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Why Madhusudan Refused to Play it Safe

 

Devesh Kapur, D Shyam Babu and Chandra Bhan Prasad

Born to an indentured laborer father in a Dalit family where food mattered more than studies, Mannam Madhusudan Rao began as a construction worker. Today, he runs his own construction company that is completing a township worth Rs 250 crore. This is the story of how he took this remarkable journey – the colossal risks, successes and failures through which he has persevered, all the while fighting the stigma of caste and entrepreneurship in a culture that values a job, preferably a safe government job, over independence.

The wide road leading to Jubilee Hills is difficult to navigate with its heavy motor traffic and unwieldy dips and turns. The near absence of pedestrians on the road points to its being an exclusive residential area in Hyderabad, sought by those with the means to afford its dramatic hilltop views and discreetly nestled mansions, a luxury anywhere in urban India.

mmr 1

Mannam Madhusudhan Rao, founder of the MMR Group. Photo courtesy Mannam Madhusudhan Rao

The major artery, Road Number 86, slices through the heart of Jubilee Hills, servicing the numerous mansions and apartment complexes that have mushroomed on its hilltops. The rich and famous of Hyderabad – film stars, politicians, contractors, big-time moneylenders, industrialists and bankers – have laid claim to the hills. Their homes provide a convenient getaway from the heat and chaos of the city below, while remaining close enough to keep tabs on their business preoccupations. So it is with Mannam Madhusudan Rao, known as MMR, who occupies a prized apartment on the hilltop.

In his late thirties, MMR owns and runs the MMR Group of Companies, involved in construction, including infrastructure projects. He is racing to complete an entire township in Rajahmundry, a project worth Rs 250 crore.

MMR's route to his coveted hilltop address began with a dinner party in September 2011 at a country club in Jubilee Hills. "That's a dinner I didn't relish," he now admits. "It was more about drinks than food!"

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A life lived for the community

 

Rakshit Sonawane

Till 1994, Kishore was one of those forgotten people who have to struggle to get the minimum necessities in life, and undergo humiliation and abuse from the rich and powerful who have everything in life handed to them on a platter.

kishore shantabai kale

An illegitimate son to a tamasha dancer (tamasha being a performing folk art in Maharashtra famous for its dancers who sing 'laavni' — raunchy songs), Kishore was born into the Kolhati community. It is a community that survives on tamasha shows and where the girls are groomed to become dancers. The men live on the earnings and generally turn to alcohol.

Kishore wanted more from life. After somehow convincing his family, he went to school. The authorities wanted to know his father's name so that they could admit him. After a lot of persuasion and delay, Kishore was allowed to use his mother Shantabai's name as his middle name.

The poverty, superstition, alcoholism and illiteracy that he grew up around gave him the drive to study medicine so that he could do his bit for society in general and his community in particular. With help from his aunt Madhu Kambikar, a Marathi film actress, he enrolled in Grant Medical College, Mumbai, for his MBBS. He was teased and insulted endlessly by more 'civilised' children who wanted to know where his father was and what his mother did.

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'I don't want stable government': Kanshi Ram

 

Dilip Awasthi and Javed M. Ansari

December 31, 1993

In India, 50 per cent of the media is pro-BJP: Kanshi Ram

Knashiram collecting funds

He sits in an old chair in the corner of a sparsely furnished and dimly lit room in New Delhi, speaking in a commanding tone and bristling with a new confidence for, at 59, Kanshi Ram has finally arrived in politics.

Taking an almost childish delight in telling his stream of visitors how he succeeded despite dire predictions to the contrary, Kanshi Ram talks in a low voice although his conversation is high on rhetoric when he touches on his favourite theme - the "Brahminical social order".

His euphoria is understandable. Kanshi Ram and his Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have entered the political firmament from virtually nowhere with the help, of course, of his ally Mulayam Singh. Kanshi Ram has seen his party grow from being a fringe force merely nibbling into the votes of the major parties to capturing 67 seats in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly.

Principal Correspondents Dilip Awasthi and Javed M. Ansari asked Kanshi Ram, generally referred to as belonging to a Scheduled Caste, about his future strategy, his contempt for the existing social order and the confusion surrounding his own caste. Excerpts:

Q. Despite so many years in politics you still remain an enigma. Some callyou a Brahmin, others believe you are a former IAS officer while some are convinced that you are a Christian.

A. All this is a media manipulation. As many as 110 cover stories on me have appeared so far and you are still asking me this question. I am fed up of this question and will not answer it. If you want, you can refer to the old records or ask my workers outside.

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'It's no alliance'

 

Zafar Agha

Uttar Pradesh is the cradle of Brahminism: Kanshi Ram

BSP supremo Kanshi Ram spoke to Special Correspondent Zafar Agha from his Escorts Heart Institute bed in Delhi. Excerpts:

kanshi ram in hospital

Q. When did your relations with Mulayam Singh Yadav reach a turning point?
A. The panchayat elections were the turning point. There was rigging, booth-capturing, intimidation. Even the BSP was not spared.

Q. Haven't you joined up with a communal party now?
A. The BJP is BJP, the BSP is BSP. The BJP's views are very well known. I don't call it a communal party.

Q. Hasn't the BSP now allied itself with Manuvadi forces?
A. There is no alliance. We have only joined hands as co-sufferers of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Q. Is it very temporary?
A. It is a very temporary liaison. We were interested only in overthrowing a chief minister who was using criminals to throttle the democratic process and was destroying every party.

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The Dalit Panther's first leap

 

Sunil Dighe

(Participant of the Dalit Panther movement in the 70s, Sunil Dighe reminisces here about its hopes and failure. The movement would have been 40 today.)

dalit panthers picture

Each nation has its share of movements but some movements are such that they compel society to give a thought to their calls and demands. They have long-term effects. The Dalit Panther was one such thrilling and stormy movement.

In 1972, a small news item appeared in 'Nava Kaal'. Leading Dalit writers were about to come together in a classroom to discuss the ineffective leadership in the Republican Party and find an alternative answer to it.

Litterateurs like Raja Dhale, J V Pawar, Namdev Dhasal, Avinash Mahatekar, Latif Khatik as well as Baburao Bagul and Bhai Sangare were going to attend the discussion. The approved agenda of discussion was the then Republican Party 's submissive stand on the question of Dalits and their leadership wagging its tail before the Congress Party.

Raja Dhale, a fine writer and poet, ran a newsletter using new methods. Its name was 'Vidroh' (rebellion). In 'Vidroh', his articles, poems, thought-provoking and shocking caricatures shot to fame. Namdev had slowly started gaining fame as a poet.

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