Untouchability wall in Mettupalayam: Segregating SC/MBCs from Caste Hindus


Dr. Ravichandran Bathran

At the outset, untouchability or caste is never an issue until it takes lives. Similarly, the wall is in discussion, also, only due to the lives it took. The collapse of the 20 feet high and 80 feet long wall in #Nadoor a small village situated in Mettupalayam has attracted a lot of attention. It came to discussion not for the size of the wall or the place it was built, or the person who built it, Sivasubramaniyan the owner of Sakravarthithugilmaligai, but the discussion erupted because of the impact this huge wall has had on 17 human lives.

untouchability wall 1

17 lives killed is news, be that at any place across Tamil Nadu and for the 24/7 Tamil news channels, this should be a newsworthy of attention, irrespective of the place where it happened. But not sure whether it's because of Dalits deaths even the YouTube creators did not engage with the issue much. 24/7 channels restricted their broadcasts only to rescue operations and covering CM or opposition parties' visits. The police arrested most Dalit activists, who were very critical on this issue, on the day of death itself and remanded them. Not sure when they will release them.


In lieu of an autobiography: B.R. Ambedkar and his 'Waiting for a Visa'


Umesh Kumar

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Today is December 6: the death anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, affectionately called Babasaheb by his followers. To his followers, the day is hardly a reminder of his death. On the contrary, they usually see it as the occasion to celebrate the greatness of his life and not the lack of its longevity. Further, by alluding to a crucial Buddhist belief of Mahaparinirvana, and ascribing it to the day, Babasaheb's followers concede that he was as blessed and enlightened as Buddha himself was and did not leave behind any karmic debt-–thanks to his hugely meaningful life of sacrifice, devotion, compassion and empathy for the subjugated, among others.

The question, however, is what did Ambedkar himself think about his life? In an era where it was both fashionable and normative for public figures to write their autobiographies, he seems to have missed the bus. Or was it a deliberate choice on his part to miss it? However, there are shreds of evidence that he wanted to write his autobiography, in English. In fact, the editors of his Writings and Speeches claim in Volume Three that he had an intention to pen down the life of Mahatma Phule and the history of the Indian Army beside, his own life account. But an autobiography doesn't seem to have been too high in his list of literary priorities, because he never wrote it. Or was it the fact that he hardly imagined any distinction between his personal and public life–unlike his contemporaries?


An Enquiry Beyond Citizenship Amendment Bill


Veewon Thokchom 

veewon3The question of migrant population in the “Northeast” - Land of the rising sun, Land of festivals, Scotland of the East, Jewel of India - has always remained elusive in the popular discourse of the country, just as the question of occupation in Kashmir – a Paradise on Earth. These artfully contrived phrases used to describe certain regions of the country are rooted in the colonial production of knowledge about the “native” who always needed the civilizing hand of the West. Presently, however, the narrative of “national security,” “unemployment,” “underdevelopment,” “insurgency” etc. is prevalent in these regions. “Northeast,” more a capricious idea than a geographical location, is an imagination enforced from outside rather than emerging independently through a historical process of self-identification. This imagination, howsoever shrouded unsoundly, has no common standard except a shared marginalization from the mainland.


Today, Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 (hereafter CAB), remains the most contentious bill in Manipur and the seven states of the “Northeast.” The bill seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955, which till date has been amended nine times in the Indian parliament. The numerous amendments are rendered possible because Article 11 of the Indian constitution allows the Parliament citizenship rights regulation by law at any time when deemed necessary. CAB was first proposed in the Lok Sabha on 19 July 2016 and was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 12 August of the same year. After the Committee submitted its report on 7 January this year, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on 8 January, introduced by the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. On 13 February the bill lapsed as it was not introduced in the Rajya Sabha as a result of a wide mass protest from all over the entire “Northeast” region. Interestingly, the bill acted as a catalyst for the first united mass protest in these regions with the formation of pan body organizations like Northeast Forum for Indigenous People (NEFIP) and Northeast Students’ Organization (NESO).



What is the significance of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion framework in Indian Higher Education?

 Bharat Rathod

bharat rathod

After Rohith Vemula’s Institutional murder in 2016, public protest and media discussion had created a political pressure on the Government of India to take institutional measures to prevent such type of incidents. Therefore, as a reactionary measure, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had announced that a new policy will be prepared to tackle issues of discrimination against students from disadvantaged sections of society. Three years after the announcement, there is no progress in the formation of a new policy or public discourse on the same. It indicates that the current government is not serious to eliminate caste-based discrimination from Indian higher education. In the last decade alone, several incidents of discrimination against the oppressed caste students have been reported. It has also been stated in academic studies that caste-based discrimination is pervasive in Indian higher education, specifically, in elite institutions. This scenario raises a critical question – why is there no institutional response to curb caste-based discrimination in Indian higher education?

 It is a well-known fact that higher education has been dominated by the higher castes in the country. However, in the last two decades, due to the reservation (affirmative action) policies and the gradually increasing education levels in the historically oppressed castes are now challenging the hegemony of the higher castes. Increasing enrollment of the oppressed caste students has considerably changed student demographics of higher education institutions. Nonetheless, faculty demographics and leadership of these institutions have been dominated by the higher castes. This phenomenon has created a social tension between the oppressed caste (SC/ST/OBC) students and the higher caste faculty and leadership. Elite higher education institutions have been denying caste-based discrimination; moreover, they have defamed the oppressed caste students as “uneducable” or “non-meritocratic”. It is high time to accept that discrimination against the oppressed caste students is a reality in higher education and it is institutionalized.


Draft NEP 2019: A non-inclusive policy


Naaz Khair 

naazCurrently, in circulation is the revised draft of NEP 2019 (National Education Policy, 2019) after incorporating feedback from around the Country and stakeholders at various levels. It is 1/8th the size of the earlier version. One is thankful that the demand for a smaller size policy document has been effectively met by the Government. This article focuses on the school education section of the revised NEP 2019 document and briefly, analyses proposed policy measures in the context of inclusive education.


The Basis of NEP 2019


The revised policy document is stubbornly non-inclusive. The clamor pre-revision of the policy document for not-diluting the RTE Act, 2009, does not seem to have registered. The RTE Act, 2009 (Right to Education Act, 2009) concerns itself with inclusive education. The Act has shortcomings as it falls short of the promise of a Common School System and neighborhood schools. Nevertheless, the implementation of the Act for about a decade now has created much awareness for education across the country and resulted in improvements in overall elementary school enrolment, including enrollment of excluded communities. Alongside this, the demand for a Common School System and neighborhood schools has continued. 


ഫാത്തിമയുടെ ആത്മഹത്യയും ഐ.ഐ.ടി സമീപനങ്ങളും

വിജു വി.വി

(ഈ എഴുത്ത് സമഗ്രമോ നിഷ്പക്ഷമോ ആണെന്ന് അവകാശപ്പെടുന്നില്ല.. വ്യക്തിപരമായ നിലപാടുകളോ പ്രത്യയശാസ്ത്രസ്വാധീനമോ ഒക്കെ കടന്നുവന്നിട്ടുണ്ടാകാം. എങ്കിലും എന്താണ് ഇവിടെ സംഭവിച്ചത് എന്നതിനെകുറിച്ച് ധാരണയുണ്ടാക്കാന്‍ ഈ കുറിപ്പ് സഹായിച്ചേക്കും)

iit madras


ശനിയാഴ്ച ഉച്ചയ്ക്ക് ഭക്ഷണം കഴിച്ചുകൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്നതിനിടയിലാണ് ഐ.ഐ.ടിയില്‍ വിദ്യാര്‍ഥിനി ആത്മഹത്യ ചെയ്തിട്ടുണ്ട് എന്ന വിവരം അറിയുന്നത്. സ്വാഭാവികമായ ഉത്കണ്ഠയുടെ ഭാഗമായി നടത്തിയ അന്വേഷണത്തില്‍ അത് എന്റെ തന്നെ ഡിപ്പാര്‍ട്ട്മെന്റിലെ(ഹ്യുമാനിറ്റീസ് ആന്‍ഡ് സോഷ്യല്‍ സയന്‍സസ്) ഇന്റഗ്രേറ്റഡ് എം.എയിലെ പെണ്‍കുട്ടിയാണ് എന്നറിഞ്ഞു. അപ്പോഴാണ് എനിക്ക് പരിചയമുള്ള ആര്‍ദ്രയെ വിളിച്ചതും ഫാത്തിമ എന്ന മലയാളിയാണ് മരിച്ചത്, കൊല്ലത്താണ് വീട് എന്നും അറിയുന്നത്. പെട്ടെന്ന് രണ്ട് കാര്യങ്ങള്‍ മനസിലൂടെ കടന്നുപോയി. ഏതാണ്ട് ഒരു വര്‍ഷത്തിനിടെ രണ്ടുമലയാളി വിദ്യാര്‍ഥികള്‍ ഐ.ഐ.ടിയില്‍ ആത്മഹത്യചെയ്തിരിക്കുന്നു. അതില്‍ രണ്ടുപേരും മുസ്ലിം ആണ്.

അങ്ങനെ ഓര്‍ക്കാന്‍ കാരണമുണ്ട്. 2018 സെപ്തംബറില്‍ മരിച്ച ഷഹല്‍ കോര്‍മത്തിന്റെ നിഷ്‌കളങ്കമായ മുഖം ഇപ്പോഴും മാഞ്ഞുപോയിട്ടില്ല. സംസാരിച്ചിട്ടൊന്നുമില്ലെങ്കിലം ഇടയ്ക്ക് ഭക്ഷണം കഴിക്കുമ്പോഴൊക്കെ കണ്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്. പെട്ടെന്ന് ഒരുദിവസം ആത്മഹത്യചെയ്‌തെന്ന് വാര്‍ത്ത വന്നു. അന്ന് മലയാളി ആണ് എന്നറിഞ്ഞപ്പോള്‍ ഏതുനാട്ടുകാരനാണ് എന്നറിയാനായി കുറെപ്പേരോട് അന്വേഷിച്ചിരുന്നു. ഷഹലിന്റെ കൂടുതല്‍ വിവരങ്ങള്‍ അറിഞ്ഞപ്പോള്‍ അത് വല്ലാതെ വേദനിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. ഓഷ്യന്‍ എന്‍ജിനിയറിങ്ങ് ഡിപ്പാര്‍ട്ട്മെന്റില്‍ ഡുവല്‍ ഡിഗ്രി തിരഞ്ഞെടുത്ത് ഒമ്പതാം സെമസ്റ്ററില്‍ എത്തിയപ്പോഴാണ് ഷഹല്‍ ജീവിതം അവസാനിപ്പിച്ചത്. അത് അക്കാദമിക് തലത്തിലെങ്കിലും അന്വേഷിക്കപ്പെടേണ്ട മരണമാണ് എന്ന് അന്നേ തോന്നിയിരുന്നു. എന്നിട്ടും 'ഈ സംവിധാനങ്ങളുമായി ഇണങ്ങിച്ചേരാന്‍ പറ്റാത്ത ഏതോ ഒരുവിദ്യാര്‍ഥി മരിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു. കൂടുതല്‍ അതിനെ കുറിച്ച് ആലോചിക്കേണ്ടതില്ല' എന്നൊരു ഉദാസീന ബോധത്തില്‍ എല്ലാവരും ആശ്വാസം കൊള്ളുകയും പതിവുപ്രവൃത്തികളില്‍ വ്യാപൃതരാവുകയും ചെയ്തു. എന്നെ സംബന്ധിച്ചിടത്തോളം 'മാനസിക സമ്മര്‍ദം മൂലമോ' 'ഹാജര്‍ ഇല്ലാത്തതുകൊണ്ടോ' ആത്മഹത്യചെയ്തു എന്ന വിശദീകരണം ഇപ്പോഴും തൃപ്തിപ്പെടുത്തുന്ന ഒന്നല്ല. വിദ്യാര്‍ഥികളുടെ കുടുംബപശ്ചാത്തലം, രക്ഷിതാക്കളുടെ സാമൂഹ്യ പശ്ചാത്തലം എന്നിവയൊക്കെ കണക്കിലെടുത്താല്‍ ആ കുടുംബത്തോട് നീതിപൂര്‍വമായ സമീപനം ഉണ്ടായോ എന്ന സംശയം ഇപ്പോഴും ബാക്കിതന്നെയാണ്. സാധാരണഗതിയില്‍ എട്ടുസെമസ്റ്റര്‍ മതി ഒരു ബി.ടെക് പൂര്‍ത്തിയാക്കാന്‍. അതുകഴിഞ്ഞ് ഏതെങ്കിലും കമ്പനിയില്‍ ജോലി നേടി കഴിയാവുന്നതേയുള്ളൂ. അതിനപ്പുറം ഒരു വര്‍ഷം കൂടി പഠിച്ച് ഡുവല്‍ ഡിഗ്രി നേടിയേ ഇറങ്ങുന്നുള്ളൂ എന്ന് ഷഹല്‍ തീരുമാനിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ അത്രയും അധ്വാനിക്കാന്‍ തയാറാണെന്നും അതിനുള്ള ആത്മവിശ്വാസവും പ്രതീക്ഷയും അവനുണ്ടായിരുന്നുവെന്നുമാണ് മനസിലാക്കേണ്ടത്. പക്ഷേ ആ ആത്മവിശ്വാസവും പ്രതീക്ഷയും അണായാതെ കാക്കാന്‍ ഞാന്‍ കൂടി ഉള്‍പ്പെടുന്ന ഐ.ഐ.ടി സമൂഹത്തിന് കഴിഞ്ഞില്ല.


Reconnecting some Unknown Dots to Buddhism: An Ambedkarite Observation


Subhransu Sekhar Harpal

subhransu sekharThere are no non-vedic reference point for Ram killing Ravana or Durga killing Mahishashur. This is more a political ploy than mythology, to disconnect the greatness of this day from Ashoka Vijaya Dashmi and to connect with Hindutva/vedic Sanatan religion with mythical interpretation of Vijaya Dashmi.

During this period there is also a wide presence of the celebration of indigenous women's power, as festivals of local deities across the country. This is being highly neglected by so-called historians (Brahmistorian) of India. Here, again, I don't find any reference for Ravana or Mahishasur being killed. These local deity festivals are the oldest, longest, as well as widespread. It simply implies that Dashara/Vijaya Dashmi also has an independent presence in native social culture, celebrating the woman as a power centre or liberator of society as a whole. Matriarchy came to existence as a natural choice in the evolutionary process, which was well supported by the earth's environment, whereas patriarchy is a man-made imposition on the earth's environment. This culture still survives and is struggling for its existence. Its forms are being highly sanskritised, so it needs extensive research to revive its essence.


Asuran: A movie on symbolism of Dalit assertion


Ramkumar Govindan


In the recent past, the market for movies on anti-caste politics has gained momentum in Indian cinema, especially in Tamil cinema. The young directors of Tamil Nadu such as Pa. Ranjit, Lenin Bharathi, Maari Selvaraj, Raju Murugan, Vetri Maran etc., are making movies with progressive ideology, dealing with subjects on anti-caste politics, and portraying the lives of marginalized communities. The movies of this genre are receiving support from the wider audience (including a section of caste Hindus) and making capital commercially. This is a new trend in the Tamil cinema space.

Asuran (2019) is an interesting addition to this genre (trailer of the movie is here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOCM9wztBYQ). It is directed by Vetrimaaran and produced by Kalaipuli S. Dhanu. It talks about resistance, negotiation, and assertion of Dalits of Thirunelveli district against caste Hindu landlords. The period that it discusses is between 1960s and 1970s. It has Dhanush (as Sivasamy) in the lead role, Manju (as Manimekhalai) as his wife, and Pasupathi as his brother-in-law. Also, the lead pair are parents to three children, 20, 15, and 5 years old.


Bapu: The Biggest Scam in India

Kartik Boudh

kartik boudhIdeas of great personalities have influenced the masses and have dealt with great injustices and inequalities in the world. Progressive thoughts shaped and nurtured by great minds of the world are still alive. Ideas have become such powerful tools to overcome the oprressive structures. They have turned into mass revolutions for the greater cause to humanity. When it comes to India, without pausing people talk about how M K Gandhi’s thoughts and actions have nurtured Indians and shaped their lifestyle. Ambedkarism, as a school of thought is a counter to Gandhism and Brahminical hegemony. It is the voice of the silenced and oppressed masses which offers resitance against the dominant forces in India. Lot of Indians are quite fascinated by Mr. Gandhi, while not bothering about Babasaheb. But, how much has Gandhism as a school of thought contributed to India?

The emergence of M K Gandhi in pre-independent India's socio-political sphere had much more to do with his interests of serving as a lawyer to the Gujarati Bania merchants in South Africa than with any progressive values as suggested by his followers. We need to trace back history to see the purpose of his stay there and why he returned. The misguided history that we are taught needs to address the inside story of Mr. Gandhi, his dualism and hypocritical standpoints afterwards. These things are indigestible to the Gandhians. The 'Mahatma' of the nation was without doubt an orthodox Hindu with sugar-coated progressiveness. He wore the mask of a mass leader but espoused conservatism derived from Hinduism. The socio-political movements he led was mostly to serve the interests of the savarna classes. Babasaheb Ambedkar led the pathbreaking movement in India called Mahad Satyagraha earlier than the Dandi march by Mr. Gandhi. But, unfortunately most Indians still don’t know about Mahad Satyagraha and about the purpose it was fought for. After all, what matters most is interests of the savarna. And that influenced the narratives around the Indian Freedom Struggle.


Ambedkar and Du Bois: In Common Pursuit of Equality & Justice


P. Dayanandan

ambedkar and du bois

B. R. Ambedkar. Indian Flag in the backdrop. W.E.B. Du Bois. Flag of Ghana in the backdrop. (Du Bois illustration courtesy: Sarah Rogers, The Daily Beast, 04-10-2017)

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar corresponded with the prominent American Black leader Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois in his effort to explore every possible avenue to liberate and empower Dalits. Ambedkar studied at Columbia University, New York. It was there at the age of 22 he experienced the joy of freedom from the stigma of untouchability. He later recalled: "The best friends I have had in my life were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors". On his return to India he again experienced discrimination and observed the tyranny of subjugation of Dalits. Liberation of the Dalits from oppression became Ambedkar's personal mission for the rest of his life. On 2 July 1946, Ambedkar sent a letter to Du Bois, whose reply is dated 31 July 1946. In his letter, Ambedkar pointed out that he had read Du Bois' writings and found much similarity between the oppressed conditions of Black people in the U.S. and the Dalit people of India. Ambedkar was interested in taking up the issue in the United Nations, and wanted copies of a representation that had recently been submitted to the United Nations. In fact, Ambedkar had examined the similarities and differences between the oppression faced by the enslaved peoples in USA and Dalits in India in his essays (see references).


Immanuel Sekaran: Symbol of Resistance


Bagavanidhi M

bhagavnidhiOnce when I gave Babasaheb Ambedkar’s book to my friend in Rameshwaram in southern Tamil Nadu, I asked the friend who belongs to a dominant caste Maravar community how his parents would react. He replied saying his parents don’t know much about Ambedkar, but if this was an Immanuel Sekaran book, it would become problematic, and his friends may even tear or burn the book. October 9th marks Immanuel Sekaran’s 95th birth anniversary, and while this may not cause a stir across the country, it causes a stir in Southern Tamil Nadu among the Pallar community. Immanuel Sekaran influenced the Pallar community far more than Ambedkar and other anti-caste leaders. For the youth of this community, posters usually mean images of Immanuel Sekaran or Maveeran Sundaralingam who fought against British East Indian Company. They may not know about Babasaheb Ambedkar’s anti-caste politics, they only know Immanuel Sekaran as their role model. 


Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din: The Liberation Day


Dr. Ratna Panvekar

dr ratna panvekar 1Dhamma

The word Dhamma is commonly used in Buddhism and it means the teachings and doctrines of Buddha. These teachings and doctrines describe the nature of things, the way things are, the way they operate. In short it means justice, truth and good behaviour. Dhamma means ethical conduct and righteousness. It is nothing but morality. The Dhamma is one of the Three Jewels of Buddhism in which the practitioners of Buddhism seek refuge, or that upon which one relies for his or her lasting happiness. The Three Jewels of Buddhism are the Buddha- meaning the mind's perfection of enlightenment; the Dhamma- meaning the teachings and the methods of the Buddha; and the Sangha- meaning the monastic community that provides guidance and support to followers of the Buddha.


Dhamma wheel or Dhamma Chakra is commonly known symbol in Buddhism that signifies the teachings of Buddha. It is considered the wheel of transformation and the wheel of law.


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Wednesday, 05 August 2020
  Umar Nizar The musician AR Rahman has recently been castigated in certain circles for speaking out strongly against a lobby working against him in Bollywood. This has caught many by surprise.... Read More...
The Caste of Right to Religion: The Peculiar Case of Umashankar
Friday, 27 February 2015
  Bobby Kunhu Amidst all the #acchedin of ghar wapsi and the demands for anti-conversion laws, a peculiar case has been brewing in Tamil Nadu – a case that would have been amusing – if not... Read More...
Remembering Martyr Neelaventhan
Saturday, 28 September 2013
  Ravi Chandran and James Michael (For Dalit Camera: Through Un-Touchable Eyes) "Dont call me a victim, I am an immortal...if you have guts bury my body in the middle of the city" - Kalekuri... Read More...
‘No Alphabet in Sight’: Understanding Caste Formulations After 1990s
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
  Understanding caste formulations after 1990s: Review of 'No Alphabet in Sight: New Dalit Writing from South India' (This review is a part of the theory course taught by Dr Bhangya Bhukya,... Read More...