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India’s (Jati) Panchayati Raj

Anand Teltumbde

(First published in September 2011)

What has been the impact of reservations for women, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in panchayati raj institutions? In case the reserved seat is for a woman, it is usually the wife or daughter in-law of the old sarpanch who is made to sign papers, while the husband or the father-in-law is de facto in control. In the case of reservations for the SC/STs, it is the bonded labourer of the sarpanch who becomes a proxy for his rule. In exceptional cases, where dalit sarpanches have dared to exercise their powers in the public interest, the dominant castes have unleashed terror against them.

We must not forget that these idyllic village-communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism...

– Marx

What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?

– Ambedkar

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Dr Ambedkar and the freedom struggle of Dalits

Gail Omvedt

(An excerpt from her book 'Ambedkar: Towards an Enlightened India')

ambedkar_library

Less than two months after the huge conversion ceremony, Bhimrao Ambedkar was dead, found on the morning of 6 December, slumped over the papers he had been working on late at night. His death was followed by outpouring of grief as great as the mobilisation of hope that had appeared with the dhammadiksha. Dalits throughout India but especially Maharashtra wept as if it were their own father who had died, and people from all over the world sent their tributes.

Ambedkar left behind him a massive collection of notes and books on a variety of themes. His project of writing on the Bhakti Sants of Maharashtra was never ever begun, but his unfinished manuscripts, including 'Revolution and Counter Revolution in ancient India' and 'Untouchables: The Children of India's Ghetto', were extremely significant. In his last studies he was projecting an alternative sociocultural history of India. As in a Marxist interpretation, his would emphasize conflict and contradiction; but in contrast to Marxism, this would be seen in primarily ideological-religious terms, the mortal conflict between Brahmanism and Buddhism.

Ambedkar's life had spanned the first part of the twentieth century and all the decisive phase of India's freedom struggle. However, he had fought for a correlated but different freedom struggle, one for the liberation of the most oppressed sections of Indian society. This was a liberation movement wider and deeper than that of fighting colonialism, focusing on the kind of new nation that was to be built.

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The Other Mahatma

Gail Omvedt

(First published in May, 2002)

jotiba_9
The publication of a collection of English translations of the writings of Jotirao Phule, the nineteenth century social radical, by LeftWord publications marks, hopefully, a transition in the attitude of the left towards the struggle against Brahmanism.

It also marks an increasing recognition of the importance of Phule, who has become next to Ambedkar a growing focus of interest for low-caste movements throughout India. This recognition takes on intensified importance in the aftermath of the "humanquake" of Gujarat, when the question is of rebuilding a national identity not on the foundation of an empty "secularism" uniting people of two religious communities both defined in terms of faith, but rather on the foundation of a common Indianness that finds its cultural definition beyond religion.

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The Dalit liberation Movement in Colonial Period (Part II)

Gail Omvedt & Bharat Patankar

Continued from here.

The Rise of Dalit Movements

Though attempts were begun by the dalit castes from the late 19th century to organise themselves, the various sections of the dalit liberation movement really began to take off from the 1920s, in the context of the strong social reform and anti-caste movements which were penetrating the middle-caste peasantry and the national movement which was beginning to develop a genuine mass base.

The most important of the early dalit movements were the Ad-Dharm movement in the Punjab (organised 1926); the movement under Ambedkar in Maharashtra mainly based among Mahars which had its organisational beginnings in 1924; the Nama-shudra movement in Bengal; the Adi-Dravida movement in Tamil Nadu; the Adi-Andhra movement in Andhra which had its first conference in 1917; the Adi-Karnataka movement; the Adi-Hindu movement mainly centered around Kanpur in UP; and the organising of the Pulayas and Cherumans in Kerala.[10]

In most of the cases the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms provided a spark for the organization of dalits but the crucial background was the massive economic and political upheavals of the post-war period. The movements had a linguistic-national organisational base and varied according to the specific social characteristics in different areas, but there was considerable all-India exchange of ideas and, by the 1930s, this was beginning to take the shape of all-India conferences with Ambedkar emerging as the clear national leader of the movement.

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The Dalit liberation Movement in Colonial Period

Gail Omvedt & Bharat Patankar

[First published in February 1979. This is the first part of a pathbreaking article on the Dalit movement in the mainstream media. It was pathbreaking because mainstream discourse had until then consistently denied or tried to studiously ignore the existence of the Dalit movement and its vital role in Indian politics before independence and later- Round Table India]

This paper attempts to survey the history of dalit struggles in relation to the national movement and the communist movement, and to bring to the fore the important role the dalit movement has played in the democratic movement of the country and is going to play in the new democratic struggles in the future.

Communists have to think seriously about the theoretical basis for an immediate practical solution to the problem of caste oppression. This issue is emerging on a national scale today and is taking new forms, where the masses of caste Hindu poor peasants and even agricultural labourers are participating in attacks on dalits under the leadership of rich farmers.

The problem is one of posing a real programme for agrarian revolution; for, what the rich fanners are proposing today (and what constitutes an important basis of their appeal to poor and middle peasants) is their own solution to the agrarian problem and unemployment — a capitalist solution of giving land to the (landed) tiller and employing the rest as agricultural labourers and in small industries.

A concrete alternative has, therefore, to be put forward — a programme which does more than simply ameliorate the condition of dalits as proletarianised agricultural labourers or give them 'waste' surplus land which keeps in view the specific nature of caste relations in the rural area and the need for building a revolutionary unity between dalits and caste Hindu toilers, between agricultural labourers and poor and middle peasants.

~~~

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Stop Forced Religious Conversions!

Dr. Udit Raj

(First published in September 2006)

udit_raj_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyThe Sangh Parivar is not able to resolve the dangers looming large on the caste-based Hindu religion on its own. There is a saying that you should first try to resolve your differences on your own, and then consult your neighbours. But instead of taking recourse to either of these options, they start finding fault with Christians or Muslims — Jains and Buddhists have now become their latest targets.

On the 19th September, 2006, the Gujarat Assembly passed the Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill stating that prior permission is required from the government before seeking conversion to any religion and as if this was not enough, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has done what has not been done anywhere else by declaring that Buddhists and Jains shall be treated as a part of Hinduism.

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