Necessity of representation: a Tribal woman vice chancellor in India

Swapnil Dhanraj

swapnil dhanrajWhen was the last time India celebrated a success story of a woman coming from a Tribal community in Indian academia? If we think about the manner in which Indian education system has dealt with the issues of Dalits, Tribals and other marginalised communities, it appears that those issues have been represented and discussed in poor light and without giving any kind of academic significance. The sociological category of caste still remains insignificant for many those who don’t understand the necessity of annihilation of caste. Moreover, along with the reality of caste, Indian academic institutions should reflect on the composition of their faculty members by focusing on the lack of representation of women, especially from Tribal communities. Because academic representation and opportunities for women from marginalised communities in the Indian universities are significant not only to foster gender equality but also a democratic culture in higher education. The Indian institutions of higher learning should not ignore the vast disparities that exist between the representations of women from mainstream society and marginalised communities.


Feminism is Brahminism

Anu Ramdas

This is the transcript of a preliminary talk on the topic of feminism is brahminism.

anu ramdas 1First, thank you. It is so lovely to see all of you. Thank you for the opportunity. And I am not at all happy to be talking about this topic at such a time. Ever since I wanted to understand caste, every time I tried to frame a question, I would be tripped up by someone saying that it is clashing with feminism. That is not the way to ask because that’s not the right question. The right question is one where you have to center the woman alone. So I could not even start a conversation about caste without traversing the obstacles placed by feminism. And the way it presented itself, at every step it started becoming more complex. First I had to know the words, then I had to know from where those words came, what were the sources and why was it so necessary for me to use this language in order to get to caste. And why did I not know feminism before that?

A little bit of background about me: I grew up in a cosmopolitan city, Bangalore. I studied mostly in Christian institutions, mostly girls’ institutions. I studied in a girls school, I went to a girls’ college and then MSc,.. during all this time, as a girl, as a teenager, as a young woman, I never needed the word feminism to get through life. It is only after I entered university that this becomes almost central to how I have to resolve things, how I am asked to identify things; everything is supposed to be through feminism. So, it seemed to me like I could not do anything unless I really made an effort to read up on feminism. I was pressured to know what this subject is. And I kept on thinking because I come from a science background, I have not gained what appears to be common sense. Everybody knows what feminism is and it is only me who doesn’t know about this. So I have to put in this extra effort to read so that I am able to follow what others are saying, what my peers are saying and once I get there then I’ll be able to ask questions about caste.


Modi, BJP, Sangh Parivar and gang spell callousness


Sundeep Pattem

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

[The conversation was recorded on April 12, 2020]

sundeep pattem 1Anu Ramdas: Give me a big picture of how information flows in the US, between the federal government and state governments and how people receive information. For the US stimulus package, how is that we understand so much in detail?

Sundeep Pattem: Let me try to illustrate with an example. I was sitting in on meetings organized by the California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. This was immediately after the $2 Trillion stimulus package or the CARES Act was passed by the US federal government [end of March 2020]. The Act is a 247 page document with lots of details, but at a high level, individual citizens and families get cheques to cover basic expenses, small businesses get relief, large corporations get relief, they tried to cover almost everyone. Once it got passed, at the State level, they were looking into, in a very detailed manner, how to take care of people and small businesses. There is detailed analysis of what the Act provides, on how businesses can apply for various assistance programs and grants, which state, county, city and other local agencies they can reach out to for assistance. This is available online and circulated via conference calls, emails, newsletters and other channels.


This lockdown is affecting bahujans badly: Adv Soniya Gajbhiye


Adv Soniya Gajbhiye

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

adv soniya gajbhiyeRahul Gaikwad: Jai Bhim, Soniya! I have been following your relief work during this pandemic lockdown for almost past 2 months through your fb updates. Can you please tell us what kind of work have you been doing and why?

Adv Soniya Gajbhiye: Jai Bhim, Rahul! When the lockdown was announced some of the people from my area where I live came to me for help, most of them were daily wagers. I have been running an organization called Bhimraj Ki Beti Buddhist Mahila Sangh through which I have been carrying on social activities as my father too has been for long involved in social activities. After discussing with them I realized that the worst affected are going to be bahujans staying in slums, daily wagers and those daily wagers from other states who are stranded in Nagpur.


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.


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