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Exploring the Narrative History and Experiences of Meghwal Community: An Ethnographic Study

 

Mayur Helia

mayur heliaThe Meghwal community has no written history as such. Everything is in the oral form. Through this research, I have understood that a major portion of their history is lost in this process of oral history. Also, there are multiple stories which have come up over a period of time. About the origin of the community itself, there are more than five theories. The history of castes and untouchability is linked with that of occupation and food habits of the community. The factor of "purity" and "pollution" had played an important role in creating the social order. That is the reason why "Chamar" and "Bhangi" are considered to be lower in the social hierarchy than Meghwal.

Even the names which the community had at different points in time are linked with their occupation and names of patron saints; for example "Vankar" stands for weaving, "Dhedh" is related to dragging dead animals and "Meghwal" comes from the Megh Rishi. All the saints of the community had a humanitarian approach and had worked for the emancipation of the community. One of the saints, Veer Meghmaya, had sacrificed his life to get basic human dignity for the community. The concept of god in the community began from nature worshipping and has reached polytheism due to various religious influences. The cultural and traditional practices are shaped by various religious influences. And even till date, Meghwal community is marginalized due to caste.

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The Long Exit: Conferences of the Depressed Classes During the 1930s

 

Gerard Baared

babasaheb reading1

[The long exit from Hinduism/Brahmanism for the 'untouchables' is naturally an ongoing movement, given the scale of the task, the multiple levels of responsibilities to understand, process and communicate people's aspirations regarding their rights, and the complex logistic factors to be dealt with.

The term exit predicates an imagined or real inclusion, but the 'untouchables' were never included in Hinduism/Brahmanism. Hence this exit is basically an exit from the manufactured 'included discourse' of the state-aided dominant castes' political strategies.

The 1930s were marked by several major conferences and meetings led by Dr Ambedkar and other leaders from Depressed Classes deliberating on the complete rejection of Hinduism for the emancipation of their communities. This unique history of a marginalized community's engagement with issues of individual and collective rights guaranteed or denied in different religions, produces one of the most intellectually complex discourse. To document these debates which examined the social, political, economic and spiritual possibilities for 'untouchable' communities that are spread across different languages and regions, we have to splice together narratives from many sources.

 The following is an excerpt from the paper titled, The Depressed Classes of India: Their Struggle for Emancipation, by Gerard Baared published in 1937. This section details the churning and the organized activities by the leaders of Depressed Classes as they pursued the exit from Hinduism and systematically evaluated the alternatives.~ Round Table India]

 ~~

At long last, on the 10 May 1935, the Poona Pact with the Government Amendment was adopted in the Commons by 152 votes to 35. It is indeed, as the Depressed Classes President Rao Bahadur M.C. Rajah called it, the "Magna Carta of the Depressed Classes community."

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Threatening Indian democratic system: Case of Anti-Defection Law

 

S Kumar

Abstract

Once touted as one of the most vibrant democracies based on modern principles, Indian democracy has gradually slipped to a chaotic governance system. For the mainstream Indian political parties, this may be due to the past legacy of British laws resulting in sharp differences between caste, region and religion as the divisive principles. However, the Indian constitution was built on modern principles to unite the diverse peoples for solving problems of the poverty stricken population. But as the historically subjugated population started asserting their political rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the anti-defection law with fundamentally undemocratic principles was allowed to overtake this vibrant democracy. Western political philosophers would be surprised to know that the individual parliamentary member does not have a right to dissent within the parliament, and members may lose their house membership in case they vote against the wishes of their respective parties within the house. This paper provides detailed evaluation of the anti-defection law and how it is against the fundamental principles of modern democracy. The primary target of this paper is the political science student, however, it should be of interest to a broad readership including those interested in law and governance.

Keywords: Anti-defection law, Constitution, Politics, Democracy, Parliament, Political party

Nidhin connecting thread

Introduction

Schedule X of the Constitution of India, containing the anti-defection law, was enacted after three and half decades of India's experience with parliamentary democracy. During the initial 15 years of Indian parliamentary democracy, the first Prime Minister Mr. JL Nehru led the government with Congress party majority. The phenomenon of defection became more apparent from the 4th Lok Sabha, that is, from 1967 onward. As per the debates of Rajya Sabha during the discussion of the bill, it was explained that the defection phenomenon really happened when the Congress Party suffered reverses - in some of the States in the elections, resulting in the reduced majority of the Congress Party in the Lok Sabha. (Rajya Sabha debate 1985)

Post Nehru era, multiple factions within the Congress party started to emerge along with more representation of opposition parties. Further, India experienced the most tumultuous period of Emergency which tested the strength of Indian constitution and parliament. The 70s era marked floor crossing as a common problem facing all parties, wherein any member changes his/her stance abruptly just before the voting inside the parliament, probably many times due to monetary allurement. After many cases of floor crossing on crucial voting, the term "Aaya Ram Gaya Ram" was coined to describe this phenomenon in the mass media.

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The representation gap

 

Christophe Jaffrelot, Gilles Verniers

Decline in number of OBC MPs shows that the classic tropes of backward class politics — quotas and simple descriptive representation — no longer work.

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections produced an assembly where many voices can hardly be heard. The representation of Muslims, for instance, is at a historical low, with less than 4 per cent of the seats. But there are other groups that have also suffered a sharp decline in representation. OBCs, who over the last 25 years have dominated the political scene in the Hindi-speaking belt, are a case in point.

Since the late 1980s, one of the most significant trends in Indian politics has been the gradual decline of upper-caste representation in the Lok Sabha, and the concomitant rise of OBCs. This phenomenon was essentially due to the decline of the Congress — a party dominated by upper castes — and to the rise of regional parties, primarily supported by large, dominant OBC groups. In 1989, the proportion of OBCs in the Lok Sabha had jumped from 11 per cent to 21 per cent, and continued to grow in the post-Mandal phase until 2004, when it peaked at 26 per cent. In parallel, the representation of upper castes persistently fell, from 49 per cent in 1984 to 37 per cent in 1989 and 34 per cent in 2004. The gap between OBCs and upper caste MPs returned from the Hindi-speaking belt had never been so small. The 2009 general elections marked a reversal of that trend, as upper caste representation shot up to 43 per cent, and the share of OBCs fell to 18 per cent.

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Liberal Democracy and Kymlicka’s Conception of Minority Rights: Towards a Perspective of Dalit Rights

 

Dr. P. Kesava Kumar

Abstract

The recognition of minority rights is an issue for debate in recent times. It has implication for a theory of liberal democracy. Especially, the communitarian critique of liberalism has come in strong defense of community against individualism. Will Kymlicka proposes minority rights in the multicultural context of the west by internalizing the wisdom of liberal and communitarian debate. He argues for cultural rights of minorities on its own merit within the liberal framework. Western nations, like India, live with pluralism and have an established tradition of recognizing the autonomy of individual as well as community. Ambedkar offers a different kind of framework for minority rights. He views dalit rights as minority rights in a hindu majoritarian society. He defends the minority rights within the framework of liberal democracy based on disadvantage, oppression and injustice experienced by dalits in the hindu social order. He mediates both liberalism and communitarianism. His conception of minority rights goes beyond western liberalism and offers one kind of liberal and democratic multiculturalism evolved from Indian experience.

Introduction

Today the issue of minority rights is a debating point for many nation-states. It often throws challenges to liberal democratic governments. On one hand communitarian thinkers are critical about liberal theory for its emphasis on individualism. In the wake of identity politics, demands for rights of specific social group/community have not only got currency but have its moral legitimacy on different grounds. Especially the rights of recognition for ethnic, cultural, social, linguistic, religious minorities located in a nation state require a different kind of political and philosophical articulation against the existing political practices and theories. The liberal theory is one such grand political theory based on the principles of individualism, egalitarianism and universalism, has been adopted by the nation states of the world in one form or other. Individualism and individual rights are often viewed as the defining characteristic of liberalism. The liberalism has often been criticized for being excessively individualistic and for not recognizing group rights. The liberal theory is under attack from different fronts such as communitarians, Marxists, feminists and post modernists on different grounds. The autonomy and freedom/rights of the individual have taken a new turn in the context of demands for collective rights. Especially, the struggles of new social movements and claims of ethnic groups, immigrant groups, indigenous and aboriginal groups both in the West and Postcolonial nations have compelled them to reformulate the existing principles of governance.

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Harnessing Counter-Culture to Construct Identity

 

Workshop Report on
'Harnessing Counter-Culture to Construct Identity: Mapping Dalit Cultural Heritage in Contemporary India',
7-8 December, 2012, Convened by Ronki Ram

Ronki Ram

1. The topic and the goal

The workshop entitled Harnessing Counter-Culture to Construct Identity: Mapping Dalit Cultural heritage in Contemporary India was organized by International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), Leiden, The Netherlands at Lipsius, Cleveringaplaats 1, Leiden on December 7-8, 2012. The workshop focused on the emergence of Dalit cultural heritage as a counter-culture to the mainstream culture of upper/dominant castes social set-up and world view. If any social institution or phenomenon that can be singled out to boldly mark the centrality of the Indian society, caste qualifies to be the foremost one. Anti caste movement has a long history in India. It was further radicalized by the emergence of Dalit movement with the entry of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar into the highly contested political domain of the colonial and post colonial India. Dalit movement adopted various strategies in its tirade against social exclusion and made concerted efforts for the emancipation and empowerment of the socially excluded sections of the society.

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National Dalit and Adivasi Women's Congress

Call For Delegates

National Dalit and Adivasi Women's Congress

Organized by
Tata Institue of Social Sciences
Centre for Social Justice and Governance
in Collaboration with
Insight Foundation, Delhi
supported by
Dalit & Tribal Social Work International Forum
Venue: Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai Campus
Date: 15 – 16 February, 2013

Concept Note

What does it mean to be a Dalit woman, an Adivasi woman? At this conference, which is conceptualized, organized and co-ordinated by Dalit and Adivasi women , we frame these fundamental questions along with questions of the community and society at large. We examine the categories of Tribe, Caste and Gender from the viewpoints of Dalit and Adivasi women – a natural extension is to interrogate their intersections with each other and with other categories. We aim to contextualize our historical and continuing assertions against all forms of oppression and place them within a framework of social movements; as women leaders, participants and coordinators engaged in a process of social action.

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