The pandemic destroys livelihoods before it destroys lives


Gaurav Somwanshi

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

gaurav 2020 Anu Ramdas: As a tech entrepreneur whose work is aimed at innovating processes that bring in price transparency, particularly with fresh produce, give us a background of what supply and demand look like from your location?

Gaurav Somwanshi: Last year, the monsoon lasted long enough that a good amount of crop was destroyed, especially in Maharashtra. 30-40% of grapes were destroyed, and what happened to the onion crop and resulting price hikes became a matter of memes. To take the example of grapes, and my experience of working with Mr Vilas Shinde, founder of India's largest farmer collective of small-landholding farmers, in a single district of Nashik alone, over 30,000 acres worth of grapes remain to be harvested. This is approximately 4 lakh tons of grapes yet to be harvested and sold. Add to that, we had a hailstorm in the month of March in districts of Marathwada, resulting in the destruction of primarily the wheat crop.


How the Brahmin beat Corona



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

Anu Ramdas: I would like to ask two questions. First, the updates you posted on the callousness exhibited by India in terms of not checking and isolating incoming travelers, can you please elaborate on them?

Kuffir: No, it is not callous. There is a structural problem. It basically means that the structures don't enable the rulers to function outside the frames they have set for themselves. It's like a machine, it's programmed to function in a certain way. Even though it might seem like it is programmed to function for everyone, equally and with fairness, that is not the way it actually works.

nidhin myth

'The burden of a myth': illustration by Nidhin Shobhana

Look at the exodus of migrant workers from Delhi. Do they have any rights? They're supposedly in their own country, but forget the rights of citizens, they don't even seem to deserve the protections offered to even illegal migrants residing in any country, internationally, especially in such extraordinary circumstances as during disasters, etc.


COVID-19: Fallacies about Social Distancing

Istikhar & Lochan

istikhar and lochanIndia is a myth-dominant country. Different phases of life: birth, marriage, diseases, death go through the prism of myths portraying true colours of this country. These myths tend to be deadlier than a disease. Similar is the conditioning of social distancing in the times of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Although the virus was borne out of elite classes, it is socially mobilized from the upper class to the lower class. It does not matter if the 'rich infections' are penetrating to the poorest; the mentality and stance of government appear to be quite clear. Their political and economic interest would act favourably for the riches, and the poor have to be the sufferers, yet again. But who cares?


The virus or the ruling castes' response to it: What’s more dangerous for Bahujans

Rahul Bansode

rahul bansodeWhen Covid-19 started affecting the entire world, many countries globally began enforcing strict lockdowns to prevent its spread. Following suit, Indian government announced the lockdown of entire country on 23rd March. Thousands of migrants, most of them Dalit-Adivasi-Bahujans were found stranded across India without food and water. Many of the migrant workers started walking hundreds of kilometers with families consisting of wives, children and elders. Some of them travelling crammed in trucks, containers and tankers as they were left with no choice other than putting their lives in danger due to the government's inability to ensure their safe travel back home. Amidst this chaos, police in many states resorted to heavy handedness against migrants, adding insult to injuries of migrants, with few exceptions.

Recently, author of the new book, “Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present,” Frank M. Snowden, a professor emeritus of history and the history of medicine at Yale, while giving interview to an American weekly magazine The New Yorker said: “Epidemics are a category of disease that seem to hold up the mirror to human beings as to who we really are. That is to say, they obviously have everything to do with our relationship to our mortality, to death, to our lives. They also reflect our relationships with the environment—the built environment that we create and the natural environment that responds. They show the moral relationships that we have toward each other as people, and we’re seeing that today.”


Caste, Class and Corona


Dr Jas Simran Singh Kehal

jas kehal'Epidemiology is like a bikini; what is revealed is interesting; what is concealed is critical'. This statement by Peter Duesberg, a cancer epidemiologist, at the time of corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic carries significance if we take into account gender, social, economic and demographic inequities in India.

With about 500,000 confirmed cases worldwide and approximately 22000 deaths till date, in spite of the fact that it is still in stage II/III in most parts of the globe, COVID-19 seems to be catching up with Spanish flu which struck exactly a century ago and is estimated to have infected 500 million people (one fourth of the world’s population at that time) with estimated deaths around 50 million. India is foreseeing a minimum of one million confirmed cases and 30,000 deaths by this May end.


3 Cs - Corona, Caste and the Country

Arvind Boudhh

arvind boudhh 1The outbreak of the COVID-19 has caused havoc globally and different countries have taken different measures to curb the spread, and to treat the infected people. The deadly virus in a way has revealed the gory truth about the governments’ priorities and the extents to which they can go to meet these priorities.

India has the world’s largest diaspora so it is always vulnerable to communicable diseases which may originate in other parts of the world. The COVID-19 is one of such threats.

COVID-19 was first reported in India at the end of January 2020 and since then the number is increasing, the situation on 26th Mar 2020 afternoon looks like this:


COVID19, a big disaster in the making


Khalid Anis Ansari

khalid anis ansari 2(Round Table India is doing a series to put together the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic)

Anu Ramdas: What are your deepest concerns about the ability of Pasmandas to cope with this pandemic in India?

Khalid Anis Ansari: First of all, when we use the category 'Pasmanda', it is not a monolithic category. We are talking about a category with a huge number, about 700 communities, belonging to Muslim BCs, Muslim Dalits and Muslim adivasis. All these communities have different kinds of problems and their situation is very different. First, we have to acknowledge the diversity of the Pasmanda space, both at a social level and at an economic level.

Having said that, the first thing which we were dealing with at a broader level, was how to understand this crisis? And how to actually address it? On that count, I think the Indian government has got one part right, that rather than falling for strategies like 'herd immunity' and so forth, at least they are going with the broader consensus, especially with the experience we have had from China, Italy, and the US, that there is no other way except to break the chain or to flatten the curve, and strict physical distancing and isolation are in order. On that count, I think the government has got it right. But apart from the direct impact of the pandemic or the disease itself, there is going to be collateral damage.


Memoirs: Minor, Forgotten and Erased Lives


KK Baburaj

baburajIf I were to write about Wayanad at some point, I had already noted in my mind that it would start with evoking ‘Memoirs’ by Pablo Neruda. After watching films by the African filmmaker, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, I observed that the landscapes in them appeared so much like those in Wayanad. However, to mark the Wayanad of half a century back, more than the bold colors of Haroun’s films, sharp smells and the ancient forests of Neruda’s autobiography, I think would be more appropriate.

To distinguish Wayanad from the mainland of Kerala, many point out the distinct climate of the place. But I have something else to write about at the outset. This is the abundance of flowers, their sizes and colors.


Stairs and rails…


Anu Ramdas

‘Sir, do you want me to call an ambulance?’

Incoherent response.

‘Sir, you cannot be sleeping here.’

The man wakes up, gathers his bag and blanket and is led out of the railway station by the policeman. The time was 6.45 am, temperature around 30F.

NYC Subway CarPeople sleeping in the railway stations and bus stops and being asked to move on is a familiar scene to me. The unfamiliar part for me was the polite manner this was done. Whether the words conveyed concern or threat or enforceable power is hard to guess. There is a strange relationship that I have noticed between the police and the homeless people using NYC’s subway system to stay warm, stay alive. I am unable to articulate it, but there seems to be an understanding that parts of the railway system will shelter the homeless.


Palasa 1978: A Bahujan resistance against caste supremacy

Shiva Thrishul

shiva thrishulThe film speaks about Bahujan resistance against the dominance of caste feudal lords across generations in a town in Andhra Pradesh. The enslavement of the Bahujan bodies for the political gains of privileged castes, upper-caste exploitation of the Bahujan labour force, the abuse of Bahujan muscle power, deceptive and treacherous nature of the ruling castes are explicitly conveyed in the movie. Unlike Pa. Ranjith movies of reading between the frames, Karuna Kumar's Palasa 1978 uses 'dialogue' as a major tool that benefits the passive viewers to easily understand the essence of the movie. The film also addresses the issue of institutional murders in universities, atrocities against the lower castes and educational and political deprivation of the underprivileged. A path-breaking movie that hits hard the popular narratives of film content in Tollywood.

The story is set in 1978, Palasa, a town in Srikakulam district of Northern part of Andhra Pradesh, known for its cashew nut production and is one of the largest cashew processing centres in India. The ownership of these centres lies in the hands of the dominant castes and the Bahujans work as mere labourers at these places. The film concentrates on this exploitative relationship between the Bahujans and the upper-castes.


My Life and Caste: Journey of Becoming Ambedkarite

Ramkumar Govindan

RamkumarI am Ramkumar, pursuing PhD at Tata Institute of Social Sciences. One day after a discussion on Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder, one of my friends asked me, what kind of discrimination have you experienced? Without even thinking a minute I replied to her: no, I don’t think I have faced any direct discrimination. The instant reaction of my friend to my answer, raised a few questions in my head. How is it that I haven’t experienced it? Or was I in ignorance? Haven’t I experienced any discrimination based on caste? Or did I not realise the experience as such? If so, what kind of caste-based discrimination had I come across in my life? Such questions were going through my mind. It helped me to reflect on my life since childhood, on the question of caste. What I found is both sad and interesting.

I was born and grew up in a village, Elavadai, located in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu. Different caste groups such as Vellala Goundar, Chettiyar, Kuravar, Navithar, Paraiyar and Vannar (Both Paraiyar and Vannar are Dalit castes), and a few Muslim families are living in the village. Around fifty percent of the population consists of Dalits, the rest consist of remaining castes. Spatially, the different castes are located separately in the village. There are clear boundaries between oor which consists of caste Hindus and colony, which consists of Dalit castes.


Fight against Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Arvind Boudhh

arvind boudhh 1With the narrowing gender gap in the field of education, the participation of women is increasing and will keep on increasing in the future. We can see more number of women joining different professions, from private to public sector enterprises. Most of the workplaces in India are male dominated, caste infected and communally charged. So automatically they become fertile grounds for social discrimination against the marginalized sections, which means they are unsafe for women too. Given these circumstances, it is a dire need of the time that we become aware of the environment in which our women have to work in.

 Things weren’t any better for the working women professionals earlier either. But with time, personal and professional lives are intertwining like never before. The length of working hours are increasing, so as a result of this you are exposed to vulnerabilities for a longer duration.


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