Revisiting Keezhvenmani after 50 years: The embers still smolder

 

Deivendra Kumar A

deivendra kumarIt was during my post-graduation studies in journalism at the Central University of Tamil Nadu in Thiruvarur that one of my professors enquired about my view on the recent movie Asuran (2019), directed by ace filmmaker Vetrimaaran. Further, he asked me about the recent buzz that the particular film has created among the cinephiles regarding the Keezhvenmani Massacre. He kindled an urge in me to explore the nearby village named Keezhvenmani, an agrarian hamlet in Nagapattinam district, about 20 km from the university campus. This was my first journey to witness the essence of caste, which resulted in betrayal and violence, as a mode of punishment over subalterns.

As I had a prior understanding of the Keezhvenmani Massacre through literature and other scholarly works, I discerned that the flashback scenes of Sivasami (Dhanush's character) shown in the film Asuran, where the huts were burnt by the henchmen of the landlord, resembled the real episode of the massacre. Similar to the real-life incident, a group of comrades as well as villagers in the film plan, prepare, demonstrates, and execute a strike demanding the rights of the landless, downtrodden community. The flashback scenes in the film were dedicated to represent the true event of Keezhvenmani Massacre, which happened on December 25, 1968, where 44 Dalits including women, children and aged were burnt alive by the landlords.

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Privatisation in India: Industry to Agriculture (A Narrative Of, For and By Upper Castes)

 

Dr Anuradha Bele & Dr Jas Simran Kehal

dr anuradha bele and dr jas simran kehalThe Brahmin and Vaishya population in India is very small. Yet if we study top 1000 companies in India, it is seen that in the board of directors, 93% are upper castes including Brahmins, Vaishyas, Parsis, Ashrafs and Syrian Christians (early Brahmin converts to Christianity), with 46% Vaishyas and 44% Brahmins. The OBCs and SC/STs are meagre 3.8% and 3.5% respectively.

The Indian corporate board has nine members on an average, and 88% of these are insiders; only 12% are independent directors. The corporate board thus lacks diversity and is completely dominated by the Brahmins and Vaishyas. Decision making body is kept entangled in caste and kin web-work confining Indian corporate board to a small and closed world - a world which is impermeable to labour class and lower castes. Indeed, cronyism is built into the caste system and this system has taken India to 9th global rank in crony-capitalism index.

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Racist mainland Indians were more terrifying than Covid

 

Chongtham Rameshwori 

Chongtham photoMy phone records 9:21 pm with the first picture of my favourite but unfortunate black T-shirt splattered with the thick pungent tobacco remains over my neck and chest area. On 22nd March 2020, after the nationwide curfew ended at 9 pm, I went outside with my friend to buy some groceries, to restock our supplies if we could, since a nationwide lockdown was about to begin on the very next day. We bought a medium-sized cabbage, one bottle gourd and an eggplant for 100 Rs and were on our way back to our PG, passing through the same alley which I have been passing for the last seven years. Except for a few street dogs, the street wore a completely deserted look and we saw a middle-aged north Indian man driving towards us from the opposite direction.

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Should the proponents of public (government) schools celebrate Global Teacher Prize 2020 to Mr. Ranjitsinh Disale?


Tanoj Meshram

Tanoj MeshramLast week, Ranjitsinh Disale, a teacher from rural government Zilla Parishad (ZP) school in Solapur district, received Global Teacher Prize from Varkey Foundation. The prize which carries a very attractive cash prize of one million US dollars (about seven crore Indian rupees) and gets endorsements from famous political personalities, media & film celebrities and even the Prince Harry, Prince Williams and Pope Francis (see the video here) , naturally made huge headlines across the country. Disale Sir (Guruji in Marathi) was selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.

As expected Disale Sir received praise from all the quarters for bringing laurels not just to his home state Maharashtra but India as well. Some even saw it as evidence that government schools in India do not lack talent while others considered it as the milestone in raising the status of the teachers as the award claims, "The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society."

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The Ruling Caste's changing priorities and the Farmer Unrest

 

Anshul Kumar

anshul“History shows that the Brahmin has always had other classes as his allies to whom he was ready to accord the status of a governing class provided they were prepared to work with him in subordinate co-operation. In ancient and medieval times he made such an alliance with the Kshatriyas or the warrior class and the two ruled the masses, indeed ground them down, the Brahmin with his pen and the Kshatriya with his sword. At present, the Brahmin has made an alliance with the Vaishya class called Banias. The shifting of this alliance from Kshatriya to Bania is natural. In these days of commerce money is more important than sword. That is one reason for this change in party alignment. The second reason is the need for money to run the political machine. Money can come only from the Bania. It is the Bania who is financing the Congress largely because Mr. Gandhi is a Bania and also because he has realized that money invested in Politics gives large dividends.” ~ BR Ambedkar in What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables 

 

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The Indian State during the Pandemic: Serving the Savarna, Invisibilising the Bahujan

 

Raina Singh, Theresa Joseph & Shafiullah Anis

 
sketch-1591899524948Ambedkar Reading Group met online on 10th May 2020 with the motive to read, understand, discuss and debate from an anti-caste perspective, two ideas a) Corona pandemic from Bahujan Perspective and b) Future Scenarios post-Corona pandemic. The discussion was led by Vinith Kumar (Chair) and Shafiullah Anis (Co-chair). 

Introduction

The emergence of Covid-19 pandemic has not only brought forth human precarity to natural disasters but has also unearthed the gruesome darkness of the social. When the cities and towns across the world were getting locked down, the marginalized section of the society faced another blow to their vulnerable life. Various scholars, activists, professionals and thinkers have expressed their concerns and the leading role has been played by roundtableindia.co.in and dalitweb.org in bringing in wide varieties of views and discussions focusing on Bahujan-Pasmanda concerns due to the pandemic. These accounts are of various natures: documentation of atrocious instances of human displacement and suffering of Bahujan-Pasmanda section of the society to inputs and advisories by medical professionals; thinkers conceptualizing the pandemic from Bahujan-Pasmanda lens and unveiling the unseen and undiscussed; and professionals finding unique and equitable solutions to this formidable challenge and so on.

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Jharkhand: The Curse of Development and Displacement

 

Dr. Md Afroz & Md Tabrez

tabrez and afroz 

Introduction

The formation of Jharkhand on the pretext of development and change in the life of local people was actually a political gimmick to encash the euphoric regional sentiments for power. The ruling national parties used to retreat in policy matters that threatens their political stability in the changing political atmosphere due to the rise of regional parties conditioned to regional movements. Jharkhand is one of the best examples of this flimsy politics where national parties retain their political bases through championing stands, be it preservation of regional identity or development agenda altogether rhetorically used to seduce masses and to become the region’s emerging powers. 

 

Rich State Poor People

 

Jharkhand, a tribal dominated state with 32.96 million populations scattered in 79,110 sq. Km area, has rich mineral resources. The Gross State Domestic product (GSDP) is 3.28 lakh crore in the year of 2019-20, and per capita income is 79,873 rupees as per government data. It has 40 percent of mineral resources in the country alone where it retains the position of being the sole producer of coking coal, uranium and pyrite. It ranks 1st in the production of coal, mica, kainite and copper in India. It produces approximately 25 percent of steel in the country. This is why the state becomes the vanguard of industrialization among Indian states. It has a wide range of industrial plants, both public undertakings and private enterprises. 

 

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Are Opinion and Exit Polls Unscientific and Opaque?

 

Vivek Kumar

vivek-kumar The dust of Bihar assembly election 2020 is gradually settling town. People are discussing the performances of various coalitions viz- Mahagathbandhan (110 seats), NDA (125 seats) and five party alliance led by BSP, AIMIM and RLSP. Media houses are busy in asking politicians and the so-called public intellectuals where the political parties went wrong. Which leader has gained credibility and which leader has lost the credibility? The Mahagathbandhan is alleging anomalies in counting process.

Questioning the Opinion and Exit Poll

However, what is astonishing is that no media house or intellectual is ready to discuss: Why did opinion polls and exit polls go so wrong. Why have the opinion and exit pollsters committed such a big blunder? I call it a blunder because most of the media houses have gone terribly wrong. The margins of error are so wide that it cannot but be called a blunder. It is all the more important to discuss this because most of the media houses make this a big event and pat their backs when they come even close to the actual results. They dance and celebrate their quasi success. Then why not discuss their actions when they go terribly wrong. For instance Axis My India-India Today in their exit poll predicted 139-161 for Mahagathbandhan but they got only 110 seats, indicating approximately 32 percent point error. Similarly, the same exit poll assigned only 69-91 seats to NDA but it secured 125 seats, again approximately 37 percent point error. Can you really allow such high percentage of error at this level?

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How to look 'Dalit' in the Savarna imagination

 

Bobby Kunhu 

When I first watched the classic 1972 Luis Bunuel comedy, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeouise, in 1994 or 95, I could not have imagined that it was possible to adapt the movie in an Indian context. Hypothetically, since I did not imagine that it could happen, I presume the reasons for this lack of faith was that I didn’t know of any existing Indian director who had the breadth and honesty to take on the Indian elite (read savarna) and that the multiple Indian film industries – including the so called high brow art genre – were governed by strong caste values. I suppose the nature of the waters irrigating cinema in general and Indian cinema in particular has changed dramatically with the democratization access to technology has brought in and the assertion of movie makers like Pa. Ranjith, Nagraj Manjule, Athiyan Athirai, Mani Selvaraj serving as a template for a fresh language in cinema.

discreet charm

That being said, without prejudice to anyone, while acknowledging the access given to people who want to experiment with cinema and the political economy of cinema – the world of the Indian short films can be described largely as mass drudgery. Very often, every form of bigotry and in sophisticated versions, prejudices lurk in every corner even if the film is technically well made. And if there is humour, it is usually either crass or callous. Therefore, of late, I am hesitant to watch short films. 

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How to write anti-caste solidarity texts


Dr. Murali Shanmugavelan

Murali2020Ensure that “Dalit” appears as a prefix whenever the victim is mentioned. The phrase “Dalit victim” helps your readers understand the difference between Dalits and humans. If your text is about (Dalit) rape, murder, or other gruesome violence, make sure you include the name and picture of the already-traumatised person in the situation. Ghastly intrusive personal details can touch your readers’ conscience. Do trend the sufferer's name become a hashtag. It can help in  harvesting digital hearts, re-tweets and improve visibility of your profile that is of course likely to amplify the trauma of the victim.

Unlike the tragic events of Nirbhaya and other dominant caste victims, the world needs a raft of multimedia evidence of a deceased or tortured Dalit to wake up the middle-class conscience.

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Ardh Satya and the half-truths of parallel cinema

 

Rahul Gaikwad

So the other day, I was just thinking about how and when anti-corruption rhetoric got currency in this society. We saw it at its full ugly zenith during the India Against Corruption campaign led by the Anna Hazare and Kejriwal duo, well aided by the mainstream media. Suddenly, I was reminded me of the movie, Ardh Satya (1983), for it had impacted me through showing a grim reality I had seen from close quarters. At the same time, it also reminded me how I could never relate to the protagonist, the brahmin character, 'Velankar'. Then I thought to myself the ideal question this society should be asking is: why does Dharavi exists in the first place? Instead, this movie made sure to project that a 'Velankar' is as equal a victim as a Kamble or any other bahujan. That's where I couldn't connect and that is when I felt the narrative that was given shape through this movie formed the bedrock or was a precursor leading up to anti-corruption rhetoric which attained full vigour in 2011 during the IAC movement, or moment shall I say.

ardh satya

The movie is about an 'upright Brahmin' police sub-inspector Anant Velankar who is hounded and harassed by a slumlord, Rama Shetty, whose business interests involve all kinds of illegal activities. The movie portrays how the slumlord continues to outwit and harass this honest cop using his political connections; the movie shows how the police works with the mafia. The whole system is so corrupt that this honest cop, Velankar, finds tolerating it increasingly difficult so he fights back the whole slumlord and political-police nexus. The movie remains one of the most watched police movies from the "parallel cinema" which has got as good an audience as a mainstream film.

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Unethical and Discriminatory: Votes for Covid19 Vaccine

 

Vivek Kumar 

vivek kumar It is really disturbing to see the nation’s Finance Minister, while releasing the BJP’s Manifesto for Bihar Assembly elections, announce that if the NDA comes to power then they will administer free Coronavirus vaccine to everyone in Bihar. If this was not enough, another BJP functionary went on to say that if the NDA government is voted to power, then Bihar will be first state to get Coronavirus-19 vaccine.     

This announcement is a blatant allurement. It goes against the Representation of the People Act 1951. It is against the moral code of conduct of elections. Not only that, it also goes against all the ethics of public life. A vaccine which is a life saving drug should be delivered according to the needs of the people in each state of the country and not according to the needs of a political party. Discrimination assumes a different proportion when you say something about a life-saving drug; it also involves bio-ethics as well.

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