Sunday, February 21, 2010

Police inspector beats up Dalit woman; services terminated

The Uttar Pradesh government on Thurday terminated the services of a police inspector, who beat up a Dalit woman accused of murdering her husband in Musafirkhana area of Sultanpur district, a senior official said here.
Kailashnath Dwiwedi was earlier put under suspension after he beat up the Dalit woman on Wednesday. "Station incharge of Musafirkhana, Kailashnath Dwiwedi, has been dismissed from the services for manhandling and assaulting Sangeeta, who was arrested on charges of killing her husband, during police custody," Principal Secretary (Home) Fatesh Bahadur Singh told reporters here. Singh said Sangeeta had on Tuesday night strangulated her husband Deepak Kumar alias Deepu in Maniyari village. He also said that during press briefing the inspector had slapped Sangeeta. After the incident at Manyari village in Aliganj area here came to the fore, Dwiwedi was suspended by Sultanpur Superintendent of Police and an inquiry was ordered against him, he said. Singh said that keeping in mind the gravity of the incident, the government has decided to terminate Dwivedi's services with immediate effect. The incident occurredon Wednesday after one Deepak Kumar was found strangulated following which his mother lodged an FIR and the police started looking for his wife Sangeeta. The woman was rounded up after some time and she confessed to the crime, Sultanpur SP Satyendra Veer Singh said.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My name is “X”, and I am a Cat on a wall.

Before coming to this campus I was a studious student. Though I have heard of Caste discrimination before, this institute taught me how Caste functions. Friends here taught me then what are “Dalit”, and the history of discrimination faced by them. I hail from a “Scavenging” background. Two years of my life in CIEFL was miserable, as I was trying to accommodate with my campus atmosphere and their new ideology (Since then I could never become a ‘studious’ students in a literal meaning). They even taught how Caste functions within an Institute. As a result there were lots of issues taken by the “progressive” students, saying they were discriminated. They said due to Brahmins domination in the administration we do not even get a chance to discuss our problem. They concluded saying when we are in majority we can address all our problems. But friends believe, earlier we have very little “progressive” faculties/administrators in the campus. Above saying this they even taught me how to take up an issue? But sadly they never taught me how to be a mere spectator. And this is where I got up as a Cat on a wall. It is due to this “progressive” people our country is yet to go towards a social revolution. These people sideline with the mainstream thinking of changing the structure but at last they end up becoming the part of the mainstream. The Indian history of the low caste movements is the example.

At present there are many “progressive” and even well wishers, but still the atmosphere of the University led a subaltern students’ in one particular department to face discrimination (There are many departments practicing discrimination; this was the first to explode). If you think I am exaggerating, check the results of SC/ST/OBC’s in the all programmes, it is worse than the earlier period. It was in this administration (“progressive”) the person who discriminated can walk freely with the students’ future is put under the Carpet. In every campus the discrimination functions in a subtle way. To understand this “Progressive” department, students don’t take risk of studying “partha Chatterjee, Gail Omvedt etc.” Just check the results given to the subaltern students in the under graduate to understand how Caste functions in educational atmosphere. “Progressive” students who are in the impression that one day Ms. Mayawathi or any Dalit will become PM and our problems will get solved, they should learn a lesson from this university that in her/a Dalit PM period our problem can get worse, therefore you learn to lobby rather than speaking Caste, etc.,(at recent times every one is lobbying rather changing the social structure). If I am sarcastic read some of the questions I have raised and think how we reacted for the same.
Do we know, that in IIT Kanpur 38 students are sacked and among them almost 28 students are SC/ST?
Do we know that recently a Tribal girl was raped in AP, and she was forced not to go for medical test?
Do we know that a girl name Ms. Anusha committed suicide jumping from a college building because her friends started discriminating her for a week?
Do we know that recently a couple, a Dalit boy and an upper Caste girl were butchered by the girl’s brother for getting married to a Dalit?
Do we know that the Scavenger / Sweeper, who cleans our hostel and administration toilet, did not get anything from this so-called “progressive” department or activism?

Most of us know that many of the construction labourers daughters/son’s use to beg in front of Sagar. Do our literatures or theories not say or discuss how to stop such a thing? But we all know why they are indulging in such things. The writer does not give solution because if they give solution then they cannot criticize and make money out of anything.
Do you know that in AP Methars (Relli) are one of the population indulged in Scavenging, for a proof our so-called Caste active campus has two Methars who are still doing Scavenging.
Don’t you know that most of us are one or the other member of a solidarity committee but none of us are ever trying to solve the root cause?
If we think that we have done a mistake by not rising up for the above cause then again we are doing a mistake, because our education system teaches only to theories but not to react. Therefore feel happy that you are not on wrong side rather you are in the right path as any “progressive” students or politician for that matter.
At last saying all this did we do anything knowing all this? Yes, at least I did by writing in this blog and rests of us can theorise whichever way we can. But never try to solve any of the above problems, because I can’t write on this blog and you can’t theorize.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Remembering Shahid Azmi

Shahid was in love with the idea of justice. Fighting against injustice was the driving force of his life. And this is what cost him his life. Had he looked the other way and treated the testimonials of state oppression, structural violence and systemic injustices as ‘cases’ and not as his crusade for justice, he would have been alive today. The tragedy of Shahid’s death is the tragic loss of possibilities of a life that will now never be. A brilliant, astute mind, a thirst for knowledge and a kind, loving heart. He combined moral courage with legal acumen. His work was his politics and his life. This was unpalatable to those whom he opposed and fence sitters who would rather have a lawyer defend his practice by calling it his ‘profession’- his bread, butter and jam. Instead it was his passion and he took his cases personally. This led to his being branded a ‘terrorist’ lawyer which label had a double entendre given his past. He never hid his past as he believed that it was bound to catch up with him anyway. With infinite patience and humility, he sought to convince people that he was not a terrorist mill co-prisoner. The death threats that he received during his legal career. It was surreal that someone who had been through so much suffering at such a young age, could be so normal. He spoke of his co-accused in the case who were all killed by the state after their acquittal. He believed that he was alive only because of his profession as it gave him legitimacy and immunity from state attack.
His work was not confined to only defending the cases that he gained notoriety for. He pro-actively took up causes of the oustees of the Mithi river beautification project and slum dwellers whose houses were demolished. He was attracted to secularists and democrats and was passionately committed to democratic rights. In jail, he had met Maoist prisoners and helped build the Tihar library with them during Kiran Bedi’s time. He spoke of the books they made him read which shaped his world view. He spoke very highly of Kiran Bedi too and the impact that she had on his life. He was attracted to those who marched to a different beat and went out of his way to befriend them. He read a lot and knew a lot too. He had a driving need to know and dug deep into everything that he studied. He did not confine himself to reading his briefs and defending his cases well but also in analyzing them. He wanted to do his PhD and document the terror cases. In Mumbai he was probably the most knowledgeable person about terrorism, counter terrorism and the state’s modus operandi. At meetings, he would speak softy, slowly and concisely on issues and hold everyone’s attention with his layered and insightful analysis. At the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) and Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) both of which he was an active member of, everyone respected him for his knowledge and experience which was far beyond his young years and took his counsel on important issues including the legal cases.
He was good at explaining things and came to Tata Institute of Social Sciences to take classes for the students as a guest faculty. His honesty, extensive knowledge, unassuming demeanor, good looks, boyish charm, soft voice and self deprecating humor made him win over the students completely. They would be unwilling to let him go and the consensus every year was that his class was the best that they had ever had. He would tell the students about his childhood in Deonar and how during his growing years he saw the institute and dreamt of entering it one day and that he had never imagined that he would come there one day to take a class. He would open up and share extremely personal painful experiences with the students describing his years in the jail and the manner in which he was tortured. When asked which was the most painful torture that he went through- he replied, not being given food to break fast during the month of ramzan. He said that this was more painful than the physical torture that he went through. When students asked him what he felt the solution to the problems was, he would softly reply – justice.
He was a workaholic and spent hours perfecting his craft. He worked till late into the night on his cases with the diligence of a student taking an exam. It was important for him to excel in his profession. He would spend hours discussing a legal point or a judgment and one often wondered how someone who had been so short shifted by the legal system could have such touching faith in it. But his past had also made him defensive about himself. He felt the need to reiterate his faith in the legal and judicial system- the constitutional processes. Like most Muslims he was carefully circumspect in voicing his dissent and backed it with evidence, of which he had plenty. But that did not prevent him from taking up unpopular causes and engaging in larger political issues and defending alleged Maoists and the bomb blast and 26/11 cases. This despite the fact that the Anti Terror Squad of the Mumbai police had him under their scanner and was on the wait to manufacture an opportunity to get to him. He spoke about how accused in the bomb blast cases informed him that they were under pressure to name him in their “confessions” as an abettor. As he began achieving success as a lawyer, there was backlash and Shahid knew that the state was out to get him and tried to take precautions but he would not bring himself to turn his back on the people who frequented his office sitting for hours recounting horrific tales of state terror. He did not do it because he chose the difficult path, but because any ‘easier’ way out would have been far tougher for him. Having been through acute suffering himself he empathized with others’ suffering at a fundamental human level. It would have been impossible for him to live with himself had he given up this work. He probably always knew that he did not have much time and tried to pack in as much as he could into each and every moment that he had. It was not that Shahid was free from fears, but it was not fear that dictated his life, it was love that did.

Monica Sakhrani

Friday, February 12, 2010

“Don’t take benefit of reservations, if you can’t pay back”

By Gomathi Kumar & Sanjay Kabir

Dr. Umakant (b. 1970) is a well known Dalit activist and scholar and has represented Dalit cause at various levels. After his schooling in home state Bihar, Dr Umakant joined Delhi University and later Jawaharlal Nehru University for higher education. In the year 2000, he was awarded doctorate for his thesis ‘Human Rights of Dalits: A Case Study of Bihar (1977-1997)’. In JNU, he was one of the founder members of a Dalit student platform UDSF and later has worked with National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) and International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN). He also co-edited a book titled ‘Caste, Race and Discrimination: Discourses in International Context’ (2004).

Illustration by Rajesh Kumar, JNU, New Delhi

For almost two decades now, you have been participating in the Dalit movement, first as a student activist and later as representing our cause at many national and international fora together with leading various campaigns for Dalit rights, how did you first get exposed to the Dalit movement and when?

My exposure to the Dalit movement started quite early. I got introduced to the Ambedkarite movement and philosophy at home itself thanks to my father who was very passionate for the cause. He introduced me to the literature published by BAMCEF, DS4 and BSP in my school days itself. However, my direct participation in the movement started in 1988, from my graduation days, when I came to Delhi and joined the Department of Political Science, Hindu college for my BA (Honours).

At that time our students were scattered and had no organisation or forum to come together, even informally. I started interacting with the Dalit students and tried to organize them, not by forming any separate organisation, but by bringing them together on certain issues. However, my participation increased in 1990 when the anti-Mandal agitation against OBC reservation took place and Delhi University became its main centre.

What was the impact of anti-OBC reservation agitation of 1990 on the Dalit students? Being a conscious Dalit student what was your response?

Lot of problems started cropping up for our students during that period. Though the Mandal commission recommendations were aimed at OBCs but it was the Dalit students who were being targeted by ‘upper’ castes. Our students were being victimised, ridiculed and things really became very difficult for us in the campus. The prejudices against us were always there but this agitation gave the ‘upper’ caste students an opportunity to display them quite openly.

It was very difficult to be a Dalit student in Delhi University during that period. Therefore I felt the need of meeting all our students not only from SC and ST backgrounds but also the OBCs, to instill a sense of self-respect and not to feel demoralized due to ‘upper’ caste students’ castiest behaviour. Soon we were able to form a small group and started interacting with our students telling them not to get provoked unnecessarily but whenever there was a need, to give a befitting reply to the anti-reservationists and if they resort to physical violence, to get united and defend themselves.

During this agitation we came across many cases of violence against Dalit students carried out mainly by lumpen caste-Hindu students belonging to feudal backgrounds from UP and Bihar. Thankfully in our college nothing of that sort happened but the whole situation during anti-Mandal agitation taught me the urgency of organizing Dalit students. In 1991, I joined Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi for my master’s programme and became much more active in the movement.

You spent almost a decade in JNU as a student right from your post-graduation to doctorate. This campus has a wonderful history of Dalit student activism. What was your experience there and how did it shape your post-student life?

When I joined JNU, Dalit students here also were trying to organize themselves. I immediately teamed up with them and as a result United Dalit Students’ Forum (UDSF) came into existence in 1991. I was one of its founding members and that is where my real involvement with the Dalit student’s issues began and we got enough opportunities to sharpen ourselves, to become articulative and develop leadership skills. However, the best thing with UDSF was the concept of collective leadership in the sense that it was run by a central committee consisting of 6-10 members. No single person was allowed to take the credit. There is always a central committee and collective responsibility that actually lends much credit to an organization like UDSF. Also it helps to develop leadership qualities among our students.

UDSF was the best platform I had. I could become Dalit activist and do international advocacy at different United Nations (UN) bodies only because of my initial training as a member of UDSF. I feel happy that in such a short period I have contributed something for our cause and the entire credit goes to UDSF.

A Dalit student platform is notably absent in majority of Indian campuses. As a frontrunner and a possible role model, what were the main activities of UDSF?

In UDSF, we did many things right from writing pamphlets, making posters on Dalit issues, to writing memorandums, organizing public meetings and building campaigns on different issues both in JNU and outside. We ran study circle classes and organised public talks by inviting noted scholars like Eleanor Zelliot, Gail Omvedt and Owen Lynch - scholars who have done extensive work on Dalits. Then we had our scholars like Prof Kancha Ilaiah, Prof S.K. Thorat, Prof Jogdand and Dr. Ramaiah as our regular speakers. We had regular organisational meetings and used to participate in other public meetings also to raise our issues. Through these activities, we forced other political groups to take up our issues too.

The common perception is that students should not involve themselves in any activities other than studies. For Dalit students the dangers are much more given their weak socio-economic background. What are your thoughts on this?

I disagree. People don’t have an iota of idea about the need and importance of platforms like UDSF in all Indian campuses. Let me tell you very categorically, all active members of UDSF from my batch are more successful professionally than those who chose to remain confined in their rooms. They are now in academics, in bureaucracy; some of them have even become full time activists. You can check this yourself.

They are successful because of the work they did in UDSF and the training they received there. It benefited them a lot in terms of exposure on different issues of our community and to develop interpersonal skills. Working for UDSF gave them a very confident public persona that is prerequisite for one’s professional success. Given the prejudices and hostile campus environment such platforms are the only source for Dalit students to express themselves, have access to information, draw support from each other and become socially conscious members of the community.

Most of the Dalit students who were active in UDSF in their JNU days are still contributing to the movement in different ways. That is the real success of our organisation. It not only helps you in your career but also makes you grounded with Ambedkarite philosophy so that wherever you go, you are aware of your duties towards the community. We need such Dalit student platform in each and every Indian campus and then you will see how things change rapidly in this country.

What are the major achievements of UDSF while you were in JNU that you cherish?

One achievement of UDSF, which I really cherish the most, happened in the year 2000 and had country-wide implications. In that particular year, University Grant Commission (UGC) came out with the decision that there would be no reservations for SC and ST students in Mphil and PhD programmes in the Central Universities.

That was an arbitrary decision, clearly aimed to curb any chance of our students for pursuing higher education. Given the level of caste-prejudices and weak socio-economic status, it is almost impossible for a student from SC/ST background to get admission in these premier institutions without reservation.

UDSF immediately took up this issue and started lobbying with different students’ groups and organizing Dalit students in the JNU campus. We met various cabinet ministers, members of parliament including HRD Minister Murali Manohar Joshi. We also tried to contact Dalit students from all over the country. The efforts of UDSF were remarkable in the sense that not many were aware of such decision and if UGC was allowed to go ahead, then it was the end of the road for SC/ST students for long time to come.

Due to our constant agitation and lobbying, the matter was taken up in the Cabinet meeting. There Ram Vilas Paswan (then a cabinet minister), with whom we lobbied hard, played a major role in putting the issue in right perspective. Within a week of our agitation and lobbying we got the order cancelled. I believe this is the biggest victory for UDSF till date. We fought really hard and won, benefiting thousands of Dalit students across the country.

Another important incident of my UDSF days dates back to 1994, when JNU was celebrating its Silver Jubilee after completing 25 years of its formation and having established its credentials as the bastion of progressive thoughts and ideology. We chose this particular occasion to highlight the hollowness of such claims.

What were the exact concerns raised by UDSF on this occasion?

UDSF initiated a campaign titled ‘what JNU has given to Dalit and Adivasis in the last 25 years’. We prepared the fact-sheet about how many SC and ST teachers have been appointed, how many students admitted and what percentage of SC/ST reservation has been fulfilled in JNU admissions in this period. As expected, despite all its progressive pretensions, JNU was woefully short of fulfilling its constitutional and social obligations.

We prepared posters with these facts and figures and posted in the entire campus. The then President Shankar Dayal Sharma was to inaugurate the function. We went there with black flags, posters, banners saying that JNU has not done justice to us. It created huge flutter and the programme got cancelled. Later, if you see, many teaching positions that were lying vacant were filled up with SC/ST candidates. Such was the impact of our campaign.

Apart from raising Dalit students’ issues in the campus and outside, how did UDSF involve itself with the concerns of larger Dalit community?

Our students were always very keen on raising the issue of caste-based violence. UDSF itself came into existence due to Tsunduru Dalit massacre (Andhra Pradesh, 1991), where 8 Dalits were hacked to death. Then Dalit students felt the need of a platform to show their solidarity to the larger Dalit community as well as to put pressure on the government to punish the perpetrators.

If you notice, 1990s’ was the decade with maximum violence against Dalit community, especially in the rural areas. Almost every year there were incidents where Dalits were massacred for asserting themselves. UDSF, within its limitation, responded by organizing protests in and out of the campus, by sending fact-finding teams, organizing relief to the victims and sensitizing the campus through public talks and meetings.

Here I will like to mention one such incident. In 1998, 61 Dalits were brutally killed by the ‘upper’ caste landlords in Lakshmanpur Bathe, Bihar. I was preparing for my civil services exams together with one of my batch mates Ravindra Kumar (at present faculty in IGNOU, New Delhi). We came to know about this incident on our last day of UPSC Mains exams. That whole night we spent organizing our students from one hostel to another.

On the very next day we held big demonstration inside the campus against the killings and took UDSF delegation to various government authorities in Delhi. Then our team went to Lakshmanpur Bathe and later published a fact-finding report and sent it to the President, Prime Minister together with other concerned authorities demanding severe punishment for the killers. Through our campaign, we tried to highlight the gravity of the crime and applying pressure on the authorities to provide justice. Again it was Ram Vilas Paswan (cabinet minister in then I.K. Gujaral government) who responded very well and undertook maximum efforts to bring relief to the community.

1990s was also the period of political assertion by Dalits. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was on ascendancy and for the first time Dalits were entering into electoral politics as independent players rather than puppets in the hands of the dominant castes. JNU has vibrant student politics and its students’ union elections are keenly watched. Did Dalit students tried to enter into electoral politics there?

UDSF is a non-political platform in the sense that it does not contest students’ union elections. During its formation, we deemed necessary that it should be like this only as we needed a common platform to raise our issues. We wanted to have participation of each and every Dalit students on our platform, irrespective of his/her political leanings.

But we were aware of the importance of electoral politics too and were much influenced and inspired by the political gains made by BSP. So we started Bahujan Student Front (BSF) in 1994. It was separate from UDSF but many of us worked for both. The idea behind the formation of BSF was that JNU student elections are the best platform to bring concerns and issues of our community in open. As you pointed out rightly that JNUSU elections are covered in media through out the country and has some resonance outside the campus, therefore we formed BSF and contested elections.

I contested, in 1995, for the post of general secretary as BSF candidate. Though we lost the election, which was expected, but we were able to set the agenda of the elections. The whole students’ union election was fought around Dalit issues and for the first time our issues and concerns were debated in JNU campus. We had wonderful speakers like our presidential candidate Dr. M.P. Rana (presently a full time activist) who were able to catapult Dalit issues in the mainstream.

It was such an important event in JNU history and the best part was that we did this on our own, without any external support unlike other students groups who could maintain their presence because of their mentors outside. Though we lost the elections but the entire student community was very charged up and we received lots of encouragement from the students from marginalized sections.

BSF stood in JNUSU elections for 2-3 more years but as you know electoral politic has its own compulsion and many of us were also reaching to a point where academic accomplishment becomes an important factor. Given our weak socio-economic backgrounds we have to be very conscious of this fact and can’t take many liberties as for not only our immediate family but for many others we are the only hope for their better future.

Thanks so much for enlightening us and we are sure that your experience in JNU campus as a student activist will inspire many. But when we look at the larger picture, we get hugely disappointed. The Dalit movement has, so far, not emerged at the national level as a force to reckon with. What are the challenges towards that?

It is quite natural. Like the fragmentation in Indian society, Dalits are also divided into different groups. Like you, I also wish for pan-India Dalit movement and have been quite agitated for the lack of it. Once, I asked Prof Eleanor Zelliot, who is a well known authority on Dalit issues, about why there is no pan-India Dalit organisation or movement. I will like to quote her exact answer here.

She said, “India is like Europe. Every region has its own culture, own language. Most of these regions have very strong local Dalit movements but the problem is that these movements are not able to transcend their local barriers, regional barriers. So you will find that in Tamilnadu, or in some parts of Tamilnadu there is a strong movement but the people of neighbouring states like Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra are not aware of it at all. Even in these states there might be grassroots or even state level movements but they have no linkages with their counterparts in Tamilnadu. That is how Dalit movement has remained fragmented region wise, language wise and it is so difficult to bring them all on one national platform without transcending these barriers.”

Ideally our people should have been very well organised after 60 years of independence and our intelligentsia developed enough to play a larger role in mainstreaming our issues. There is huge disappointment in terms of our political leadership too. Instead of having one strong political platform we have many with huge differences among each other. Even in terms of our social organisations and NGOs, we seem not to have one network through which their work could be coordinated, at least on similar issues.

But 60 years is lot of time for a movement to emerge at national level?

Perhaps for country like India, working for 20, 30 and even 40 years is not enough to bring pan-India change or even to have a pan-Indian identity for one organisation. Because of the diversity in the language, culture; it is very difficult to bring people together on one platform. Then Dalits themselves are not a homogeneous group and are divided in hundreds of castes themselves. It further complicates the matter.

It is not that attempts have not been made in this direction. In fact, in last 30 years, there have been various efforts for a pan-India Dalit organisation. The role of Kanshiram Saheb in organizing Dalits and other disadvantaged communities on one political platform was momentous. Today BSP is a party to reckon with and has presence in many states along with clear majority in one of the biggest and most populous state of the country. But you see the amount of hard work it required for Kanshiram Saheb to bring BSP up to this level. He gave his whole life for it.

We do not have very strong economic background and also lack social and cultural capital in terms of generating financial resources to run our organisations. To have a successful all India organisations you need crores of rupees. From where will you get this much money? Who will give you?

It is now that you will hear few Dalit NGOs getting decent fundings for their activities from the funding agencies. After 20-25 years of long struggle these NGOs are able to come up and locate some funding opportunities and many of them are doing commendable work at different levels.

Do you see any role of Dalit students’ activism, like that of UDSF, towards creating a pan-India Dalit movement?

There is strong need of some genuine efforts to create a pan-India Dalit movement. It will not happen automatically and that is where the Dalit students’ activism at premier institutions like JNU becomes important as these institutions have students from different states and through organisations like UDSF that represents all Dalit students, one can learn to transcend regional barriers.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that student life in campuses like JNU might not reflect the ground realities in totality and our training remains incomplete till we go out and work in the larger society. It is very important for a Dalit student activist to understand this fact because the idealism that fires your imagination, your spirit might not match with the ground realities. You might not find strong Dalit organisations at different levels or unity among our people.

But if you are really sincere towards the cause, you can make whole lot of difference. You have to take initiatives. Either you take up issues in your own way or become a full time activist by either joining any social or political platform or NGOs working on our issues and contribute there with your best intentions. You will have to sacrifice a lot because fighting for Dalit rights is not an easy job. It might not pay you politically, socially or economically. If you are determined to work for your people, nothing will stop you from raising the issue, getting justice for our community. What is needed is a team of dedicated young people with good professional background and good training. With only rhetorics we will not go very far.

After completing studies, you have been associated with organisations working for our cause and participated in various campaigns for Dalit rights both at national and international level. One of them was Durban Conference, held in 2001. This conference is often credited for bringing global attention, for the first time, to the issue of caste-discrimination in India. You participated in this conference along with many other Dalit activists. What had been your experience there?

The World Conference against Racism (WCAR) at Durban, in my opinion, was the first ever international event where Dalit activists could successfully participate and bring international attention to the caste discrimination. Creating visibility on the issue was our only goal and we had fair success in doing so. If the Dalits activists had not participated there in large numbers our issues would never have appeared at the international level as prominently as they appear now.

National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) worked as a catalyst for this campaign. It not only mobilized Dalit activists from across the country but took the campaign to different levels simultaneously – from grassroots to international forums. While we were lobbying at Durban, we were also organizing rallies, yatras in different states inside the country demanding Dalit human rights.

In Durban, we were almost at par with African and Palestinian groups in organizing and highlighting our issues. The leader of our Dalit group was even invited to address 12 heads of states that included prominent politicians like Yasar Arafat, Fidel Castro and Thabo Mbeki.

It was a remarkable achievement given the complete lack of exposure of Dalit activists in international advocacy and campaigns. It is an important milestone in the Dalit movement as it brought global attention to caste discrimination. Now we are able to intervene in different UN bodies as well on various Dalit issues. Before Durban, UN bodies never paid attention to our problem. Just after Durban, Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) organised a thematic discussion on descent based discrimination. There, for the first time, any UN document mentioned the word ‘caste’! That’s how we could make a difference.

Highlighting the issue and making every one aware about caste discrimination at global level is very well but no international forum can directly intervene as caste is an ‘internal matter’ of the country. In such scenario, how beneficial international advocacy would be to the Dalits living in this country?

On the face of it, all these exercises may seem useless and to certain extent it is true. Going to UN and raising issue at international fora do not help you much, we know this. We never said that the participation in Durban conference will solve all your problems. But it certainly helps in creating conditions where you can demand accountability from the Indian state.

At the Durban conference our strategy was to create visibility on our issues and we did that quite successfully. After the conference, we tried to consolidate on the gains made at international level by taking up advocacy on Dalit issues at various other international fora. Also we never limited ourselves to international advocacy but are working at different levels. The unwritten motto of NCDHR is ‘we will work from village panchayats to UN level’.

So along with international advocacy we stated working on strategies to capacitate young Dalit activists to work at grassroots level. More than seventeen hundred young Dalit activists from all over the country were given trainings to fight against cases of caste atrocities. They are trained for monitoring atrocity cases, compiling data, preparing the fact finding reports on such cases and then support Dalit victims through legal interventions. Through these activists we are also able to create a big data bank on the number of atrocities and its various forms which later could be used to demand for Dalit rights and to lobby for strong intervention from both the state and international bodies. The grassroots information has helped us in raising the issue in most effective way.

After Durban Conference, what have been the other achievements in international advocacy?

I will like to mention here about the appointment of two Special Rapporteurs, in 2005, by the UN to study caste discrimination and to prepare guidelines for tackling it. Unfortunately the UN body that appointed them got abolished during the restructuring of UN and the Rapporteurs have yet to present their reports, which are now hanging somewhere in the UN building in Geneva. We are lobbying hard to get them published so that we can at least use them as a tool to address our issues.

Then there was a conference organised in Geneva by Human Rights Council on April 10, 2008 where Indian government had to face international censure for not dealing effectively with caste discrimination. Here we submitted our report on caste discrimination and lobbied with the delegations from different countries to raise questions on the status of Dalits in the conference. In just two days, we met and presented our case to missions from about twenty countries.

You know how many of them raised our issue? Eleven of them. Indian government had to take notice and to reiterate its commitment to protect Dalit rights at the conference. This happened not because of two days of lobbying but due to our regular interventions at international levels. After Durban conference, we have used every opportunity to raise various issues on international fora - atrocities on Dalit women, untouchability, manual scavenging, lack of equal opportunities, poverty, discrimination in natural disaster relief and rehabilitations etc. Thus, most of the countries who value human rights are well aware of the caste problem and are willing to support us in pressuring Indian government to implement strict measures to empower Dalits.

Prior to the Durban Conference, were there any similar attempts to draw the global attention towards the problems faced by the Dalits?

It seems, in 1945, Babasaheb Ambedkar tried to take caste issue at international level. There is a reference in Babasaheb’s writings (Writings and Speeches Vol. 17) but what actually happened, we are not aware. Perhaps there was a conspiracy to stop Babasaheb to go to UN.

In 1945 when the League of Nations was preparing for the formal establishment of UN, there were many marginalized groups from different part of the world that were trying to submit memorandums so that their concerns also get reflected in Universal Declaration of Human rights and in other international treaties that were coming up. At Durban, we got to know that there were exchange of letters between Babasaheb Ambedkar and prominent Afro-American leader W. E. B. Du Bois. The Black leader wrote in his biography that, “I received a letter from Dr Ambedkar, leader of untouchables from India to coordinate together to submit a memorandum”.

After the death of Babasaheb few brave attempts were made to lobby international support against caste discrimination in the country. The efforts of Dr. Laxmi Berwa (USA), Advocate Bhagwan Das (Delhi) and Henry Thayagraj (Chennai) must be highly appreciated by all of us in this regard. However, these were at best individual efforts and it is for the first time, in Durban Conference, caste issues were raised in a very systematic way in UN bodies.

After Durban Conference and getting exposed on caste issues at international level, what have been the responses of Government of India?

At least the Government of India now has started admitting the problem that yes there is some thing called caste-discrimination. Earlier they were not even doing that and kept on reiterating that caste problem is now our past. Now they are saying that we will take up the issue seriously and we will get things done inside the country. The problem is these pronouncements should also reflect in the implementation which still is not happening. For us it is going to be a long battle so that state is held accountable for all the atrocities that are committed on us.

Despite having an egalitarian Constitution and wonderful set of anti-discriminatory laws why the state is unable to implement them?

The problem lies at the way things are done at Government level. Babasaheb used to say that Manu is still alive in this country. People who are at the helm of affairs are still following manu-wad. That is why our people are having a miserable life even after 60 years of independence. Anti-discriminatory Laws and progressive constitutional provisions do not operate in vacuum. These are operating within a caste-society that does not recognize the Indian Constitution. The brahmanical social order does not recognize it. This social order decides the behaviour of dominant caste groups in our country – be it caste-Hindus, caste-Muslims, or caste-Christians.

And when such people constitute majority of those who are at helm of affairs of this country, how can there be any socio-economic change? That is why it is important for us to create a space in the decision making process and in governance of the country. One or two Dalit persons can never bring change. With one chairperson of some government body, one planning commission member or one member in the cabinet here and there, things are not going to happen. We need to mainstream Dalit rights and concerns every where, in every sector.

You have almost two decades of activism behind you starting right from your student life to representing the Dalit cause at various fora. What are your expectations from the Dalit students now?

We need people who are willing to work for liberating our community. We do not need people who have problems in identifying themselves as Dalits. Every person who has benefited from the reservation policy has the moral duty to pay back to the society. Don’t take benefit of reservations if you can’t pay back. You are being immoral otherwise. If there was no reservation, we would not have been here, talking to each other. You have also no rights to take reservation benefits if you are unable to defend the policy. Let’s be clear and honest to ourselves.

I feel proud to say that I am a product of reservation policy. It would not have been possible for me to get such a good education without it. Without good education, it would have been impossible for me to become an advocate of Dalit rights. My father was the first beneficiary of reservation and he struggled much to provide education not only to his children but to other relatives too. This is what every first generation beneficiary has done.

If you see around carefully, you will realize that most of educated Dalits from our parent’s generation had helped so many people, not just their own families. Every one who has benefited has paid back more than what they were supposed to. They have done their best, they have paid back to the community and it is now our responsibility to pay back.

[Gomathi Kumar and Sanjay Kabir did their Masters of Social Work (MSW) from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai in the session 2007-09]
courtesy: Insight Young Voice,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rahul Gandhi and Bal Thackery (Language or Caste)

Siva Sena recently said that Bombay is for Marathi speaking population. Most of the subaltern would say the same that is the reason Siva Sena also says it. Still I would like to remind him the last census of Maharstrar says that Bhangi population is urbanized and they are considered to be under “other wokers”. Maharastra gazetter says that Bhangi are migrants from Gujarat. Utleast most of us know that Bhangi population is a “Scavenging” population. The secret is they are not Marathi speaking population but they are Hindi speaking population. Therefore Siva Sena should know that his “Shit” for ages has been cleaned not by Marathis but Hindi speaking population. Hence, before saying Mumbai belongs to Marthi speaking population let his family come and starts doing scavenging across Mumbai first and let him say the slogan.
Rahul Gandhi said “Mumbai belongs to all”, as a reply to Siva Sena VHP. Basically it can be said the other way too, Mumbai belongs to all Caste and groups. Let us rewind back to Gandhi (“Mahatma”), who said all jobs are equal in status. But actually both Rahul and Gandhi say the same idea again that all people are equal. But what actually happens is pathetic. As I said above the Scavenging in Maharastra is done only by one particular community for ages. Therefore, if we have to encounter Rahul Gandhi then we should ask him then why scavenging is done only by Hindi speaking Bhangi community(Dalit) rather than Gandhi family or Siva Sena. Hence fore it is also a castist remark.
If Rahul agrees for Siva Sena then May be all the upper castes and Brahmins will force Rahul and his family to clean the Marathi shit first.
This is what congress is doing for decades together stating all are equal and still practices untouchability. This is the truth for an example if everyone is equal then why should Rahul Gandhi go the UP Dalits house and eat food, does it mean he doesn’t have food. It shows that Rahul will fight for Dalits (utleast he says). Whatsoever, Dalits in UP became aware of this and started closing the doors because telling like this so much food has been stole by people who say we are with you. So recently they started to keep the doors closed because only little food left, which they cannot get cheated by Rahul Gandhi.

His Unmatured political comments:
Recently, Rahul Gandhi visisted one of the Muslim University and said In india any person can become PM, unless and untill he is capable of holding such a big post. Therefore he mentioned Manmohan Sing as an example. If this is what he said did it really mean that in Muslim community and Dalit communities there are no any “most proficient person” to hold the position. Or did he mean to say that anyone who can be a puppet in the hands of national politician can become an Indian PM. This is the only reason Ms. Mayawati is not capable for congress to consider her as a PM candidates, because she cannot be a puppet in the so-called Congress regime.

(“A Muslim can become the Prime Minister provided he is the most proficient person for it, he added” Abstract:

With the above comment he escaped.
But the next time he was asked to apologize
“Apparently to woo Muslim students, the son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi reportedly said, “India can change only if Gujarat changed first.”
The students created ruckus accusing the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family of doing politics in university campus. They asked him to abstain from making political utterances and that the campus was not a platform for such meetings.
Gandhi had to apologize as Congress leaders present at the venue failed to calm down the angry students. He, finally, had to leave the campus as students refused to listen to him.”

Rape Case against him:
“ Rahul Gandhi, Parliament Member of India, Congress Member, All India Congress Party General Secretary, representing the youth of Congress Party - involved in rape of a girl, On 3rd December 2006, Rahul Gandhi was camping at Amethi along with 7 others including 4 foreigners (two from Britain and other two from Italy, names not known). Around 9 P.M all of them were drinking liquor at a V.I.P. guest house in a high security zone. They had an uninvited guest; a young girl named Sukanya Devi, 24 years of age, 1a staunch follower of Nehru-Gandhi family and daughter of Congress worker Balram Singh. Sukanya was looking for an opportunity to meet Rahul Gandhi since last two years and on that fateful night she able to meet him. Sukanya's family has been supporting the Congress party since the time of Nehru. When she met Rahul he spoke to her for a couple of minutes and later he and his friends offered her liquor. Sukanya was amazed seeing all this, she was not feeling comfortable, she refused to have liquor and took permission to leave, but she was forced to stay back and drink. She kept resisting, but they raped her one by one. She cried for help, but her cries fell on deaf ears.”


This is not a new thing to be said about a high profile politician, because in India there are many such rapes done by politician and cover it up. So there are many sukanya’s in our country, who do not know where to go? The above case may be true or Not but still even if it is true can we think that Congress will punish Rahul for the matters.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The other side of Gandhi

Gandhi nearly killed ‘Indian women’ ! Thanks to Hindu Code bill

Following are the excerpts from the international Daily Gaurdian…

George Orwell, in his 1949 essay Reflections on Gandhi, said that “saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent”. If only.

Gandhi despised his own sexual desires, and despised sex in any context except for procreation. He preached that the failure to control carnal urges led to complaints including constipation. He believed that sex was bad for the health of an individual, and that sexual freedom would lead Indians to failure as a people. He sought to consign his nation to what Martin Luther called “the hell of celibacy”. He took his own celibacy vow unilaterally, without consulting his wife.

His view of the female body was warped. As accounted by Rita Banerji, in her book Sex and Power, “he believed menstruation was a manifestation of the distortion of a woman’s soul by her sexuality”.

During Gandhi’s time as a dissident in South Africa, he discovered a male youth had been harassing two of his female followers. Gandhi responded by personally cutting the girls’ hair off, to ensure the “sinner’s eye” was “sterilised”. Gandhi boasted of the incident in his writings, pushing the message to all Indians that women should carry responsibility for sexual attacks upon them. Such a legacy still lingers. In the summer of 2009, colleges in north India reacted to a spate of sexual harassment cases by banning women from wearing jeans, as western-style dress was too “provocative” for the males on campus.

Gandhi believed Indian women who were raped lost their value as human beings. He argued that fathers could be justified in killing daughters who had been sexually assaulted for the sake of family and community honour. He moderated his views towards the end of his life. But the damage was done, and the legacy lingers in every present-day Indian press report of a rape victim who commits suicide out of “shame”. Gandhi also waged a war against contraceptives, labelling Indian women who used them as whores.

Like all men who wage a doomed war with their own sexual desires, Gandhi’s behaviour around females would eventually become very, very odd. He took to sleeping with naked young women, including his own great-niece, in order to “test” his commitment to celibacy. The habit caused shock and outrage among his supporters. God knows how his wife felt.

Gandhi cemented, for another generation, the attitude that women were simply creatures that could bring either pride or shame to the men who owned them. Again, the legacy lingers. India today, according to the World Economic Forum, finds itself towards the very bottom of the gender equality index. Indian social campaigners battle heroically against such patriarchy. They battle dowry deaths. They battle the honour killings of teenage lovers. They battle Aids. They battle female foeticide and the abandonment of new-born girls.

In the words of the Indian writer Khushwant Singh, “nine-tenths of the violence and unhappiness in this country derives from sexual repression”. Gandhi isn’t singularly to blame for India’s deeply problematic attitudes to sex and female sexuality. But he fought, and succeeded, to ensure the country would never experience sexual freedom while his legend persevered. Gandhi’s genius was to realise the great power of non-violent political revolution. But the violence of his thoughts towards women has contributed to countless honour killings and immeasurable suffering.

Remember, there’s no such thing as a saint.

Source: The Gaurdian

Sunday, February 7, 2010

“Terrorism” a different meaning

The Present Century witness many “War” not on different nations but within its own Nation. US were the forefather to use the slogan to invade Iraq. No nation could question the US operation because it was fighting against terrorism. Since then many Government took the slogan and interpreted the way they liked. Now many nations are using the same slogan to solve the internal problems.
The War can be viewed as below.
The recent War is between the Government (authorized Terrorist) and the innocent civilian. The civilians are termed in different names according to their country, like in India they are called Naxalites, in Sri Lanka they are called as Tamil or LTTE. Here I would like to say how the Yemen nation is fighting against terrorism.
During the Soviet Union, America wanted to fight soviet, therefore it asked Osama to go to Afghanistan and build his business and fight against Soviet in the name of Islam. As directed he went to Afghanistan and mobilized the Muslims to fight against soviet. During this period, America asked the help of Yemen to fight against Soviet. Yemen agreed and extended its support through sending its troop. After Soviet Union collapsed, the Yemeni nation was asked to put all the soldiers who went to Afghanistan under prison saying they are Al-qaeda. Yemen did the same, however everyone in Yemen knew that these prisoners have nothing to do anything against the common public. Still the Yemeni government did it. But the Government put them for some other reason. Couple of years before some prisoners escaped. Since then the Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh asked every nation to give money because some of the prisoners escaped to America (Actually they say it was the plot done by the government to get money to solve the internal problem between north-south). But none were ready to believe. Recently the FBI in America caught a person who tried to collapse a building by a flight. When he was interrogated he said he was trained in Yemen. America said, Yemen is the latest ground for the al qaeda. Yemen president said Yes! He was trained in Yemen, and belongs to Al-qaeda, and said further that “I have been saying for years that I need money to fight against the Al-qaeda, but no country responded”. After this US organized a conference with 48 countries and agreed to give money to help Yemen to curb Al-quada. Now totally Yemen received 250 million dollars and more help through getting army equipment and other helps from various countries.
With this fund the President is going to silence the people who are fighting for separation. (Ref. EFL-University, Yemeni Friends)
In the name of War on Naxalites(one kind of terrorist, in government terms), India is killing Tribal population.
Sri Lanka puts all civilians into prison and executes saying they are LTTE (terrorist).

Friday, February 5, 2010


The Census is carried for the Permanent staffs alone. It includes Non-teaching and Teaching staffs from our university. The given data is 99% accurate. If anyone requires to know the subcaste's population, mail me. I thought it would be controversial, therefore i have avoided for the time being. However, to say there are 2 Bangi's(They are otherwise called as mehtars, paki, relly) working in our university. one is engaged in Basheer Hostel Toilet and the other in the ladies hostel toilet. The total number of the staffs are approximately 385 till now. There is only one muslim ladies in the campus as a permanent staffs. The Reservation policy of 60 years has not increased the level of the Scavengers or Sweepers in India.
For Madigas, the highest position in the administration they hold is the Section Officer. Then the question should be: who was using the Reservation policy for 60 years?
Here i quote
AP census 2001
" The growth rate of SC population in the decade 1991-2001 at 16.5 per cent
has been higher if compared to the overall growth rate of the state population (14.6 per
cent) as a whole. Among the numerically major SCs, Mala have recorded the highest
growth rate of 29.7 per cent, followed by Madiga (25.5 per cent). On the other hand, Adi
Andhra caste, the fourth largest in the state have recorded a negative growth (-80.5 per
cent). Adi Dravida have also recorded a low growth rate of 4 per cent. Due to the ethnic
affinity, it is likely that a number of Adi Andhra and Adi Dravida have reported
themselves as Mala and/or Madiga, resulting in such a large differential in growth rate."

"Among the major SCs, Adi Andhra have been reported the highest literacy rate
of 69.6 per cent, followed by Adi Dravida (65.4 per cent) and Mala (60 per cent). More
than half of Madigas are illiterate with literacy rate of 47.5 per cent. The female literacy
rate of 43.3 per cent among SC population is lower compared to the total females of the
state (50.4 per cent) as well their male counterparts (63.5 per cent). The highest and
lowest female literacy rate of 63 per cent and 36.9 per cent have been recorded among
Adi Andhra and Madiga."

Therefore for a constructive growth there should be special attention paid not on seeing Dalit as an homogenity group rather seeing it through its own division i.e., sub-Caste. But still they are all Dalits.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


do any one recognize her? once she was a participant in the Russian department. She was the first girl from her Taluk to reach this premier institute. During her tenth standard she scoured the highest mark in her school. She hails from the scavenging background, her mother and father committed suicide at her early age. She is the third child for her parents, one sister and one brother. Her expenses was met by her grandmother alone by collecting equlaptus leaves in forest. with the less income she could reach till 12th standard on 1998. After these many years she comes to our university under merit. She expelled in her studies even here. Before joining this University she was working as a home-maid for 3 houses for RS. 500 each, Per month. She was happy to study in this university. But still her family situation droved her back and sent her to the same old job.
Like this there are many students who leave everything in their back home and come here with lot of hope. But what really happens is tragic. We all may think that it is a sad story to write here. We all can say that we could do nothing in her situation, but another question we should ask ourselves is at least those students who are studying in this campus should get a good future. Do they really get good education (B.A) is the question? most of the students are getting 'E', 'c' and 'D', which would be like 35% of mark. The SC/ST/OBC are the majority in getting failed. What can they do with this degree? The recent incident was also related to this. Every teacher knew that these students are scoring very less marks and they cannot have a bright future. This issue blew because of failure. But, what have they done is the question we have to ask?
Recently Teachers call a meeting in request of some faculties for discussing about a particular teachers problem. The same faculties did not call a single meeting to discuss, why did one of our students tried to attempt suicide?. If this question was raised long back then there is no need for students to raise this issue after 20 days. And we should understand that this is the 3 semester they have taken. Therefore, teachers are aware of the results awarded to students. Many of the students who were active were also silenced.
Let us hope that one day the teachers will wakeup for a students cause.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Question: Who got independence on 1947?

Recently I had been to the Central Jail to visit one of my friends. The Jail structure and the way police were guarding it arose lot many questions in me. As a result I could get a sense of how Britishers treated “natives” once, for that matter anyone who was ruling. We read lesson after lesson of our “Great” freedom struggle, and the struggle we had for getting independence. But when I saw the jail it told me one thing that yes it was true but there were some grammatical error which is forced on us to believe the independence 1947 struggle. Because, recently Telangana Mass movement is struggling to get a separate state, and the same is the case with Gorkhaland. In Maharashtra Vidharba regional struggle. And there are many more: Nandhigram struggle (Bengal), Naxalite struggle (from Andhra northwards covering the whole east corridor of India), peasant struggle, Caste struggle, and struggle against price rise. Even there are struggles where people are struggling for months together in New Delhi which are not reported. These struggle are not against non-natives, then who is it against? It means everyone of us want to get freed from various clutches, i.e. region, class, caste, BJP, Congress, CPI etc. Every day in news paper a particular Class or socially backward community is struggling for some or the other issue against other Indians.

How many police station, security guards we have in India, and these are not created for non-Indians, it is only to stop or control Indians, from what?
Because it is not we who got independence, it is they who got independence. It is left to the readers to see who “we” is and who is “they”. Therefore let us start this new century’s freedom struggle so that we can also have some more decades and enjoy and the next centuries some other can fight for another freedom struggle.
Who got independence in 1947?
These above struggles we all know very well and still why do we say “We got independence in 1947”. The simple answer is left to each one of us....

Monday, February 1, 2010


The notice was put across the Campus of English and Foreign Languages University. Inquired, it was informed that the students of B.A put the notice for getting justice on the following issue.
1.To Find out whether student of German department face Caste Discrimination
2.To inquire why majority of the failure of students always belongs to a particular social group.

On the above point they called a meeting and decided to boycott the classes of B.A till the administration forms two different committee to inquire into the matter respectively, at last they succeeded in forming committees.


There and letter after letter distributed withing faculties and students on this particular issue. Therefore we would get the facts and post in the coming page.

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