Assessment of Health and Economic Status of Adivasis during COVID-19 Crisis

John Kujur

john kujurThe pandemic COVID-19 has wreaked an unprecedented health crisis and subsequently led to socio-economic instability across the world. The impact of the pandemic is perceived to be pernicious for every person irrespective of caste, class, sex, religion, race etc. However, the burden of such crises is often shifted to the vulnerable sections of society. Moreover, under such circumstances, the underprivileged communities often become victims of political witch-hunts. In India, for instance, the hate campaign and blame directed against the migrant labourers and minority groups for the spread of contagious coronavirus is self-explanatory. Through such easy targeting of already vulnerable sections, the government conveniently obscures its failure and also apathy towards the issues of vulnerable communities.

Since the inception of the pandemic, much has already been written globally on the impact of the disease on such vulnerable sections. In India too, epidemiologists, social scientists, and activists have been constantly articulating on the issue. However, we do not see much write-ups coming on Adivasis from the Bahujan perspective. This article is a small attempt towards contributing to the Bahujan discourse by specifically focusing on the impact of the pandemic on Adivasis of India in the wake of COVID-19. The article seeks to reflect how resource mobilisation for ‘national development’ has pushed them into the frontier of vulnerability by endangering their livelihoods.


The Buddhist claim on Ayodhya


Nishad Wankhade

nishad wankhadeAyodhya has again become a hot topic with the recent archaeological findings at the site. The Supreme Court last year ordered the handing over of the disputed site to a trust to be formed by the government. The government promptly formed the trust, which started the preparations soon. Carvings on sandstone, pillars, an alleged Shiv Linga and some broken idols were unearthed during the land leveling work, says a press note released by the trust. Meanwhile the photographs of the recovered items have gone viral. Some pillars, a lotus medallion and an alleged Shivlinga can be seen in the photos. Let us take a closer look at the findings.

 Lotus medallion

Lotus motifs were found at the Ayodhya site earlier also. A lotus medallion can be seen in the viral photo. Lotus motifs and medallions appear often in Buddhist structures.


The indigenous people are used to sharing, not distancing: Santa Khurai


Santa Khurai

(SAVARI and Round Table India are doing a series on the Coronavirus pandemic)

Santa Khurai

Santa Khurai
Photo credit: Sonia Nepram

Round Table India: Thanks for taking time, Santa. Could you share what is the situation in Imphal right now around the COVID-19 crisis?

Santa Khurai: The situation has become much worse. The government acted too soon in declaring it as a green zone but now, with the return of many stranded people from different parts of India, the numbers are rising again. Earlier there were these two cases who recovered and the government declared it to be a green zone. Also, the government does not seem to be following International protocols around quarantine. For example, in a recent government order, people who tested negative are being allowed to return to their home within three days and this is risky and not good.


Caste and access to public spaces: A field study in Suburban Mumbai


Vanshree Vankar

vanshree vankarIn India, the historical context of oppression through occupation has given birth to social stratification via caste culture which includes notions of purity and impurity. This brutal history of thousands of years of discrimination restricts the utility of public space in ways both physical and psychological. In turn, these constraints on the utility of public space for the marginalised had led them to re-construct a counter society which rejects the culture of caste, while adopting the path of Buddhism introduced by Dr. Ambedkar in 1956. This paper will attempt to a) derive the cosmology of converted Buddhist societies of Mumbai, through the ontological inquiry and autoethnographic study of a vihara located in the Mankhurd area of suburban Mumbai, (b) reconstruct the social transformation of marginalized groups in the caste culture through visible and invisible symbols of assertion as well as their redefined identities, and (c) trace the transformation of socially disadvantaged groups, interpreting assertion through symbolic interaction and subjective experiences towards claiming the space.


Why Brahminism survived even in the times of Corona

Kalyani K

kalyani kCOVID-19 as a pandemic has affected the population across geographies irrespective of people’s nationality, class, race, caste etc. The virus causes the same symptoms and can affect almost anyone. But can one claim COVID-19 virus is a global equalizer? The question needs a contextual understanding of the ways in which social realities around the virus have unfolded. Interestingly what COVID-19 has exposed to the world is that the experiences of coping with it are not the same for all. Whether it be accessibility to medical help, affordability of social distancing or choice of self-isolation, not everyone finds themselves in the same boat. The experiences of COVID-19 have not been a homogenizing experience, and in India the experiences of COVID-19 cannot be separated from the caste-based experiences that have continued to prevail for centuries.

In India, the spread of COVID-19 has only laid bare the wide cracks of stratification based on caste, where the ‘privilege’ of surviving the virus has not escaped caste-based realities. The prevalence of illness and loopholes in society cannot be compartmentalized in a water-tight manner. Susan Sontag (1989) in her discussion on the spread of AIDS as a global pandemic has argued that the deaths due to AIDS virus were far from even. She has argued that a pandemic is not just an illness in medical terms; it also exposes the vulnerabilities that the ‘lesser privileged’ might face at the pretext of such illness. The suppression of an illness like AIDS was followed by a ‘more dangerous’ form of suppression and violence than the disease per se. These ‘dangerous’ forms had been unleashed via state-sponsored authoritarianism and repressive curtailment of freedom.


Dissolving GO 3 - threat to Jal Jangal Jameen


Sanjeev Gumpenapalli

Sanjeev GumpenapalliIntroduction

India's Adivasis had waged some of the greatest battles in various corners of the country to reassert their right to autonomy and self-determination. While these were characteristically heterogeneous resistance movements, both armed and unarmed, what is common about them is the demonstration of their right over natural resources and also community resources (land, water and forest). In this connection, "Jal Jangal Jameen" was a revolutionary slogan raised by one of the greatest Adivasi leaders, Komaram Bheem, who led the Gondwana movement for an autonomous Gondwana State during the reign of the Nizams. This movement contemplated Tribal Autonomy as liberation from the dikus (Outsiders). Such an autonomy, asserted by the Adivasi populations time and again, seems to have been now scuttled by the Supreme Court through a five-judge bench.


Who Will Mourn the Walking Dead? A Requiem for Jamlo Makdam


Shailaja Menon and N. Sukumar

In the past several weeks, scenes reminiscent of Partition has flooded our collective consciousness; men, women and children clutching their meager possessions, desperate to avail any means of transport and reach home. A tribal girl, Jamlo Makdam1 died on the arduous trek from Telangana to her village in Chattisgarh. The Child Protection Council never investigated as to why she was forced to work in the chilly fields instead of being in school. Does she not qualify to be a daughter of 'Bharat'? The mangled bodies of migrant labourers, chapattis strewn on the railway tracks bear silent testimony to the unfolding tragedy2. The bodies of migrant workers who were killed in Uttar Pradesh's Auraiya road accident last week were stuffed in a truck with other workers and sent to West Bengal and Jharkhand3. Till date, 139 migrants have lost their lives in various accidents in a bid to reach their homes4. Their fate is to die unwept, unhonoured and unsung. God forbid, with all due respect, if so many soldiers had died, one can imagine the patriotic uproar. Not surprisingly, the 'nation does not want to know'5 who has blundered in creating this horrendous calamity. The nation's 'chowkidaar' has abandoned his most marginalized people. There is no Aarogya Setu App to take care of the needs of the migrants.

jamlo makdam

It is only a few months ago that the entire country was convulsed trying to make sense of the Act to determine citizenship status. Campuses were in turmoil, women were on the streets, there were violent outbreaks and the ordinary person was forced to look over their shoulder and see whether Big Brother was watching. The sudden eruption of the Corona pandemic has forced us to recede into a 'lakshman rekha' and wage a war for survival. For the well fed and well housed citizen, the state has arranged the re-runs of Ramayana and Mahabharata. For further entertainment, we can binge watch digital platforms or even videos of celebrities doing their 'bartan, jhadoo pocha'. There were pious pronouncements by the political class that we should be generous and neighbourly with our fellow beings. People like us adjusted to the new normal, online classes, innovative exercise routines, coping with pandemic induced depression etc. Many men took pride in helping out with the domestic chores.


Dalit masculinity/patriarchy: the latest brahman feminist gripe


Bishaldeb Halder

Bishal photo 'It is true that intellect by itself is no virtue. It is only a means and the use of means depends upon the ends which an intellectual person pursues. An intellectual man can be a good man, but he can easily be a rogue. Similarly, an intellectual class may be a band of high-souled persons, ready to help, ready to emancipate erring humanity, or it may easily be a gang of crooks or a body of advocates of a narrow clique from which it draws its support.' - Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste (1936)

Brahman feminists and their non-brahman acolytes have been griping about "dalit patriarchy" and "dalit masculinity" for some time now. Over the last few years, I have had my interest piqued by it, engaged with it earnestly to little avail, seen it dismissed, summarily and in detail, by anti-caste activists and thinkers with fascination, and finally thought it to be of little relevance to me. That is usually what brahmans do: make their fables appear worthy of others' time and interest. Or alternatively, make them appear too esoteric to actually be of everyday relevance.


Pandemic or not - Elites will be protected

Rakesh Ram S

(SAVARI and Round Table India are doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)

rakesh 2020Anu Ramdas: Welcome Rakesh, thank you for taking the time. Kerala has a very large diaspora and also a large number of people working in different States in India. It has a lot of back and forth travel that is significant to spread of the pandemic. This imposes different kinds of challenges for that state, which is dealing with international travelers and internal travelers from different States. How has it played out so far? Do they have different kinds of strategies to deal with these kinds of workers, travel plans and how are they doing the contact tracing, especially for the Keralites who work in other States in India.

Rakesh Ram: Kerala has always been highly dependent, for the last few decades at least, on remittances from the Keralites working outside the country. The government and civil society in general are very considerate to them and they give support to them. So, even though this may be the first time that they were suddenly starting to be seen as problem makers, bringing the disease and all that, but even then, the government was just asking them to stay in home quarantine. Even when many of them defied the directions, the government was not taking strict action. And when the government understood that this was getting more and more serious, the isolation wards, treatment wards, everything was of top quality when compared to Indian standards.


Liars Masquerading as Communists: The Curious Case of CPIM in Bengal


Mahitosh Mandal

Mahitosh New Photo"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." – Karl Marx, "Theses on Feuerbach" (1845)

"In the twentieth century, we tried to change the world too quickly; the time is to interpret it again." – Slavoj Žižek, "Don't Act. Just Think" (2012)

On the occasion of Lenin's birthday on 22 April 2020, I posed ten questions, via Facebook, to the activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and the supporters of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)(CPIM) regarding the contemporary politics in West Bengal. While most of the audience who engaged with the post shared my concerns, there surfaced a handful of self-proclaimed supporters of the Left Front who tried to obstinately defend their position, sometimes at the cost of fabricating and distorting historical facts. They went to the extent of trying to pull down my mask, whatever that might have meant, as I had given the disclaimer that I was posing those questions from an Ambedkarite subject-position. In this short article, feel free to treat it as an "opinion piece,"I address my questions by way of claiming that the edifice of the so-called Marxist Party – in Bengal and the Soviet Union, among other places, admittedly there are exceptions – is built on white lies, unacknowledged crimes and flawed theoretical suppositions. My point is not simply that CPIM does not stand a chance of regaining power in upcoming elections in Bengal. I argue that it is undesirable and that it might have disastrous consequences if CPIM, in its existing avatar, comes back to run the government.


Remembering Chhatrapati Shahu: Lessons for the Modi government during Covid-19 pandemic


Rahul Bansode

rahul bansode 2020At this hour, the entire world is facing the Covid-19 pandemic, which has brought everything to a standstill. The number of those infected with coronavirus across the globe has crossed almost 46 lakhs with over 3 lakh deaths. World's most developed countries like USA, Britain, Spain, Italy and many more others have been devastated by corona virus. In India as well, this virus made the government announce a lockdown and many are discussing this lockdown might be further extended, in some form or other.

It's better to look back into history when we see darkness all around the world. History may provide some ray of hope. As Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar said, "They cannot make history who forget history". This ongoing covid-19 pandemic reminds us of the bubonic plague, the so-called "Third Pandemic," which erupted in 1855 in the Chinese province of Yunnan. The disease traversed the globe over the next several decades, and by the beginning of the 20th century, infected rats traveling on steamships had carried it to all six inhabited continents. The worldwide outbreak eventually claimed some 15 million lives before petering out in the 1950s. Most of the devastation took place in China and India during this Bubonic Plague.


Other northern states want a better raja, Punjab wants better federalism


Gurinder Azad

(SAVARI and Round Table India are doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)

gurinder titanAnu Ramdas: Gurinder, thank you for taking the time for this. My first question to you is about Punjab. In the background of the pandemic, we know Punjab receives a lot of international travelers because of its very large diaspora. Can you give us an idea of how the state prepared to minimize or restrict the virus entry through international travel to Punjab? 

Gurinder: Now, international flights are not there, they have stopped. The Indian government has stopped them, now there is no travel as such. But many people had come back to Punjab in recent months. As far as the diaspora is concerned, they managed well actually beforehand. But there was only one case, which I need to mention, about one Baldev Singh. He was from a rural background and he went to Italy and Germany. He was a preacher, a Sikh preacher, and he went with two companions and returned and then visited a festival called Holla Mohalla in Anandpur Sahib of Punjab, which has its own kind of a legacy of celebrating. He went there and, he died, unfortunately, of heart attack and, Al Jazeera and BBC they called him, the first case or zero patient of Coronavirus in Punjab, who infected 40,000 people. So that false propaganda was made. And, this is how Punjab, came into the limelight, on this issue. Whereas the fact-finding as conducted by a few friends of ours, found that, you know, he was such an innocent person, you know, unnecessarily he was dragged into the whole picture. As if he was a careless person and he intentionally hid this, that he's a Corona positive patient and lots of false propaganda was made around him. But there are arguments now.


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