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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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Dhammachakra Pravartan Day: The Psychological Impact of Conversion

 

Dhamma Darshan Nigam

 

Dhamma DarshanAt the historical Yeola conference, in Nasik district, on 13th October 1935, Dr. Ambedkar exhorted the Depressed Classes to leave Hinduism and embrace another religion. He declared: 'I was born as a Hindu but I will not die as a Hindu'. And finally on 14th and 15th October 1956 Ambedkar converted into Buddhism with millions of followers. Other than Buddhist teachings, Ambedkar gave 22 oaths to his followers which were a combination: of confirmation of Buddhism and rejection of Hinduism. With the conversion Ambedkar had provided depressed classes a formal citizenship. Ambedkar had also said that he found his philosophy of ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ in Buddhism, not French revolution. 

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Manu Joseph's Serious Men: A tale of two brahmins

 

Chanchal Kumar

chanchal kumarManu Joseph's award-winning debut novel has been lauded for breaking away from the norm in its depiction of the dalit male character as an intelligent but cunning person. In the words of the author, Ayyan Mani is an "exceptional" individual who is "a freak, in a way" (Joseph 2010). While historically, dalits have mostly been represented in mainstream literature as docile, sympathetic beings, Joseph tries to give Ayyan Mani, who is an important figure in the novel, agency and self-awareness.

The criticism available on "Serious Men" mostly centers around the dalit character as the protagonist but it can be argued that Arvind Acharya, the brahmin scientist in the novel, is an equally important part of the narrative. The essay will continue with this basic premise since it will provide the primary objective of the argument, namely that the novel, in its attempt to humanise dalits, further stigmatizes them. This paper, firstly, through a comparison of how the brahmin Arvind Acharya and Dalit Ayyan Mani are portrayed, will attempt to prove how the process of "discursive discrimination" (Boréus 2006) takes shape. Next, it will try to show how the novel is actually about a tussle between two brahmins: Arvind Acharya and Jana Nambodri and the Dalit character and his world is there just to satiate the author's (and savarna readers') voyeuristic gaze.

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Investing in Payback

 

Dr. Sireesha Patibandla & Dr. Jas Simran Kehal

shireesha p and jas kehalGurpreet (name changed), a Dalit girl from a poor family in Punjab scores more than 99% in class XII exams and a national daily catapults her into limelight. There is social media frenzy at her achievement and a lawyer from Delhi, acting as a Good Samaritan, channelizes his contacts and lakhs of rupees are poured into her personal account to facilitate further studies.

When all seems to be set for her admission at Delhi University, the poor Dalit family breaks all contact with the lawyer and instead gets her admitted at a local Govt. college. They plan to spend that donations on building their house rather than the child's career. Eventually, all the philanthropy goes down the drain and donors are left heavy-hearted.

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Hathras Tragedy: Recurring Shame of India

 

Swapnil Dhanraj

swapnil dhanrajThe rhetoric of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao has failed once again in Uttar Pradesh. Manisha Valmiki, a young Dalit girl succumbed to her injuries in Delhi on 29th of September. May be her disappearance will not have any impact on the national consciousness of this country. However, it is not an off-incident. It highlights the unending repression of Dalits and undissolved caste arrogance of the dominant caste communities in India today. The caste governing ethos of Indian society has always created havoc in the lives of Dalits and marginalised communities. The brutal killing of Manisha Valmiki in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras town does not only represent an untoward incident of atrocity, but also a gradual and systemic genocide of Dalits in India.

Though the Indian constitution ensured the safety and rights of the marginalised communities, they have only witnessed a pool of blood and ashes in their social and political lives. Uttar Pradesh has always remained the epicentre of atrocities against Dalits and marginalised communities. Most importantly, the atrocities against Dalit women in the state of UP have given repeated signals to the Indian state and the civil society to wake up from their slumbers. But unfortunately, only a handful of people could understand the barbarity of this crime.

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Mahamanav's Brahminisation Gatha

 

Satyashodhak

Satyashodhak The mischief done by the Brahmin scholars to historical research is obvious. The Brahmin scholar has a two-fold interest in the maintenance of the sanctity of this literature. In the first place, being the production of his forefathers, his filial duty leads him to defend it even at the cost of truth. In the second place as it supports the privileges of the Brahmins, he is careful not to do anything that would undermine its authority. The necessity of upholding the system by which he knows he stands to profit , as well as of upholding the prestige of its forefathers as the founders of the system, acts as a silent, immaculate premise which is ever present in the mind of the Brahmin scholar and prevents him from reaching or preaching the truth. That is why one finds so little that is original in the field of historical research by Brahmin scholars unless it be a matter of fixing dates or tracing genealogies.~ Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar in ‘Who were the Shudras’.

The serial “Mahamanavachi Gauravgatha” in Marathi, on Dr B.R. Ambedkar has been running successfully for the past one year since 18th of May, 2019 and has recently completed 300 episodes. It seems to have gained popularity with the high TRP ratings for the show. It all seems very rosy and emancipatory, but once we look deeper you will find major issues with it.

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