of Education, at the Cost of Dalit-Bahujan Students: Case of Tata Institute of Social Sciences

arunUntil the last semester, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) would provide financial support to students from SC, ST and OBC categories, who were eligible for Government of India's (GoI) Scholarships. Students were exempted from paying fees up front. The GoI scholarship amount was paid to the Institute by the respective state governments of the home state of the students. This amount was accommodated as reimbursement for fees exemption. After direct transfer system, the scholarship amount is being sent to students directly, who then pass it on to the Institute. This continued till 2014 when GoI scholarship for students from OBC categories was revoked by the Maharashtra Government and Institute altogether discontinued exemption of fees for all the students from OBC categories from all states. From then onwards, only SC and ST students received the fee waivers under GoI Scholarship.

 On 25th May 2017, the Registrar of TISS sent a notification during the summer vacation regarding a change in scholarships. The institute had not mentioned these changes in the TISS admission brochure, which is the basis on which students take admission. The message from the registrar effectively asked all students including SC and ST students receiving GoI scholarship to pay Hostel and Dining Hall fees amounting to Rs. 31,000 per semester. The reason being given is that the institute has a backlog of Rs. 20 crores from the government.

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Global Day of Action against Vedanta at their AGM

 

* Protests to be held by communities affected by British miner Vedanta Resources in India and Africa.

* Activist shareholders to again disrupt London AGM on 14th August.

* Vedanta battles international arbitration and UK compensation case over Zambian pollution.

Foil Vedanta

Loud and theatrical protests will again be held outside the AGM of British mining company Vedanta Resources'(1) AGM at the Lincoln Centre, Lincoln Inn Fields, London at 2pm on Monday 14th August(2) accusing the company of major environmental and human rights abuses across its operations. Parallel protests will be held by affected communities and their supporters at several locations in India and Zambia. Inside the AGM, dissident shareholders will ask questions on behalf of Zambian villagers who are suing Vedanta in the UK for twelve years of polluted water, as well as tribal inhabitants of the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India who accuse Vedanta of murdering and harassing them with state collusion.

vedanta stop killing

Protesters in London will pour scorn on Vedanta's 2017 Annual Report, which claims that the company 'demonstrate world-class standards of governance, safety, sustainability and social responsibility'. They say it represents a poor attempt to don the 'cloak of respectability'(3) of a London listing, pointing out that:

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When erasure from memory is also a human rights violation

 

Dr. Sylvia Karpagam

Sylvia pixThe human rights organisation, Amnesty International has brought out two reports, one in 2016 and another in 2017, highlighting details of prisoners facing death penalties and of undertrials in India. However both reports fail to mention that a majority of those facing death penalties or undertrials awaiting a hearing belong to the historically marginalised Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes (SC/ST) as well as religious minorities, predominantly Muslim. While this can easily be passed off as oversight, in a country where the SC/ST and religious minorities, specifically Muslim, face enormous systemic and state sponsored violence and oppression, this oversight by an International Human rights organisation, calls for serious introspection. Ironically, it was an article in 1961, titled The Forgotten Prisoners, by British lawyer Peter Benenson, and published in the Observer that gave birth to the collective action around Amnesty International's work. He writes about his disgust at people being imprisoned for their political views or religious orientation.

With the current debate in the United Kingdom about caste discrimination and bringing in an equality law, one cannot undermine how dominant caste groups take what are often straight forward cases of caste and communal based discrimination and couch them in such words and language that the very core of the discrimination is erased completely. Is this the case with Amnesty as well is a question that needs to be asked and seriously introspected.

Report on Death penalties, Amnesty International Global Report, 2016

The Amnesty International Global Report published in 2016 reports on death sentences and executions in different countries and shows significantly higher numbers of death sentences in countries like Bangladesh, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Thailand and Zambia than in the previous year. In India, the recorded deaths sentences for 2016 was 136, with more than 400 facing death sentences at the end of 2016 with 'most prisoners on death row from economically vulnerable and socially disadvantaged groups' [1]. The report drew its data on India from the National Law School University report of 2016 [2].

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Conference on The Scourge of Scavenging: Revisiting the Question of Sanitation/Scavenging/Scavengers

 

[Via Dr. B. Ravichandran]

The Scourge of Scavenging: Revisiting the Question of Sanitation/Scavenging/Scavengers
Date: 08-Nov-2017 to 10-Nov-2017
Event Type: National Seminar
Venue of Event: Seminar Hall, Indian Institute of Advanced Studies.
Last date for abstract: August 15th 2017

Concept Note

 India has been consistently critiqued, locally and globally, for its inability to ban the inhuman practice of manually cleaning human faeces, otherwise popularly known as manual scavenging. Different stake-holders have consistently argued towards achieving clean and safe practices in sanitation, particularly with respect to the disposal of human waste. In order to do so, governments have set up committees such as the 1949 Barve Committee and programmes such as the Central Rural Sanitation programme to the contemporary Swachh Bharat campaign. The major findings of these committees has been that the scavenging system in India is a customary practice that, along with the social stigma attached to it, is carried forward from one generation to the next. It is in this context that attempts were later made to improve the working conditions of the sweepers and to remove the social stigma related to the occupation, thereby leading to the formation of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis towards the rehabilitation of scavengers. The committees and the programmes did not attain their goal towards abolishing manual scavenging. As a result, various civil society groups began arguing against the apathy faced by sanitary workers and campaigning for better working environment through books, documentaries, legal cases. If one NGO focused on the complete ban on manual scavenging, another would focus on introducing toilets that are cost effective. Adding to the already existing problem, financial liberalisation in India has further endangered the job security that scavengers earlier had. If earlier dignity of labour was the fight of scavengers, then after liberalisation even their basic survival was brought to question. With the contemporary resurgence of Dalit movements, the complete annihilation of caste once again became an articulated demand, one that could not be achieved without eradicating manual scavenging and the insanitary conditions within which scavengers are made to work.

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Dalit studies: Human Dignity, Equality and Democracy

 

Call for Proposals

The rise of Dalit studies has provided the necessary platform for a new set of scholarly enquiries in the social sciences and humanities. The Dalit Studies International conference (2008) was an attempt to bring together academics and intellectuals for a productive conversation on new research agendas. This initiative resulted in the publication of an edited volume Dalit Studies (2016). We plan to continue to explore caste inequality, human dignity, democracy and similar concerns to further reflect on the possibilities and challenges of Dalit Studies in the proposed conference.

Dalit Studies may be thought of as a new academic practice rooted in resistance to the dominant epistemologies. It has enabled academia to engage with the grounded knowledge creation by the Dalit communities. Innovative approaches have been devised to read the colonial and missionary archives and to analyse social memories, oral narratives, and cultural practices of the Dalit communities. Such novel research initiatives have resulted in a new set of studies that foreground Dalit subjects as active agents of social change and action. As a location for the study of marginality, Dalit Studies has enabled a sustained critical attention to the anti-caste social movements, religious traditions, literary and performative cultures and the everyday lives and practices of Dalit communities. Another important aspect of Dalit studies is that it opened up the possibility of a global conversation on caste, race, and similar forms of inequality.

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