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(Trans)gender and caste lived experience - Transphobia as a form of Brahminism: An Interview of Living Smile Vidya

living smile vidya

Note from the interviewers -This is the transcript of a conversation between Dalit transgender feminist writer and theater artist Living Smile Vidya, who lives and works in Chennai, with her transgender brothers Kaveri Karthik and Gee Ameena Suleiman from Bangalore. This conversation took place on a late night after 11 pm in the basti where Kaveri and Gee live, following a day-long discussion between the transgender men and intergenders and lesbian community of Bangalore with a group of visiting Dalit activists and intellectuals from Tamil Nadu. After the other ladies in the basti left the common space on the footpath and went to sleep, the following conversation unfolded:

Kaveri: "Can you tell us a little bit about gender and caste dynamics in your own life while growing up?

Living Smile Vidya: Actually, though we settled in Chennai, we belong to the Arunthatiyar caste in Andhra Pradesh and migrated from there a few generations ago. Our caste is the lowest of the Dalits because occupationally we did manual scavenging. So, my mother would have a job everyday doing street cleaning as a government worker, then do domestic work on the side, in several houses for a couple days of the week each. 50% of her earnings would go to her husband. She had to do both house work in our own house as well as work in many jobs outside to make ends meet. My father was an alcoholic and his income contribution to the family was only 40%. But since he had physical control over her income also, I would have to get my school fees from him, though it was actually my mother's earnings. My father would drink and physically and verbally abuse my mother and the rest of us. The whole colony knew about this because the houses are close by and small. In big houses belonging to savarnas also, women suffer but that cannot be seen or heard by us because it happens in the privacy of the thick walls of their house. But at least you can hear Dalit women shouting back, threatening to hit their drunk husbands etc when these fights happen in our colonies which most of the modest, "good wives" of upper/middle caste families cannot even imagine doing.

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Sabitha: A Woman And A Day

 

Via Rupesh Kumar

Sabitha: A Woman And A Day

 

This documentary by Rupesh Kumar was screened on August 22, 2012

 

At Friday club, Ernakulam, Kerala.

~~

 

sabitha_1-300x200The documentary 'Sabitha: A Woman And A Day', tries to trace the postive aspects of an adivasi woman's life. It is shot in the Ambedkar colony in Kambalakad, Wayanad, Kerala. This documentary exposes the 'patronship 'of the adivasis by the media and the other established groups. Such patronship goes unquestioned in Kerala, even as it systematically denies the voices of adivasis and promotes non-adivasi interests.

 

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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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