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Diwali and Bali Pratipada

 

Gail Omvedt

Diwali, or the "Festival of Lights," comes in the period after the harvest, as days begin to get shorter. The first day is for honoring cows and buffalos. The second day, in Brahmanic culture, commemorates the killing of Mahisasura: this symbolizes the struggle between "devas" and "asuras." In the legends, both are children of the same mother, but asuras are portrayed as not-human. The asuras represent stable agriculture, the devas represent foraging and herding as means of sustenance. The third day is "Bali Pratipada," the day of king Bali. Brahmanic tradition re-enacts the killing of Bali, the nonBrahmanic tradition remembers Bali and seeks his return. All of these are myths, and they were treated by Phule as myths, Phule used myth and counter-myth. But these days much of the counter-culture treats Bali as if the story represented a real history.

waman effigy

Burning of Waman Effigy at the anniversary of Baliraja Memorial People's Dam

"Ida pida javo, Balica rajya yevo" – let troubles and sorrows go and the kingdom of Bali come! This is the ancient saying of the Marathi peasantry. It remembers Bali Raja as a kingdom of prosperity and happiness,

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For a new paradigm of social justice

 

D. Shyam BabuChandra Bhan Prasad

The central policy challenge for the new government is how to sustain social gains while ensuring that Dalits can participate more meaningfully in the economy, by sharing in the fruits of economic growth while contributing as well

In his address to the nation on Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his intention to "take a solemn pledge of working for... the welfare of the poor, oppressed, Dalits, the exploited and the backward people of our country." We don't know just what precise shape his social justice vision will take in practice, but it is likely to be a mix of traditional approaches, when unavoidable, coupled with a new architecture, when feasible.

When independent India's founding fathers committed themselves to constitutionalism and democracy, they were well aware that democracy was a "top dressing on Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic," as B.R. Ambedkar cogently put it. The rigid and deeply maligned social hierarchies of Indian society meant that a commitment to equality and social justice was hardly a "natural" sentiment.

Survey on Dalit entrepreneurs

Since then, the Indian state has sought to put forth dozens of laws and programmes to attenuate these deep social inequalities and two-thirds of a century after independence, social inequalities in Indian society are a far cry from what they were when the country came into being. But there is a long, long way to go before social justice is a reality for the vast majority of Indians from socially marginalised communities. It is equally clear, however, that the country needs new thinking (nayi soch) on social justice, as the Prime Minister has argued.

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Hindustan vs India

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahEver since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to power, issues related to Muslims in India are zooming into focus.

Though during the election campaign Narendra Modi indirectly talked about "appeasement", "votebank" politics and the preferential treatment meted out to Muslims by the Congress Party, he did not make their identity an issue. He appeared to be ambivalent on that count.

However, after becoming Prime Minister, Mr Modi has consciously chosen to treat "Indian Islam" as "un-Indian", even though the BJP boasts of a few Muslim members. One of the first indicators of this was that in his capacity as Prime Minister he did not wish Muslims "Id Mubarak", Id being the most significant festival celebrated by the community on the completion of the holy month of Ramzan. He also consciously avoided hosting an Iftar party, a tradition upheld by earlier Prime Ministers. His refusal to wear a skull cap on an earlier occasion is also an indication of his bias against Islam.

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Ambedkar Needs No Introduction

 

Gail Omvedt

Gail Omvedt
Book: The Annihilation of Caste
Author: BR Ambedkar
Publisher: Navayana
Pages: 415 pages
Price: Rs 525

The annotated edition of Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste is prefaced by an article by Arundhati Roy entitled 'The Doctor and the Saint,' which takes up one aspect of Ambedkar's theoretical and philosophical work. Roy's essay is listed as an introduction but is actually an independent essay. It is a long, critical account, mainly of Gandhi, though it deals with Ambedkar too. The focus on Gandhi prevents her from dealing with the issues raised in Annihilation of Caste. For this reason, many Dalits have been angry with Roy and with Navayana for the inclusion of Roy's essay as such a prominent part of the book.

Of the issues raised in Annihilation..., perhaps the most important is that of the authority of the Hindu scriptures. Ambedkar argues that inter-dining and intermarriage are of no use, that the power of caste rests on the belief in the authority of the shastras, and that this has to be destroyed. Religious revolution must precede social reform.

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HRD: It’s not Hindu Resource Development

 

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha ilaiahWhen a religion treats the labouring castes as impure, naturally the indignity of labour becomes the essence of the nation. Does not this situation need to change?

The Modi government seems to believe that a change should be brought in school curriculum by re-working the text books that NCERT brings out. To this effect the ministry of human resource development, it appears, is taking steps. According to reports in the media, lessons from Vedas and Upanishads will be incorporated in the text books to educate the student community about ancient Indian civilisation and culture. There is not just one view of ancient India. The so-called Vedic view is nothing but the Brahminic view.

No one should have any objection if those sections of Vedas and Upanishads which focus on human equality in the realm of spiritual systems of India are included in the text books. But along with such portions from Vedas and Upanishads, the egalitarian teachings from the Buddhist Suthas and Pitakas, and Jain theories of non-violence should also be included. Equally important are the materialist discourses of Charvakas, which injected the earliest rational thinking among our ancestors. The Dalitist narrative of ancient India, which focuses a great deal on production and science, is also extremely relevant to the discourse of development today.

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Of Caste Massacres and Judicial Impunity: Bloodstains in Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe...

 

Anand Teltumbde

(Text of the Third Comrade Naveen Babu Memorial Lecture, delivered by Anand Teltumbde) 

At the outset let me thank DSU for giving me this opportunity to pay my homage to comrade Yalavarthi Naveen Babu, who was martyred at the young age of 35 in Andhra Pradesh. I personally knew Naveen as a young man bubbling with revolutionary zeal and energy as an editor of Kalam, the organ of the AIRSF formed in 1990 and an organizer of the International Seminar on Nationality Struggles in Delhi in February 1996, which I attended. The last I met with him was in Chennai just a few months before his martyrdom. I complement DSU for instituting this memorial lecture, which would help young students in JNU to see how one of their own had lived and died for the cause of Indian revolution.

If Naveen had been living today, he would have been in forefront in protesting against the obnoxious pattern of judgements coming from Patna High Court in the cases of massacre of Dalits taken place in 1990s. As such, the topic decided for this memorial lecture is quite in tune with the memory of this revolutionary.

All of you know Bathani Tola and Laxmanpur Bathe, the small obscure hamlets in Bhojpur and Arwal districts of Bihar respectively, which were catapulted to the world map in mid 1990s for their infamous massacres of Dalits. About Laxmanpur Bathe massacre, the then president of India, K.R. Narayanan, had expressed his indignation saying it was a 'national shame'. Unfortunately, Laxmanpur-Bathe was not to be the lone such shame; there were scores of them before and after Laxmanpur. A quarter century since, the process of law has reached to put a lid on these cases, reminding Dalits of the laws of Manu after 86 years they had burnt Manusmriti in Mahad and after 63 years the country had installed Bhimsmriti in its place. It only wakes them up to the hollowness of such rhetoric which unfortunately informed the Dalit movement after Babasaheb Ambedkar, during the last 56 years. It verily tells us that nothing has changed; if at all, it has changed only for worse. Worse, because in Ambedkar's time Dalits, approximately were a homogenous mass, appeared like a giant getting up from his deep sleep of millenniums; now it is a hopelessly fragmented mass, splintered into classes and subcastes, pretending to be awake but actually in self imposed stupor to the reality around.

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