Caste, Gender, and the Feasibility of Education: The Case of Apu and Dhania

 

Tuhin Bhattacharjee

"If you wish to bring about a breach in the system, then you have got to apply the dynamite to the Vedas and the Shastras, which deny any part to reason; to the Vedas and Shastras, which deny any part to morality. You must destroy the religion of the shrutis and the smritis. Nothing else will avail."

 – B. R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste

tuhinIn a crucial scene in Satyajit Ray's 1955 film Pather Panchali, we see the young Apu, slate in hand, being instructed in writing by his father Harihar, who is probably occupied with writing his own play for the village festival. In the same room, but at a distance, Apu's elder sister Durga's hair is being plaited by their mother Sarbajaya, as they softly converse about the impending marriage of a friend of Durga's. All this while their old widowed aunt Indir Thakrun is seated outside the room, busy with her thread and needle. The traditional demarcations of gender are perfectly in place here. The two males are engaged in writing, while the women are involved in their daily 'feminine' chores. In an earlier scene, we had seen Apu in the village patshala where the local grocer teaches his all-male class and runs his business simultaneously. Ray subtly hints at the gender discrimination by showing a girl, of about the same age as Apu, arriving to buy grocery for her home, and stealing a furtive glance at the boys taking lessons.

Besides gender, this rural space is also charged with the traditional signifiers of caste. Both Harihar and the schoolmaster wear the 'sacred thread' across their chest – as markers of their upper caste, Brahmin status – and we hear about Harihar officiating as priest in rich families of the neighbouring villages. Growing up in such an environment, Apu could not but be aware of his identity as a male Brahmin that entitles him to the kind of education denied both to women and the lower castes in pre-independence India.

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Manchester Launch of Hatred in the belly: Politics behind the appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar’s Writings

 

Manchester Launch

of

Hatred in the Belly: Politics behind the appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar's writings

by

Ambedkar Age Collective

hatred in the belly first prints of cover3When: 6 – 8pm, 6th October 2016

Where: Samuel Alexander A201, The University of Manchester,

Oxford Rd, Manchester

Talks, Readings and Discussion

Chair: Rubina Jasani

Speakers: Anu Ramdas, Kuffir Nalgundwar, Gaurav Somwanshi, Sruthi Herbert, Sridhar Gowda, Kavita Bhanot

Hatred in the Belly published by The Shared Mirror is the powerful response by a number of Dalit-Bahujan writers to Arundhati Roy's 'much-needed-introduction' to Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste, published by Navayana Press in 2014, and by Verso Press in the UK. While focussing on Arundhati Roy-Navayana's project as a 'case study' of sorts, the book is an important and timely intervention that unpacks the wider politics of the appropriation of Ambedkar and Ambedkar 's writings by brahmin/upper caste 'progressives'. One of the important books of the 21st century, Hatred in the Belly raises important questions of representation, self-assertion and the damaging effects of an elite left and celebrity activism upon people's movements and struggles.

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Are the Hindutva leaders ready to debate the state of Dalits?

 

Abhay Kumar

abhay kumarWith the UP Assembly Elections (2017) drawing closer, the Hindutva leaders have started shedding tears for Dalits. Weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's statement in which he said that one may attack him but not his Dalit brothers, BJP National Executive Member Sanjay Paswan wrote an opinion piece in The Indian Express ('Vote Bank To Thought Bank', September 6, 2016) and praised the policies of the Modi Government for Dalits, blaming the progressive sections for politicising the Dalit question.

Showering his praise for Modi, former National President of BJP Scheduled Castes Morcha and Dalit face of the saffron party Paswan said that 'The current prime minister came from a humble background. He is aware of the pain, agony, challenges, deprivations and everyday there at a socially disadvantaged person faces in the rural set-up.'

In order to woo Dalits and Backwards, Hindutva leaders often mention Modi's "humble" social background. In the past, BJP President Amit Shah claimed that the BJP gave the country the first OBC PM in Modi. Even during the General Election campaign 2014 and after, Modi himself mentioned his caste identity. Paswan's article operated within the same trope.

Does one's social background matter? Yes it does. I see force in the argument in support of representation and diversity. Yet, I do not think that that one's "humble" social background, excluding all other factors, makes him infallible, as Paswan seemed to argue. One should not forget that a large number of Dalit leaders were deployed by the high-caste Hindus to confront Babasaheb Ambedkar. Bahujan leader Kanshi Ram rightly called such people chamchas (stooges) who played in the hands of the high caste Hindus.

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On the Orientalist Savarna Perception of equating SIO with ABVP

 

Waseem RS

 On the Orientalist Savarna Perception of equating SIO with ABVP, of twining SIO with the ghost of Global Islam and the Politics of Social Justice in JNU

waseem rsThere is no novelty in the charge of equating SIO and ABVP as the two sides of the same religious ideology. As a Muslim student activist, who works with SIO and other like minded religious minority organization in this campus, let me clarify some of the issues. I don't believe in the possibility of any dialogue with the Savarna left/right forces in this campus but I hope my explanation will help to clear ambiguities in this space and add to the growth of the new political imaginations of the oppressed in JNU - that have already gained momentum with the victory of BAPSA.

SIO- JNU in its election pamphlet and subsequent social media debates clearly stated that their support is for politics of social justice and it includes the fight against injustices of caste, community, capitalism, gender and sexuality from an intersectional/entangled perspective. Also I have raised the problem of various strands of elitism (elitism I consider as a political stand) within the Muslim community, pointing to the problematic social position of my friend Umar Khalid and the paradox in forming an organization like BASO*. I believe in extending this criticism to any Muslim organizations/formation – including SIO branches in other contexts- and ready to take the task ( and a risk!) of fighting it both inside and outside the organization but without necessarily yielding to the narcissistic fantasy of savarna/Brahminic public sphere and political organization - especially those Savarnised (left, feminist, LGBT and right) group at JNU. I am ready to listen and engage with any criticism from a Bahujan political point of view ( especially on caste, sexuality and feminism) around the problem of Islamic/Muslim political praxis in India. This is my duty as an Islamic activist and in my knowledge, it concurs with the Islamic politics imagined by contemporary Muslim scholar-activists such as Hamid Dabashi, Houria Bouteldja, Farid Esack, and Salman Sayyid etc.

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Chalo Udupi

 

Dalit and Oppressed Self-respect Movement Committee​

Friends and Well-wishers,

chalo udipi3Dalit and progressive organisations held a meeting in Freedom Park on 26th August to lay the foundation for a social movement in the wake of rising assaults on dalits, minorities, women and the oppressed. The participants, nearly 250 of them, had elaborate discussions and decided on the following:

1. The movement's aims and objectives: Protest against cultural politics of using the 'sacred cow'. Prevent atrocities on dalits, minorities, adivasi, women and the oppressed. Pressurise the govt to take action and protect fundamental rights.

2. To form a decisive movement to prevent repeated atrocities on dalits and untouchability in rural and modern life including education, housing, media, Government and the private sector.

3. To protect the rights of dalits, minorities and backward communities to eat food of their choice including beef.

4. To demand a minimum of 5 acres of land for all dalit families.

5. To defeat the right wing and brahminical politics. To prevent young men from the backward communities being used by the Sangh Parivaar. Educate to change the minds of dalits and the oppressed who have already become slaves of brahminical organisations.

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Article 14: Ladai Barabari Ki – Stand Up for Equal Rights

 

SAHMAT

Renowned and popular Dalit bands and artistes will be performing in Delhi on the eve of the march to Parliament House, organised by various Dalit organisations and workers' associations under the aegis of Dalit Swabhiman Sangharsh. Prakash Ambedkar, national leader of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), and Bezwada Wilson, founder and national convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), will also be present.

poster article 14 sahmat

Music conveys what slogans and speeches can't. A new set of Dalit groups and artistes are now emerging, who unhesitatingly convey their experiences, grievances, anger as well and hope and expectations of all that they see around them.

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JNUSU Elections: The myth of Left Unity and the upsurge of the Oppressed

 

C Ahamed Fayiz

c ahamed fayiz"It is your claim to equality which hurts them. They want to maintain the status quo. If you maintain your lowly status ungrudgingly, continue to remain dirty, filthy, backward, ignorant, poor and disunited, they will allow you to live in peace. The moment you start raising your level, the conflict starts". ~ Dr B. R Ambedkar

After the alliance of the left parties AISA and SFI in the campus swept all four seats in its students' union (JNUSU) elections, reports and analysis are coming out on the victory of the left over ABVP and in another sense victory of Marxism over Hindutva. In a move that was seen as an 'ideological compromise', Communist Party of India (Marxist) affiliated Students' Federation of India (SFI) and All India Students' Association (AISA), the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), decided to form a 'united front' to fight the JNUSU elections this time.

The alliance won all the four posts that include president, vice president, general secretary and joint secretary of JNUSU while the two year old Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (BAPSA) challenged the hegemonic politics of both left and right wing students organisations in the campus through a close fight. For the post of president Rahul Sonpimple of BAPSA gained 1545 votes and lost against AISA–SFI alliance by a margin of just 409 votes. Mohit from AISA has been declared the president having secured 1954 votes. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) which after the gap of 14 years, in 2015, managed to win one out of the four posts, was completely decimated this year. It even lost all seats of councilors. However final results show the strong support ABVP has managed to garner in the campus which cannot be underestimated. Had it not been for the left alliance they would have managed to secure at least two posts in the central panel who finished second for the post of vice president and general secretary.

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