Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 22.02.16

BJYM, Dalit activists clash during JNU prof’s lecture – The Business Standard

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/bjym-dalit-activists-clash-during-jnu-prof-s-lecture-116022200059_1.html

Dalits in Madurai colony refuse to send kids to govt school fearing caste bias – The News Minute

http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/dalits-madurai-colony-refuse-send-kids-govt-school-fearing-caste-bias-39324

I’m being targeted over Dalit identity, says JNU student – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/im-being-targeted-over-dalit-identity-says-jnu-student/article8266982.ece

Government School in Madurai Where no Dalit Children Study Since 1987 – The New Indian Express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Government-School-in-Madurai-Where-no-Dalit-Children-Study-Since-1987/2016/02/21/article3289725.ece

Atrocities Act victims set to get preference in state-run hostels – The Times Of India

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Atrocities-Act-victims-set-to-get-preference-in-state-run-hostels/articleshow/51084065.cms

Sanitation facility: Mehsana Dalit family finally gets toilet – The Indian Express

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/sanitation-facility-mehsana-dalit-family-finally-gets-toilet/

Disquiet on campuses because young Dalits are resisting Hindutva – The Hindustan Times

http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/disquiet-on-campuses-because-young-dalits-are-resisting-hindutva/story-dY0MO3RqIbVbTDJOJ6QJjL.html

‘Andhra Bank owes it to dalit staff’ – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/andhra-bank-owes-it-to-dalit-staff/article8265732.ece?ref=tpnews

Gandhi and Ambedkar, a false debate – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/gandhi-and-ambedkar-a-false-debate/article8265526.ece

 

The Business Standard

BJYM, Dalit activists clash during JNU prof’s lecture

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/bjym-dalit-activists-clash-during-jnu-prof-s-lecture-116022200059_1.html

Press Trust of India  |  Gwalior February 22, 2016 Last Updated at 02:13 IST

Members of BJP’s youth wing today clashed with activists of AmbedkarVicharManch (AVM) here during a lecture by JNU professor Vivek Kumar at a function organised by AVM.

The incident took place at at around 4 PM at Municipal Corporation’s BalBhawan auditorium, sources said.

“BJYM members stormed BalBhawan, chanted slogans and tried to disrupt the function alleging that it threatened peace,” they said.

A heated exchange took place among the members of both the groups and a clash ensued. However, there were no reports of anybody getting hurt in the incident.

Based on a complaint filed by AVM leader Dinesh Maurya, BJYM district president Vivek Sharma and several others have been booked under Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, police said.

SP H C Mishra said a probe is on in the incident.

The News Minute

Dalits in Madurai colony refuse to send kids to govt school fearing caste bias

http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/dalits-madurai-colony-refuse-send-kids-govt-school-fearing-caste-bias-39324

TNM Staff| Monday, February 22, 2016 – 09:13

The panchayat union leader said that “for some unknown reasons” the Dalits do not send their children to school.

The AdiDravidar colony in Madurai has 150 Dalit families who fear sending their sons and daughters to the panchayat union primary school in Karuvithurai village, fearing that their children might face discrimination by the caste Hindu students and villagers, The News Indian Express reported.

The Dalit children are attending the government higher secondary school in neighbouringMannadimangalampanchayat. The Dalits claim that even for that the children have to go through a grove and not through the main road.

According to TNIE, the panchayat union leader M Karnan said that “for some unknown reasons” the Dalits do not send their children to school.

The discrimination is not only limited to the children even to the Dalit staff who work at the school. “The parents did not allow their children to take food made by me,” said Pandieashwari, a Dalit noon meal staff.

Defending the caste Hindus the panchayat union leader said that after last month’s communal clash, the caste Hindus thought that she might not prepare proper food for the children. “They wanted her removed from the school but we intervened and brought her back to school,” he said.

About a month ago, a clash broke out between the Dalits and caste-Hindu groups over a song played from a Tamil movie. The caste-Hindu youth had found the song provocative.

The Dalit students claimed that they are taunted outside school with their caste names. “If we start reacting to their taunts, there would be a communal clash everyday, a Dalit girl told TNIE.

Reacting to the allegations made by the Dalits, a caste- Hindu Nambirajan alleged that the Dalit youths spread rumours using mobile phones and internet about caste discrimination.

The Chief Educational Officer of the district, J Angelo Irudayasamy said, “Serious measures would be taken to ensure thhe irritant issue was resolved soon,” as told to TNIE.

The Hindu

I’m being targeted over Dalit identity, says JNU student

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/im-being-targeted-over-dalit-identity-says-jnu-student/article8266982.ece

KRITIKA SHARMA SEBASTIAN

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Rama Naga, who is among those named in a sedition case for allegedly shouting anti-national slogans in the university and is wanted by the Delhi Police, said he was also being targeted over his Dalit identity.

“The issue of slogans on February 9 is merely a pretext. It is not just ‘Afzal kibaat‘ but ‘Ambedkarkibaat’ too are being met with sedition charges,” Naga said on Monday.

“We know that in Gwalior on Sunday, JNU Prof. Vivek Kumar was fired upon and copies of the Constitution were burnt when he was addressing a talk on Ambedkar,” he added.

Naga, along with Umar Khalid, Anant Prakash, Ashutosh Kumar and Anirban Bhattacharya, returned to the JNU campus on Sunday night.

Umar, upon his return to the campus, said that he came back after hearing about the threats that his sisters were receiving. “I feel I am being targeted for my Muslim identity. People were giving all kinds of threats to my sisters in my absence, so I thought it was just best to return to the campus.”

The other students also added that returned to the campus after hearing the negative information about them, through various social media posts and media reports.

“We as JNUSU Office Bearers are committed to defend freedom of expression of students and will fight criminalisation of dissent. We are the ones fighting against Bharat kibarbadi at the hands of communal and corporate fascism,” a statement released by the JNU student’s union said.

The New Indian Express

Government School in Madurai Where no Dalit Children Study Since 1987

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Government-School-in-Madurai-Where-no-Dalit-Children-Study-Since-1987/2016/02/21/article3289725.ece

By Ram M Sundaram | ENSPublished: 21st February 2016 11:24 PMLast Updated: 21st February 2016 11:24 PM

MADURAI: Kuruvithurai is a village in Madurai district, six kms away from Solavandan town. The AdiDravidar colony here has 150 dalit families – all of them prefer not to send their wards to the only panchayat union primary school there, fearing that their children might face discrimination at the hands of caste Hindu students and villagers.

Less than a month ago, a clash broke out between the two groups over dalit youths playing a song from a Tamil movie on loud speakers which the caste Hindus found provocative.

How it began

The issue dates back to a communal clash that in 1987. The situation has not cooled down even after all these years.

“The last time, a dalit student studied in the panchayat union school was in 1987,” said S Rajesh Kannan (24), of AdiDravidar colony. The school had been admitting students from all communities since its inception in 1969 until that year when a major clash broke out, he said.

“I was five years old then,” Rajesh recalled. “A caste Hindu student had abused his fellow student by referring to his caste name within the school.” The issue escalated into a major clash affecting the little harmony that existed between the caste Hindus and dalits in the village.

After that incident, dalit children have been ostracized from attending the school located in caste Hindu settlements and the status quo has remained for two decades now.

Minor clashes used to erupt now and then, all with the potential turning into a riot. “Once a few dalit children tried going to the anganwadi attached to the school. They were stopped and a tiff ensued. The panchayat intervened and settled the issue before it became serious,” said V Suresh, another resident.

For more than two decades, dalit children are forced to go to the government higher secondary school in neighbouringMannadimangalampanchayat a few kilometres away.

“Even for that, the students had to take another route through a grove as they were taunted if they took the main road to school,” said Satish who had just returned after having a haircut in Sholavandan town as local barbers did not entertain dalits.

When approached, the panchayat union leader, M Karnan, was in the defensive. “Despite the government providing the same facilities at both the schools, for some unknown reasons, dalits do not send their children to our panchayat union school,” Karnan said. He belongs to the caste Hindu community.

On further probe, it was found that the discrimination was not restricted to children alone. Even the government staff from the SC community had to face the wrath of caste Hindu villagers.

“The parents did not allow their children to take food made by me,” said Pandieashwari, a dalit noon meal staff from the anganwadi. She has been posted to the school a year ago.

The panchayat leader Karnan had a theory for this too. “After last month’s communal clash, the parents((caste hindus) were not ready to retain her as a school staff. They suspected she might not prepare proper food for the children. However, we intervened and ensured that she returned to school after the tension petered out,” he said.

After the recent clash, relationships have strained further between caste Hindu and dalit students. “We don’t even look at each other even when we play together in inter-school or zonal level sports events,” said Pandiaraj, a class 10 student from dalit colony.

“The school authorities warn them if we bring it to their notice. But where do we go when we are called by our caste names outside the school,” Pandiaraj told Express on his way back home from school through the grove.

“If we start reacting to their taunts, there would be a communal clash everyday,” a dalit college student told Express. The girl, who studies in a private college in Sholavandan prefers walking to college than taking the bus as the caste Hindu boys taunt them in the bus.

The caste Hindus claim they reject the practice of such discriminations and accuse dalits of misusing the privileges given to them.

“The elders hardly have time for these. It is only the dalit youths who use mobile phones and internet to spread rumours about caste discrimination,” said Nambirajan, a resident of the caste Hindu settlement. The two wheeler he was sitting on had the face of their community leader on its visor.

Pointing at the free government laptop carried by a set of dalit students, Rajesh Kannan said, “Times have changed now. The next generation has started to learn now. They are well informed. The dominant community is not ready to accept this.” Unless they are ready to accept this, the condition would remain the same, he added.

The Chief Educational Officer of the district, J Angelo Irudayasamy said, “This issue was brought up during a meeting held to discuss accessibility of primary schools within 1 km radius as per the RTE Act. Serious measures would be taken to ensure the irritant issue was resolved soon.”

The Times Of India

Atrocities Act victims set to get preference in state-run hostels

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/Atrocities-Act-victims-set-to-get-preference-in-state-run-hostels/articleshow/51084065.cms

TNN | Feb 22, 2016, 02.37 AM IST

PUNE: The department of Social Justice and Special Assistance issued a notification stating that young students, who have been victimised in cases registered under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, will get admission to the 100 state government hostels on priority basis.

The 100 hostels, constructed in every district as per the department’s requirements by the department of the state, include reservations for students belonging to backward classes. The state government issued a special admission provision for relief and rehabilitation of student victims under the Atrocity Act been issued on January 20 by the state government.

In 2012, the state government started 100 new hostels on the district level and seven at the zonal level for backward class students. These hostels are under the Social Welfare and Justice Department and are aimed at Scheduled Caste (SC) students. However, the hostels also have there is a 20 per cent reservation for students from Scheduled Tribes (ST), Nomadic Tribes (NT) and Other Backward classes (OBC). Last year, on May 16, the government decided to reserve 80 per cent seats for SC students in hostels.

State government under secretary P PLubal, upper secretary, state government said, that, “On July 30, 2014, the department proposed revised reservation at the 107 hostels was proposed before the state government by the department on July 30, 2014. The proposal stated that the victims under the Atrocities Act must get preference at these hostels so as to help in relief and rehabilitation.”

Having recognised that educational and economic support for backward classes not been adequate and that there is disparity between them and the non-backward sections of the population at every level, it was felt that earnest efforts were required to introduce various schemes specifically for the target group in order to provide them a level playing field.

“Many schemes are being implemented to “The most important initiative to improve the social and economic status of backward communities, particularly lies in improving their access to education and training through student hostels. Hence, many schemes were formulated and are being implemented. These include construction of hostels for students. A new guideline that focusing on giving preference to the victims in hostels is now being included,” Lubal said.

The Indian Express

Sanitation facility: Mehsana Dalit family finally gets toilet

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/sanitation-facility-mehsana-dalit-family-finally-gets-toilet/

The district administration has ordered the construction of three toilets for the family of three houses with financial assistance of Rs 12,000 each.

Written by ParimalDabhi

Lakshmipura-bhandu (mehsana)Updated: Feb 22, 2016, 6:14

Three year-long struggle of a Dalit family from Lakshmipura-Bhandu, an upper-caste dominated hamlet of Mehsana district, to construct a toilet for itself has come to end. The district administration has ordered the construction of three toilets for the family of three houses with financial assistance of Rs 12,000 each. Construction work for the toilets has already begun and is likely to get over soon.

The action has come following a report “Dalit family can’t build toilet due to upper-caste ‘opposition’ in Mehsana” by The Indian Express on February 5 depicting the family’s difficulty in building the toilet owing to alleged harassment by some local upper-caste families.

Lakhsmipura-Bhandu is a small village in Visnagartaluka of Mehsana district, home district of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. With total population of around 500 people, the village is dominated by financially and politically influential Chaudhary community. The village has only one Dalit family that of BhikhabhaiSenma, 65, a landless farmer who lives along with two of his brothers. They have three houses adjacent to each other.

Alleging harassment by some local Chaudhary families, Senma had been approaching various authorities for the past three years. Also because of this alleged harassment, the Senmas were not being able to construct toilet for themselves and were forced to defecate in the open.

One of the Chaudhary community members from the village had also moved a public interest litigation (PIL) before Gujarat High Court (HC) alleging that many people (including Senmas) from the village had encroached upon the 42 bigha village Gauchar land.

Senma had alleged that the PIL was only a pretext under which some local Chaudharys were trying to prevent them from building a toilet. He also alleged that his family was at the receiving end because he had objected to the plans of a local Chaudhary community man to open a road from the backside of the latter’s house passing through a piece of village wasteland adjoining one of the former’s houses.

“Following The Indian Express report, top district officials like District Development Officer (DDO) and Superintendent of Police (SP) had visited us. And after looking at the situation, they passed the order to let us construct three toilets, one for each house, and also provided financial assistance of Rs 12,000 per toilet. They also assured us of security,” says BhikhabhaiSenma. “We have started the construction work and it should be over shortly,” he adds.

Mehsana DDO, S K Langa, says, “I visited the family along with the Superintendent of Police and gave them assurance of security. And there was some issue of where to construct the toilet. The family agreed to the place where we proposed them to construct the toilets. So accordingly, the district rural development agency (DRDA) has granted them permission along with financial assistance.”

“As far as encroachment of Gauchar land is concerned, the entire Lakshmipura hamlet is situated on Gauchar land for years. The three houses of Senmas are built under government schemes. And as per various government rules and resolutions, once the nature of Gauchar land changes, it ceases to be a Gauchar land. So, this case cannot come under the purview of litigation on encroachment on village Gauchar land,” Langa adds.

Meanwhile, the PIL moved by one of the Chaudharys has been rejected by HC — on February 15 — on the ground that the petitioner had not joined concerned District, Taluka, Gram Panchayats and affected persons of the village as respondents. The court ‘expected’ that the DDO and TDO would take action on alleged encroachment on Gauchar land under the provisions of the Gujarat Panchayats Act after giving hearing to affected persons.

The Hindustan Times

Disquiet on campuses because young Dalits are resisting Hindutva

http://www.hindustantimes.com/analysis/disquiet-on-campuses-because-young-dalits-are-resisting-hindutva/story-dY0MO3RqIbVbTDJOJ6QJjL.html

V Geetha

Updated: Feb 22, 2016 01:30 IST

The disquiet on our university campuses is troubling, to say the least, and this is not an unease that has come upon us suddenly. However much we wish to make a case for our universities as being spaces for dialogue and dissent, we have to reckon with the fact that many are bureaucratic fortresses as well, whose administrators are loath to let go of their privileges, based on birth and State office. Appointments to key posts within universities, including of vice-chancellors, are determined by parties in power, and men and women that parties favour, or are happy to favour party purses. This is an open, dirty secret, at least in regional universities, which, like caste, we don’t wish to acknowledge or engage with. Over the last year and more, there has been sustained student protest over such appointments and their consequences in south India — in Madurai Kamaraj University and Pondicherry Central University.

Institutional decay, which affects the prospects of students who look to the State to support their educational endeavour, occurs in diverse ways; while corruption and nepotism are its most obvious expressions, these conceal other equally malign tendencies. For instance, in a state like Tamil Nadu, both State and private educational players insistently and glibly celebrate educational success, without asking too many questions about its content — though there is enough evidence to show that not all is well with universities in the state, and that some of them have been arraigned by the University Grants Commission for not being the centres of excellence they claim to be. Institutional decay happens also on account of ethical indifference, in abundant evidence in Hyderabad Central University (HCU), where neither the vice-chancellor who was in office when RohithVemula died, nor the man who was chosen in his place, deigned to acknowledge the scale of the tragedy that had occurred, but instead looked to protect themselves, and their office.

Sadly, this state of affairs is seldom consistently challenged, except by those who are its victims. Even when challenged in particular contexts, institutional decay is not something we seek to debate with alacrity, as we do, for instance, threats to free speech or anti-fascist politics. This also means that we are not always aware of or take mindful heed of developments that are likely to truly transform our university spaces. On account of the concerted efforts of Dalit families, activists and community elders determined to ensure access to higher education, and demographic shifts in the composition of students in higher education, we have today a vibrant culture of Dalit-Bahujan intellectual labour and activism on many campuses — HCU has been home to such a culture for a while now, as is the English and Foreign Languages University. And there are many others whose stories stand to be told.

Besides, there are individual teachers, or reading groups who have actively promoted anti-caste cultures, and facilitated meaningful discussions to do with caste inside and outside the campus. Dalit teachers in several moffusil colleges — in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, for instance — have sought to create inclusive classrooms where social and cultural issues could be actively debated — given the largely OBC and Dalit presence in these colleges, this has proved both fraught as well as productive. Where no protocols exist, either in the syllabi or in the larger campus culture for speaking critically of caste, such efforts have proved enormously valuable. Writer PerumalMurugan, when he was in Namakkal, which he left last year due to casteist bullying, had built a reading and discussion circle, whose members went on to write on their experiences of being born and raised in particular castes. Subsequently collected into a volume titled Caste and I, it has proved to be a rich resource that tells us a lot of what has changed and not changed in rural and moffusil contexts, including in youth cultures and educational institutions.

It is in this context that we may want to re-examine the disquiet on our campuses — for clearly these have to do as much with the articulate power of expression on display by young Dalits as with resisting Hindutva and the State’s high-handedness. Vemula’s eloquence and universalism proved cumbersome to an establishment devoid of imagination and oblivious to social suffering. JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech irked the Hindu Right because the young man, with an indigent background dared to embrace several strands of critical thought and traditions of protest, which, when thought together, threaten casteist nationalism and a manuvadi State. Kumar’s invocation of Jai Bheem, his criticism of the venality of economic and political power and Brahminism, his clarity about raising the blue flag alongside the red communist banner, his endorsement of the right to justice for minorities — these suggested a new politics, brought about largely by the justness and critical content of Dalit political reasoning.

At stake today for all of us committed to free speech and a happy, creative culture of youthful idealism and defiance is not only the life world that is JNU, but the vibrant intellectual world of the Dalit-Bahujan youth as well. For the latter to flourish, the institutional decay of our public universities needs to be addressed — for it is only in spaces that are truly open and collectively experienced will Dalit-Bahujan practice and thought acquire the weight and resonance to anticipate a caste-annihilating and, therefore, fraternal politics and society, not only within the university but outside its precincts as well.

V Geetha is a writer, translator and publisher

The Hindu

‘Andhra Bank owes it to dalit staff’

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/andhra-bank-owes-it-to-dalit-staff/article8265732.ece?ref=tpnews

STAFF REPORTER

Andhra Bank Chief General Manager of Visakhapatnam Circle K. Raganath on Sunday said that employees of dalit community were playing a key role in development of the bank since they were able to understand the real needs of the downtrodden sections.

Mr. Raganath said that the government’s schemes through banks were being implemented well in the remote areas with their active support.

He was speaking at the zonal conference of SC and ST Employees’ Association here. He congratulated association new president Y. Minna Rao, zonal secretary P. Chiranjeevi and vice-president K. Nagarjuna on their election.

Bank Deputy General Manager K. Umamaheswara Rao expressed happiness over the business transactions in the newly established branches. Mr. Raganath said that dalit employees proved that they were second to non in efficiency by getting selected in general quota also.

“Government’s schemes through banks are being implemented well in remote areas with their support”

The Hindu

Gandhi and Ambedkar, a false debate

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/gandhi-and-ambedkar-a-false-debate/article8265526.ece

FAISAL DEVJI

Enemies often share more than friends, and may even enjoy a closer relationship. This is certainly the case with those would-be rivals who attempt either to oppose or to reconcile Gandhi and Ambedkar, seen as representatives of caste thinking on the one hand and its repudiation on the other. Instructive about this increasingly vocal rivalry, among activists as much as academics, is the fact that neither side questions the pairing of Mahatma and Babasaheb, which serves as a stereotyped way of joining the two in ideological debate. But while such a relationship makes pedagogical sense in a classroom, I want to argue here that it is not true to history, and dangerously misguided in the context of today’s politics.

Those who would reconcile Gandhi and Ambedkar acknowledge their many disagreements, but point out that Babasaheb’s resignation from Nehru’s cabinet, rejection of the Constitution he had played such a large part in drafting and turn to religion brought him closer to the Mahatma, who also placed more emphasis on faith and social reform than he did upon the state. For his part, Gandhi is said to have approached Ambedkar in his acceptance of intermarriage, the forsaking of caste occupations and legal measures against discrimination. But how different is the intimacy of this reconciliation from that which insists on opposing the two men in such a way as to make Babasaheb the real father India’s freedom, and so nothing more than the Mahatma’s replacement?

Part of a political narrative

The emphasis on paternity and so political legitimacy is a fundamentally conservative one, and part of a narrative that includes the courtroom statement by Gandhi’s assassin, who accused him of being Pakistan’s true founder and therefore India’s illegitimate father. Yet this narrative is also revolutionary, displacing legitimacy from the figure of the son to that of the father, so destabilising paternal authority altogether. To replace Gandhi with Ambedkar, or as Godse did, with Subhas Chandra Bose and Vallabhbhai Patel, is also to mimic those who had sought to replace British by Indian rule. For without renouncing the kind of violence exercised by the colonial state, claimed the Mahatma, these revolutionaries wanted the tiger’s nature without the tiger.

Now the British had also portrayed themselves as paternal rulers, and Gandhi describes them as impotent as much as carnivorous fathers in Hind Swaraj . These were the very characteristics of feebleness conjoined with ferocity that eventually came to define the Mahatma himself in the eyes of his rivals across the political spectrum. If all this tells us anything, it is that the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate is part of a broader political narrative, one from which it cannot be detached and for which it is in fact accountable. More than the intimacy that exists between opposing accounts of the Mahatma and Babasaheb, in other words, it is the uncomfortable familiarity among Gandhi’s enemies that needs considering.

Why is it the case that Muslims, who comprised the Mahatma’s chief political rivals in his own lifetime, are today absent from the ideological battles that pit the self-proclaimed supporters of Ambedkar and Godse against him? And do the latter share anything in common despite their very real differences? After all Godse had argued that unlike Gandhi he was opposed to caste prejudices, and his political heirs have gone further to claim Ambedkarnot only against the Mahatma, but also the Muslims whose true father he is seen as having become. Ambedkar’s partisans in the fight against Gandhi have admittedly not gone in this direction, but by refusing to acknowledge the larger context in which their debate occurs are unable to address its implications.

Invoking the Poona Pact

While Ambedkar seems to have promoted his opposition to Gandhi as a principled one, he continued to deploy explicitly Gandhian terms and practices like satyagraha, thus refusing to be defined by this enmity. Rather than a move towards the Mahatma, however, this suggests he recognised their relationship as being neither equal nor exclusive. For while Babasaheb was obliged by political realities to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking and writing about the Mahatma, the reverse was not true, and he is very rarely mentioned in Gandhi’s collected works. It is perhaps because of this asymmetry that those who pose Ambedkar against Gandhi are reduced to relying on a single event, the Poona Pact of 1932, for so much of their argumentation.

Ambedkar himself made of the Poona Pact the chief example of his fight with Gandhi, but at the time it was signed he was assiduous in defending it against all critics, of whom Godse’s fellow ideologues were the most vociferous. The Poona Pact was agreed after the Mahatma went on a fast unto death, ostensibly against the discrimination exercised by caste Hindus against Dalits, but also to protest the British granting separate electorates to them as part of the Communal Award — just as they had earlier to Muslims, and so by default Hindus as well. By its terms Ambedkar relinquished separate electorates for the reservations that in later years he argued were ineffectual, because they made Dalits dependent on caste Hindu votes and support.

Seen by Congress as well as Hindu nationalists as a “divide and rule” policy meant to keep India under British tutelage, separate electorates had also threatened to fragment Hindus as a community and reduce their majority relative to Muslims. Indeed, the grant of separate electorates to Dalits had come out of the Minorities Pact at the Round Table Conference in London, where Ambedkar had allied with Muslim, Christian, Anglo-Indian and other minorities who claimed to represent a plurality of India’s population, thus denying that any majority existed in the country. And if there was no majority in India, then of course there were no minorities either, which meant that these categories could now be redefined beyond the communal identities of Hindus and Muslims.

Ambedkar and others in the Minorities Pact argued that the inequalities of Indian society meant that people’s interests were permanently aligned with their castes or communities. But if Hindus were to become a permanent majority and Muslims a permanent minority after Independence, then democracy was impossible in India, since it required shifting interests that allowed all groups the chance to hold power. Hindus therefore had to be disaggregated by caste, so as to make for changing alliances that produced political rather than communal majorities. The Congress, however, questioned the legitimacy of these minority voices, and maintained that Independence would erase caste and communal distinctions, allowing people to vote along economic lines instead.

While the Poona Pact is much invoked in the battle that sets Babasaheb against Mahatma, interesting about the Minorities Pact is that it is just as regularly ignored. Is this because any acknowledgement of it would immediately reveal that the Gandhi-Ambedkar debate possessed neither autonomy nor integrity, but was instead given meaning by its triangulation with other classes and communities? For although caste relations in everyday life might exclude third parties, they have always been mediated by these latter in the arena of national politics. Thus Godse’s dedication to caste inter-dining was prompted by his fear of Hindu fragmentation in the face of what he saw as Muslim aggression.

By focussing on the relationship between Gandhi and Ambedkar, those who oppose as much as reconcile these men end up confining them to an intimacy that is premised upon caste-like exclusions. And in doing so they are unable to chart the political constellation in which Babasaheb and Mahatma belonged. For if Jinnah has more claim to be Gandhi’s chief rival, he also became an obstacle for Ambedkar, for whom the Muslim League’s domination of opposition politics pushed his Dalit cause into the background. Despite many years of cooperating with the League, Ambedkar also knew that Jinnah would come to an arrangement with Gandhi and his caste Hindu following that would leave Dalits in the political wilderness.

Dalit constituency as model

Following India’s partition and the destruction of Muslim politics there, it was the new Dalit constituency created by reservations that eventually came to serve as a model for this minority that had once claimed to be a nation. And while the high caste interests and leadership of many Muslim organisations have meant that such attempts at alliance building continue to be opportunistic, it has assumed a distinctive reality among youth movements and in student politics. The fact that RohithVemula and his friends were declared to be anti-national because they condemned the execution of YakubMemon is significant in this respect, as was the subsequent and related invocation of Afzal Guru alongside Vemula himself at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Without any Muslim issue or organisation being involved in such controversies, this minority has again come to triangulate caste relations as well as conflict between the left and right. In both cases the Muslim issue allowed students in Hyderabad and Delhi to be accused of anti-national activities. But it is important to recognise that the same logic of mediation also permitted Godse to work for an end to caste discrimination among Hindus. In other words, this logic is a structural one, and can assume opposing political forms. And if Ambedkar is omnipresent in today’s controversies, Gandhi is by the same token absent from them. There no longer exists any relationship, let alone debate, between the two.

(Faisal Devji is Reader in Indian History and Fellow of St. Antony’s College in the University of Oxford, where he is also Director of the Asian Studies Centre.)

The fact that RohithVemula and his friends were declaredto be anti-national because they condemned the execution ofYakubMemon is significant, as was the subsequent and related invocation of Afzal Guru alongside Vemula himself at JNU.

It is part of a broader political narrative, one from which it cannot be detached and for which it is in fact accountable. More than the intimacy that exists between opposing accounts of them, it is the uncomfortable familiarity among Gandhi’s enemies that needs considering

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET

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