Modi is anti-Dalit, anti-student: Rohith Vemula’s mother – The states man
1cr ex-gratia to rape victim demanded – The hanse india
Delhi journalism school suspends student for making anti-Dalit remarks – Scroll.in
Act on my complaints or will commit suicide like Rohith: CCSU Dalit scholar – The times of india
Congress nails police for gang-rape – The hindu
Dalit group says Scheduled Castes should have got 16.8 per cent in budget – The asian age
‘Dalit movement has to see itself as part of a class-wide movement’ – The hindu
TN2016 and a call for governance: Caste-ing the first stone in Tamil Nadu – F.budget
DALIT LITERATURE IS NOW ABOUT EQUAL RIGHTS – Banglor mirror
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The states man
Modi is anti-Dalit, anti-student: Rohith Vemula’s mother
Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula’s mother on Wednesday described Prime Minister Narendra Modi as being “anti-Dalit” and “anti-students”.
Speaking during a protest here, organised by the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) and joined by senior Congress leaders at Jantar Mantar, Radhika Vemula said the death of her son was politicised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was an insult to her son.
“The way this whole issue was politicised by BJP and its ministers is an insult to my son. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is against students and Dalits,” she said.
Radhika also thanked Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi for supporting her.
“I am thankful to Rahul Gandhi ji and Sonia Gandhi ji for fighting against the injustice done to my son. They (Congress) are not playing politics over my son’s death. As a matter of fact, it is Rahul Gandhi who visited Hyderabad and supported me and gave assurance that he will fight till the end,” she said.
Senior Congress leaders Digvijaya Singh, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kumari Selja, Raj Babbar and Jitin Prasada were also present during the protest at Jantar Mantar.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh and other party leaders also raised the issue of Ishrat Jahan during the protest, and alleged former home secretary G.K. Pillai was now talking in favour of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Why didn’t G.K. Pillai speak when he was at his post? The reason he is talking in favour of BJP now is he is now working for Gautam Adani Company,” said Digvijaya Singh.
Demanding resignation of union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, the IYC members tried to take their protest march to the Parliament House but security forces stopped them.
Some of the protestors burnt an effigy of Smriti Irani after managing to cross the barricades at Jantar Mantar. Police used water cannon and mild force to disperse them.
IYC president Amarinder Singh Raja attacked Smriti Irani, saying Rohit’s death was not a suicide but a political murder.
“Rohith Vemula was not only his mother’s son but he was the son of the nation. We will fight till the last breath of our life for justice to Rohith Vemula,” he said.
The hanse india
1cr ex-gratia to rape victim demanded
Challur: Senior Congress women leaders and former ministers on Wednesday visited the house of gang rape victim and consoled her. J Geetha Reddy, Sabita Indra Reddy, Sunita Laxma Reddy and State Mahila Congress president Nerella Sarada and others interacted with the girl for about 45 minutes and assured to extend all kind of support to her.
They spoke personally with the girl and her family members for about 15 minutes by sending others including media persons and their gunmen away from the room.
Later speaking to the reporters, they alleged that that police department failed in nabbing the accused till the victim’s family members caught them. Is Karimnagar police in deep sleep? What the cops are doing when the atrocities against women are rising in the district? They questioned.
The leaders also questioned the Huzurabad DSP, as to why he took the victim to the incident spot at around 1.30 am on February 24, despite having the video recording of the entire tragic episode.
Alleging that the police have tortured the girl in the name of investigation, they demanded the government to suspend both the DSP and CI. They found fault with the District Superintendent of Police for summoning the victim to his office instead of visiting her home.
Blaming the police department of not registering the case under Nirbhaya Act, the Congress leaders wanted the government to change the section. Commenting on cops argument that the two accused were minors, they questioned how minors got admission in police coaching centre.
Geetha Reddy demanded the government to fulfil the dream of the victim by giving a job in the police department considering it as a special case. Besides double bedroom house, five acres of land should be allotted to the victim’s family. She also demanded Rs one crore ex-gratia to the victim.
The government was playing a mute spectator role while attacks on dalits were in raise in the State, she alleged and found fault with district Minister K Taraka Rama Rao for not consoling the girl.
Sabita Indra Reddy said they hoped that crime rate would be reduced with the formation of separate Telangana State. However, gang rape incidents were increased after the State bifurcation, she opined. Supporting Rs one crore ex-gratia demand, she felt there was nothing wrong in the demand since Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has given Rs one crore to tennis player Sania Mirza.
She wanted the government to constitute a fast track court to pronounce the judgement within three months and appealed the lawyers not to argue the case against the victim.
Referring the police department claims that they managed to control the crime against women by appointing SHE teams, Sunita Laxma Reddy questioned where are the SHE teams? Are they working? Why a SHE team member didn’t met the victim if they were existence?
Mahila Congress state president Nerella Sarada found fault with the State Women’s Commission for not responding over the issue of a gang rape of a dalit girl even after five days of the incident came to limelight. She interacted with the victim at her house in Challur on Wednesday before the arrival of other women Congress leaders.
How can Tripurana Venkataratnam of Andhra Pradesh continue as the chairperson of Telangana Women’s Commission even after State bifurcation?
Supporting the demand for instant justice by the victim’s family, Mahila Congress president also supported them. Speaking to The Hans India, Sarada demanded the State government to do instant justice to the victim by killing the accused in encounter so that others will not dare to commit such kind of heinous crime in future.
When this correspondent questioned that being a political leader, how can she support unlawful act, she said “I am a woman before becoming a politician. I am demanding immediate justice because I am a woman”.
Delhi journalism school suspends student for making anti-Dalit remarks
A panel, formed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, found that the Hindi journalism student’s posts on a social networking website were ‘offensive, grossly provocative, insulting and unparliamentary’.
The Indian Institute of Mass Communication has suspended a student from the institute’s hostel for three weeks for making derogatory remarks against the Dalit and Adivasi communities on a social networking website. The Indian Express reported that Utkarsh Singh was suspended after an inquiry committee found that the language used by him was “offensive, grossly provocative, insulting and unparliamentary”.
“The matter has been considered and it is felt that your posts resulted in a great deal of dissatisfaction and unrest within the IIMC campus. Your actions are not in keeping with the standards of conduct expected from a student of the institute and is reprehensible,” IIMC’s Deputy Registrar PVK Raja wrote to the Hindi journalism student.
This comes a month after 17 students belonging to the SC/ST/OBC communities approached the Information and Broadcasting Ministry against the posts. The ministry, which controls the institution, had formed a committee to look into the matter. The committee also suspended a Dalit student from the English journalism department who was among the students who approached the ministry. The panel expelled Prashant Kanojia from the institute’s residential complex for a week for using expletives against a senior faculty member during a WhatsApp chat, reported the Times of India.
The times of india
Act on my complaints or will commit suicide like Rohith: CCSU Dalit scholar
Meerut: Tired of inaction against a faculty member of Chaudhary Charan Singh University (CCSU) who had allegedly harassed him, a Dalit research scholar from NAS College here has threatened to commit suicide “like Rohith Vemula” if authorities ignore his complaint.
“The Research Design Course committee gave the nod to my research topic in 2012. As University Grants Commission (UGC) had issued an order that all research scholar had to go through a six-month pre-PHD course, we couldn’t start our research till the course was over,” said Harish Kumar, the researcher, narrating the events.
Due to administrative difficulties, the pre-PHD course started only from March to November 2014, based on availability of subject coordinators in different departments. Kumar alleged that when the course started in November-December 2014, he reached the history department and asked why his batch was merged with the second batch whose course had to be started six months after his batch, but he was insulted. “The coordinator, Aradhana Gupta started to shout at me instead of giving me any reasonable answer. I started to attend the classes but most of the time I was provided a paper to sign on that to mark my attendance instead of any attendance register. After six months 10-12 scholars including me were asked to take extra classes as we were short on attendance. Although I attended them, I was still not permitted to take internal exams,” he said.
Aradhana Gupta, however, denied misbehaving with the scholar. “He was stopped along with 17 other scholars from taking the exam due to shortfall in attendance. Kumar only came to the department on the very first day of the course and we saw him again only when internal exams were about to start. When all the students had signed on the attendance register, why would he be given a paper instead? He is completely lying,” the professor added.
The faculty member said on the request of students with less attendance, the department had arranged extra classes for 20 days in July-August 2015. “But Kumar attended 10 classes in five days. The final exams will start on March 6 and only those scholars who have cleared internal exams and have 45% attendance will be allowed to appear. Therefore he has filed a complaint even though he has no specific allegation to make. At the beginning of the course he had a heated argument with me after which he gave a written apology,” Gupta added.
On being asked why he had apologized to Gupta if she had harassed him, Kumar said he was forced to write an apology as he was a Dalit and poor. “Now I have just two options, either take to crime or commit suicide like Rohith Vemula,” Kumar said.
Vice chancellor NK Taneja said the matter had been settled but if the student has complained again, an enquiry would be made into it. Meanwhile, Kumar has sent a copy of the complaint to the district magistrate, in which he mentions writing to PM Modi, HRD minister Smriti Irani and chairman of UGC. “If I commit suicide following Rohith Vemula’s footsteps, Anuradha Gupta, the V-C, PM and HRD minister will be responsible,” said the letter.
Congress nails police for gang-rape
omen Congress leaders team led by former Ministers J. Geetha Reddy, P. Sabitha Indra Reddy and Sunitha Laxma Reddy consoled the Dalit gang-rape victim at her residence in Challur village of Veenavanka mandal on Wednesday.
Speaking on the occasion, the former Ministers launched a scathing attack against the Telangana State government for high incidences of crimes against women during their regime. Charging that the police officials were responsible for the gang-rape in Karimnagar as they failed to respond to the panic call, they also found fault with the police for summoning the victim to the police station and the incident spot during odd hours and posing embarrassing questions without the presence of women police officials. They also demanded suspension of Huzurabad DSP and Jammikunta CI for harassing the rape victim by posing embarrassing questions. Demanding the government to constitute a fast track court for the early disposal of the case and punishment to all three accused, they also urged the lawyers not argue in support of the accused persons. They sought a compensation of Rs. 1 crore, five acres of land, job in the police department and also double-bedroom house to the victim. “When the government can give Rs. 1 crore to tennis player Sania Mirza, there is nothing wrong in providing the same amount to a Dalit rape victim,” they argued. They also ridiculed Collector Neetu Prasad and Joint Collector Pausumi Basu for not consoling the victim in spite of being top women officers of the district. Alleging that the SHE teams were sleeping in Karimnagar district, they asked why the Women and Child Welfare Department officials were not informed about the incident and involved in the investigation by the police. They have also decided to lodge a complaint with State Women’s Commission on March 5. Earlier, former Minister Geetha Reddy handed over financial assistance of Rs. 1 lakh to the victim. State Mahila Congress president Nerella Sharada, former whip Arepalli Mohan, former Jammikunta market committee chairman T. Sammi Reddy and others were also present.
The asian age
Dalit group says Scheduled Castes should have got 16.8 per cent in budget
The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DICCI) may be pleased with the Union Budget for its proposed allocation of Rs 500 crore under the Stand-Up India scheme however that does not seem to be the case with National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which is an organisation of Dalit scholars. The NCDHR has claimed that allocation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) is only 7.6 per cent when it actually should be 16.8 per cent under the SCSP budget.
President of DICCI, Milind Kamble, reacted to the Union Budget saying that the National Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Hub announced in it completes the backward class entrepreneurs’ ecosystem and will play the role of “matchmaker” between government and businessmen. However, the NCDHR reaction is completely different.
General Secretary of NCDHR, Paul Divakar, said that the due amount under SCSP budget should be 16.8 per cent which means Rs 91,301 crore and 8.6 per cent under TSP which is Rs 47,300 crore. But the Union Budget has denied a total of Rs 75,764 crore and hence, NCDHR condemns this denial in allocation,” he said.
Mr Divakar added that of the total Rs 897 crore allocated under the University Grants Commission (UGC), 60 per cent goes towards capital assets and another 30 per cent towards grants-in-aid and only 8 per cent directly benefits SC and ST students.
He further said that the budget continues to marginalise Dalit-Adivasi women by allocating a mere 1 per cent to Dalit women and 2 per cent to Adivasi (ST) women without taking into account the needs and voices of these women. He said that the schemes lack understanding of the living reality of these women and are blind to their concerns.
Secretary of Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and former Dalit Panther, J.V. Pawar, too, was disappointed with the allocation for SCs and STs.
‘Dalit movement has to see itself as part of a class-wide movement’
Reservation is an issue that only affects a small proportion of Dalits, says sociologist Vivek Chibber.
The ferment on campuses across the country following Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the recent crackdown on free speech at Jawaharlal Nehru University have drawn international attention, with many academics, students and activists across the world expressing solidarity. The mobilisation of Dalit students and the increasing awareness of caste oppression were some positive outcomes amid the troubling instances of attack on dissent and democratic rights. Vivek Chibber, Professor of Sociology at New York University and author of Postcolonial Theory and the Specter of Capital spoke about on these developments. While appreciating the significance of struggles around identity in India and the United States, Prof. Chibber argues that movements of the oppressed can be sustained and strengthened only if they take up issues of economic justice.
Following the death of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit scholar from Hyderabad Central University, several thousand students in India came together in protest. The incident also sparked spontaneous, nationwide mobilisation of Dalits, many of whom were already engaged in local struggles. Around the same time a strong criticism of the mainstream Left emerged that pointed to its perceived indifference to Dalit causes and, more broadly, caste-based discrimination in India. Here in the U.S., we see Black Lives Matter — a campaign against violence targeting black people in the U.S. — that has become a prominent movement in the last few years, drawing enormous attention and support. All the same, some activists within the movement are said to be questioning the exclusive emphasis on racial identity. Are there any parallels?
I think in India it is quite necessary, essential even, for Dalits to organise around their social marginalisation and the various forms of exclusion that they face — both within mainstream society and also within the Left, because it is real.
But it is also the case that any Dalit movement, if it is actually going to address the needs of Dalits as a group, has to see itself as part of a class-wide movement. The reason for that is simple: the overwhelming majority of Dalits are wage labourers either in the rural areas or in the informal sector in the urban settings.
The agitations that have been taking place in the cities are important, but it is important to recognise that the most visible ones have been around issues like reservations and discrimination in colleges, and these are issues that affect only a small proportion of the Dalit population. So, even if reservations were enacted with full force in government jobs and in universities, it would still only benefit a quite small section of the Dalit population.
For Dalits therefore to make progress really requires that they take up issues around wage labour and they take up issues around economic justice.
What has happened is that the Dalit movement, like identity movements across the world, has really narrowed its focus to forms of oppressions that are very real, but which still constitute only a small subset of the oppressions that the Dalits face.
There is a parallel with the U.S. Black Lives Matter, if you think of it as a movement, has two layers to it. One is a layer of real organisers in urban areas, who were incredibly and very concertedly active around issues of economic justice. Because for them the most pressing issues are not so much discrimination in the labour market, but not having a job at all; not so much the exclusion in schools, but not having [access to] schools at all. These activists are very aware that their concerns as black people involve fundamental issues of economic justice, not just narrowly racial justice.
Furthermore, these activists are also aware that what has become Black Lives Matter is as much a name brand and a commodified emblem as it is a movement. And in the past six months or so, we have seen Black Lives Matter has not been as visible as it was a year ago, on the streets. This is partly because many of the most prominent icons of Black Lives Matter are already moving into the Democratic Party, or into Teach for America, things like that.
So it is an avenue that a certain section of the black middle class is using for its upward advancement. We have seen that happen in India too — with Dalit intellectuals and Dalit politicians. Therefore, I think for people who are progressive, there is a simple and clear position to take, which is that one cannot and should not set issues of Dalit identity against issues of Dalit class interests because what they face is not simply economic exploitation but many things on top of that.
Secondly, unless a movement for justice for Dalits is fundamentally and solidly based in class and economic justice it will not address the needs of the vast majority of this section of the population.
It seems ironic that class politics and identity politics should be in conflict. Why do some of these movements demonstrate that sort of tension?
One reason is that, especially in India, the Left has not given issues of social marginalisation and exclusion the importance they deserve. So some of it is an expression of that frustration on the part of especially backward castes and Dalits, of what they faced in Left organisations. I think that has to be admitted.
But that is not the fundamental reason. The fundamental reason is that, all around the world, one of the symptoms of the decline of the Left has been that movements for social justice have been captured by middle class and fairly elite people, who have genuine disdain for class politics and class movements. And they use the language of identity and some of the failures of the Left in the past as a way of setting the class interests of their own constituency aside. This is an inevitable consequence of the decline of the economic organisations of the poor because if and when Dalits or OBCs [Other Backward Classes] start organising as workers, they will inevitably have to confront and push aside many of the current representatives of their movements which have not very much interest in the real, long-term interests of their own constituencies.
So what you are seeing here is a consequence of the fact that the representatives and the articulate exponents of identity politics around the world, especially the Indian intelligentsia, belong to a relatively privileged stratum that has a natural disdain for class organising, because those would affect their own status.
Do you think that points to a shift — away from a position where the mainstream Left appreciated social marginalisation more than it perhaps does now? I am thinking of the Communist engagement with Dalit farmers in the past — in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s, for example, around the time of the Keezhvenmani massacre.
The Indian and the American Left — their fundamental history is a positive one, on all these issues. The American Left in particular has had actually a very noble and very admirable history on taking up issues of racial justice; in fact all forms of social exclusion. The Indian Left did, I think from the 1930s onwards, take the problems of casteism and gender domination more seriously than any other part of the Indian political culture. Nevertheless, I think within its internal functioning and in its mass organisations it never confronted casteism with the force it should have.
There are a variety of ways in which the Communist parties brought into their own culture the caste prejudices, both at the leadership and the mass organisations. I have talked to older members of the Communist movement who testified that there were separate matkas (pitchers) for the Dalits and Brahmins in the organisation. While they would encourage inter-caste marriages, at the same time, they incorporated many of the rituals of Hinduism. But the thing is that you really cannot separate Hinduism from casteism; it is quite impossible. And once you give Hinduism sanction inside your organisation, inevitably, those rituals are rituals around the exclusion of other castes. You just can’t separate those two. So yes, this was a real weakness.
At the same time, we also have to see that within the sections of the self-styled progressive intelligentsia today this weakness on the part of the Left is being used as a reason to dismiss class politics. And that should give you ample indication that the people making such arguments for the dismissal of class politics are not doing it with the interests of Dalits and backward castes and Scheduled Tribes in mind, because it is simply impossible to address their situation without taking up issues of land, jobs, and structural transformation.
So my view is that the appropriate response on the part of people who call themselves Left — and by Left I don’t mean just the mainstream Communist Parties — is to say that the Left was weak in these areas, but the solution is to have a better Left. Not to move away from the politics that the Left represents. It is not just because of class, it is also because the Left has been the most consistent cosmopolitan, universal, democratic force in India. It has been the only one to argue consistently for democratic rights, for women’s rights, and for social inclusion.
And what we are seeing right now, the viciousness that is becoming part of Indian culture, in urban areas, rural areas, one reason for it is that even in the language of politics, sectionalism, narrow interests, nativism is not being challenged anymore. It has always been the Left that did it.
Even in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, the current political forces are mobilising predominantly on religious lines, polarising people, as the 2014 poll verdict showed us.
The Kashmir independence movement, you know the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front when it had real social power and social weight, was a secular and a democratic movement. It was partly undermined by its own shortcomings, but also because but also by the Indian state and the Pakistani state that worked very hard to make sure that it was marginalised by sectarian groups, because they were easier to handle than the secular ones. That is true across the rest of the country as well.
What hope do you see for movements, including the Dalit movement, seeking to mobilise people around identities of caste or religion to sustain themselves towards the goal of social justice?
I think there is a challenge, and an enabling condition. The challenge is that Left groups have to immerse themselves in the Dalit movement and other such struggles and show that they are fundamentally committed to the interests of marginalised groups. If they do this, then they can bring these movements into a broader agenda.
The enabling condition, one that will help the Left make this happen, is that the political establishment, as a whole right now, is lined up against the rights and interests of poor people in India, it is not just [Narendra] Modi. It is important to remember that the law that Mr. Modi is using to crack down right now, the UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act], was not passed by the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] government, but by the Congress-led UPA [United Progressive Alliance].
In 2004 when POTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act] expired, it was the Congress government that renewed its essentials with the UAPA. And the UAPA is the most draconian, anti-democratic legislation that we have seen in India — ever. It actually quite explicitly arrogates to itself the power to arrest and keep in detention anybody for simply maligning the Indian nation, for simply criticising it or “causing disaffection” against India. And the definition of what that is, is left open, and hence it’s for the state to decide. It was not the BJP that passed the legislation, it was the Congress. The Communist Parties should have quit the UPA right then. But they made a few noises and then stayed on, resigning later over the nuclear pact with the U.S., which in my view is less consequential than the UAPA as a threat to Indian democracy.
What that tells you is that we have been witnessing for the last 12-15 years an enormous intensification of the crackdown on democratic rights in India. One of the consequences of that is that, I think, people who are committed to fighting for democratic rights see that no one party or no one organisation is behind it. It is a quite unified assault by Indian elites, the Indian establishment. And that is going to require a fairly broad and unified response on the part of ordinary citizens and working people in India.
How do you view the developments at JNU?
That is a straightforward issue. The one thing I’ll say is that it shows again the narrowness and complicity of the media and of so many sections of the Left in that there are a very few people who are challenging the very idea of a sedition law. Instead of arguing over whether or not Kanhaiya Kumar and these people uttered what they said, the relevant issue here ought to be, why does India have a sedition law at all? Even the Left, the mainstream Left parties, their position has been not to ask why is there a sedition law, but to say this was at most an act of a few hooligans, and the whole university should not be attacked or undermined because of it.
But the thing is that the moment you say that a few people in a university can be arrested because of the slogans they are shouting or the views they espouse, you’ve effectively undermined the entire academic institution. You’re attacking the whole university. It seems to me that the fundamental issue here is notwhether or not Kanhaiya Kumar was complicit in shouting anti-national slogans, but the very idea of something being anti-national, and that the state gets to define what is anti-national. The very idea is a negation of the very essence of democratic rights.
You think that is not being challenged enough?
No, at least not in the mainstream media and certainly not by the political parties, especially the Left. To my knowledge, and I might not have the full information since I am in New York, the CPI (M)’s [Communist Party of India (Marxist)] position has been to call for an investigation and to call for concrete evidence for the charges. This implies that if the students did shout the slogans of which they are accused, the arrests are justified. But the arguments have to be that the law is illegitimate. This is what the issue ought to be.
Do you think that this government, which came to power on the promise of development, is using these issues to divert public attention from its own performance?
No doubt about it. No doubt. I think the fact is that the Modi government has basically failed in delivering any of its promises and sees that the Indian people are quickly rendering their verdict. Look at its quite humiliating defeat in Bihar. And I think Mr. Modi who initially was, in my estimation, giving a few sops to the Sangh Parivar while keeping his attention on economic issues, has basically thrown his weight behind this crackdown. Because the BJP is thinking this is the only way they will be able to survive, since there is nothing they can do to prop themselves up. But again, I would urge, let us not keep the focus on the BJP because both the BJP’s economic programme and its crackdown on democratic rights is an intensification of something that was already happening under the Congress government.
(Meera Srinivasan is the IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow 2015-16)
TN2016 and a call for governance: Caste-ing the first stone in Tamil Nadu
As Tamil Nadu heads into poll frenzy, the overarching theme of the campaigns — both by the ruling party as well as the Opposition — is that of governance. While Opposition parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) claim a breakdown of governance in the current regime, the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam argues that governance has never been better in the state.
In this series, Firstpost takes a dive into various aspects of governance in the past five years to analyse the merits and demerits of each party’s claim. The first part of the series examined criticism, the second part looked at how populist politics are eating away at the economy, while the third in the series sought to explore corruption.
In his small house at the edge of a Dalit colony in Omalur town in Salem, V Kalaiselvan, 24, sobs like a child. The lone photo album in his house brings on the tears – memories of carefree years, the only holiday the family had been on in 2003 to Tirupati.
Kalai has seen tragedy very young. When he was in Class X, his father died of ill health. Last year his younger brother, Gokulraj, was allegedly murdered due to his caste.
“My father Venkatachalam was a neat, stylish man,” said Kalai in between sobs. “He was a government bus driver. He used to tell us that an education was most important. Gokul used to look just like dad, had his exact same mannerisms. Now he too is gone,” he cried.
Kalai explains after his tears, that the once happy family fell upon hard times and grew apart after his dad died. Following Gokul’s tragic end, life, he says, appears pointless.
Gokulraj, a 21-year-old engineer, was found lying decapitated on the railway tracks near Erode in 2015. Subsequently, police found that the cause for the murder was caste – Gokul, a Dalit belonging to the Scheduled Paraiyar caste, was allegedly murdered for talking to a classmate, a girl from the “upper” Gounder caste in Tiruchengode. The alleged killer Yuvaraj was finally taken into custody after four months of taunting the Tamil Nadu police.
Kalaiselvan’s anger which has now turned to helpless grief is not his alone. In 2014, Tamil Nadu had the dubious distinction of ranking number two in the country behind Maharashtra in terms of caste riots. In the past five years of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) regime, a number of cases of caste violence have taken place.
In 2011, a mob of Dalit youths was fired upon by the police in Paramakudi, killing seven. Dalits alleged that the police opened fire without provocation and without first warning the mob or firing rubber bullets. Police claim that the mob was armed and attacked them first.
In 2012, violence broke out in the northern districts as “upper” caste Vanniyars torched 200 huts in Natham Colony, a Dalit area in Dharmapuri district. The reason was that a Vanniyar girl had eloped with a Dalit boy Ilavarasan. Her anguished father committed suicide, leading to the huts being torched. Subsequently the girl returned home to Dharmapuri after living with Ilavarasan for some months. A devastated Ilavarasan allegedly committed suicide by lying down on the railway tracks. Dalit groups insist that Ilavarasan was murdered, while police say both post mortems clearly show suicide. This case triggered a number of revenge attacks across the state.
“Dalit murders have increased in this regime,” said Kathir, convenoe of NGO Evidence, which deals with cases of atrocities against Dalits. “There are two types of atrocities — state violence against Dalits and caste groups related violence. 38 commissions on enquiry were set up between 1999 to 2015. All commissions of inquiry have gone with police version so far. Every year murders of Dalit Panchayat Presidents and other caste related violence taking place. This is a caste attack, not simply caste violence,” he stated.
In 2013 came the Marakkanam caste violence in which members of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) clashed with Dalit groups like Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK). In August 2015, Dalit huts were burnt in Seshasamudram village near Kallakurichi. Apart from these, a series of murders and sporadic violence have marred the current regime’s record.
Activists say that the rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has nothing to crow about in terms of preventing caste related violence. “If there was a Paramakudi firing incident in 2011 in the AIADMK period, there was a Thamirabarani police firing in 1999 in which 17 were killed,” said Kathir of Evidence NGO.
“This regime has not done anything to contain caste violence which has increased in an unprecedented manner,” said C Lakshmanan, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies. “There has been a huge increase in honour killings. Rule of law did not help the downtrodden,” he charged.
Lakshmanan states that although there may have been fewer instances of caste related violence during the previous DMK regime, both parties were similar in dealing with this specific issue. “The DMK period did not see so many violent episodes as in AIADMK term. But as Opposition party, neither party takes up the issue of violence against Dalits. There is a clear uniform undercurrent in terms of addressing the Dalit question,” he stated.
The ruling party places the blame for caste clshes squarely on the Opposition. “Karunanidhi himself is creating these problems by aligning with caste-based outfits and inciting them to violence,” said a senior leader of the AIADMK, who did not wish to be named. “We are bringing reconciliation between caste groups and religious groups in the state,” he said.
Police sources stress that firm action was indeed taken during this regime to control and prevent caste clashes. “In 2012, after a petrol bomb attack between two caste groups in Pasumpon, a decision was taken to prevent outsiders from coming into villages and causing law and order problems, especially during festivals like Thevar Jayanthi, Immanuel Sekaran’s birthday and any other event related to caste leaders,” said a retired police officer on condition of anonymity.
He explained that the Collector of the district would impose Section 144 ahead of the festival, thus preventing groups from other areas from coming in in trucks and jeeps, chanting provocative slogans like “Indha padai podhuma, innum konjam venuma” (meaning is this army enough or do you want more?). “Since people from other districts tended to act irresponsibly in the safety of anonymity, unlike locals, this curtailed misbehaviour,” he added.
The jury is out though as regards the handling of caste and related tensions in the state by the current regime. In 2014, Dalits voted almost en masse for Jayalalithaa. With talk of the first ever Dalit chief ministerial hopeful now doing the rounds — Thol Thirumavalavan of the VCK — the issue of attacks on Dalits might just become more important in this election.
DALIT LITERATURE IS NOW ABOUT EQUAL RIGHTS
Dalit literature is seeing a new churning: Unlike the past where the focus was on the depiction of atrocities being faced by the community, it is now all about voicing the need for equal rights and resistance against discrimination.
During a one-day national seminar on ‘Dalit literature in Hindi’, organised by Baldwin College here on Tuesday, the writers contributing to dalit literature observed that earlier the tales of dalits were narrated by upper-caste authors.
The journey of dalit literature in Hindi from Munsi Premchand’s Dukhi to Om Prakash Valmiki’s Joothan (Leftover) was discussed, and the shift from atrocities being depicted by the upper caste towards dalits to their own discourse on the matter was highlighted.
The later phase that marks the rise of poets like Kanwal Bharti and his book Aadikhand Kavya and Dr Rishab Deo Sharma in his poetry collection Tevar (Attitude) where they are seen voicing their resistance against the atrocious system was also observed.
Dalit writing found a new voice in Marathi in the 1960s and 70s, and made its way to other languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. Dr Vimla, of the Bengaluru University said, “Autobiography as a literary genre became a major tool for portraying discrimination during this time.”
“Personal experience of atrocities and caste discrimination used as a tool to subjugate a particular community, resulted in a paradigm shift and the resistance through writing from within the oppressed set the impetus for politics of identity which defined dalit literature,” she added.
Contemporary dalit literature, after evolving for several decades, is now not only about depicting the struggles of the oppressed but it is about defining a rightful place in a society where there is constant resistance from the upper caste, whose emotions are being fuelled by a sense of depravation as the traditional psyche of society is being challenged.
Dr Pandit Banne, a dalit writer while discussing short stories as a genre in dalit literature, said, “The new kind of short stories now being penned in Hindi, is not only about the caste struggle, but also about the rights and struggles of dalits, within their community thanks to the advent of modern education.”
The language used by dalit writers, which was earlier considered crude and coarse by upper-caste writers whose focus was on sophisticated aesthetics is now being accepted. Postmodern literature has debunked the myth of literature for literature’s sake thanks to the evolution of realism as literary theory.
Hindi writers like Om Prakash Valmiki, Mohandas Naimishray and Kanwal Bharti were attacked for their language during the 1980s and 1990s for lack of sophistication and usage of cuss words in their writings. But now it is more of an accepted norm and has also influenced post-modern Indian literature.
Dr Rishabh Deo Sharma a dalit writer and poet said, “The dalit literary circle is now more aware and unlike earlier days it is not craving for sympathy. Now the writings are more succinct and sharp in their attack towards the age old discriminatory model.
Earlier a common factor that inspired dalit writers was a resentment against the upper caste but now even the creamy layer among dalits who have turned their back on the community are also being criticised and the focus of is not on glorifying self-pity. The main focus is to raise the consciousness around dalit causes, he said.
The writers also observed that after a brief phase during the 1990s – when dalit literature showed resistance to writing from writers outside the community – it has become more inclusive and open, as several students and researchers across the country are moving away from well-known literary geniuses and focusing on issues closer home and subaltern society.
‘Rohit Vemula’s death brought voices from all castes together’