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Pushpa Balmiki: I decided to fight


- An interview with Pushpa Balmiki

[This interview was first published as "My restlessness grew and started taking form quite early" in the March-April 2005 issue of Insight magazine. R. B. Rawat conducted the interview]

pushpa_balmiki

Pushpa Balmiki is the founder of Adharshila, an NGO working in the Tarai Region of UP. She has represented Dalit issues on various national and international foras. She has been instrumental in mentoring many grass-root level Dalit activists.

Tell us something about your background?

I was born in a Dalit family. My parents were safai karmis (sanitation workers) and faced a lot of hardships in bringing us up. Their daily work was to clean and carry human excrement out of private latrines. They used to get leftovers or half-eaten food, or some times, paltry sums of money on which all of us survived. After my four older brothers, I was the fifth child in the family. All our uncles,too, had only male children. In the entire family, I was the first girl child. For this reason, everyone doted upon me and I enjoyed a lot of attention. However, in the social world outside the family, I was an object of contempt. I could not play with the children of our upper-caste neighbors. It was with longing eyes that I watched them play and have fun.

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Whipping up 'critical pedagogy': Uncritical defense of NCERT's violence

Savari

(Round Table India thanks Savari for sharing this article)

Universally, the imagery of a whip evokes the reality of violence throughout human history. The whip is inseparable from violence against slaves, dalits, women, animals and children. Almost all histories of protest against injustice, be it feminism, anti-slavery, anti-caste or anti-apartheid movements have protested and continue to protest the symbolic violence in imagery that uses instruments of violence such as the whip, noose or chains.

 In recent weeks, an almost seamless coming together of Indian scholars, feminists and educators to defend and uphold a textbook cartoon with whipping as the central theme is perhaps one of the finest commentary on caste violence.

Caste violence is a broad handle for inter-operating kinds of violences that dalits and lower castes experience from those who are situated in the higher order. This violence that we are witnessing now comes from the most educationally qualified members of our society, largely upper caste, and hindu. The cartoon defense by upper caste scholars and feminists has presented us an unique opportunity to tease apart a few distinct forms of violence including secular violence, punitive, verbal and visual violence, all of which coalesce together to construct the pedagogic violence that frames the textbooks and classrooms of this country.

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Dalit Sthree Sakthi plans anti-liquor campaign

Consumption of liquor in the State (Andhra Pradesh) has now reached alarming and monstrous proportions. Today most of the toiling masses, particularly the dalits, have become slaves of the habit, consequently destroying their own health and family economy. This habit has increased domestic violence and is a contributory factor in killing of wives on various pretexts. In addition to violence at home the drunkards are resorting to various other crimes on women. Most of the dalits are becoming pawns in hands of corrupt political parties and leaders due to this habit. Though, drinking habit was there since long back it was confined to a small section of people who used to consume natural products like toddy. But over the last two decades, alcohol consumption replaced toddy consumption and has now become rampant. Due to slavery to this habit people are unable to fight for their rights and are being purchased by the political leaders and parties.

dalit_sthree_song

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Like a falcon in the skies

Karukku enabled me to build my confidence and hope, Bama Faustina tells Tulsi Badrinath. Excerpts from a conversation.

bama_JPGIn Karukku you described yourself thus 'I am like a bird whose wings were broken'. Twenty years later, in the second edition of the English translation, you describe yourself as 'a falcon that treads the air, high in the skies'. Could you tell us about the healing process that transformed you?

In 1992, I felt that I was victimised by this caste-ridden society. That is why I described myself as a bird with broken wings. During these 20 years, Karukku has vibrated with the lives of the Dalits, witnessing the consciousness of the people. The popularity, recognition, appreciation and solidarity evoked and created by Karukku enabled me to build up my confidence and hope, to strengthen broken wings and to protest against everything that dehumanises me and others. This resistance and resilience healed me, renewing me with fresh energy and power which enabled me to soar in the sky. This is possible due to the tireless and committed labour of Ms. Mini Krishnan, editor, and Ms. Lakshmi Holmstrom, the translator of Karukku.

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A relentless crusader

by Sudha Umashanker

Ruth Manorama started her work with the urban poor in her youth; there has been no turning back ever since. She is the powerful voice of Dalit women today.

Is it easy being a Dalit in India? And a woman at that? Have things changed for the better for the Dalits who constitute roughly 16.23 per cent of our population, since the Constitution of India “cast a special responsibility on the State to promote with special care the education, economic interest of the Scheduled Castes and promised to protect them from all forms of exploitation and social injustice (Article 46)”?

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Our women must either be a wife, widow or a Devadasi

by Olutosin Oladosu -Adebowale

In our community, there are only three roles for women; a wife, widow or Devadasi......

Please go to my village and rescue other girls who are about to be initiated too…

I was told that I was dedicated to our god when I was three months old and was taken to the temple and initiated, a chain was tied to my neck and my grandmother took to me to her house to serve the god, ever since I have been living with her, until the age of ten when I was introduced to my parents. I have lots of struggles, my brother died five years ago, followed by my father which was two years ago and my mother will die any moment from now, nobody believed that it was the incurable disease. Everyone in my community believed that I have brought evil on my parents because of the chain that was removed from my neck and taken to Bandhavi….I have lots of issues….

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