Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Dalits of India

Remembering the great

Messiah of the oppressed,

The exploited and the neglected, and

The Architect of the Indian Constitution.

Bharat Ratna

Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

On his

“60th Mahaparinirwan Diwas”'

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pa. Ranjith’s outburst sparks debate on caste


Dravidian ideologues unhappy after he spoke against invocation of Tamil identity


Tamil film-maker Pa. Ranjith of Kabaliand Madras fame has triggered an ideological spat between Ambedkarites, Periyarists and Tamil nationalists after his public outburst against director Ameer for seeking to delink late medical aspirant Anitha from her possible identity as a Dalit girl.
At a meeting here, Mr. Ameer had said that there was no need to underscore the Ariyalur girl’s caste while fighting against the NEET. Instead, she should be seen as a Tamil girl.
Strongly disagreeing, Mr. Ranjith demanded that Tamil society accept that Dalits are oppressed and must not gloss over the issue by invoking Tamil identity.
This has led to an intense debate over the issue of Dalit suppression and Tamil identity.
Writer and Dalit intellectual Stalin Rajangam said that Mr. Ranjith’s emotional outburst “stripped the fake masks worn by Dravidian ideologues and Tamil nationalists”, which explained why sympathisers of Dravidian ideology and Tamil nationalist ideology were united in their criticism of the Kabali director.
“Both Dravidian and Tamil nationalist politics favour the backward castes. In my opinion, if Dravidian parties give power to backward castes to maintain their hold on political power, the Tamil nationalists provide ideological justification to caste hierarchy,” Mr. Rajangam said.
Mr. Ranjith touched a raw nerve by stating there is no social justice in Tamil Nadu. “The questions that he raised against Tamil nationalists can be asked of the Dravidian movement as well. If the former talks of Tamil identity and suppresses any talk about caste, the latter talks about non-Brahmin identity and does not talk about caste,” Mr. Rajangam said.
Dr. Satva, who organised an event last year in which some doctors embraced Buddhism, said, “Tamil nationalists try to discredit Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Periyar by saying that they are non-Tamils. Not only that, they also try to alienate Arundhathiyars, one of the most oppressed castes amongst the Dalits, by positing them as Telugu or Kannada speaking community.”
‘Credit to Periyarists’
Arul Mozhi, spokesperson, Dravidar Kazhagam, said that while Mr. Ranjith’s outburst distorted the focus of the event to make it an ideological fight between Dravidian ideology, Tamil nationalist ideology and Ambedkarism, she agreed that the grievances of Dalits have to be taken into account.
“Let me tell you that there were no brutal killings of Dalit boys for marrying upper caste women in the 1990s like how we see today. The shift among the backward classes towards violent casteism happened after Dalit intellectuals and Tamil nationalists started attacking Periyar and his ideology. Slowly they began projecting Periyar as anti-Dalit and non-Tamil. Both these approaches resulted in Dharmapuri and Naickenkottai,” she contended. It was unacceptable to say that Periyarists/Dravidian parties did nothing for the welfare of Dalits. “It is a fact that leaders such as Thirumavalavan could rise because of Periyarists,” she said.
Stressing that all kinds of ‘identity politics’ need re-evaluation, Karthick RM, assistant professor, Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, felt that it is not useful to pitch narrow strands of Dalit politics and Tamil nationalism against each other.
“We cannot be forced to take sides after pitching a narrow Dalit politics against a narrow Tamil nationalism. Instead, we should work towards a broad politics of solidarity that recognises caste and national questions, but is not constrained by them,” he said.

Source: The Hindu dt 17.9.17


Thursday, August 31, 2017


Dalits, adivasis & poor have lesser space per person.



The majority of India's population, both rural and urban, lives in homes with space smaller than the minimum floor area per person recommended for prison cells. This shocking reality emerges from comparing the NSSO 69th round survey report on housing conditions with the Model Prison Manual 2016. The manual outlines guidelines of the prison administration based on constitutional provisions, SC orders and international conventions.About 80% of the poorest rural households, whose average size is 4.8 members, have an average floor area equal to or smaller than 449 sq ft. This means that only 94 sq ft or less is available per person. This is smaller than the 96 sq ft (8.92 sq m) of ground area recom mended for prison cells by the jail manual. Similarly , in urban areas, the poorest 60% of families live in houses that have an average floor area of 380 sq ft or lower. With the average household size of 4.1, the per capita space is 93 sq ft for these houses, which again is lower than the recommended specifications for an ideal prison cell.


Of course, some households among these would have fewer than the average number of members or somewhat bigger homes and hence have more space per person than the averages. So the propor tion of people with smaller living spaces than the model prison cell may not quite be 80% of the rural population and 60% of urban Indians. But it is safe to say that despite these deviations, a majority would be living in such tiny spaces.


Expectedly , dalits, adivasis and poorer families have lesser space per person, as do families in poorer states. The per capita space available for scheduled caste people is 70.3 sq ft while for scheduled tribes, it is 85.7 sq ft, both lower than the jail yardstick. Similarly, the poorest 20% has a per capita living space of 78 sq ft in rural areas and 75 sq ft in urban areas. For the richest 20%, the average is 102 sq ft in rural areas and 135 sq ft in urban areas. The average floor area available for rural households is lowest in Bihar ­ at 66 sq ft. In total, 15 states and UTs have their rural population living in space more cramped than an ideal prison cell. In eight statesUTs, per person average floor area in cities, too, is lower than a jail cell.

Times of India dt 28-8-17


Most Indians' living area is smaller  

 than prison cells


The majority of India's population, both rural and urban, lives in homes with space smaller than the minimum floor area per person recommended for prison cells. This shocking reality emerges from comparing the NSSO 69th round survey report on housing conditions with the Model Prison Manual 2016. The manual outlines guidelines of the prison administration based on constitutional provisions, SC orders and international conventions.

About 80% of the poorest rural households, whose average size is 4.8 members, have an average floor area equal to or smaller than 449 sq ft. This means that only 94 sq ft or less is available per person. This is smaller than the 96 sq ft (8.92 sq m) of ground area recom mended for prison cells by the jail manual. Similarly , in urban areas, the poorest 60% of families live in houses that have an average floor area of 380 sq ft or lower. With the average household size of 4.1, the per capita space is 93 sq ft for these houses, which again is lower than the recommended specifications for an ideal prison cell.

Of course, some households among these would have fewer than the average number of members or somewhat bigger homes and hence have more space per person than the averages. So the propor tion of people with smaller living spaces than the model prison cell may not quite be 80% of the rural population and 60% of urban Indians. But it is safe to say that despite these deviations, a majority would be living in such tiny spaces.


Expectedly , dalits, adivasis and poorer families have lesser space per person, as do families in poorer states. The per capita space available for scheduled caste people is 70.3 sq ft while for scheduled tribes, it is 85.7 sq ft, both lower than the jail yardstick. Similarly, the poorest 20% has a per capita living space of 78 sq ft in rural areas and 75 sq ft in urban areas. For the richest 20%, the average is 102 sq ft in rural areas and 135 sq ft in urban areas. The average floor area available for rural households is lowest in Bihar ­ at 66 sq ft. In total, 15 states and UTs have their rural population living in space more cramped than an ideal prison cell. In eight statesUTs, per person average floor area in cities, too, is lower than a jail cell.


Aug 28 2017 : The Times of India (Chennai)


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aug 20 2017 : The Times of India (Chennai)
FOR THE RECORD - Dalit Prez? That's a fig leaf and means nothing when Dalits are under attack


It was to escape the tyranny of untouchability -experienced even at IIT-Madras where she was a research associate -that Sujatha Gidla left for the US at age 26. But casteism followed her there too. In her memoir Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India, the 54-year-old pieces together the uncertain life of her family in Andhra. Gidla, who is the first Indian woman to be employed as a conductor with the New York City Subway, tells Joeanna Rebello Fernandes why untouchability is not yet a thing of the past.
What is the Dalit experience in America?
Are you blackballed there by fellow Indians?
Yes, of course. In fact after my first interactions with Indians, I dumped them and just have foreign friends now. One of my classmates who came here before me let me stay with her until I found a place. But I felt I was unwelcome. My sister, who's a doctor, was subjected to it back home and here too.When pursuing her residency in New York, at one class when the speaker hadn't turned up yet, an Indian resident doctor announced, “I am a Reddy , let's all say which caste we belong to.“
When it was my sister's turn, another Indian resident looked at her like, “Let us see how you will say what caste you come from.“
My sister said, “I am an untouchable“. If she said something else, the others who knew what she was would say she was lying. If she said nothing, they would guess why . When the foreign residents asked, `What is this caste?', the Hindus told them it is something that denotes your status in Indian society .This upper caste Tamil resident also went around telling everybody my sister was an Untouchable. She suffered a lot on account of it. In fact immigrant associations in America, established ostensibly to celebrate their culture, are actually caste groups.TANA (Telugu Association of North America) is nothing but a Kamma caste organisation. There's another one, ATA, for Reddys.Some like the American Association of Telugu Brahmins (AATB) don't even hide behind “celebrating Telugu literaturecultural“, they are openly based on caste. When the right-wing Hindu American Foundation (HAF), an extremely wealthy and powerful organisation, threatened to sue the California Education Board if they didn't redact the references to Indian caste system in the state's school history textbooks (their claim was that their children would be taunted for it) it was the Dalit Freedom Network in America that fought to keep it in, because it is a fact of history.


You talk about the time in a bar in Atlanta when you told a guy you were untouchable, and he said, “Oh, but you're so touchable“. Is it difficult to explain `untouchability' to Americans?
Very . Their question is how can you distinguish one caste from the other? It's easy to distinguish race by skin colour. We live in a caste society but we're not in a position to explain how it works. I try to explain how people are segregated by caste, especially untouchables. Their speech is different caste-wise, as is the way they dress, body language...That's how I try to explain it. But people outside the country cannot really comprehend the inhumanity of the caste system.
Hasn't the lot of Dalits improved postIndependence?
It is very much worse for Dalits after Independence. For 3,000 years, as long as the caste system has been here, there has been violence against untouchables but not in this organised, widespread way .Whatever upliftment happened was during the last decades of the British rule and early years of Independence. Ambedkar was the key figure in establishing reservations in education and jobs for untouchables as well as tribals and backward castes. The few Dalits we see able to climb up the economic and social ladder, it is mainly due to reservations. But the thing is, reservations made a difference to only a thin layer of people.Everybody says Ambedkar was great -yes, Ambedkar was great, in that he used the historical opportunities that came up after WWII and during Independence. But we can see how it has not made much difference for millions of untouchables. As a Marxist, I say it is not reservations but a fundamental social change that is needed.
India does have a Dalit President...
It's not even a fig leaf but a slap in the face of untouchables. It's like saying, `Oh you're all complaining we're not doing anything for you, here, take this guy...' It doesn't mean anything, and the main thing is that Dalits are under attack.
Even Christianity and Communism seem to have reinforced caste-based discriminations.Is there a larger lesson to be learnt from this?
I'm a Christian but it didn't mean I escaped caste. Caste is not related to religion, it is a social institution. There is casteism among Muslims and Christians as well. Communists are supposed to change social relations, but in India they have failed to because none of the Indian communist parties take into consideration the fact that caste is a special kind of oppression that exists in Indian society apart from class.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Bengaluru Declaration calls for SC/ST quota in judiciary


Significantly, the Bengaluru Declaration called for upholding 

Rule of Law through police reforms and state actionto prevent

 lynchings. It also called for a law against gender and caste 

discrimination at educational institutions.

It has recommended SC/ST reservation in appointment of 

judges, promotions, government contracts up to Rs. 1 crore, in 

private higher educational institutions and private sector. It also

 proposed establishment of an Equal Opportunities Commission

 to oversee affirmative action.


Much focus is also on ensuring land ownership for SC/STs, 

including a proposal to establish SC/ST land bank, where 

government buys these lands at market prices and re-allots to

 the same community, to ensure non-dilution of ownership. It

further recommends allocation of 20% of the land in private 

housing layouts for urban poor.



The declaration called for a wider social security net. It 

recommended a “living wage” and comprehensive social 

security scheme for all labourers working in the unorganised 

sector apart from ensuring dignity in retirement through 

enhanced pensions of Rs. 1,500 per month.



Public Works Minister H.C. Mahadevappa, who read out the 

declaration, said:“Regressive social and political forces have 

resisted and tried to undermine both the constitutional idea of 

India and the efforts of the State in the last 70 years.”
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