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The dignity of the underclass is the first casualty: Chandra Bhan Prasad

 

Chandra Bhan Prasad and Pushpendra Johar in a discussion: this is a part of the series of interviews, talks, articles that SAVARI and Round Table India are trying to put together to gather the Bahujan perspective on the Coronavirus pandemic.

 Date: 17 April 2020

Pushpendra Johar: Welcome to the discussion. I would like to start by going back to the day when the Prime Minister announced lockdown in the country; when we were going to have Janata Curfew, scheduled for 22nd March and we saw how things developed thereafter. On the day of Janata Curfew people were banging utensils, thalis (metal/steel plates) and what not. You have been quite critical of the whole practice, you did not mince words in criticising it, saying that this was anti-science, the whole act of thali-banging and conch blowing etc. This then led to cracker burning and lamp lighting. If we look at the acts of clapping and burning lamps, these were copied from different cultural contexts in Europe where they were clapping in their balconies to appreciate the medical staff and also celebrating human spirit after loss of so many lives. What do you make of such practices as enacted in India?

cbp

Chandra Bhan Prasad: There is a Hindu festival in North India, and in the Hindi belt in particular, when on one day in a year women bang thalis, not thalis exactly but some other tool that is used to clean wheat flour. They bang that thing, take a round of the village and go and throw it in some pond. This is called daliddar bhagao, chase away all the evils in the family, in the village. So the Prime Minister must have had this feedback that let's make this a cultural or religious kind of a thing, give it that dimension where women will bang thalis to chase away this virus and hence they become part of this in a very religious manner. That's why I was very upset because I stood in the balcony and I saw people banging thalis with plenty of happiness writ large on their faces.

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The Origin of Dalit Feminist Literature: Mukta Salve, the First Voice of Dalit Feminism

 

Shivani Waldekar

165 years ago, one young Dalit girl strongly criticised brahminical hegemony and the hierarchal oppressive social structure. She questioned and critically examined caste, class, gender and religion and that empirical data continues to remain very relevant today, as they were in 1855. She strongly believed that education is the only path which liberates the people who are enslaved by the structure. It is an important tool which gives confidence to ask the questions against injustice and exploitation in our society and gives a voice to the unheard and unobserved since two thousand years. They constitute a part of society but never came out and spoke. Education is the only asset through which they will change their status and break systematic oppression and social stratification. Education is the tool through which they gather knowledge and cultivate their minds and enlighten their souls and go towards an egalitarian path and liberate themselves.

mukta salve

On 1 March 1855, the periodical named "Dnyanodaya" published one essay named "About the Grief of Mahars and Mangs"(Mang Maharanchya Dukhavisayi) written by the very first Dalit writer Mukta Salve. It is the first evidence in history which pointed out the historical exploitation and the problem of Indian caste and patriarchy where Dalits had always faced intolerance because of the oppressive Brahmin structure. Dalit history was always invisibilized by upper caste and class to portray that Dalit have no history of their own and especially when it comes to Dalit women then it's always in the dark and unpublished because women's liberation is closely linked with castes. That's why Muktabai's essay is to be treated as the first voice of Dalit feminism and history of modern Indian Dalit feminist literature which initiated Dalit women's liberation.

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Beauty, Femininity and the Politics of ‘Desire’


Noel Mariam George

noel mariamThe recent crowning of a biracial black woman as Miss World made news as it made full circle with four other wins by biracial black and black women in the biggest beauty pageant. Not many understand beauty pageants as political; however what can be more political than a contest in which nations compete with each other by localising their nationhood onto the bodies of their women to claim the title of ‘most beautiful/desirable’[1]? Beauty pageants have become a new site of the ‘political’ understood in terms of aesthetics and black women are now claiming their space in these contests as sites of representation and even empowerment. Arguments made in favour of these pageant wins, claim that feminine representation of black women as desirable are subversive and hence political, as black women have historically been denied the freedom to express their femininity and have been deemed ‘undesirable’ in contrast to white women[2] (this is not to shy away from the monopoly of control, both monetarily and items of discourse of the beauty, pop and other culture industries).

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Dalit Women to be Heard

 

Hemangi Kadlak

(Transcript of her speech at the National Convention on the Rights of Dalit Women Human Rights Defenders: 'Dalit Women Speak' on 17-18 January 2020, at HDRC, St. Xavier's Campus, Ahmedabad)

hemangi kadlakFirst of all, I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this conference on 'Dalit Women Speak.' Before coming to the topic which is given to me for today's talk, I want to give focus on the main conference heading that is 'Dalit Women Speak'. After reading this line, it immediately came to my mind, do we really see that Dalit women don't speak?

The reality is that they speak a lot, and they have been speaking for generations in their houses, even outside within their community and in general society. But the fact is that people have unheard them, neglected their voices by thinking these women are illiterate, lower caste, uncivilized, poor, don't have any culture. These comments from dominant castes reflect their mentality on caste and gender.

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Cities, Nation and Rape

 

Nabanita Roy

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After an easy search, I entered the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) website, the Indian government agency responsible for collecting and analyzing crime data, and landed up finding a downloadable pdf, reading 'Crime in India-2017 Statistics'. And the date at once seemed very contemporary and relevant for understanding the pattern of crime, particularly against women.

To the backdrop of my search was the need to find some statistical record of crimes against women in India. With Priyanka Reddy's rape and murder in Hyderabad and the nationwide protests against the heinous crime, I had to understand why some 'rape victims' only spur discourses on Indian rape culture or the toxic masculinity of Indian men, whereas the rape and murder of 19-year-old Jaba Roy from Dinajpur on September this year, head dismembered, discarded in public space or the rape and murder of 10-year Khushboo Parveen from Falakata in the following month, were never accommodated as subjects of the mainstream discourses to define the rape culture.

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Black Independence Day

 

Raja Dhale

(In an interview first published in the Marathi journal Khel, Raja Dhale (1940-2019) recounted the history behind his surname ‘Dhale’: soldiers that were historically the standard bearers and advance guards at forts. True to this personal history, Raja Dhale stood at the vanguard of the Dalit consciousness and articulation in Maharashtra in its post-independence evolution. On August 15, 1972, the Marathi magazine Sadhana carried Dhale’s explosive essay ‘Kala Svatantryadin’, which entrenched him, and the Dalit Panthers, in Maharashtra’s imagination. Challenging the hypocrisy of Indian society for not ending violence against Dalits, Dhale wrote, ‘They aren’t our brothers. They aren’t our compatriots. Are we outsiders?’. Under the current political climate where the Indian state is snatching away the meagre rights remaining with the oppressed sections like we saw with Kashmir and the revocation of article 370, it would perhaps be poignant to revisit Raja Dhale’s voice from forty seven years ago.)

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The punctual but peaceful and relaxed city of Mumbai has been witnessing certain events and goings on. Truth be told, the times are changing, in Mumbai. For instance, student movements are descending upon the streets and taking the form of protests, marches and blockades. The anger of the students is taking real shape. A decision has been made to observe the silver jubilee of the independence day as a black day.

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