Buddhism as a social, democratic doctrine: a liberation ideology

Karthik Navayan


In 1935, while addressing the Yeola Conversion Conference, Dr. BR Ambedkar declared 'I am born a Hindu. I couldn't help it, but I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu'. He said: 'Hindu civilsation.. is a diabolical contrivance to suppress and enslave humanity'. It was created by Brahminical parasites to enslave people and perpetuate their control over all the power and wealth of the nation. Hindu Brahmanic religion, which is responsible for the caste system of graded inequality, untouchability, exploitation and oppression, had introduced the theories of Karma and rebirth to justify them. And to perpetuate all those social evils it created the Vedas, Upanishads and the Puranas. The Hindu religious system is continuing its repression in all fields even today.


Freedom, dignity, happiness, or simply, life!

Comments on Oxford India Anthology of Tamil Dalit Writing (Part I)

P. Dayanandan

(Paper presented on 10th April, 2012 on the occasion of the release of the Oxford India Anthology of Tamil Dalit Writing)


• I congratulate Ravikumar, Azhagarsan and Mini for bringing Dalit thoughts to English language readers at large. A quick look at Ravi's writing, speaking and publishing record gives you some inkling of how Iyothee Thass must have managed his time to accomplish all his outpourings. Many folks gathered here, from the writing and publishing professions, defy time. I am grateful to all of you for this honor to receive a copy of the Anthology containing your precious writings, and make some observations on them.

• If we spend 3 minutes on each of the 78 selections it will take 4 hours. How then can we do justice to the 41 authors, translators, editors and the publisher? I will not attempt that. Neither will we discuss, at this stage, about the selection of themes nor authors, nor quality of translation and editing. I will not discuss if the segments selected from the books truly represent the whole. Plenty of that will follow as reviewers examine this Anthology.


Mayawati: Caste Anxieties and Patriarchal Fears

Continued from here.




Her roofless abode gives her a clear view of the fields and the village she guards over. She is my paternal family's deity, revered as a force of nature as are the scores of female gods of the Shudra, Atishudra and Adivasi cultures. Her free spirited nature echoes the attitude of another goddess in Siddalingaiah's narrative of village deities: one who refuses a temple with a door, saying, 'I would like to go and come as I please.' Within the timeless non-brahamincal world, female iconography is rendered in ways whereby it is 'her gaze' which is anxiously worried over, as it could mean, protection, forgiveness and peace.

From the 10th and 11th centuries AD onwards, with the onset of large scale temple building activities, female iconography begins to appear on temple panels. Here the female form is rendered through the brahmanical male gaze, though the imagery itself is not inspired by brahmin women. From Multan to Somnath, from Konark to Hoysala to Thanjavur temples, all of them bear sculptures that have been inspired by the temple-women, drawn almost exclusively from the shudra and atishudra castes. These visuals radiate the highly disciplined intellect and body literacy of these subjugated, ancestral dalitbahujan women. Throughout the ages, the collectives of temple-women were known to be rigorous knowledge producers, surpassing the productivity of the best universities, bequeathing to the subcontinent, civilization-sustaining bodies of knowledge. Yet, for us, the images are life size portrayals of women manacled by caste and patriarchy. Contemporary dalitbahujan women are often ambiguous about celebrating these images as immortal style icons of amazing grace and ability. This visual history highlights an ancient struggle in progress-- against caste, the father of all hegemonies.


There will never be another man like him

Karthik Navayan

(We thank Karthik for this moving tribute to the great Telugu poet, Marxist-Leninist and Maoist ideologue, Dalit leader and social revolutionary K.G. Satyamurthy, who passed away on April 17, 2012-- Round Table India)


You have to decide on your own how you wish to understand Satyamurthy, but he was a man who everyone should try to understand. If efforts to understand him are marked by sincerity, poets will understand him as a Mahakavi, (radical left) revolutionaries* will understand him as a great revolutionary leader, thinkers and philosophers will understand him as a great thinker. To understand a man, it might be enough to read his writing, but to understand Satyamurthy, one needs to understand his life too.

Satyamurthy had little interest in the many comforts easily accessed by traditional upper caste, middle class revolutionary leaders and poets. It was not that he could not have earned them, but he chose to live by the ideals that informed his writing. There was no contradiction between his life and his writing. After he became a revolutionary, several decades ago, the last three years of his life were the only time he actually spent with his children, whom he had left long ago. Until 2009, he was constantly engaged in one kind of activism or another, constantly traveling, especially in Telangana where he still has a lot of admirers. There were many occasions on which he developed health related issues while traveling and had to face his daughter's anger. His life itself was poetry; it was not a poet's life. We cannot separate his life from his poetry. He lived by the politics he believed in, and lived among the poor and the people he trusted, all through his life. That is the main difference between Satyamurthy and other poets.


Mayawati or Hatshepsut: Her place has to be shown



A handbag. A false beard.

Two seemingly innocuous objects which transform into fearsome symbols, when they adorn the statues of Mayawati and Hatshepsut respectively. These women statues have unleashed unprecedented amounts of societal outrage. Is the cause for outrage the engravings themselves, or the depicted demeanor, or is it the act of consecrating one's own statue? The answer would be all three reasons and more. The intensity of the backlash alludes to the kind of transgressive power that Mayawati and Hatshepsut have come to signify.




Ambedkar and Media


V. Ratnamala



The history of the press in India is the history of the freedom movement in the country. To a great extent, the Indian National Congress owed its popularity and position to the Indian press (Mazumdar, 1993). The history of the freedom movement happened to be the history of Congressmen. Hence the history of the press in India is the history of the newspapers run by Congressmen. The history of the oppressed community is being neglected and the history of the upper caste is celebrated in India. The majority which accepts Mahatma Gandhi as a great journalist declines to speak about the journalism of Ambedkar or the newspapers run by Ambedkar. It is important to identify the different interpretation of history of the freedom struggle as well as the press in India. This paper will look into the experiences of Ambedkar with media.

Its aim is to *explore the newspaper initiatives of Ambedkar, *study the representation of Ambedkar in media and *recognize his views on media. The paper will discuss the data observed using desk research. This is done by summarizing published sources - a form of secondary research.

Ambedkar's Journalism

Dr. Ambedkar was also a successful journalist. He provided a platform for social revolution through his papers. It is important to note that Gandhi started Harijan in 1933 to propagate the cause of untouchables. He started that only after the Poona pact. The Indian media which admires Gandhi's efforts to start a newspaper for the untouchables never addresses Ambedkar's labors that are responsible for running four newspapers for his people. As the pro-Congress media refuse to speak about the oppressed people, Ambedkar's struggles, his ideology, Ambedkar required a media, a mouthpiece. Ambedkar strongly believed that newspapers could bring about a change in the lives of the millions of oppressed people. Dr. Ambedkar's Marathi newspapers announced a new politics and ethics and anticipated a just social order ( Pandian, 2005). Ambedkar published a series of newspapers namely Mook Nayak (weekly newspaper), Bahishkrit Bharat (half-monthly newspaper), Janata (weekly magazine).


Dalit Assertions and Violence in Odisha

Nilesh Kumar

nilesh_1_copyAn article published in The Hindu (dated January 14, 2012) written by Harsh Mander is an eye opener for many of us who enjoy our private comfort zones. We feel safe and protected around our family, friends and acquaintances. There are many who do not have access to these secure environments and live in contested spaces. If the riots of 2008 (in Odisha) were not tragic enough, the massacre of Dalits and Adivasis that followed, by the upper caste Hindus was nothing but inhuman. Harsh Mander writes about 'the systematic creation of hatred against religious minorities by Right wing organisations, rigorous planning of the carnage...often targeting women and girls'.

The rape of a nun in Kandhamal was reported in newspapers on 6th of January, 2012; the report also said that despite her being able to identify all the five culprits, the magistrate reported that the victim was able to identify only two accused persons. After her plea got rejected by the High court the case was transferred to the Cuttack court where it has met the same fate as thousands of other similar cases: that of being stuck.


Dalit History Month


Paari. chelian

 Black Americans have protested the slavery and racism thrust on them by the Whites through many forums including those of Black literature and politics. One such forum is Black History Month. They announced and celebrate February as Black History Month to redeem their racial history that has been side-lined so far. February is an important month in Black history - this is the month in which people like Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and W.E.B. Du Bois, who fought against the system of slavery, were born. The big corporate houses and the American government also celebrate Black History Month. Stamps to honour leading members of the Black community are issued in this time.


Using the celebrations of Black History Month as an example, Dalits announced and celebrate April as Dalit History Month to redeem the history of the struggles for social emancipation and political service of Dalit leaders who have been ignored and deliberately forgotten, to write about this history and take it to the people through various media. Towards redeeming for research the histories that were hidden, twisted and re-written vengefully by the Brahmin and middle-castes, pamphlets and books are published and conferences organised as part of the Dalit History Month celebrations every April. It is most appropriate to observe this in April, the month that the revolutionary Ambedkar was born. He remains the most important symbol for Dalit people in the struggle against untouchability and caste.


The Polyphony of Dalit Criticism in Malayalam

Dr Ajay Sekher

The contemporary critical practice that evolves within the Dalit writing in Malayalam is vibrant with a variety of voices and divergent perspectives. There is an increased presence of people from all walks of life cutting across age, gender and community here. The diversity and difference that exist in the socio cultural life of the marginalized also get reflected in their intellectual and cultural interventions.

We have intellectuals engaging with historiography, literary and cultural criticism, social and political commentary, activist propaganda and other modes of critical enquiry. Though they differ in various issues and points of view the ideological underpinning is the social justice and democracy paradigm embedded in the works of Dr Ambedkar. The significance of Ambekar is that the democratic movement he led was a historic act for regaining the voice and agency of the subaltern in India silenced and crushed for many millennia (Omvedt). It was a radical attempt to break “the silences of centuries that brood over the history of invasion and colonization” as Toni Morrison puts it while looking at the history of racism in her Afro American context (Morrison).


Why We Oppose Arvind Kejriwal & Anna Hazare

Why We Oppose Arvind Kejriwal (Anna Hazare) in JNU

--Students Against Anna Team

[A few days ago, Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Jan Lokpal movement and also a mentor of some anti-reservation outfits, faced some tough questions from students at JNU when he tried to address a gathering there. As expected, none of the mainstream papers or channels tried to elicit the students' views, lend space to their voices. The whole event was only barely covered, except for a scattered report or two, like this one in Aaj Tak, the Hindi channel, there was not much else. Obviously, Brahminical media wants to play down any dissent against the casteist 'India Against Corruption' led Jan Lokpal movement. In this pamphlet, progressive, anti-caste students from JNU explain their opposition-- Round Table India]

dowry_rates_copy• We want a corruption free society but not at the cost of Parliamentary Democracy. Janlokpal bill poses serious challenges to parliamentary democracy, and there is no alternative to parliamentary democracy. If elected leaders are corrupt, they can be held responsible for their actions, as they are answerable to the people who vote for them. On the other hand, Janlokpal is not responsible or answerable to anyone, so how can one guarantee that Janlokpal would not be corrupt? Will the members of Janlokpal come from heaven or will they be angels?


On Yanadis, committed activism and a successful land struggle


Karthik Navayan


I don't know

Whether it is athiesm or animism

But I am the Adi Dalit

Who first excommunicated Brahmanvad.

-- from the Telugu poem 'Yanadonni' by G.V. Ratnakar.



In 2006, Thupakula Munemma, a Yanadi tribeswoman in Nellore district, received a parcel from the local Revenue Divisional Officer through post. Munemma was an activist of ARD, or Association for Rural Development, a social service organization based in Gudur of SPS Nellore District where the population of Yanadi tribe is large. ARD worked in the area of child rights and development, and mainstreamed several orphan children who were found on the streets and railway stations, by providing them with education and health facilities.


Mind over Savanur



If India were a country of 18 crores, instead of 118 crores or so, all the excitement in the media would make more sense. A panelist on a TV debate on the Union Budget, for instance, expresses warm approval of a particular proposal, saying: 'infrastructure would help the poor more than subsidies in the long run'.

scarecrowThere are several presumptions impelling that little outburst: one, the poor don't want infrastructure, or don't understand its value or are shortsighted or hold all of those attitudes, opinions. Two, the poor want sops and handouts, and therefore are lazy and suffer from a weak work ethic. Three, infrastructure is meant for everyone, even if it is a games village worth 60,000 crore rupees in Delhi which starts crumbling down even as it is being built. Four, subsidies are for exclusively the poor, and most of them don't go to the non-poor.