Caste system and the chains of mind

 

Tereza Menšíková

terezaVisiting India was my dream since childhood. Many stories were told by journalists, travelers, and fiction writers about the mysterious land of Mother India and they fascinated me. Therefore, as a young student of Sociology and the Study of Religions at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, my greatest wish was to travel beyond the borders of Europe and explore this land with my own eyes. Later, during my studies, I came across one book that changed the course of my academic and personal life for many years. It was a collection of poems and short stories by Dalit writers from Tamil Nadu. Their testimonies were filled with such strong emotions that I cried during the reading.

It had left me with a desire to learn more about the Dalit situation and the caste system in India. One name was mentioned in that book quite often and I had never heard it before, so it stuck in my mind. It was Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. A person whose living legacy followed me later throughout India and gave me much inspiration. Finally, when the time came, and I could pursue my studies at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, I already knew what will be my research about – Buddhism, which Dr. B. R. Ambedkar revived, as a Dalit strategy of fighting against discrimination and social exclusion, and its connection to the caste system in Maharashtra. It seemed like a clear and simple task. How little I had known back then.

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Why Dalits in Pakistan are reluctant to convert to Islam en masse!


Sufi Ghulam Hussain

sufi 2Mukhi, the panchayat headman of Oad [Dalit] community begged in the name of holy Gita and even threw his turban at Seetal's feet, but Seetal just didn't care much and replied:
"Mukhi! Do whatever you like, but I shall change my religion.
Mukhi: "But why after all you do, you want to change your religion?
Seetal: My choice, my wish simply.
Mukhi: Even then?
Seetal: I just don't like my religion. That's it.
Mukhi: Alas! Why on earth don't you like your religion?
Seetal: Alright Mukhi. Tell me who are we?
Mukhi: We are Hindus.
Seetal: Why then Hindus cremate the dead, whereas we bury them?
Mukhi: It's our ritual.
Seetal: Alright, Why do we eat goat after butchering it (like Muslims)?
Mukhi: This too is our ritual—since the times of old ancestors.
Seetal: But these are the rituals of Muslims!!
Mukhi: These are theirs. But ours too!!
Seetal: Then how can you say, we are Hindus?
Mukhi: Then what the heck are we, crank?
Seetal: Half-Half Hindus, half Muslim. Body of sheep, head of goat."

(Excerpt translated from Kafir, a short story by a renowned Sindhi writer, Naseem Kharal1)

This fictitious exchange of persuasive dialogue depicts many such events that have actually happened in the history of Sindh and brings out the dilemma of being an 'untouchable' Sindhi. Oad is a Dalit caste having the tradition of building mud houses by loading mud on donkeys. In this conversation, Seetal stands accused before the Oad community of betraying it by proclaiming that the Hindu religion is based on falsity. It infuriated all Oad attending that panchayat but they remained calm believing that Seetal has been bewitched by a Mullah (Islamic cleric). Mukhi just threw the final blow and said "Remember Seetal! No matter how lavishly you harness donkeys like horses, they will remain donkeys, and never become horses."

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'I would differentiate between the Bahujan movement and Bahujan politics': Prof Vivek Kumar

 

Round Table India

Continued from here.

This is the second part of the transcription of Round Table India's interaction with Prof Vivek Kumar, Professor, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, for the Ambedkar Age series of films.

Prof Vivek Kumar III

In the interview, Prof Vivek Kumar touches upon a vast range of subjects, including the contours of Indian politics in the last four decades, the Bahujan movement, Dalit assertion and literature etc. He talks about the conceptualisation of the Bahujan Movement by Saheb Kanshi Ram, and its evolution and growth over the years. He also shares experiences from his own participation in the movement as a journalist, researcher, teacher, writer and public intellectual.

The interview was conducted by Kuffir along with Pushpendra Johar, a research scholar, and produced by Gurinder Azad. It has been transcribed by Khushahal Thool and Vinay Shende.

In the Ambedkar Age series of videos, Round Table India aims to produce documentaries, interviews, and talks on contemporary issues, and debates from a Dalit Bahujan perspective.

 ~

Kuffir: After Mandal phase 1 & phase 2, Rohith Vemula happens. It is nearly 70 years since SC/ST reservations have been implemented. I was looking at the latest All India Higher Education Report and in central universities (around 58 or so), the combined population of SC/ST/OBC students is around 23%. In places like HCU (Hyderabad Central University), it was more. It was reaching a danger mark for the upper castes. So it was only natural that Dalit student groups were attacked. But this has been incessant. This has been the only opposition to the Modi Raj. Even national political parties have been trying to place themselves in the company of these student movements. But they (political parties) don't have not gone through any ideological challenge. They don't pose any ideological challenge to Modi. How do you view this whole situation - students being used as fodder and as the only energy that has been directed towards the state and the Modi raj?

Vivek Kumar: There are two ways to understand this. One, that there is an oppressive state acting on the democratizing university. Because there is a brahminical/manuwadi ideology which doesn't want that the lower strata, the suppressed, the excluded majority should be educated and there should be an emancipatory agenda of education. That is one way to look. Secondly, for me, which is more problematic is 'university as a site of discrimination'. This discrimination is devoid of state. Whether the state wants or not, this Institution, which is (becoming) the new home for the SC/ST/Minorities/Backward classes; they are thronging to these universities, and they will, because numerically they are dominant.

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Defining Ambedkar: Icon or Ideal?

 

B. Prabakaran

Every year Ambedkar is celebrated and remembered across the globe, at least twice a year, on his birth and death anniversary by the political parties, social movements, NGOs and committed individuals at different venues. Of late, the dates are being observed in various international forums too. For the very first time, in the history of United Nations he was remembered last year on the 125th year of his birthday, more to the point Ambedkar has become a symbol for other marginal groups as well.

babasaheb1

 There was a time if we look back when his writings were ignored; his photographs had been shunned in the government offices, seminars on his thoughts were deliberately precluded. No university had come forward to bring out his writings and speeches. Some of the academic institutions still maintain an intentional silence on Ambedkar and his 'ism'. Even today only few research centers have a full set of his voluminous writings.

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From Brahmanism to Ambedkarism: An Ongoing Ontological Expedition

 

Yashwant Zagade

yashwant zagade 1I was raised in the suburbs of Mumbai in the 90s, at a time when Hindutva politics reached its peak for the first time after independence. I still remember how this political atmosphere influenced my childhood — I grew up sloganeering "Tai, Mai-Aakka vichar kara pakka ani magach dhanushybaanavar mara shikka" (sister, mother, and aunts, think clearly and decide firmly, pick only Dhanushybaan {bow and arrow} at the ballot box). I lived in Chunabhatti, which was traditionally dominated by the Shiv Sena. During my school days, I was not part of any socio-political activity. Later, when I began attending Junior college, I joined the newly formed local group called Janta Raja Sangahtana. The group had staunch belief in Hindutva ideology and were followers of Shivaji Maharaj. The group's main aim was to protect the Sanatan Hindu religion. It often used the tagline 'Mam Diksha-Hindu Raksha' (my oath: To protect Hindu Dharma) in their public programmes. The formation of this group was a political outcome of the strong presence of Shiv-Sena in Mumbai. The group was led by Maratha-caste youths. Through this group, at the age of eighteen, I began my socio-political life.

Looking at this past, I can now say that my caste location being Mali1 (gardener) played a critical role in the following of this ideology. My family traditionally followed 'Hinduism' and Warkari Sampradaya2. This cult of the Bhakti movement has historically upheld 'Hinduism' and strictly follows vegetarianism. So, until I completed my bachelor's degree, I did not encounter any alternate perspective other than 'Hinduism' towards understanding the world. Hindutva politics has its own way of operating – one born as a 'Hindu' unconsciously becomes a part of the Hindutva political project.

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Journey of a Dalit corpse


Ganpat Rai Bheel

ganpat rai bheelIn district Badin, a corpse of a young Bheel was exhumed out of the grave and thrown in the open. Sahib-i-Iman (true believers of Islam) performed that inhuman act with the religious fervor of utmost sanctity. On the pages of daily Sindh Express, that photo and report were published with some detail. It can be said that this picture truly depicts the existing status of 'secular and Sufi' Sindh, and warrants a Dalit a 'death certificate' too.

This is the status of Adivasi folks of Sindh who are not only living stranded nomadic existence for centuries but they are living that life in the grave as well. This land of Sindh is no more of the land of those Dravidian, of Dalits, whose dead bodies it throws out of its embrace. The invaders, the outsiders spiritually rule over Sindh, and the elegant tombs are raised in their honor, whereas the indigenous owners of that land, are disgraced all their lives, and when they die, they are not even given space in their own land. This incidence was not the act of any lone maniac, but it was the reflection of the whole society, its attitude towards Dalits. This is the bitter truth that when the Dalit of Dravidian origin is ostracized and humiliated all his life and is not even allowed to rest in peace after death.

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The merits ascribed to the castes of merit in Indian textbooks

 

Anitya Sanket

Apologist arguments in favor of the caste system have not been a recent phenomenon in India. For a deeply oppressive system of social division to have survived more than 3,000 years, it was indispensable to have exponents of Brahmin-Savarna supremacy at successive stages to suppress any sign of a revolt to challenge this ‘pre-ordained social order’. The most prominent of such methods of suppression nay enslavement was to limit the access to knowledge which ultimately handicapped vast masses of oppressed castes and put them in a perpetual state of helplessness and ignorance.

punishing ambedkar

'brainwashing pedagogy....' by Unnamati Syamasundar

Since independence, constitutional safeguards for the oppressed castes are in place in the form of legally enforceable rights aimed at uplifting historically wronged communities and raising their status both socially and economically. Till now stigmatized as ‘untouchables’, these classes of the oppressed began to exert pressure to enter into educational institutions. To formally prevent any classes of persons from educating themselves by coercive diktats is now, not only a punishable offence but also a universal wrong. These provisions to a considerable extent have increased the participation of the Dalit-Bahujans in fields of power paving a way for the emasculation of the institution of caste. The state, for the same, is assigned with the responsibility of bringing positive reforms in the society with the help of progressive legislation.

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Reservation for Forward Communities- Left as Lick-Spittles of Brahmanism

 

Adv C Ahamed Fayiz

c ahamed fayiz 1The LDF government of Kerala took a highly significant decision in the socio-political history of India a few days ago; that it is going to implement economic reservation in the state.

As made clear in the cabinet decision by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a 10 per cent reservation would be given to economically backward sections in forward communities for recruitment in the Devaswam Boards (which controls and administers the majority of temples in Kerala) as part of the first phase of providing reservation to the economically weaker sections in forward communities in government service. In the latest announcement regarding economic reservation, it is also declared that the reservation quota for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes will be increased by 2 per cent, while that of the Ezhava community and other backward sections will be raised by 3 per cent. The said economic reservation to the forward communities was an election offer of the LDF in their election manifesto of 2016 Legislative assembly elections.

The Chief Minister has also called for a Constitutional amendment to implement economic reservation which he described as a new reservation for social justice.He also cleared that CPIM will pressurize the central government to implement economic criteria in reservation system. CPI (M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, going a tad overboard, has even challenged whether it would be possible for the BJP ruling at the Centre to implement economic reservation. He has also put forth a bizarre claim that misleading propaganda was being made ignoring the withdrawal of the benefit for 90 per cent of the forward communities and that the government had capped it at 10 per cent.*

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भूतालीची करणी अन्...

 

तनुजा हरड (Tanuja Harad)

tanuja haradमार्च २०१७ मध्ये बिहारमधील पूर्णिया जिल्ह्यातील रमावतीदेवी या दलित महिलेला जिवंत जाळले गेले.१ तिच्या शेजाऱ्यांना असा संशय होता की ती भूतबाधा करते. ७ आॅगस्ट २०१७ या दिवशी भागापुर, बिहारमध्ये फूल कुमारी देवी या महिलेचा मृतदेह रेल्वे रूळांवर आढळून आला.२ ती भूताली आहे या संशयावरून तिच्या मारेकऱ्यांनी तिला तिच्या राहत्या घरातून किडनॅप केले होते. नंतर असे समजले की तिचा बलात्कार करून तिचा खून करण्यात आला होता.

आपल्याकडे भूताली म्हणजे "काळी जादू करणारी स्त्री" असं समजलं जातं. लोकांच्या मते ह्या स्त्रियांकडे अशी क्षमता असते की त्या त्यांच्याकडच्या दुष्ट शक्तीने हव्या त्या माणसाचा बळी घेऊ शकतात, त्यांना आजारी करू शकतात किंवा त्यांच्या घरामध्ये अडचणी निर्माण करू शकतात. बर्याच वेळा घरातील जनावर म्हणजे गाय, बैल आजारी पडले किंवा मेले तरी भूतालीने करणी केली असे समजतात. नैसर्गिक आपत्ती आली तरी भूतालीने जादूटोना केला असा संशय घेतला जातो. भूतालीला चेटकीण असे सुद्धा म्हटले जाते. काही पुरुषांना सुद्धा अश्याप्रकारे दोषी ठरवलं जातं पण त्याचं प्रमाण तुलनेने खूप कमी आहे.

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Mainstreaming Dalitbahujan perspective (DBP) in academia


Sufi Ghulam Hussain

sufi ghulam hussainThere is abundant literature on Dalit/Dalitbahujan ideology that is being consumed in academia globally; however, the mainstreaming of Dalitbahujan theory is yet to take place. The empirical studies on Dalitbahujans are increasingly becoming the subject of study and curricula in different universities in India, such that the emergence and subsequent receptivity of essentially Dalitbahujan theory in coming years seem quite predictable. Dalitbahujan scholars argue that it is now possible to say that there is 'theory of theory' that has emerged out of Dalit intellectual assertions, and that can question both the Western Universalist claims and the ontological hegemony of Brahmanism in academia. Kancha Ilaiah writing in 2010 contends that:

"Before I joined as a fellow, no intellectual working at this prestigious center had considered constructing the nationalist history and thought from that perspective perhaps because in their view there were no such things as a Dalitbahujan perspective. It is possible that for them, only that which has been recognized by Western scholarship counts as a perspective. And, what I define as the Dalitbahujan perspective has not got recognition from any Western institutions. Besides, I am not a thinker who carries the certificate of any Western university.[1, p. IX]

Taking Dalitbahujan claims with some skepticism, one can at least argue that they have generated a vigorous critique of South Asian, particularly Indian societies, such that there has emerged a kind of theoretical perspective that sets it apart from any other existing theoretical approaches to study the problem of caste, class, and oppression. Moving beyond the "politics of presence or symbolic recognition in political and civil society," the emergent Dalitbahujan scholarship delves into the theoretical realm to do away with the dichotomy between 'theoretical Brahmins' and 'empirical Shudras' [2, p. 130].

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The Spectre of Justice Karnan haunts the Indian Judiciary

 

Dharmaraj Kumar

dharma rajIndian judiciary system is said to be confronted with a crisis of judicial accountability following the alleged contemptuous act of Prashant Bhushan in the Supreme Court, that too in the face of Hon’ble Judge Dipak Misra, the Chief Justice of India.  

This incident is taken as a serious threat to the existence of judiciary as one of the founding pillars of democracy per se. But the truth is, a fair judicial system has been in the centre of all political systems.

Actually, while listening to the case of Venkateswara Medical College in a five-judge Constitutional bench, Dipak Misra, the Chief Justice of India, himself was allegedly pointed out as one of the parties by Prashant Bhushan, an internationally acclaimed lawyer of the Supreme Court of India and also the son of Shanti Bhushan, a former Cabinet Law Minister.

It is very interesting to know that this matter of Venkateshwar Medical College bribery case reached the Supreme Court exactly at the time when one of the parties is said to be involved in it.

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Mahatma Phule's Thoughts on Caste-Patriarchy: A Critical Evaluation

 

Sachin Garud

prof sachin garudIt is a well-known fact that at the time of India's national movement, there was another movement known as the movement of social engineering or social revolution, led by Mahatma Phule, who had pioneered the foundation of a social revolution in India. Although contemporary thinkers like Ram Mohan Roy, Justice M.G. Ranade and G.G. Agarkar were quite active in social reforms at that time, Mahatma Phule was different from them as he was the first non-Brahmin social revolutionary in India.

Phule believed that radical ideology must be complemented by radical practices, which was in striking contrast to the upper caste elite thinkers and social reformers of his time. He criticized the literature of Vedas and Puranas and Hindu mythological stories woven around deities that facilitated special privileges to Brahmins in every sphere of life. Brahmins always had the upper hand and authoritative power of decision-making, particularly in religious affairs. The significance of his movement was that it not only aimed to eradicate caste-hierarchy from the society but also protested against gender inequity. He advocated the progress of backward caste communities while emphasizing the importance of imparting education to women in the family. In other words, he insisted on gender equality in the field of education, property, jobs, and of course, in the family.

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