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The geese and the ganders of Kerala: The Disaster of Caste and Class

 

Bobby Kunhu

kunhuAt 10.45 PM on the 6th of August, 2020, amidst heavy rainfall, a massive landslide buried a settlement called Pettimudi, a part of Rajamala Ward of Munnar in Idukki District. Pettimudi consisted of shoddily build single room tenements in two rows inhabited by 83 tea plantation workers employed by Kanan Devan Hills Plantation (P) Ltd. (KDHPL), a part of the Tata group. It is important for the purpose of this essay to point out that most plantation workers in this region are Tamil Bahujans. The difficulty and remoteness of the terrain were big impediments in the rescue operations and the initial work was done by locals. As I sit writing this 49 bodies have been recovered from the debris and 12 lives have been rescued and the rest are still missing. The 12 who have been rescued have also lost everything that they possessed.

Despite all the boasts about the Kerala Model, the conditions of life and employment of tea plantation workers in Kerala in general is – because of a lack of a better word – slavish. They work long shifts and after a lifetime of employment get to take home between 1 – 2 Lakh Rupees as gratuity on retirement. The low wages ensure that they do not have sufficient savings and most of these people cannot afford to even buy a small house after a lifetime of work. Along with the geographic remoteness of these plantations, the wages also mean that access to quality education for the children of these plantation workers is next to impossible. To put this in perspective, while the average minimum wage in Kerala is INR 500/- per day for an eight hour working day (Kerala has huge gender disparities in wages still), the plantation worker gets INR 234/- for a twelve hour working day with an output of 31 KG of tea per day for 6 days a week. The tragic part is that this ensures many of these people are born and die here in the face of blatant linguistic, class and caste discrimination.

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Ruling Class' Stupidity and Privilege

 

Pranav Jeevan P

pranav There is an argument that is put forth often by people of privilege that not everyone who is privileged is naturally intelligent enough to be "woke" from reading and understanding the issues of discrimination and atrocities in the name of caste or class. So, the argument goes on to say that whatever they ignore conveniently and often enforce oppressively should not be used as an accusation against them because they are stupid and ignorant of the effects of what they do and it is not the personal fault of the accused, but a reflection of the society.

The idea of crimes being a reflection of the social environment of the accused is used to incarcerate the underprivileged, often without evidence. When the same argument is used to pardon or overlook the criminal behaviour of the ruling class, it should also be used to acquit almost every single underprivileged person languishing in jails now. But they never use it for the underprivileged.

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The Plot Against AR Rahman

 

Umar Nizar

The musician AR Rahman has recently been castigated in certain circles for speaking out strongly against a lobby working against him in Bollywood. This has caught many by surprise. The huge fan following of the Academy Award-winning composer commanded has not really translated into popular support. The politics of music and the ideologies inherent therein and possible feebleness of its political impact is on display in this issue. 

A.R.Rahman at 57th FF Awards with Award

The most political thing about Rahman has been, let us face it, his conversion to Islam. But this happened in his childhood, a period of innocence. India, especially the southern region, too was communally innocent. It was a time when the nation too was less corrupted by hatred and the morbidity that hate brings. Rahman has not only been unapologetic about his religious piety but also foregrounded this spirituality and mysticism in his music, even turning into, for some people, a latter-day version of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. 

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Presidency University engages with Dr. Ambedkar


Ekalavya Ravidas

The historic Hindu College of Calcutta, later named as Presidency College and currently known as Presidency University, has conventionally been an academic space almost exclusively occupied by the upper caste Hindus. The minorities of India, particularly those who are now known as SCs, STs, and OBCs and those who constitute 85% of India’s population, had a tough time entering, establishing, and asserting themselves in this so-called liberal educational space. This explains why almost all the big names associated with Presidency College are either Brahmins or upper caste Hindus. Even the historic Bengal Renaissance, which some famous Presidencians were a part of, quite systematically excluded the question of caste-based marginalization in Bengal.

Meghnad Saha, the legendary physicist who hailed from a Sudra background, faced discrimination related to interdining in Presidency’s Eden Hindu Hostel as he faced restrictions on social intermixing at the then Presidency College. The untouchables of India, now known as the Scheduled Castes, were, however, not allowed to cross the threshold of this predominantly Hindu institution for over a century and a half. Arguably, the greatest damage to Bengal was done by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who ruled the state for 34 years. The CPIM had a stronghold over Presidency College and the stakeholders at Presidency continued promoting an urban Brahminical ideology masqueraded as progressive leftism. The CPIM leaders and Presidency ideologues completely ignored the caste question, violently resisted caste-based reservation, and ensured that nobody could use the vocabulary of caste discrimination in their protests against institutional oppression. Issues concerning gender, religion, and class received some attention but nobody debated caste within the premises of Presidency. This implies that almost all political movements organized by the students or alumni of Presidency College were inevitably trapped in a Brahminical consciousness. They simply failed to see the world with the eyes of a caste-subaltern.

presidency university

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Do ideas of Phule-Shahu-Ambedkar matter anymore?

 

Shailesh Narwade

Jayanti, for many, is merely a celebration of the birth anniversaries of socio-political thinkers who were instrumental in bringing social change of which our generation is a beneficiary. Some people see it as an occasion to eulogize and recollect the contributions of these great leaders. Though these modes of celebrating and remembering these icons are necessary, is it really sufficient to take their caravan ahead and ensure the change that these icons envisaged?

Jayanti Title Poster

Marathi feature film 'Jayanti', taking the example of Ambedkar Jayanti, poses this uncomfortable but important question and makes an attempt to find an answer. Through a carefully crafted confluence of the ideas of various social icons, the film depicts the transformation of the protagonist from a misguided Bahujan youth to a socially responsible citizen and a role model in the contemporary socio-political context.

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Online classes and accessibility: ASA TISS report

 

Ambedkarite Students' Association, TISS (Mumbai)

Ambedkarite Students' Association TISS released a report about online classes
(A detailed report on how accessible the online class system is to the students.)

24-07-2020

On 18th July 2020, Ambedkarite Students' Association, TISS Mumbai, has released a report on the newly proposed online-class method by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in the face of the given pandemic situation. This report has been sent to the TISS Administration seeking measures to get the education more accessible.

A mail received from the TISS Administration on the 22nd of June 2020 notified the current students of TISS that the upcoming semester would be conducted through online mode. Across India, the internet penetration is merely 36% and only 13% of households own laptops or desktops. Considering the deep and wide digital divide in the country, Ambedkarite Students' Association, TISS Mumbai conducted an independent study on the accessibility and availability of the internet. The report is based on the responses of current TISS students belonging to various MA and M.Phil programmes. The responses have been presented graphically in the report here.

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A reply to Mr Katju

 

Archana Sigh & Arvind

archana singhMr Markandey Katju in an article for FirstPost worried about the cause of Scheduled Castes, saying reservations are psychological crutches for them and the caste system is perpetuated by reservations. He wrote this article in reply to the article of Kailash Jeengar, Asst Professor of Law, Campus Law Centre, Delhi University, titled The Supreme Court must note that reservation is a fundamental right which was published in The Wire.

Katju's article reminds us of a quote by Dr Babasabeb Ambedkar where he said: “How can the Brahmins afford to be Voltaires? A Voltaire among the Brahmins would be a positive danger to the maintenance of a civilization which is contrived to maintain Brahmin supremacy.”

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