We would like to thank Dr. Satyanarayana, the administration for their continued support of our efforts, and Mr. Dhanaraj for his time.
Sukanya Basu Ray Chaudhuri
We would like to thank Dr. Satyanarayana, the administration for their continued support of our efforts, and Mr. Dhanaraj for his time.
The Vice Chancellor
Ref: No: UH/
The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Teachers forum expresses its deep shock at the tragic demise of the PhD scholar, Mr Senthil. The Forum has taken strong note of the untoward event and in order to pre-empt such happening in the future, the Forum seeks to suggest the following:
Even as the Forum expresses its skepticism regarding certain aspects of the culture of
In 2000, Bant Singh’s eldest daughter, Baljeet Kaur, then a minor studying in the ninth standard, was raped. Their family was pressured to accept cash to keep the incident quiet, and threatened with violent repercussions if they didn’t. The Village Panchayat told them not to go to the police – no one would marry Baljeet if the assault became public. They were offered 10 lakhs, gold ornaments and a scooter to make up for a brutal gang rape. Bant Singh, however, refused to stop short of anything but justice.
In 2002, District Court ruling sentenced Mandheer Singh, Tarsem and Gurmail Kaur to life imprisonment. This was the first time a Dalit had secured a conviction against a member of the upper caste.
Mandheer Singh filed an appeal in the
Bant Singh was assaulted on two occasions; both times the police in Joga released the accused on bail. On
Bant Singh was rushed to Mansa Civil Hospital, but the doctor, Purushottam Goel refused to touch him without a Rs.1000 bribe. Singh lay in the hospital for thirty six hours and was finally bandaged on January 7th. On January 8th, the hospital authorities informed the family that they did not have adequate facilities to treat him, and he was shifted to
Significantly, the Jats of the village do not deny the assault took place, or that it was intended to silence Baljeet Kaur and serve as a warning to any other Dalit who dared assert himself/herself against the upper castes. Witnesses say they heard the Sarpanch ordering the men to break Singh’s arms and legs. It is believed that the attack was orchestrated by Sarpanch Jaswant Singh and former Sarpanch Niranjan Singh. Nothing has been done about these suspicions so far.
Of the seven convicted for the attack, two are the sons of Jaswant Singh, and two of Amreek Singh, a ration shop owner, who Bant Singh closed down on account of his hoarding goods. Amreek Singh is also a relative of Mandheer Singh who was sentenced in Baljeet Kaur’s rape. The police, however, maintain there is no connection whatsoever between the assault and the rape, that the two are separate incidents and the assault was the result of an unspecified “personal enmity”.
Dr. Pramod Kumar, Director of The Institute of Development and Communication says, “If the rapist is a Jat, it is not even considered a crime and the victim’s father is told to keep his daughter in check. But if a Dalit is accused of rape, they let the law take its course.”
Jeeta Kaur, the state organizer of
The number of cases reported under The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act has increased over the years. From 4 rapes and 7 murders in 1992 out of 18 cases, the figures have gone up to 3 murders and 10 rapes out of 66 in 2000; and 13 rapes and 1 murder out of 94 in 2004. However there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that most crimes against members of the lower castes are not legally dealt with. Bant Singh’s wife, Harbans Singh, spoke of a minor beggar girl who had been raped at a gurudwara a month before her husband’s ordeal, which had gone unreported and ignored. Another minor was gang raped at Nayagaon, near
Bant Singh has now been heralded by the media as a symbol of Dalit defiance and refusal to relent in the face of oppression. His message of hope and his unbreakable spirit have found their way into a photo-essay by Raghu Rai, the images of which have been displayed here. Sanjay Kak’s documentary on him, titled “Bant Singh can Still Sing”, is available on the video bar.
By Sukanya Basu Ray Chaudhuri
In August 2000, the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights passed resolution 2000/4 on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent. This addressed the issue of caste, and aimed at reaffirming that discrimination based on work and descent was in violation of international human rights laws. In 2001, the addition of caste to the agenda of the United Nations World conference on Racism at
The Human Right Watch sought to show that issues of caste were not only relevant in the
Finally due to protests of the Indian government, caste was not to be included in the
By Aarthi Sridhar
The Dalit movement is regarded by many scholars as the most influential social movement in Independent
In the pre-Independence period, the anti-caste movement comprised strong non-Brahmin movements in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu as well as Dalit movements in Maharashtra, Punjab, western UP, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra and
The start of the Dalit movement can be placed around the 1920s with the emergence of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. Ambedkar, who was almost the sole national voice of the Dalits in the first 30 years of the movement, provided it with its ideological framework which demarcates the general rubric for Dalit resistance even today. Ambedkar’s resistance, in many ways, drew on the ideas of the 19th century Dalit reformer Jyotirao Phule and yet, in other was markedly different. Ambedkar, like Phule attacked Hindu society from a metaphysical perspective and shared his stand on the complete dismantling of an innately anti-democratic and anti-modern Hindu religion as the only way to do away with entrenched hierarchies of domination and subjugation. Both propagated an idea of an equalitarian society with decidedly modern ideals. Phule, influenced by the European ‘Aryan theory of race’ and the doctrines of the ‘Right of Man’ proposed that Dalits and the Shudras were the original inhabitants conquered by the invading Aryans. In this, violence and ideology were the driving forces of history. Phule propagated the replacement of Hinduism with a more universalistic, equalitarian and rationalistic religion which Phule called the ‘sarvajanik satya dharma’. Ambedkar, on the other hand, rejected the overbearing racial element in Phule, believing the caste system to have come into being through practices of excommunication long after the intermingling of Aryan and indigenous races. Ambedkar chose to look at the caste system as a construct of power relations, as more of a social phenomenon. Moreover, while Phule’s criticism is directed more at the oppressiveness of Hinduism and calls on a discourse of benevolence and compassion; Ambedkar’s focus is on the irrationality and superstition of the religion, and he felt comfortable only with an alternative like Buddhism - which had effectively rationalized God – that would allow him recourse to the call of ‘reason’.
The 1920s and 30s saw Ambedkar’s increasing radicalism, and it is in these years that a number of his most crucial ideas were put into practice, like the right of untouchables to pubic utilities with the Mahad satyagraha in 1927 and the entry of untouchables into temples in Nashik in 1930. Through the 30s, Ambedkar became an increasingly controversial character on the Indian political scene for his dogged insistence on holding to communitarian identities amidst a strengthening nationalist freedom movement built on modern, secular ideals. Ambedkar, like Phule, was willing to appreciate the positive aspects of British imperialism, in that they were harbingers of modernity in feudal India and had been instrumental in alleviating the conditions of the Dalits, in whatever small measure. While he declared categorically his opposition to any form of imperialist hegemony, his primary concerns lay with his own Mahar community’s plight, as was clear in his advocacy for reservations for Dalits in jobs and electorates in
In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party (
In his attempt to weld together the class and caste movements, it would seem that Ambedkar would have a natural affinity to the Marxist movement which was also gathering strength at the time. But this was not to be, for a number of reasons. The main disagreement between Ambedkar and the Marxists was on the centrality of the caste question. For the Marxists, with their mechanical understanding of class, caste was a comparatively irrelevant category as it was only an outcrop of feudalism that would disappear with a successful class revolution. For Ambedkar, on the other hand,
On similar grounds he laid out his opposition to the Congress party, which he labeled as also being a preserve of Brahminical hegemony. He accused the Congress of creating the delusion of a unified
Thus, Ambedkar’s radicalism set him at loggerheads with the two strongest political forces of the time, thus foreclosing any possibility of support from them.
The 1940s saw escalating Hindu-Muslim tensions and increased political maneuvering in the run-up to
After the death of Ambedkar, however, the Dalit movement began to lose its vitality. The Republican Party of
But by the 1970s, as promises of development grew stale and the old resentment began to resurface, the Dalit movement returned in a decisively more militant mode. In 1972, the Dalit Panthers came to the fore with the stated intention: “We don’t want a little place in Brahman galli; we want the rule of the whole country.” Strongly influenced by the Naxalite movement, the Dalit Panthers showed no aversion towards violence – meeting Shiv Sena cadres in open street confrontations – and looked to define ‘Dalit’ in a far broader sense, looking to rally not just the untouchables, but workers, women and all other oppressed sections of society to a people’s revolution. The Dalit Panthers, in an attempt similar to what Ambedkar tried in the 30s, welded together disparate issues of land reform, untouchability and communalism. Like Ambedkar, the Panthers also stood as a critique of both the Congress Government and the facile, sold-out Left, and tried to bring together the most diverse groups as a viable political alternative. The group was active through the 70s but by the 1980s, it was rife with internal splits that rendered it ineffective.
With an apparent exhausting of the militant solution, the Dalit movement began to become politically more assertive as caste-based parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party started to gain political weightage. The 1990s have come to be defined by caste politics, particularly with controversy on the Mandal Commission report on reservations in government jobs at the start of the decade becoming a high point of the Dalit struggle.
In the new decade of coalition politics, as caste-based regional parties gain prominence, a few questions still cast a shadow of doubt. Throughout the Dalit movement, its response has always been tactical in nature, depending upon the incumbent circumstances. Consequently, one may at times find the movement's political positions to be in apparent contradiction – their use of caste identity in an attempt to fight caste inequality; their seemingly favourable stance towards British imperialism in India as against their opposition to globalization.
While such a strategic approach may have worked well until now, there is a need to think seriously on the question of ‘what is to be done’, now that the movement is gaining some measure of power – what is the agenda the movement can offer the country as a whole? What is required is a genuine ‘view from below’ based on a solid theoretical foundation, rather than purely empirical assertions. A viewpoint that can build a Dalit critique in every field of study and provide an alternative vision of the world.
By Gaurav Rajkhowa
The film, for a start, points out one of the most basic misconceptions about caste in
The film documents the pervasive domination of the upper castes that often takes extra-judicial forms. For instance, the film shows a Rajput who holds that the police must consult their community before filing a case of atrocity against them. These statements depict the failure of the legal system in protecting the basic right sanctioned to every citizen of
The film on one hand portrays the sense of superiority prevailing in upper castes and on the other, we see the plight of “oppressed classes” because of ‘pollution’ bestowed on them by religion. It looks at how scripture and ritual play an important role in the perpetuation of caste. The film portrays the stand of several spiritual heads on the issues of caste and untouchability.
The film destroys any illusions one might have about caste discrimination being a primarily rural phenomenon, enforced through rituals of purity and pollution. It is shocking to know that discrimination is seen even in premier institutions like JNU. The experiences of a doctor who is subjected to discrimination on the basis of caste is the perfect example to show the ‘operation’ of caste in a sophisticated way in the present day world. The doctor calls it “Hi-tech discrimination”: even highly educated and meritorious Dalits are also subjected to untouchability and discrimination. In the light of these incidents, even education is not going to eradicate discrimination and untouchability. The prevalence of discrimination on the lines of caste in states like Kerala - which is recognized as a progressive state for its cent percent literacy, development and communism - is astonishing. It is shocking to know that even now in this so-called globalised world, Dalits are being denied a basic right like being allowed to draw drinking water from public wells.
Discrimination makes itself felt even in the education sphere. Dalit children are made to sit in the last row of the class and they are made to clean the toilets. The film depicts how a school going child in whose mind the seeds of discrimination are sown mindlessly end up unwittingly practicing untouchability in some form or the other. The film shows the pressing need to find an answer to the abomination of caste.
However, the film which highlights various form of discrimination, atrocities, and the plight of dalits end with a note of hope. The vibrant music in the film demands a change - a change that will bring for the oppressed Dalit equality, protection of his basic human rights and his life. The film calls for immediate action which will help those sections of people who are denied rights and are subjected to oppression for ages. Prevalence of caste discrimination and untouchability is certainly a black spot on the image of progressive
About the Director:
Stalin K. is a human rights activist and award-winning documentary filmmaker. In recent years, he has become known for his pioneering 'participatory media' work with urban and rural communities, in which local people produce their own videos and radio programs as an empowerment tool. He is the Co-Founder of DRISHTI - Media, Arts and Human Rights, Convener of the Community Radio Forum-India, and the
'INDIA UNTOUCHED' is Stalin's second film on the issue of caste — his earlier film 'Lesser Humans,' on manual scavenging, won the Silver Conch at the Mumbai International Film Festival and the Excellence Award at Earth Vision Film Festival, Tokyo, and helped to bring international attention to the issue of caste.
By Sudhams Cherukupalli