Rss

  • stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

Archives for : Caste Discrminination

“I changed my surname so people would not know me as a Namashudra”

Manoranjan Byapari

Translated by Sipra Mukherjee

“If you insist that you do not know me, let me explain myself …you will feel, why, yes, I do know this person. I’ve seen this man.” With these words, Manoranjan Byapari points to the inescapable roles all of us play in an unequal society. Interrogating My Chandal Life: An Autobiography of a Dalit is the translation of his remarkable memoir Itibritte Chandal Jivan. Translated by Sipra Mukherjee, the book talks about Byapari’s traumatic life as a child in the refugee camps of West Bengal and Dandakaranya, his involvement with the Naxalite movement, getting educated in a prison and more. The following is an excerpt from the book.

Here I am. I know I am not entirely unfamiliar to you. You’ve seen me a hundred times in a hundred ways. Yet if you insist that you do not recognize me, let me explain myself in a little greater detail, so you will not feel that way anymore. When the darkness of unfamiliarity lifts, you will feel, why, yes, I do know this person. I’ve seen this man.

Human memory is rather weak. So I would not press you to remember the forgotten days. But take a look at that green field outside your window. You will see a bare-bodied goatherd running behind his cows and goats with a stick. You’ve seen this boy many times. And so the face seems familiar to you. That is me. That is my childhood.

Now come outside your house for a while. Look at that tea stall that stands at the corner of the road where your lane meets the main road. That boy whom you see, uncombed hair, wearing a dirty, smelly, torn vest, with open sores on his hands and feet; he has been beaten a while ago by the owner of the stall for breaking a glass and has been crying—that there is my boyhood.

And then my youth. Ferrying goods at the railway station, climbing up the bamboo scaffolding to the roofs of the second or third floor with a load of bricks on my head, driving the rickshaw, waking nights as a guard, the khalasi on a long-distance truck, the sweeper on the railway platform, the dom at the funeral pyres. That is how I have spent my youth. At one stage or the other of this varied life, you must have seen me somewhere, on the road or the bazar. Or, one can never say, you may also have seen me in those tumultuous days of the seventies’ decade, running through the lanes with a bomb or a pipe-gun in my hand. Or in handcuffs being forced into the police van with blows.

Life appears to have spread skittish mustard seeds under my feet. I have never been able to stand still in any role for more than a few days, always skidding onto another spot. It is the story of that skidding, slipping, fallen-back life that I have sat down to write for you. Life has made me do so many things throughout my life, I wonder if I will be able to speak of it all even if I want to. This is a great difficulty with autobiographies—that there is no veil that I can draw around me. A novel allows that veil. And so much can be spoken outright easily. The other problem of authoring an autobiography is that one has to beat one’s own drum. Every individual is beautiful in his or her own eyes. Every individual is admirable in his or her own judgement. But to your ears, the sound of my cracked, splintered and pitted drum may sound a rhythm that irritates you because you belong to this time and society of which I am about to draw a picture. Who knows but my accusing finger may at some stage point towards you?

Somebody somewhere had once said that life was a journey. Moving from birth towards death, a step at a time. And we stumble over the rocks and stones of life, hurting and wounding ourselves, lacerating ourselves and bleeding, as we search for that eternal nectar of life—that which enriches life. Makes it great, gives it meaning.

Not all find this nectar. Some do. And the births, deaths, lives of those who do are rendered worth the while. If you do not think me vain, I will humbly submit that I have felt the touch of this nectar. So it will not be arrogant to claim that my life, even if it may not be considered supremely successful, may not be considered a failure. Though I admit I have no clear idea about what constitutes either success or failure. By birth I belong to a family that has been declared criminal, impure and untouchable. My life began with taking the goats out to graze, and then, to bring in the two mouthfuls of rice every day, in so many lowly, mean and horrible occupations. I did not get an opportunity to get to school but did get quite a few to go visit the prisons. So when people set me upon the dais, garland me and show respect, then this man, whom some tried to sweep off as dross, may perhaps reasonably feel that his life has not been a total waste. He has never crossed the threshold of school. He used to drive the rickshaw in front of Jadavpur University. When he learns that the Comparative Literature Department of that university in its volume number 46/2008– 2009, and pages numbering 125 to 137, in all those 12 pages has discussed his life and his literature—then he may justifiably feel himself blessed. When the powerful pens of many famous writers, critics, write about the literature that he has created in famous journals and newspapers—Jugantar, Bartaman, Anandabazar Patrika, Pratidin, Aajkal, The Hindu, EPW, Kathadesh, Natun Khobor, Dinkal—publishing his name and his life’s details—when popular television shows like Doordarshan’s ‘Khash Khobor’, Akash Bangla’s ‘Sadharon Ashadharon’, ‘Khojkhobor’, or ‘Tarar Nazar’ on Tara News talk about him, then his belief that life has been fulfilling may be understandable.

Once on an invitation I journeyed to the University of Hyderabad. I boarded an autorickshaw from the station, bound for the University Guest House. The driver of the auto was educated and well-informed. Upon hearing that I was from Calcutta, he wanted to know if I had heard of this writer from my city who drives a rickshaw, has never been to school, but who writes books. Did I know him? ‘Yes, I did,’ I replied. And there is not an iota of falsehood in my claim that nobody knows him better than I do. I know him even better than Alkadidi who has written about him in her novel Kalikatha: Via Bypass (1998). Or the scholars who invite me to their many universities. I know all these Manoranjans. They are all within me.

[…]

Translator’s Note:

A careful calculation brought home to me the stunned realization that, less than a kilometre from where we used to sit at Jadavpur University, a man had been led towards his ‘execution’ by an ‘army’ that wielded power to strike terror in the hearts of hardened militant Naxalites—a Jadavpur that we had no inkling of. At a tea stall there, the owner lit his coal stove, heated the pan, washed out the glasses, and handed out the tea with his right hand while with his left, he turned over the .303 bullets that had been put out to dry beside the stove. It was all routine work to him.

It is not that the violence that ran rife in these areas in the 1970s is not known, but the violence has never been narrated from this perspective. Scattered and chilling bits of information that slipped through adult conversations: of police vans stealing up to a house in the dead of the night, tipped off about the wanted in hiding there, the sound of loud bangs on the main door signalling that the police had arrived to pick up our young tenant yet again, or the sight of a young man rushing down the street and vaulting over the boundary wall of the house at the far end of the road, or of finding bombs wrapped in a plastic wrapper hidden inside our water tank, or the incoherent report given years later by the film star Uttam Kumar of witnessing the killing of a popular leader when out on his morning walk—all these were incidents we had grown up with as children of the 1970s’ Calcutta. But these were stories of the movement as seen through the upper-caste, middleclass lens. The terror, the brutality, the violence, had not been any less in these experiences, but the lenses had been different and the lanes somewhat familiar. I needed to translate Manoranjan Byapari’s autobiography because it was the other half of the story that I had not known existed.

[…]

There was one place whose name I was familiar with in this city, Jadavpur. My father would come here to look for work. I landed up there one day with the hope that if my father could find work here, I would too. The first night I spent on the railway platform No. 1, where the Ganashakti newspaper was plastered on the wall, amidst the cigarette butts and dirt.1 I had high fever that night. Painful, burning sores and welts had erupted all over my body as a result of the doctor’s reckless beating. The next morning the fever was gone, though the pain remained, and I was enormously hungry. So I went in search of work which I found in a Hindustani tea-shop. The monthly salary would be ten rupees. The bitter experience at the doctor’s house was still fresh in my mind and I changed my surname so people would not know me as a Namashudra. That identity could make it difficult for me to get a job or, if I did get a job, would get me disdainful and contemptuous treatment. The shopowner was from Uttar Pradesh, a province where they were usually very keen on the caste identity. Luck was on my side for the owner did not display any overt curiosity about my caste. I remained here for about four to five months. The monthly salary would be given on request without any hankypanky at the end of every month. But if I broke a glass they would deduct the cost of that glass from the salary. This was to teach the boys to be more careful but try as I might, I ended up breaking one or two glasses often. One day I dropped about four quarts of milk. I did not get any salary that month.

One morning, on the road in front of the shop, there was this long line of people with bamboos and tiles moving towards the east. Where on earth are they going? They were going towards the area upon which has now come up the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. There, on the huge tracts of land lying empty but owned by the zamindars, they were going to build a colony. This would be another forcible seizure of land and the politician leading this project was a Congress minister named Ahin Ray Chowdhury. With him was another person called Shonaiya, who was later to gain notoriety as One-Handed Shona. These marching lines continued for about eight to ten days. I went to see the new colony one afternoon. As far as eye could see, there were small huts which had been built. Some of hogla leaves, some of bamboo, the lines of huts stretched endlessly. Seemingly countless, there were possibly about twenty to twenty-five thousand families there. I too wished I could take up a plot of land and make a house there. We too did not have proper place to live in. But my desires were too big for my small body and besides, were would I get the money needed to buy the bamboo or hogla.

The story goes that a man woke up late one day and so missed his train. He spent the morning dejected since this would cause him huge losses. Yet when a few hours later, news arrived of the accident that that train had met with, the man was thrilled that he had missed the train. A few days later, we were woken by cries for help from a thousand voices. The eastern sky was lit up with huge, leaping, red flames. Then came the sound of bullets being fired, repeatedly. This continued throughout the night. In the morning, along the same path traversed by those lines of people yesterday, they returned on pushcarts and makeshift stretchers. Blood dripped onto the dusty road from their bodies, evidence of the night-long hell that the police and the zamindars’ hired goons had unleashed upon them. My young mind had then been much upset at the sight of so many bloodied people and the world had not appeared a place fit for civilized humanity. It had appeared to be the domain of a tribe of murderers. But this claustrophobic arena is my country. This arena where the murderer exults is my country.

Many years ago, when my father had been beaten by the police, I had identified the police as my enemy. To that enemy was now added another, the zamindar. The police, the criminals and the zamindars I identified as the enemies of the people. My experience at the hands of the upper-caste doctor’s family had not been forgotten either. My mind was filled with anger, resentment and hatred. And wafting down on these three muddied streams as they flowed towards their turbulent meeting was my little mind, poisoned and stacked with bitter and angry experiences.

1. Translated by the translator.

The post first appeared at http://indianculturalforum.in/

Related posts

Pune’s Bhima Koregaon riots caused due to intelligence failure, says Ambedkar

Urges judicial commission to summon chief minister, intelligence heads for cross examination

Nadeem Inamdar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Bhima Koregaon,Karjat taluka
Advocate Prakash Ambedkar comes out of Bhima Koregaon judicial commission on Tuesday(Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)

Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar on Tuesday urged the judicial commission probing into the Bhima Koregaon riots to summon chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and the heads of Maharashtra intelligence, state minister for home (rural) Deepak Kesarkar and state minister home (urban) Ranjit Patil for cross examination. Earlier,Chief minister Fadnavis had himself said that the Bhima Koregaon riots had not erupted over intelligence failure.

Referring to his application seeking Fadnavis’s examination in the judicial commission hearing, Ambedkar said the chief minister was attending a programme in Ahmednagar’s Karjat taluka, barely 40 km from Bhima Koregaon on January 1, the day the riots broke..

“ I myself contacted the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) regarding the rioting that took place but to no avail,” he submitted before the two-member commission comprising justice (retd ) JN Patel and former chief secretary Sumit Mullick.

Ambedkar said there is a need to find out whether the police officers who had information about the incident informed the chief minister about the emerging situation. “Whether the on-ground information was passed to the higher authorities needs to be examined and brought on record. Bhima Koregaon riots have taken place due to intelligence failure,” Ambedkar said.

He pointed out that the gram sevak of Vadhu Budruk had informed in writing that the five grampanchayats of the surrounding areas had declared a bandh on account of January 1. This information does not match with the information given by the police and there is a need to cross examine the then police inspector of Shikrapur police station, Ambedkar said.

“This revelation has come out for the first time in the public discourse and I will submit the necessary documents before the commission. It is not the duty of the public servant to give a bandh call and he as gram sevak has communicated the decision of gram panchayat to the government,“ he said.

Ambedkar added that the commission must take into account and record the incidents which happened from December 26 to December 31, 2017, preceding the riots.

He said that the rural police intelligence wing had information regarding a particular telephone number from one district which was operational from December 28 to January 1 and this needed to be brought on the record. He alleged that conflicting information was coming from Pune rural and Pune city police on the riots.

He rejected the allegations that the banned CPI ( Maoist ) had funded the Elgar Parishad held at Shaniwarwada and said, “A retired Supreme Court judge cannot accept funds from a banned organisation. His reputation and integrity is on par and he is a very respected nationalist legal luminary. The allegations being made against him are false and frivolous in nature,” he said.

Ambedkar, who donned the lawyer’s coat, said the government version in terms of affidavits being submitted was changing from time to time and this must be explained by the government, He also submitted a list demanding access to public documents related to the police, case diary, recorded voice conversations, Daund WhatsApp group and other police investigations.

Bhima Koregaon Judicial Commission lawyer Ashish Satpute in his reply said that according to the law the privileged documents cannot be produced before the commission. The counsel cited various case laws related to non-sharing of secret, privileged, confidential and unpublished documents of the state citing state secrecy.

Justice Patel said that the commission can call for all and any type of document as it wants facts to come out. He assured that the confidential documents won’t be made public” and that the objective is only to know the truth.

Forced to withdraw case under police pressure

BG Bansode, lawyer for the victims, alleged before the judicial commission that the Dalits who had filed the atrocity case against the villagers of Vadhu Budruk for desecrating the samadhi of Govind Gopal Mahar were forced to withdraw the case under pressure from Pune rural police.

Advocate Nihal Singh Rathod who appeared for Ramesh Gaichor, a Kabir Kala Manch member, stated that the state was terrified and unwilling to get its top officers examined before the commission. Advocate Dhairyasheel Patil moved an application seeking examination of arrested Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale before the commission.

Lock-up bad for health: Gadling

Advocate Surendra Gadling, lodged in the Yerawada central jail, complained to Uapa Judge K D Vadane on Tuesday about the filthy conditions of the lock-up in the court premises.

Gadling said that he spent three hours in the lock up which reeked of a foul smel and was littered with human refuse and spit. “It’s bad for the health of inmates,” he complained.

Justice Vadane will hear Gadling’s bail application on November 16. The court will also hear the bail applications of Rona Wilson, Mahesh Raut and Sudhir Dhawale on November 16. The court also restricted Advocate Nihal Singh Rathod from addressing the court directing him to file a vakalatnama. Accordingly, Gadling moved an application seeking assistance of Adv Rathod before the court which was agreed to by the judge.

Gadling along with other four persons were arrested by the Pune Police on June 8 for alleged “Maoist link

https://www.hindustantimes.com/pune-news/pune-s-bhima-koregaon-riots-caused-due-to-intelligence-failure-says-ambedkar/story-po44L2AszRK0BRQySv4V9N.html

Related posts

Bhima-Koragaon clashes: Fadnavis must appear before panel, says BBM chief

 

Holding Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and top police officials responsible for failing to prevent the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon clashes, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief and lawyer Prakash Ambedkar on Tuesday demanded that Mr. Fadnavis and other officials be examined as witnesses before the two-member inquiry commission set-up to probe the clashes.

Representing a witness, M.N. Kamble, who had filed a petition in this regard, Mr. Ambedkar said that the Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick (who was part of the inquiry commission), Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, the State Director General of Police, and the heads of the intelligence sections among others must appear before the inquiry commission to explain why they had failed to prevent the violence despite several intimations of the same.

“One of the terms of reference for this commission is to establish the failure of the government machinery and secondly find out who were responsible. If failure must be established then all top authorities from the Chief Minister downwards must be examined and their statements recorded. Otherwise, the truth will never come out,” said Mr. Ambedkar, who was the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

He further demanded that written and audio records in form of official government documents, police records, police diaries, minutes of government meetings after the clashes and the Chief Minister’s directives to the police and administrative authorities with regards to the clashes be presented before the commission.

“There was lot of tension in the lead-up to the actual clashes. Hence, the sequence of events from December 20 to January 1 including the Elgaar Parishad, and the riots of January 1 and the government and police actions thereafter need to be examined thoroughly,” Mr. Ambedkar submitted.

Instead, he said that the government was going in the opposite direction with its investigation, with Chief Minister Fadnavis and the probe agencies casting aspersions on the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ of December 31 and erroneously linking it with the riots that erupted the next day.

Mr. Ambedkar further submitted the report prepared by a coordination committee set-up on January 9 and comprising of leaders from major Dalit outfits to assist the police investigations.

He noted that the report clearly proved that the Bhima-Koregaon incident was not a riot, but ‘a pre-planned attack’.

On December 29, a fierce dispute had broken out between upper caste Marathas and Dalits in the village of Vadhu Budruk (around 4 km from Koregaon -Bhima) over a rudimentary board erected near the tomb of Govind Ganapat Gaikwad, a Dalit from the Mahar community.

The Dalits had accused the Marathas of wantonly desecrating the ‘samadhi’ of Gaikwad, who is held by the Mahars to have performed the final rites of the slain Maratha King Sambhaji (Shivaji’s son). A complaint was filed by Dalit activists against 49 persons of Vadhu Budruk village under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, for damaging the board.

Recounting the Vadhu Budruk dispute, Mr. Ambedkar further pointed out that five Gram Panchayats, including those of Bhima-Koregaon and Vadhu Budruk, had called for a shutdown on January 1 to protest against the dispute and the complaints lodged against them by the Dalit community.

“Why were such events not taken seriously despite several warnings about eruption of possible violence on January 1. At precisely 9:05 a.m. that day, a mob assembled at Vadhu Budruk and later attacked the humungous congregation gathered at Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the bicentenary of the 1818 battle,” Mr. Ambedkar submitted.

In response to Mr. Ambedkar’s submissions, the commission headed by Justice Jai Narayan Patel, former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court said that if the commission felt the need to summon the Chief Minister, it would do so should the occasion arise.

“However, it would be improper to direct Mr. Fadnavis to appear before the commission at the present moment,” said (retd.) Justice Patel.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Related posts

Bezwada Wilson, an Indian hero

Between January 1, 2017 and September 18, 2018, one manual scavenger died every five days.
He is no caped superhero, but Bezwada Wilson continues to fight the good fight for manual scavengers, says Manavi Kapur.

Bezwada Wilson, a campaigner for eradication of manual scavengering, was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016. Photograph: PTI Photo

IMAGE: Bezwada Wilson, a campaigner for eradication of manual scavengering, was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016. Photograph: PTI Photo

‘To those who say that these things do not happen here, to those who want to claim a superior status for the Indian civilisation, I say that only those who have suffered this anguish know its sting,’ Om Prakash Valmiki in the preface to Joothan, 1997.

Bezwada Wilson knew nothing of anguish in his early childhood years.

“My parents worked hard to give me an insulated life, filled with love,” he recalls. Till he was five or six years old, he had no inkling of his place in the social order.

Born to parents who were manual scavengers, Wilson did not know that his older brother was one too. “It was only once I grew older that I realised I wasn’t as ‘normal’ as my parents would have me believe.”

There is little about Wilson’s life that qualifies as “normal”.

Born in 1966 in the Kolar Gold Fields region in Karnataka, Wilson understood the harsh reality of his social identity only once he became aware of his family’s profession.

“It disturbed me to think that we are not equals, that no matter what my parents do at home, we will all be treated poorly in the world outside,” he says.

Manual scavenging -- a national shame

Manual scavenging — a national shame

At school — Wilson briefly studied at a social welfare school in Andhra Pradesh — he would often be conferred with derogatory monikers that he didn’t yet understand. “I was staying in a hostel that housed a mix of caste groups. There was a sense of high-handed benevolence that made people say, ‘I treat you as equal’.”

But, for the first two decades of his life, this sense of injustice remained a dimly understood, passive reality.

It was when a 20-year-old Wilson was studying science at a college in Kolar and tutoring school children that he first encountered the familial impact of manual scavenging, where children dropped out of school because their parents couldn’t pay the fees.

The Kolar area employed a large number of people to manually clean human excreta from dry latrines. The manual scavengers spent a sizeable portion of their incomes on alcohol, to numb the pain of their soul-crushing drudgery.

The first time Wilson witnessed a manual scavenger at work, he broke down in tears.

That day, he spoke to his parents about what he had seen. And was shocked by their reaction — they told Wilson they had been manual scavengers all their life.

“What is striking is how this is a community that exists in total silence. Do you know that young men who get married don’t even tell their wives they are manual scavengers? Most of these workers finish their work, come home, eat and sleep. The task of cleaning people’s s*** every day leaves them unable to express their own disgust,” he says.

Wilson never loses his cool or his smile, but he speaks with a fierce passion and empathy.

“Very, very abnormal things are normalised for this community. People complicate the manual scavenging debate by saying it is a layered issue,” he says. “But it is simple-simple. As a society we like to make it look difficult so that we can escape responsibility.”

Wilson speaks in English, using Hindi to emphasise some points, but employing no euphemisms that might dilute the force of his argument.

Over the years, he taught himself English, a language that also gave him access to the social and intellectual capital of the Dalit community, including the works of B R Ambedkar.

Between 1986 and 1993, Wilson travelled across the country to meet workers and fully understand the role manual scavengers played. But the final push came from women in these communities, he says.

“Looking at their agony, I was propelled to do something more concrete. It was this emotional flooding that gave shape to our movement,” he says.

Wilson moved to Hyderabad in 1993 and met Dalit’s rights activists Paul Diwakar and S R Sankaran. Together, they formed the Safai Karamchari Andolan, a community-driven movement to mobilise manual scavengers.

The year 1993 was also when the government made its first move to abolish manual scavenging with the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) or EMSCDL Act. But the Act was termed largely toothless by those working with cleaners, sweepers and sewage workers.

The next decade, between 1993 and 2003, was crucial.

“The administration, both central and state, is a big stumbling block for change. They resisted all overtures we made so that they could maintain the status quo,” insists Wilson.

For instance, under the 1993 Act, most states would claim that since they had no dry latrines there was no question of demolishing them.

“Officers would deny data and refute facts. It was a constant, frustrating battle then and continues to be so today.”

When the states began refuting deaths caused by sewage accidents and inhaling poisonous gases, Wilson enlisted volunteers to estimate the number of deaths and report them. “But this approach also meant that human life was merely being represented as data. It did not address how we could prevent these deaths,” he says.

This prompted him to hop on to a train to New Delhi in 1993 with a general compartment ticket.

“I thought I would file a case in the Supreme Court. But, of course, reaching Delhi opened my eyes to how complicated it is to get just the paperwork done,” he says. His gumption did not go unrewarded, though.

He met several like-minded people in Delhi, including lawyers willing to guide him. With advocacy groups, manual scavengers and activists, he filed a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court that year naming all states and government departments — the Railways, Defence, the Judiciary and Education – as violators of the Manual Scavenging Prohibition Act. The case is still sub judice.

The law was replaced with the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, which was to have a wider scope and impose greater penalties than the 1993 law.

Activists like Wilson have repeatedly pointed out that the new Act is an update only in name. Without specifying a solid implementation mechanism, laws like this are just lip service, he believes.

Wilson has been relentless with his questions — many seem obvious, such as why the Indian Railways continues to employ manual scavengers. His forthright questions are neither naïve nor hostile, but they make one shift in one’s seat.

“I will never forget the attitude of politicians and bureaucrats,” he says. “They would sit with their arms crossed, with a bored expression, and ask me, ‘Haan, toh kya karnachahiyehumein? (So tell us, what should we be doing?)’ Basically, what they are saying is that we cleaned their s*** for these many years and now we must find a way out of it. This is just another form of modern slavery.”

His passionate work has not gone unnoticed, though.

After he was conferred the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2016, he was at the forefront of the India Sanitech Forum in 2017, a platform for tech innovators to showcase automation models for sewage cleaning.

Wilson also advises academics at leading institutes, such as the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, on designing sewage-cleaning machines that eliminate the need for exposure to deadly gases and infections.

In 2014, an IAS officer thought Wilson’s work was done — the prime minister had announced the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on October 2. “He told me, ‘Bezwada aaple lo (You should retire now, Bezwada)’,” he laughs.

“Four years later, here we are. Nothing has changed.”

Just between January 1, 2017 and September 18, 2018, one manual scavenger has died every five days.

“Do you see what’s happening here? We are purposely missing the point,” says Wilson. And yet, his gumption has not waned nor his resolve weaken

source- Buisness Standard

Related posts

India – RISE against brutality on Dalit girls and women.#Dalitlivesmatter #MeToo #Protest

Silence Shrouds the Murder of a 13-Year-Old Dalit Girl in Tamil Nadu

Rajalakshmi had told her parents about Dinesh Kumar’s unsolicited advances, but the family chose to remain silent because Kumar is from a dominant community and not someone they could easily challenge.

Chennai: On October 23, Tamil Nadu woke up to something that should have stunned it into shame. Fourteen kilometres away from Thalavaipatti, a village on the outskirts of Salem near Aathur, Dinesh Kumar, a member of a dominant community, had beheaded his 13-year-old Dalit neighbour Rajalakshmi the previous evening. Rajalakshmi had allegedly spurned his advances. Busy in  #Metoo campaigns, Tamil Nadu remained stoic and silent about this crime. “This is, in a way, a MeToo crime. Rajalakshmi was killed because she had spurned his advances; because she spoke about it. In fact it is both a caste crime and a sexual offence and needs to be addressed at both levels,” says A. Kathir, executive director of Evidence, a movement that works on human rights among Dalits.

Kathir was among the first activists to reach the village and speak to the family of the victim. “Rajalakshmi and her mother Chinnaponnu were stringing flowers together when Dinesh Kumar arrived with a sickle. He abused them by targeting their caste, and beheaded Rajalakshmi, in spite of Chinnaponnu’s intervention. Thereafter, he took Rajalakshmi’s head and went home, where his wife Sarada advised him to discard it elsewhere. Subsequently, they went to the police station together,” Kathir said. Later, Sarada claimed that her husband was mentally ill. But Kathir says the claim was a ploy to ‘save her husband.’ “It has been made clear in the police investigation that he is mentally and physically sound.”

Chinnaponnu and Rajalakshmi were alone at home when the crime took place. “Rajalakshmi’s father works in a graveyard, because of which he often stays away from home at night. I visited the family three days after the crime and Chinnaponnu told me how the headless torso of her young daughter lay in her hands. Rajalakshmi had told her parents about his unsolicited advances, but the family chose to remain silent because Dinesh Kumar was not someone they could easily challenge.”

Rajalakshmi’s parents. Credit: Author provided

Kathir points out how the police sees this as a caste crime (and not a sex crime), whereas the society views it only as a sexual crime and not a caste crime.

“It is both” asserts P. Jagadeesh, Rajalakshmi’s brother in law. “Our complaint says it is both. He made sexual advances towards Rajalakshmi. Then, he was enraged that a Dalit woman had the audacity to spurn him. We demand that he should not be let out on bail, and that the case should also be tried under the POCSO Act.”

 

Corroborating Kathir’s version, Kausalya, an activist whose husband Sankar was a victim of honour killing, says the crime was both ‘casteist and sexual in nature’. “It is very difficult for Rajalakshmi’s mother to come to terms with what has happened,” says Kausalya, who had witnessed her husband’s gruesome murder in March 2016.

But what intrigues activists like Kathir and Kausalya is the silence that shrouds the crime. “When I visited the family along with another activist Valarmathi, the media had the most insensitive questions for the victim’s family. I wonder why such questions are never raised asked of the perpetrators of the crime or the administration that is complicit in this crime.”

“That a gruesome crime like this should go unnoticed when #MeToo as a movement is garnering huge attention is ironic,” observed Kathir. “If there is a MeToo moment in a slum, it usually ends in murder. The victim is not allowed to voice her complaint or seek justice. The civil society is complicit in this crime. The silence of the civil society is as violent as the crime itself, if not more.”

A meeting in Chennai on Wednesday hopes to break this silence. “We should now also speak about WhyOnlyMe in the context of Dalit girls and women and the harassment they suffer at the hands of dominant communities. It is not just #MeToo, they are alone in this harassment,” says Semmalar Jebaraj, a Dalit activist and one of the organisers. “This silence is deafening. The civil society is silent; politicians including the progressive leaders are silent. The media is silent. We want to break this.”

Semmalar points out how in sharp contrast to many #Metoo accusations which had either happened at a workplace or a public place, Rajalakshmi has been killed in her own home. “Essentially, a Dalit girl cannot be safe even in her own house. This is a clear case of honour killing. Dinesh Kumar would not just stop with murdering her, he made sure her head was cut off and he took it too. It is telling how castiest he is.”

Semmalar says efforts are on to bring in more voices to break this silence. “We know we require the solidarity of other voices, not just Dalit voices. For us it is not just about stopping this harassment, it is more about the annihilation of caste.”

The organisers also have plans to break many established norms around caste. “So, traditionally parai (a percussion instrument) has been played in funerals and nadaswarams have been played on auspicious occasions. At our meeting on Wednesday, we have some nadaswaram players performing in solidarity. T.M. Krishna has also promised to sing some numbers.”

Alphonse Ratna, another organiser, has penned a song on Rajalakshmi which she hopes will create some awareness about what the young girl underwent:

 

Why Only Me

Why should I be victimised in the name of caste?

Slavery does not live

By killing the truth,

Or by helping caste thrive.

This is the time to give back.

Rajalakshmi had many dreams

You killed her,

Despite her being a child.

She should be born again

To annihilate caste

Let us unite

Let us usher in a revolution

Let us struggle for social justice

Let us break our silence

Against the violence.

 

“That a 13-year-old Dalit girl who had harboured the dreams of becoming an IAS officer should meet such an end is a shame on us, collective shame on the society we live in. What is even more shameful is our silence.” Ratna says

https://thewire.in/caste/tamil-nadu-dalit-girl-beheaded

Related posts

India – NGOs Systematically Silences Dalit, Tribal and Bahujan Voices #MeToo

While the nation is in the #MeToo movement’s grip, Dalit women are not speaking up against their oppressors. This is because all mainstream sectors have only paid lip service to their cause.

All the media time and reams of newsprint documenting the various #MeToo revelations in India will not make up for the decades of silence imposed upon women and girls who were subject to sexual harassment at home, at work and in educational institutions.

Civil society groups have been at the forefront of social change in the area of gender and NGOs have been important stakeholders. Needless to say, there have been black sheep in the NGO sector as well, just as there are in the rest of society. Mari Marcel Thekaekara accused one well-known NGO activist in an article.

Even though I cannot claim that I was at the receiving end of sexual harassment, I can surely say that I paid a heavy personal price for speaking up against sexist and misogynist behaviour in some of the places I worked. Also, one needs to see this in the light of the subtle and not-so-subtle casteism one encounters in the sector.

As NGO work shed its focus on volunteerism and began to acquire “professionalism” in the wake of globalisation in the 1990s, there was an influx of foreign funding agencies which increased the need for professional social workers whose curricula needed project and financial management skills more than people’s issues, development and policy analysis, which used to be the forte of social workers during the 70s and 80s.

 

I joined the sector as a communications person in the 80s, during an exciting period. But much of this euphoria was because of my innocence – or ignorance, as it could be called. Over the years, I became experienced and of course moved up the ladder, a little slowed down by motherhood, which happened at a critical time career-wise, and by other personal setbacks.

So when, in 2004, I successfully passed an interview and written test for my first post as a director in an NGO, I was thrilled and excited by the challenging work and its scope, ideal for me, a multi-tasker and polymath. It was also the first job I had been able to land which was in line with my training, experience and skills. I often wondered at this, because peers who entered the field around the same time as I, with less training and capacities, had become directors much before me and drew double or triple of my salary. I had often attended interviews for senior positions and was shortlisted, but almost always found someone else being preferred.

Caste-based discrimination 

I thought that this could be due to prejudice due to colour (I’m quite dark-complexioned), or religion – my name says it all – or even because I was South Indian – most NGO national offices are located in New Delhi. I’ve lived and worked there and can speak very fluent Hindi, travelled all over India, but still… it took sometime for me to realise that it wasn’t just colour, language or religion that was responsible for being overlooked for senior positions in NGOs. It was something that I hadn’t known about myself. I had Dalit ancestry.

Somehow, people in the sector – correctly – gauged that I was of Dalit stock. Therefore, my excellent writing, speaking and management skills were less important than the fact that maybe two or three generations ago, my forebears were probably “untouchables”, engaged in (maybe) unclean occupations and the hint of that taint was enough to keep me from being selected for any position of leadership or decision-making.

Suffice it to say that the reason I got my first post as a director was probably because I was a Dalit. The NGO was expected by the funders to show that it had programme staff from the target groups to execute the work.

Representative image. Credit: CIPE

Boardrooms of NGOs are complicit in enabling exploitative behaviour. Representative image. Credit: CIPE

Eventually, this assignment turned out to be very brief. Just ten months later, I lost the job despite excelling at it and having a good working relationship with the team and staff.

I was summarily terminated in the space of a day for asking the president of the board to tell the executive director of the organisation to stop having affairs with junior women staff during office time and in office space.

He failed to do his duty and instead took the side of the director. This board member now heads a national level organisation. (I fought a case in a labour court against my dismissal for several years and failed to win. I have still not got any of the money from my provident fund account because the executive director vindictively hasn’t signed and forward my application.)

The executive director continued, with his compliant board members and international funders, to run the NGO for several years, and provided an ecosystem for more women to be exploited, not only by him but by other board members and senior male staff. It gives me no joy to report that eventually, his alcohol abuse and financial profligacy caught up with him and funders withdrew after much damage was done.

The groupings withing NGOs

If just some women in male-headed NGOs speak up about their experiences, we’d have another long list of serial abusers who take advantage of the power their capacity to raise funds gives them over their staff. In fact, it is one of the reasons for civil society groups in Tamil Nadu to be clustered into two camps – one which includes NGOs headed by males and another made up of NGOs headed by women as well as autonomous women’s groups. Though there is issue-based solidarity among these camps, the NGO grouping in TN is almost exclusively based on gender.

The other divide is caste. Dalits have their own groups, the majority of them headed by men, many of them church-funded. Though there are several small poorly resourced ones headed by Dalit women, those which receive substantial foreign funding are headed by men and women from the privileged castes. (I am not comfortable using the term savarna even though it has become common these days, since I believe that as it refers to the varna, or caste, and means “with caste” – as opposed to avarna– or caste-less untouchables, and it reifies, reinforces and even legitimises caste hierarchies. This is my personal opinion.)

 

Be that as it may, the reality of the privileged castes dominating the leadership and decision making powers in NGOs with the field workers almost invariably made up of Dalits, Adivasis and some of the less resourced backward classes, only reflects the larger societal realities. Even though lip service used to be paid to empowering women or Dalits and especially Dalit women, the fact was – and is – that their positions in NGOs and movements continue to be marginalised and disempowered, even exploitative.

I say this with full responsibility. Even in many organisations led by Dalit women, there are hierarchies based on other considerations like kinship, language and region, though their solidarity does transcend these divisions in the larger picture.

One of the issues that #MeToo has raised is whether, if at all, Dalit women are part of the campaign, and whether Dalit women were reluctant to name their oppressors, and if so, why. We found that the percentage of convictions of those accused of harassing Dalit women is abysmal, since, as researchers found, police refused to file cases if Dalit women tried to complain against their tormentors. The police did not believe the women.

I shared my story on Facebook recently and the response was unexpectedly supportive and warm. Many of my friends knew the identity of the people involved and several asked me to name the persons. I refused because it might bring harm to many women who worked there but were not targets. Also the executive director’s fall from grace is complete and there’s nothing more pathetic than a discredited patriarch. I can’t bring myself to kick someone when they are down.

Bhanwari Devi’s case was responsible for the framing of Vishakha guidelines. Credit: Wikipedia

I seriously considered naming the board president, the man who failed to do his job and is enjoying the consequences of that sycophancy, who chose male solidarity and love for money and position and threw me under the bus. Not just him, but the whole craven bunch of so-called board members. This person is in a position of leadership at a national level organisation. However, as reliable opinion holds that he was not known to be involved in inappropriate relationships with women, I have decided not to reveal his name. However, this should not to give him a clean chit for ethical behaviour, as it is well known that his hands are not clean where money is concerned.

Information was shared by others, not by me, to the funders of the organisation where I worked about the various wrongdoings of the executive director and the board members. But as far as I know, they did nothing to intervene at the time or maybe they chose to believe his lies and nobody asked me for my side of the story. Was it because I was seen as a Dalit woman and therefore one whose opinion did not matter?

So the institutional failure of the board and the funders are even more culpable for allowing the executive director to continue with his abuse of money, institutional, sexual and social power, especially over the project beneficiaries and staff from disadvantaged backgrounds. All this while enabling him to project an image of being a champion of the poor, Dalits, women, tribals and the environment.

Structural and institutional failures

Who will answer for these structural failures?

To return to the #MeToo issue, there are two general perceptions: that the people involved are mostly from the privileged groups and Dalit women are not speaking up against their oppressors.

The first one is undoubtedly true and even the media is seen taking sides which are convenient, allowing institutional voices to emerge from within the establishment, and where all the actors are from privileged sections. The media, the NGOs, feminist/women’s movement, the police and the judiciary are all complicit in the silencing and eliding of Dalit and adivasi women even though in reality, these women put up the greatest resistance to injustice.

 

The famous anti-arrack movement in Andhra Pradesh in the 90s, which even brought a state government down, was headed by Rosamma, a Dalit woman. Mathura, whose courageously fought for justice in the Supreme Court against her custodial rape in the 70s, was an Adivasi girl. Bhanwari Devi, a Dalit woman, was raped for reporting an instance of child marriage to the authorities, which was her job. Her infructuous fight for justice resulted in the framing of Vishakha guidelines to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace and the passing of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act.

When Surekha Bhootmange and her daughter were brutalised and killed by a mob in Khairlanji in 2006, there was hardly any reportage, nor did the police register an FIR till there was unprecedented agitations by Dalit youth. In contrast, the Nirbhaya case prompted protests all over the country and even internationally.

All this shows that even to this day, the resistance of the marginalised continues to be silenced, ignored and minimised by all sections of the mainstream, including the media, civil society, judiciary and government.

When will the voices and struggles of the Dalit, Adivasi, Bahujan women find a space in the mainstream? Will #MeToo be more of the same?

Cynthia Stephen is an independent journalist, activist and social policy researcher.

https://thewire.in/caste/metoo-the-ngo-sector-systematically-silences-dalit-tribal-and-bahujan-voices

Related posts

‘Sairat’ Director’s Ex-Wife Tells Her Story of Abuse

Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat not only gifted its director glowing reviews, but also crowned him as the maker of Marathi cinema’s most successful film. It’s no mean feat, and Manjule is busy pocketing plaudits from every corner.

The lead cast of <i>Sairat</i> in a scene from the film
The lead cast of Sairat in a scene from the film

Call it the irony of fate or the loneliness of a long distance runner, there is someone from his past who is feeling completely left out in this heavy shower of success. Sunita Manjule, Nagraj Manjule’s ex-wife, has emerged out of the shadows to cry foul and points fingers at the director’s tall claims on his stand on women’s place in society. Citing financial, emotional and physical abuse, Sunita alleges that the director’s words are all show, and it is she who is going to tell the real tale.

Here on, Sunita Manjule describes her marital woes in her own words.

I got married to Nagraj Manjule in 1997, when I was barely 18-19 years old. It was an arranged marriage, for our families decided our union. He was studying in his XII th standard when we became one. I hail from Chinchwad, Pune, and post marriage, I went on to live with his family in Jeur, Solapur.

His family was rather large with his parents, and his brothers. Since Nagraj was the eldest, I became the eldest daughter-in-law and I had to take care of the entire family.

Nagraj Manjule and his wife Sunita on their wedding day in 1997 (Photo courtesy: Akash Supare)
Nagraj Manjule and his wife Sunita on their wedding day in 1997 (Photo courtesy: Akash Supare)

Cleaning, cooking, and being the ideal bahu, I was playing the role of looking after everyone’s well being. The family was big, and I used to be busy in household work throughout the day. Since his mother would be down with fever most of the time, the onus of being the woman of the house was always on me.

On the other hand, Nagraj was busy in his studies. While I was with taking care of his parents in his village, he lived in the city. After finishing his studies in Pune, he wanted to pursue filmmaking. He used to tell me always that he wants to become a big filmmaker, and he must pursue this course. He enrolled himself in an institute in Ahmednagar.

He was so engrossed in his studies and dreams that he hardly had time for me. It was me who was toiling 24 X 7 for 365 days so that his family can be fed and taken care of. Whenever he used to come home, he would assure me that when he becomes a big filmmaker he would take me out of the village, and we would make a nest in a big city like Mumbai. It all felt so beautiful, and a dream we both could inhabit.

There were problems in our marriage but I overlooked them because I was devoted to my husband, and because of that, to his family. That’s all every Indian woman does, right?

The dreams he showed me came crashing as soon as his filmmaking career started to bloom. His short film, Pistulya, was highly praised by everyone, but our joy knew no bounds when it was chosen for the National Awards. He was about to receive an award from the President of India! I was over the moon.

But I was in for a rude shock when I realised that I was not a part of my husband’s plans. Not only that, his entire family went to Delhi. Not only did they go without me, they also locked me inside the house while they were leaving. I didn’t know what to do. I was at a loss for words.

Nagraj Manjule’s wife Sunita reveals her side of the story (Photo courtesy: Akash Supare)
Nagraj Manjule’s wife Sunita reveals her side of the story (Photo courtesy: Akash Supare)

The husband I knew slowly vanished into the filmmaker. Slowly, his visits dwindled and whenever he would come, he would get his friends, sometimes male sometimes female, along. I would cook, serve and be the best host possible. But he would never even acknowledge my presence in front of his friends. So much so that he would leave without even telling me. And I would come to know about his departure from other family members.

After that National Award incident, our marriage fell apart. I sensed that he might be seeing someone else, or he is not happy with me.

Then came a point when I begged him to let me stay in his family, he could do whatever he wanted, I just wanted to retain his surname. Tell me, after marriage, which woman would find it comfortable going back to her parents’ house?

As fate would have it, it all came to a sad end. My parents came to take me back to their house. Which parent can tolerate such misery for their children? I was taken to their family as the daughter-in-law, but in practice, I was their housemaid.

There were efforts by others so that we could get back, but my husband refused to co-operate. Then a divorce case was filed in 2012, and the case went on for long. Finally, our lawyer spoke to their lawyer, and fixed up a deal in 2014.

I was made to sign papers which I could barely understand, and a demand draft of Rs 7 lakhs was given as the settlement sum, out of which our lawyer, above his payments, took away Rs 1 lakh. Later, I came to know that I would have no right on his property, alimony or his life. I was told this was all I could get.

What I regret the most is not having any child of my own, despite being married for 15 long years. Looking at other married women, I always longed to taste motherhood, have a child of my own, but it wasn’t possible in our marriage. Because every time I would ask him about having a child, he would scold me that it wouldn’t be possible because he can’t afford to get bogged down by familial ties, when he has filmy dreams to chase.

Nagraj Manjule’s ex-wife Sunita (Photo: Akash Supare)
Nagraj Manjule’s ex-wife Sunita (Photo: Akash Supare)

This is why he made me go for 2-3 abortions, and whenever I raised my voice for keeping the child, he thrashed me, with his bare hands, leather belt and sometimes, a log of wood.

After Fandry, Sairat has really been loved by everyone, and this makes me very proud that my husband is such a creative man. But I think he is embarrassed of me. He moves in the artistic circles, the who’s who of Maharashtra speak to him with high regard, and here I am, someone who has studied only till VIII th standard. I think that’s the reason he deemed me fit only to take care of his family and to do household work, but not be the wife that he could acknowledge in front of everyone. Now he has become successful, and I, being the not-so-literate makes him ashamed, which is why he got rid of me.

I have given 15 years of my life, my blood and sweat to nurture his family when he was busy struggling to study and make a career. And now, I have been reduced to a nobody, a stranger.

Now, I live with my parents and my siblings. I work as a maid in different houses to make my livelihood. I am sheltered as long as my parents are alive. My brothers are married and have their own families. I don’t know what future really has in store for me. My parents are old, and I don’t know what will I do after their death. I am scared, but I don’t know whether people would understand my state of being.

Does This Make Sairat a Blatant Case of Double Standards?

Known for his stand on caste oppression as a burning reality in his films, Nagraj Manjule has stated in many interviews that women are the dalits of the dalits. A stand that is clear in Sairat, which favours Archie’s journey more than Parshya’s. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. Nagraj’s ex-wife clearly alleges that there is much hypocrisy between what is preached and what is practiced.

Akash Supare, a social worked based in Pune, was approached to act as a mediator when Nagraj and Sunita’s marriage crumbled. He shed further light on the matter.

I really tried to get the two parties together and end their discord. If two people can end their marital dispute before going to the court, it’s always better. But despite my incessant calls, Nagraj Manjule refused to co-operate and meet. Slowly, my attention got divided since there was no response from Nagraj’s side, and it was going nowhere. Later, I came to know that they went to the court, and got a divorce done.
Akash Supare, Social Worker

The outcome of the settlement, Rs 7 lakhs with no right to property, left Supare completely shocked.

When I saw their papers, I was completely shocked. This is a clear case of financial exploitation. What is Rs 7 lakhs in todays world of inflation? Not only that, Sunita has also told me how Nagraj made her go though abortions for he wanted to chase his dreams. He got his way out, but in the bargain, his wife, Sunita got a very raw deal. If a filmmaker has delivered the most successful film in Marathi film history, how come his wife is washing utensils? Does that happen anywhere else in India? Does any hit Bollywood director’s ex-wife work as a maid? It’s the story of every Indian woman who gives her life taking care of the husband’s family, but her contribution hardly gets acknowledged. When Sunita told me her ordeal, I realized in a few meetings that Nagraj’s family has made a fool out of her because she is not an educated woman. Imagine, despite such unkind treatment from her husband, all she wanted was to retain her husband’s name and stay in his house. This is abuse of the worst kind. I really respect Nagraj Manjule as a filmmaker, but this side of him simply reflects a terrible truth which is so unlike what he portrays in his films.
Akash Supare, Social Worker

We tried to get in touch with Nagraj Manjule for his version of the story, but he was unavailable to comment.

(The writer is a journalist who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. Follow him on Twitter: @RanjibMazumder)

(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 7 June 2016)

 

Related posts

Selling Tickets to Killing People: The Great Indian “Love Tragedies” #SundayReading

Akshay Mankar

What is the reason that love stories get “love” on the Indian box offices, while bullets in reality?
In the context of Pranay’s brutal murder, this article explains how this is not about the love in the first place!

Love tragedies have always been great part of the traditions of story-telling world. Not an exception, India goes a step ahead with Bollywood, where love stories are always the center plot of almost every movie plot. Judging on cinema, we can say that Indians are crazy fans of romantic love stories, but then we come across cases like that of Pranay-Amrutha every now & then. Answer lies in gender & caste.

INDIAN SOCIETY AND THE OFFSCREEN ROMANCE

Caste and patriarchy are the two aspects of the Indian society, which could be blamed for every kind of social inequality. These two institutions have been shamelessly preserved by the Indian people across the religious identities in India, irregarrdless of the fact it finds its origins in the hindu literature & mythology, beliefs, practice, which is just one of many Indian religions.

Had Perumal Pranay had been an upper caste person, and Amrutha Varshini a Dalit, things would have been surely different.
How?

Cutting big explanation short, various philosophies in Hinduism, like Purush-Prakriti, Brahma-Maya, Beej-Kshetra Nyaya (Kindly refer to the internet) establish the superiority of Masculinity over feminity. Then there is the institution of caste, legitimized majorly in Manu Smriti (Patriarchy legitimized here as well). In Hindu-Indian society, Patriarchy is not simply subordination of the women to the men, rather, subordination of the feminity to masculinity, which goes beyond genders.
Caste-Patriarchy-Caste

There have been restrictions on Dalits from engaging in certain “masculine acts” like keeping a moustache, taking out a Baraat procession for wedding, or riding a horse. Similarly, there are restrictions on women when they undergo periodic bleeding, no matter which caste they belong. As also depicted in the movie Padman, there are restrictions on entering a worship place, or kitchen or from touching other people, just as there are for the Dalits. This all is based upon the idea of “Purity & Pollution”. Adding sexuality and gender gives the finishing touch, where queer persons find their place respectively. Long Caste and patriarchy are thus interwoven; patriarchy establishes a hierarchy in genders, while castes do so for the communities. If we take Indian society is taken for a ladder, a Cisgender-Heterosexual-Savarna Man stands at the top and a Transgender-Homosexual-Dalit Woman stands at the bottom.

Marriage & Caste

In marital relationships, first, one must marry heterosexually, in one’s own caste. “Mainstream” families are patriarchal and patrilocal. Since men’s perspective is the only perspective, inter-caste marriages are okay, if you are bringing in a lower caste woman in a higher caste patriarchal household. It is a strict no-no, to “give away” a woman (in kanyadaan/nikaah/anything) from a higher caste to a man of lower caste. It appeals to the masculinity of the upper caste men, if so happens, and they respond accordingly.

Marriage stands as the most effective tool to preserve the twin institution of Caste-Patriarchy. Love makes people see beyond their caste-kin loyalties, which are essential to preserve caste and prevent them from identifying as a member of a class. Caste is the key that keeps away the class struggle, by creating “artificial hierarchy” where most of the people find themselves in a better position than many others, and remain content. Between two persons earning same meager amount of income, one belonging to an upper caste will have something that sets him apart, & in a better position than the other, so they fail in forming solidarity. Existence of caste is thus a political necessity of the ruling class as well.

The religious leaders never fail to demonize the filial love and exclusively promote conjugal love. Rape-convict Asaram Bapu’s initiative “Matri-Pitri Poojan Divas”, meaning Mother-Father worship day, to be observed exactly on 14th February, the Valentines Day (despite the fact that hindu festivals are observed not according to the Gregorian calendar) is a class room example. The extremist organizations terrorizing the streets of India with their violent vigilantism, specifically on the Valentines Day serves the same purpose. These leaders are thus right when they say that the western culture, which does not looks at sex as “just a necessary baby-making process” unlike the Indian religious philosophies (Hindu-Jain), is a threat to the Indian culture. Sex in modern moralities, is an exclusive characteristic of filial love, which the guardians of the twin institutions of caste-patriarchy must control.

Some might give example of “Radha-Krishna” to contradict this, but it must be taken into consideration that the Bhakti movement which popularized worship of these deities was a reformative movement in hinduism, which came in fairly later period. While the human requirements for the deities (their idols) are acknowledged in the temples, like need of bathing, clothing, feeding and even excursions, their sexualities are not. The love between the deities is “exclusive-ised”, and filial love between humans, on the basis of the physical expression of it (sex), is demonized. Since deities are not humans, their love doesn’t threats the institution of caste. Not every love is threatens it, that’s why, not all lovers all killed. It is only patriarchy when it comes to violence in consequence of the inter-religion marriages.

Popular Cinema and Caste

“Sairat” movie, where lower caste boy elopes with a higher caste girl and both of them gets killed consequently, is directed by a dalit person, brings out the factor very accurately. Its remake “Dhadak”, directed by a savarna person, failed to address caste appropriately, for the obvious reason of director’s non-dalit identity. Another reason might be the fact that Bollywood has been lately focusing only upon the urban dwelling “mainstream” audience, who find themselves unable to see caste because they only thing that gets their attention is their mobile screens. To suit to what they believe in, “Dhadak’ plot hints at the class, and makes a love tragedy out of it. Hope this article makes through the mobile screens of the millennials, and breaks the bubble of “Casteless Urban Spaces”. Recently, caste has made great ugly reappearances in the university campuses as well. Not that it was non-existent before and did not claim lives, it is only now, students’ movements have effectively talking about it, post Rohith Vemula incidence.

Like every other peoples, Indians are indeed fans of love stories, even greater than others. It is just the Caste-Patriarchy that holds strong. It only takes love in the hearts of people, to make them look beyond these loyalties. When some of them do, there are always people who feel offended, and react in violent ways. Stories goes around as how there used to pin drop silence in the theater halls, as the movie “Sairat” ends violently and people undergo a shock. We are experiencing same shock as the caste-patriarchy spills blood of our beloved citizens.

There is silence and its not helping. Rather, the media has successfully painted it to be “love tragedy”, which could be cashed later as a movie plot. Young people are the most precious resources that we could ever have. Every loss of young life, weighs down heavily on India’s future, and we shall pay the price of our silence.

Related posts

Maharashtra – SC/ST cases in state rose after ’16, shows data given to House panel

Mumbai:

Crime against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in Maharashtra has shown an uptick in the period between 2015 and 2018, according to data compiled on the eve of a House committee’s visit to the state capital.

On an average, around 400 cases of crime against scheduled caste members and 140 against scheduled tribe members are registered in Maharashtra annually. Registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, these range from rape and murder to grievous hurt and arson.

A breakup (see graphic) shows a rise in rape cases between 2016 and 2017. While rape cases involving SC women increased from 220 to 230, those involving ST women rose from 86 to 113. Overall, crimes against SC persons rose from 397 to 414, while against ST persons from 128 to 151 between 2016 and 2017.

Data for 2018 is available till August. If a projection is to be made for the last four months, it can be seen that total cases under various heads will cross the 2017 numbers.

Activists, however, say the figures are under-reported. The data was compiled ahead of a visit to Mumbai by the House panel for the welfare of SC/STs on Monday and at a time when the provision of an immediate arrest in the event of a complaint under the SC/ST act is still being debated in the courts.

Commenting on the data presented to the panel, social activist Dr Nitin Lata Waman said the state has failed to safeguard the rights of marginalized people. “The police see it as an additional burden and many cases go unregistered under the stringent Atrocities Act.” “Such violence is a manifestation of the failure to maintain social positions and jealousy towards so-called lower social groups, who are trying to cope with historic inequality, and trying to earn social acceptance and recognition,” Dr Waman said. Kavita Ware, an activist working among tribals, said state agencies conduct research and offer measures, “but sadly, it all remains only on paper and no follow-up action is taken.”

TOI

Related posts

Flawed Koregaon Bhima Judgment

Justice Chandrachud’s soaring dissent is an appeal to the brooding spirit of law

All fundamental rights are vital but if forced to prioritise, liberty must stand first. Judges must bend over backwards to exercise that bit of extra discretion to uphold liberty, more than any other virtuous goal of our Constitution. Sadly, the Supreme Court (SC) in its majority judgment in Koregaon Bhima (KB) fails this acid test while Justice Chandrachud’s soaring dissent is likely to find a resounding echo in a future majority.

As i was the lead (and losing) counsel for the petitioners you are entitled to discount everything in this article, ascribing it to a poor loser. But my sense of dissatisfaction arises not from the loss but simply because the core and dispositive issues argued were not even addressed, even by way of rejection, by the majority.

Additionally, two press conferences by the police flashed 13 letters selectively insinuating guilt, but the letters were not placed in SC nor mentioned in the transit remand. No fresh FIR was filed regarding the PM assassination plot and, as the dissent tellingly points out, “no effort has been made by the ASG to submit that any such investigation is being conducted in regard to five individuals (petitioners). On the contrary, he fairly stated that there was no basis to link the five arrested individuals to any such alleged plot against the PM. Nor does the counter affidavit make any averment to that effect”. None of this is mentioned in the majority.

The alleged materials against arrestees were gathered from third persons and the PM plot was based upon letters sent or received by one “Comrade R”. A final trial court judgment after full trial convicted Saibaba and returned a judicial finding that Comrade R was in fact none other than Saibaba, who was admittedly always under police/ judicial custody from months before the allegedly inculpatory letters were written. How a convict under custody could write or receive letters plotting to assassinate the PM remains a grand mystery which the majority does not even note. One letter appeared to be an obvious fabrication since it has over 17 references to words ascribed in Devnagari using Marathi forms of grammar and address, while the alleged author Sudha is non-Marathi.

Law mandates the presence of at least one independent witness who is a respectable member of the locality where the arrest is made, whereas the two Panch witnesses in the KB case are admittedly employees of the Pune Municipal Corporation who admittedly travelled with the police from Pune to Faridabad! Both this and the fact that 99.99% of the over 50 prior criminal cases collectively attributed to the arrestees had led to discharge, acquittal or quashing are ignored. The majority does not even note the total absence of evidence showing membership of CPI (Maoist), much less activity by arrestees on behalf of it and ignores the many judicial precedents appointing SITs and holding direct petitions in SC to be maintainable.

It oversimplifies by addressing only two points, viz whether the investigating agency should be changed at the behest of the five accused and whether a SIT should be appointed. As is obvious, even these two issues are opposite sides of the same coin. The other issues relating to locus had vanished as the arrestees themselves had filed applications directly in the SC.

Ironically, this sole issue on which the entire operative part of the majority (from paras 20 to 37) is based also does not arise for the simple reason that the petitioners had repeated in writing and oral arguments that they wanted neither exemption from investigation nor transfer from or substitution of the investigating agency. An SIT was only asked for supervisory purposes to lend independence and credibility to the investigation, which would continue to be done by the state prosecuting agencies.

By contrast, the dissent is masterful in its language, eloquence, comprehensiveness and soaring spirit. It will, in times to come, indubitably satisfy the prophetic words of a former US SC chief justice: “A dissent in a court of last resort is an appeal to the brooding spirit of law, to the intelligence of a future day when a later decision may possibly correct the error into which the dissenting justice believes the court to have been betrayed.”

Each one of the relevant probative issues listed above (and ignored by the majority) has been painstakingly addressed in the dissent. The judicial precedents cited by the petitioners have been approbated while state citations have been carefully and convincingly distinguished. The dissent sees judicial interference on such core issues of liberty as the “constitutional duty of the court so that justice is not compromised” and “not derailed”. It treats a fair investigative process as “the basic entitlement of every citizen faced with allegations of criminal wrongdoings” and “dissent as a symbol of a vibrant democracy (where) voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take unpopular causes.

Related posts