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Amartya Sen’s Imagined India


Braj Ranjan Mani

Intellectual compromise of the best gives rise to the worst. Amartya Sen's sanitised, caste-blind perspective on social unfairness, Hinduism and Indian culture, despite the show of reason, eclecticism and inclusive sensibility, is a gross distortion of historical reality, and a classic example of the limitation—and danger—of elitist liberalism.

Amartya Sen is India's leading public thinker, an intellectual star at home and abroad. A guru of welfare economics, a Sanskritist and a scholar of Indian philosophy and culture, he is distinguished for his outstanding work on inequality, democracy and justice. His sensitivity to injustices of class, gender and ethnicity has made him write with passion and precision about the pains of social asymmetry and disadvantage. It is astonishing, though, that such a conscientious scholar who has built his career on researching social unfairness and exclusion has hardly ever engaged with caste and its consequences. Caste, for whatever reasons, fails to qualify as a worthy subject of his scholarly engagement. Of course, sometimes he names caste in the categories of inequalities but just in passing and in a manner which raises questions about his approach to the axis of hierarchy and oppression in India. Whenever he mentions caste, he shows a strange inclination to minimise its negative impact or significance by invoking the all-powerful and crushing asymmetry of class. It is surprising since Sen is no impassioned believer in class radicalism, Marxism or socialism; he is, in fact, contrary to popular perception, a career academic and (at least now) a neoliberal intellectual, though of an ultra-refined kind. (Sen is himself responsible for such a public misconception about his Marxist credentials. He, in fact, cultivated the self-image of some sort of a Marxist and a radical intellectual in the days when socialism not only held popular appeal but was also in academic vogue in India and abroad. This becomes clear when we learn that Sen's favourite philosophers, as he himself affirms now, have all along been the iconic liberals John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith, not Karl Marx who comes poor third in his list of thinkers who have influenced him the most.)

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Dalit Information And Education Trust: New Waves in Dalit Discourse

Sujatha Surepally

(The Annual meet of D.I.E.T was held on 5th May, 2012, in Hyderabad. We thank Sujatha Surepally for sharing this report on the event)

Dalit Information and Education Trust's (DIET) Annual meet was held on 5th May, 2012 at Hotel Grand plaza, Nampally, Hyderabad. It was a memorable event. Though it was titled as 'Book Reviews and Felicitations', there was much more to describe, feel proud about at the meet, and to celebrate our own people's contribution to dalit literature, criticism, rediscovering Ambedkar etc. A culmination of different views and perspectives, bundles of experiences, thoughts of different generations, the agonies and strategies of building movements for dignity. It presented a rare opportunity, and indeed was a marvelous day.

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The venue was filled with living legends like Kathi Padma Rao, K.S. Chalam, literary flame B.S. Ramulu on one side; and Gogu Shyamala, who struggled for seven years to bring out Sada Laxmi's biography 'Nene Balanni', the writer Y. B. Satyanarayana, architect of his father's story ('Being a Dalit'), and the visionary 'My father Balaiah' book, which was widely reviewed in national and international circles; well- known academicians, K.Y. Ratnam, Prof. Mallesham, Prof. Bhanghya Bhukya, Prof. Gundemeda Nagaraju, powerful telangana Dalit writer Nandi Yellaiah (of 'Kakka' fame), and multi talented Atluri Sudhakar, Gavarraju and the key organiser Panthukala Srinivas, scholars from EFLU, HCU, Osmania, Satavahana Unviersities. ..endless list, one could find people from different walks of life, all aspiring to have an empowered society of their own, corruption-free, intellectually bestowed knowledge etc.

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Audio book of 'Annihilation of Caste' released on Ambedkar Jayanti

N.Sudhakar & T. Muthamil Selvan Naga

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Ambedkar.In releases 'Annihilation of caste' audio book on Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti, 2012

The Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal, a Hindu reformist organization, chooses the problem of caste system in India for its annual conference discussion in the year 1936. Mr. Sant Ram, the Secretary of the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal, on behalf of the Mandal executive committee requests Dr. Ambedkar to be the President of the annual conference and address in detail "Why it is not possible to break Caste without annihilating the religious notions on which it, the Caste system, is founded?" Dr. Ambedkar did not like to be a part of the movement which was carried on by Caste Hindu social reformers, because their attitude towards social reform was so different from him and he found it difficult to pull on with them. Therefore when the Mandal first approached, Dr. Ambedkar declined their invitation to preside.

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The open eyed Buddha and Dr. Ambedkar

(Excerpt from a recent article by Dr. Yashwant Manohar in the Marathi daily 'Sakal'. Thanks, Gouri Patwardhan, for the translation-- Round Table India)

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Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had a special interest in painting. He loved seeing paintings and really wanted to be able to draw well. He learned to draw from B R Madilagekar. He bought many books to study painting. He used to lose himself completely while painting. It was after reading Churchill's book 'Painting as a pastime' that he developed such passion in painting.

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Women played a major role in Dr. Ambedkar's movement: Baby Kamble

 

[This is the second part of excerpts from an interview with Baby Kamble conducted by Maya Pandit, originally published as part of the English version of her autobiography ('The Prisons We Broke')] 

Continued from here.

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How did you think of writing your autobiography?

(Laughs.) It so happened that I used to sit in the shop at the counter. I used to have plenty of time on my hands. There were books that came along with the old newspapers we bought for packing. Some of them were story books and I began to read them. Many contained stories about gods and their great deeds. But gradually I started feeling very angry because the stories were all wrong. Consider for instance, the story of Vrinda, a Shudra princess.

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It is the woman who is the real doer: Baby Kamble

 

[Babytai Kamble passed away on April 21, 2012. She will continue to inspire us, keeping us connected to the joys and pain of the community, urging us to step beyond individual concerns, anchoring us firmly to Ambedkarism as we move ahead with the struggle for equality and freedom. In our sorrow today we hold on to the strength of her words ~ Round Table India ]

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Baby Kamble was a veteran of the Dalit movement in Maharashtra. Inspired by the radical leadership of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, she had been involved with the struggle from a very young age. She had established a government approved residential school for socially backward students in Nimbure, a small village near Phaltan. She had been honoured with awards for her literary and social work. Collections of her poetry have also been published.

We present here a few excerpts from an interview published as part of the English version of her autobiography 'The Prisons We Broke', translated by Maya Pandit

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'A Rebel and a Revolutionary'

 

(The following is the text of a speech on Babasaheb Ambedkar delivered by the former President K.R. Narayanan at the Babasaheb Ambedkar Institute of Research and Training, Bombay in 1979)

president_krnI am happy and honoured to be here on the auspicious occasion of the birthday of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. Babasaheb Ambedkar was one of the great Sons of India, a giant among the great men produced by the Indian nationalist movement if I may use the term in its broadest sense.

If Mahatma Gandhi gave to the nationalist movement a mass dimension and a moral purpose and Jawahar Lal Nehru an economic and socialist dimension, Dr B.R. Ambedkar gave it a profound social content and a challenging social-democratic goal. His whole life was a ceaseless struggle for the attainment of this social objective, the scope of which was not confined to the Scheduled Castes but encompassed the urges and aspirations of the vast millions of the underprivileged in our country. Future generations in India, which, I hope, will be free from the curse of the caste system and the refined as well as crude remnants of untouchability, will be grateful to Dr Ambedkar for having launched a movement of social revolution, the success of which is indispensable for cleansing Indian society, for unifying the Indian nation and for building a genuine and enduring democratic system in our country.

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