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Breaking caste: Love stories in Black Letters

by Rupesh Kumar

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Inter-caste marriage and its ramifications in a caste society are at once personal and political for me. As a Dalit man married to a Nair woman, that too in a Hindu style wedding, I am faced with a number of complex issues, including questions about my political stands, from dalits as well as non-dalits. I was/am prepared to tackle each one of them. And as a film maker, exploring the topic of inter-caste marriages was a fascinating and compelling choice for me. 

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State Atrocities VS Oppressed Representation

 

Dinesh Maurya 

dinesh mauryaEarlier Forbesganj (Arariya, Bihar) and recently Nalanda (in Bihar) and Paramakudi (Tamil Nadu) are some examples of atrocities on the oppressed people directly involving the state machinery in the name of law and order. But before going into details, it is first necessary to know what does atrocity mean?

The term atrocity, is used some times as a synonym for tension, conflict, antagonism, violence etc., Atrocity is conceptually closer to conflict and more so to violence. Violence or social violence is connected with physical or social harm wherein the person looks to achieve his or her goals by injuring or completely eliminating others or their interests. Finally, atrocity is the net result of violence of the strong over the weak. In India, “Atrocity” has not been defined in any law and therefore the Government has been using the expression “crimes against the SC and ST”.

Since 1974, on the basis of the data collected by Ministry of Home Affairs, the ‘atrocities’ on SCs and STs might be classified into four categories, viz, murder, grievous hurt, arson and rape.

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Indigenous technology of climate prediction among a Tamil Dalit community

by Thamburaj Dharmaraj


Valluvar community is referred extensively in ancient Tamil literature as ‘masters of astronomical calculations as well as predictions based on that’.  The author of the renowned classical Tamil text ‘Thirukkural’, Thiruvalluvar, is believed to be the offspring of this community.  Though it has valid literary and historical evidences of being a literate and scholarly community, it is culturally branded as ‘untouchable’ within the Tamil social system. 

According to 1891 Madras Census Report and Manual of the North Arcot District Valluvars are referred as ‘the priests of the Parayars and Pallars’.  The Divakaram and Chudamani Nikandu pointed out that ‘they were priests of the Pallava kings before the introduction of the Brahmans, and even for some time after it’. 

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A Journey to Kundeshwar

Ravindra Kumar Goliya 

One must be wondering at the title: what is this place, why the journey? What is special about this place?raviggg_copy

Kundeshwar is a small village in Tikamgarh district in a backward area of Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh. It is special because of a boy named Bal Mukund Bharti who was the first student, perhaps in the whole district, to study at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the most prestigious medical college in the country. What is more remarkable is that he achieved this despite his humble background and without any coaching in some big city.

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My name Is memory

Thenmozhi Soundararajan

"A race of people is like an individual man; until it uses its own talent, takes pride in its own history, expresses its own culture, affirms its own selfhood, it can never fulfill itself." -- Malcolm X

Story.

Story.

Story is the shortest distance between two people. This piece of wisdom has stayed with me for many years. It has shaped my work and was the fulcrum on which I balanced my ideas, both as a filmmaker and as a Media Justice organizer. I saw first hand that this critical distance could define a community's future or trap it in a cycle of poverty and loss. Because truly the future of a community was tied to how well it commanded its past. It is a fundamental truth that drives all cultural workers, even to the point that Malcolm X said, " Culture is a weapon."

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The Badanavalu Caste Clashes of 1993 in Karnataka

by Prakash Holayar, Chamarajanagar 

[Pronouncement of Court verdicts in cases pertaining to Dalit's murders, massacres and atrocities often takes several years. In this article Prakash recounts the Badanavalu Caste Clashes and the final verdict; we invite writers to share their experience and memory of such caste clashes and participate in the documentation of delays and negation in the process of justice for Dalit victims - Round Table India.

In March 1993, three Dalits were brutally murdered by a mob of Lingayats after the dispute over entry of Dalits into a temple in the Badanavalu village of Nanjangud Taluk, Mysore District. After a long wait of 17 years, justice was delivered to the Dalits of Badanavalu village in November 2010.

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Caste in Urdu Prose Literature (Part 2)

by Ajmal Kamal

Premchand (1880 – 1936) can be counted as a sympathetic voice against caste discrimination, although in recent times the Dalit circles in India are reported to have severely criticized him for being less than sensitive to the miserable life of the lower castes in the rural North India. However, in his writings one does not find much specific mention of the caste divisions in the Muslim society of the same geographical area. The writers belonging to the progressive literary bent, who tried to follow the tradition initiated by Premchand were sensitive to the class exploitation in the Indian society but were not willing to pay much attention to caste as one of the fundamental elements of the economic inequality and injustice. A notable exception is Abul Fazl Siddiqi (1908 – 1987) whose voluminous body of long and short fiction consistently deals with the role caste inequality used to play in the life of the predominantly Muslim UP rural milieu until 1947. Himself a zamindar from Badayun, though of an educated, enlightened variety, Abul Fazl had a sharp eye for the details of the injustices suffered by the members of the disadvantaged rural classes on the basis of caste. Also, he had managed to devise a language that was equal to his chosen subject. His style was deeply influenced by Premchand, especially the artistic finesse that he achieved in his last masterpiece “Kafan”, and had a refined sense of irony of his own that enhanced the objectivity and effectiveness of his fiction. However, the general drift of the Urdu literary criticism, given unabashedly to the idea of separation of art from its social relevance, has largely chosen to ignore these elements of Abul Fazl’s work. It is not possible to present here a selection from his fiction, but following are a few excerpts from his memoirs that bring out the caste relations in parts of the pre-independence rural UP:

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Response to P V Indiresan's “No quotas for higher studies, please”

by Thavaseelan G

[A former director of IIT Madras writes an essay which is featured in the Vision 2020 series of The Hindu Business Line. The title and the content reflects his racist, casteist and classist understanding of basic concepts of social justice, merit, testing, teaching and the responsibilities of a government funded teaching Institute. The Hindu Business line and its featured author are proudly advocating that IITs remain non-inclusive, genetically secluded Agraharams. -Thavaseelan responds with a few pithy questions for the retired 'educator'- Round Table India]

 

"Reservation at the university level is not the correct solution to the backwardness of communities. This is borne out by their poor performance. Instead, seats should be reserved at the primary school level. "says Prof. P. V. Indirasen.jnu_reservations_copy

 

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What actually happened in Paramakudi and how it happened

Karthik Navayan

[Karthik Navayan was a member of a fact-finding team that visited Paramakudi town on 19th and 20th September, 2011, and interacted with the victims and also with the district officials in Ramanathapuram. This article contains his observations and analysis- Round Table India]pkudi_13_copy

 On September 11th the police killed six among the several Dalits who had assembled in Paramakudi to observe the 54th death anniversary of their leader, Immanuel Sekaran. Another 30 were seriously injured and are undergoing treatment in various hospitals.

Among those killed were 1) R. Ganesan (65), 2) T. Panneerselvam (50) and S. Vellaichamy (65). It is the argument of the police and the revenue officials that these three old people had attacked the police and burnt their vehicle and were hence shot at and killed! Three youngsters called P. Jayapal (20), Theerthakani (25) and Muthukumar (26) were also killed. Among the older persons, 65 year old Vellaichamy was not killed by any bullets but died from the severe lathi blows the policemen had inflicted on him. Therefore around forty policemen accompanied his body to his village and threatened his family that his last rites should be completed within fifteen minutes and left the village only after the rites were completed, as ordered. R. Ganesan, also 65, who had gone to Paramakudi on that particular day with the intention of distributing his son's wedding invitation cards as he thought he would get to meet a lot of relatives and acquaintances on Immanuel Sekaran's death anniversary, was shot dead before he even realized that trouble was brewing in Paramakudi.

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I was in Paramakudi

 

Thamburaj Dharmaraj

 (part I)

I came back to Madurai after wandering in and around Paramakudi for the past two days. I have never really experienced such a disappointment and helplessness in my life. The entire trip was disgusting.

The way we construct our own history through oral and written sources as a political move saying that we were the ancient inhabitants and rulers of this land becomes meaningless to me after seeing the people in despair. I had seen posters on the walls in Paramakudi inviting Devendrar brothers to a 'Mallar Country/Devendrar land'. However they lost their meaning in front of the brutality of the police force on Sept. 11th.

In Paramakudi dry, hot air blows in fearful silence. The only source of income for the people living in the nearby villages is 'karimoottam' (preparing charcoal by burning the wood of karuvel trees). We could see lot of such 'karimmoottam'. It signifies the failure of the regular agricultural practices.

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The people whom we visited during the two days narrated their nightmares about the State police force.

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Casteism: alive and well in Pakistan

 

Raza Rumi

 

Obedience to hierarchies, conformity and identification with groups are central tenets of existing in Pakistan.

[The relief operations after the recent floods in Sindh have revealed the extent to which man-made structures of stratification remain entrenched in Pakistani Society. We thank Raza Rumi for sharing this article outlining his views on caste in Pakistan, in response to our request - Round Table India]  

caste pakistan 1

It is a cliché now to say that Pakistan is a country in transition – on a highway to somewhere. The direction remains unclear but the speed of transformation is visibly defying its traditionally overbearing, and now cracking postcolonial state. Globalisation, the communications revolution and a growing middle class have altered the contours of a society beset by the baggage and layers of confusing history.

What has however emerged despite the affinity with jeans, FM radios and McDonalds is the visible trumpeting of caste-based identities. In Lahore, one finds hundreds of cars with the owner's caste or tribe displayed as a marker of pride and distinctiveness. As an urbanite, I always found it difficult to comprehend the relevance of zaat-paat (casteism) until I experienced living in the peri-urban and sometimes rural areas of the Punjab as a public servant.

I recall the days when in a central Punjab district, I was mistaken for a Kakayzai (a Punjabi caste that claims to have originated from the Caucasus) so I started getting correspondence from the Anjuman-i-Kakayzai professionals who were supposed to hold each other's hands in the manner of the Free Masons. I enjoyed the game and pretended that I was one of them for a while, until it became unbearable for its sheer silliness and mercenary objectives.

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Caste in Urdu Prose Literature (Part I)

by Ajmal Kamal

 

[With excerpts in Urdu and Hindi scripts]

[I] 

The historical division of society in South Asia on caste lines is now an acknowledged sociological, political and economic fact. However, caste as a literary or social discourse does not, for several reasons, form a part of the predominantly Muslim culture of Urdu. Nor has there been much academic exploration of the role caste plays in the life of South Asian Muslim communities as against others. As far as the Urdu literary writing is concerned, it has traditionally focused exclusively on the lives and concerns of conquerors, their cohorts and their descendants, who typically prided themselves on their real or perceived foreign origins. Even after modern, socially committed writing began in Urdu around the 1930s, caste as a variable for social exploration was largely ignored in favour of economic class.

 

The professional interpreters of religion, on the other hand, as well as conservative Muslim social and literary critics, usually deny even the existence of caste divisions among South Asian Muslims. This is done in the face of an abundance of evidence to the contrary. Since the ‘social reformers’ of both the religious and less-religious types came from the upper castes of the Muslim society – Syed, Mughal, Afghan and Shaikh – they seem to have retained all the traditional prejudices and preferences of their castes. They strictly kept as their goal the well-being of the people of their own background in competition with their non-Muslim counterparts, and as such singularly failed to acknowledge, let alone try to address, the inequality in the Muslim society on caste lines. If anything, they actively supported the existing caste hierarchy. There were thus no such movements among Muslims as those initiated by Jyotirao Phule and other reformers in the Hindu society.

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