February 22, 2010
It's a Rave: India Today Reviews "Post-Hindu India"
Kancha Ilaiah's "Post Hindu India" got a great review in the "India Today" magazine. Check it out...
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I am on Twitter now....
February 08, 2010
EU Delegation Visits Orissa Carnage
Where is justice for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Christians (Dalit Christians) who bore the brunt of the Orissa carnage?
John Dayal and Archbishop Cheenath speak up in the wake of the visit of an EU delegation to the area where the attacks took place.
Here's the link: http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article102215.ece
February 05, 2010
When it Rains it Pours: Dalits Face Continued Discrimination During Natural Disasters
Earlier Dalits faced discrimination during the tsunami, and now it's proven they faced discrimination during last year's floods in Andhra Pradesh.
‘Dalits worst hit in floods’
The Hindu: Feb 05, 2010
HYDERABAD: Discrimination against Dalits, insidious during normal course of life, becomes more pronounced in the aftermath of natural calamities. Despite forming the highest ratio in deaths and property loss, Dalits remain the last to get relief and rehabilitation. This fact has found one more echo in last year’s floods in five districts.
According to a comprehensive study and report by National Dalit Watch -- AP for Relief and Rehabilitation with Dignity, Dalits were the worst hit during the floods, partly due to their deprived status and partly due to apparent discrimination and apathy by the officials.
The study was conducted through 13 NGOs including Sakshi Human Rights Watch, Dalit Bahujan Shramik Union, M.V. Foundation, and COVA which were part of the forum. In all, 1,090 residential areas in 308 flood-affected villages were surveyed, with emphasis on parameters such as losses suffered by Dalits, equitable distribution of compensation, dignity during relief measures, and discrimination.
According to the study, scheduled castes constituted 38 per cent of the affected families, 55 per cent of the dead, and 50 per cent of those who lost or suffered damage to their houses. 28 per cent of the Dalits lost crop in their own land while those losing in leased land formed 27 per cent.
Though compensation was given to lessee farmers, many did not get it owing to absence of written agreements, said R. Venkat Reddy, national convenor of M.V. Foundation. The ratio of Dalits losing cattle was very high in all districts.
Protection from drowning is one more concern, as over 45 per cent of the Dalits in Mahabubnagar district did not get any shelter, and the number was high in Kurnool too.
“Usually, SC colonies are located in low-lying areas, which makes them all the more vulnerable. We demand that Dalits be given highest priority in rehabilitation and be allowed to select their plots first,” said G. Narsimha, from DBSU.
Majority of the Dalits from Mahabubnagar district remained the last in knowing about the calamity, getting relief and compensation, and being rehabilitated. Quite a few families migrated in search of livelihoods, the report stated.
In many villages, Dalits complained that SC colonies were the last to get relief material. NGO relief too was usurped by the upper castes. Many names went missing from the victims’ lists made by officials, especially so in the instances where the victims did not return to the village immediately. Officials refused to include them afterwards.
Mr. Reddy also drew attention to the plight of Dalit children, especially girls, who dropped out from schools. He urged the government to award grace marks to the flood-affected children in Matriculation exams citing their traumatised condition. V. Nandagopal, convenor of the forum, demanded a study by the government to identify the reasons for caste-specific deprivation during calamities, and measures to rule out the same.
Religion? Or Prayer for an Identity? Chaudhry Explains
Great article... check it out.
Religion, or a prayer for identity
By Amrita Chaudhry
(Source: The Indian Express, February 3, 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/religion-or-a-prayer-for-identity/574754/0 )
Dera politics and rows in Punjab got another twist last Saturday when Dera Sachkhand Ballan took one step further and announced the setting up of a separate religion, Ravidassia, with a religious book, Amrit Bani Guru Ravidass, a separate symbol, Har, and a separate motto, Jai Gurudev.
It was another indicator that Dalit assertion has come to stay in a state that has long suppressed the community despite it making up almost 29 per cent of the population. Till recently a struggle for equality, the Punjab Dalit movement has now changed its character. Dalits are no longer asking for an equal space in society, they are claiming their own personal space. They are also no longer shy of their identity, with announcement of a “new religion”, showering of shobha yatras with flowers from a chopper, and the deluge of music albums in the market celebrating Dalithood pointers of the same.
The social change is expected to impact Punjab politics too, with experts afraid that the Dalit assertion — seen by some as more reactionary than rational — could be both creative and violent.
It was late on Saturday that Dera Sachkhand Ballan announced the “Ravidassia religion”, at Seer Gowardhanpur in Benaras, the birthplace of Guru Ravidass. It was the 633rd birth anniversary of Ravidass, a saint of the Bhakti movement. The call for a separate religious identity for Ravidassias came eight months after the killing of Sant Ramananad, the deputy of dera head Sant Niranjan Dass, in Vienna by alleged “radical Sikhs”.
Well-known academic on Dalit issues and the chairman of Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Dr Ronki Ram, sees the development as “an assertion of identity” and not as a “separate religion”. “The manner in which the process is unfolding is not new. The Dalits of Punjab have always laid claim to a separate religion called the ‘Adh dharma’ and this Dera has a registered symbol. The Dalits are doing well economically and this has given them an upward mobility. They are now asserting,” says Ram.
Dr Harish Puri, a Dalit who retired as Head Professor of Dr B R Ambedkar Chair, Department of Political Science, Guru Nanak Dev University, warns against dismissing the developments as mere “reactionary”. “Radical Sikhs killed the Dera head in Vienna and in reaction the Dera decided to assert a separate identity. The manner in which our political bosses handled the murder and the protests that erupted later was to convert the same into a law and order situation and suppress it. No one addressed the anguish of a community, and now we have the results which will have a bad impact on our politics.”
Puri feels that this kind of assertion arising from anger is “destructive”. “No one is talking about upliftment of Dalits. These things are the handiwork of a very small section of Dalits who are either settled abroad and are doing well or those Dalits who come from Doaba where NRI population is high. These people can afford to assert. But no one is addressing the problems of a large section of Dalits who continue to live in highly condemnable conditions.” Dr Puri is also apprehensive of politics getting into the debate, with a large section of political leaders from Doaba followers of one or the other Dera. “How these politicians use these changes will script the future of our politics,” he points out.
Balbir Madhopuri, well-known Dalit writer whose novel Chhangeya Rukh was translated into English by Oxford University Press recently, has another objection. “I do not agree to what Dera Ballan has done, for this is no assertion. This action limits the preaching of Guru Ravidass to a very limited section. Adh dharam, which was established in 1925 and recognised by the British in 1930, incorporated the teaching of 36 gurus belonging to lower castes. Ravidaassia or the Amrit Bani Ravi Das (containing 240 hymns of Guru Ravidass) is very limiting.”
A literary critic and known Dalit scholar, Dr Sarabjit Singh, also cautions against taking the development lightly: “This change is dangerous and disturbs the socio-political fabric of Punjab.”
A POWERFUL DERA
Dera Sachkhand Ballan is one of the most powerful and famous Deras of the Ravidass sect in Punjab, situated some 10 km from Jalandhar. Other equally famous Ravidass deras include Temple Ravidass Chak Hakim near Phagwara and Dera of Sant Jagatjit Giri near Pathankot. These two Deras are said to have been instrumental in bringing social consciousness among the Dalits of Punjab.
Mangoo Ram, founder of the ‘Adh dharam movement’, is said to have visited the Dera Ballan and sought its support to popularise the image of Ravidass among the Dalits of Punjab.
The Dera Sachkhand Ballan was founded by Sant Pipal Dass, father of Sant Sarwan Dass, and is popularly known as Dera Sant Sarwan Das or simply Dera Ballan.
The Dera shot into fame June last year when Sant Ramanand, deputy of Dera head Sant Niranjan Dass, was killed in Vienna, Austria, allegedly by some radical Sikhs. The Dera head was grievously injured in the attack. The incident led to arson in certain parts of Punjab with dera heads announcing shifting of the Guru Granth Sahib from its temples.
While Dera Ballan is not a Sikh institution, as part of tradition, its deras install and worship Guru Granth Sahib. Some of the followers sport Sikh appearances while others could be clean shaven, though the latter are not necessarily Hindus.
Since the Vienna incident, the sect has been since asserting itself, though quietly.
(Source: The Indian Express, February 3, 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/religion-or-a-prayer-for-identity/574754/0 )
February 01, 2010
Ilaiah Again Leading the Way on the Journey
The long road to Dalit freedom and dignity will need great literary work that verbalizes the life of the majority dalit masses in India. Kancha Ilaiah once again leads us on that journey.
Subject: Kancha's article on the Jaipur Literature Festival in the ' Deccan Herald ' newspaper
Meeting of streams
By Kancha Ilaiah
Literary festivals teach how to connect oneself to the social mass culture, if one is doing the transformative writing.
I have just returned from the Jaipur Literature Festival having spoken at two sessions, ‘Outcaste and public conscience’ and ‘The journey to childhood.’ A group of writers and artistes has been holding this conference for five years now. The attendance at the conference was amazing. Intellectuals from several fields had gathered in that city of history and culture of its own.
As I participated in this festival for the first time, that too as a speaker on a subject — caste and untouchability — it opened my eyes for two reasons. One, it had shown me how big is the literary world. Two, it also has shown me how small is the presence of Dalit-Bahujan writers and readers in such a globally visible conference.
It had drawn writers, poets, artists, painters, actors and playwrights from all over the world. Of course, the focus was by and large India. Apart from the writers in English language there were some Hindi writers. By all standards it was an elite conference but one could see writers whose interests and commitments went beyond their elitism.
For the first time I realised that literary festivals also teach how one should connect oneself to the social mass culture, if one is doing the transformative writing. Though the writing for pleasure and fun would also have some transformative element in it, the writers who write for radical transformation of the society need to work with a different language and idiom.
I was trying to learn from my readers — surprisingly there were quite few of them in that conference — how my English language and idiom was communicating. I met a cross section of my readers both from India and abroad.
A Bhutani woman writer told me that though she was a writer herself with a vast reading she never knew that caste was such a big problem in India. Of course the responses vary depending on the caste background, age and experience of the readers. But one common point was that the Dalit-Bahujan writings have shown them a different India.
In a conference where the presence of Wole Soyinka to Gulzar-Girish Karnad to Christophe Jaffrelot to Mark Tully to Omprakash Valmiki and P Sivakami (both well known Dalit writers) very different and varied experiences of writing and the themes that they work got discussed.
India revealed itself in many different ways. In a country, where the upper caste elite including the writers do not have a sense of shame and guilt, such literary festivals work as a place for exchange of ideas. This is a country where sex is discussed and written about from Vastayana days onwards but caste was an issue of shame about which they never wanted to discuss and write about.
When Nayantara Sehgal (Nehru’s niece) said at a panel discussion on Edwina and Nehru’s relationship that the copyright holders of Nehru’s letters to Edwina wanted to hide the simple fact that “our politicians too have sexual organs,” she was just making a known point.
But this is the same country that had hidden the fact that it has a horrendous system of caste and untouchability from the rest of the world. For all these years the copyright of caste remained with them and they never allowed it to be written about and published.
The caste and untouchability was/is there as part of our day to day life for so long but any writing about it shamed them and they have hidden their guilt as it involved an immoral intercourse between two human beings — a Dalit and a Brahmin. At least this literature festival has lifted the veil.
After Valmiki, Sivakami and I got off the stage there were several young people, who rushed for our autographs. Though I did not ask them about their caste background, there was no way that there could be many Dalit/OBCs among them. Such a response from the upper caste English medium educated youth certainly opens a page of hope.
No positive writer, who writes for the transformation of the society like India, wants a civil war for its own sake. But the change could be smooth and peaceful only when the upper caste intelligentsia begins to act on its sense of shame and guilt. A transformative book writing is meant to work both ways. It is meant to embolden the weakest and also meant to weaken the spirit of exploitation of the oppressors.
If writing helps even a section of oppressors to stop oppressing the oppressed and they begin to understand the point of view of the oppressed the role of writing becomes more meaningful. The Jaipur festival has shown the signs of such positive exchange of views.
But this is only one side of the story. There could be another side as well. The Dalit-Bahujan literature is not yet seen as part of the mainstream. To make the Dalit-Bahujan literature mainstream literature either the streams need to be changed radically or the small steam should become big enough so that the others have no way but cross it by swimming, and not jump it over.