Sunday, May 28, 2006


Lying on the sands
Eyes on the horizon
The hypnotic clouds
Merge, then diverge.

Lying alone
With only the wind's sound
Feel lifted, begin to float
To spaces beyond,
And Times before.

Memories crowd
Can't cry, can't smile
Does it hurt, can't say,
Can only see
The Times gone by
No desire left
To live or to die.

Were I to sit back
And watch the world go by?

The wind tries to push me
And rains rush down.
I stay there,
Move not.

Over me waves begin to roll
I remain there
No desire left
To live or die.

I wonder
Am I dead already?
And my thoughts floating about
Like the ash of the burnt wood

I wonder.........

Saturday, May 27, 2006



A 3- part article:
Post 1;   Post  2;  Post 3;


After Independence, to fulfill the Constitution provisions, the Indian Government has passed various legislations to enforce the abolishment of 'untouchability' and remove the barriers of caste discrimination impeding the socio-economic progress of the Dalits. This included the Protection of Civil Rights (Anti-Untouchability) Act, 1955 and various land reform laws to redistribute land to the landless, a large and disproportionate percentage of whom were and still are Dalits. Later years saw the passage of the Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1976, Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, Jogini Act No. 10, and the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 & Rules, 1995. The central and state governments also established SC/ST Welfare Departments soon after Independence. In the early 1990s, the Central Government passed legislation establishing the National Commission for SC/ST and the National Human Rights Commission.

There is no doubt that none of these would have been possible without the interventions made by Dr. Ambedkar, to ensure that Independent India would be based on a democratic constitution that guaranteed equality, fundamental rights and dignity to all regardless of caste. Had he succumbed to his contemporary dominant-caste nationalists who pressured him to settle these matters internally, Dalits would be much worse off than they are today.
The much acclaimed affirmative actions by the Governments, in the form of the Constitutional provisions, powerful Legislations, Judicial Activism and the existence of Human Rights Mechanisms – National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Dalits) Commission, National Commission for Women are not able to protect Dalits from the heinous crime of untouchability.
Any small attempt of Dalits, to “assert their rights or their resistance against the violence” unleashed on Dalits, is viewed as an act of Disobedience and creation of a Law and Order problem. This results in brutal attack on Dalits, by the state machinery, especially the police. The Dalits are at the receiving end, both by the dominant caste and by the state police force, which is also very much dominated by the dominant caste persons. Crimes and atrocities on Dalits have ever been increasing over the past few years. The National Crimes Record Bureau recorded only 8,500 crimes against Dalits in 1997 but the ‘Minor Studies Series’ puts the figure at between 55,000 and 65,000 per year. There has been a sudden spurt from around 18,000 per year in 1993. The Report states that over 250 people have been killed in caste clashes in TamilNadu since 1995. Eighty-six were killed in 1997 alone. Of the total of 167,000 cases of crime against the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes framed between 1995 and 1996, only 4,322, a paltry 2.6% resulted in conviction. Chopping of heads of Dalits, maiming limbs, chasing them from their inhabitations and looting their properties, still persist. Dalits are prevented from contesting in local body elections and in case elected, not recognized and allowed to function as leaders of village body Panchayats.
More than that the people in power still have no real concern for the emancipation of the dalits.
The Indian Government sounded increasingly irrational as it shouted itself hoarse to deny a problem that everybody else can plainly see. Similar to its predecessors in the Nationalist Movement who opposed Dr. Ambedkar for raising the specific concerns of the Dalits with regard to Independence in the Round Table Conference, the then BJP Government was opposed to the efforts of Dalits who seek the support of the United Nations in the context of the World Conference Against Racism in strengthening India's own constitutional obligations to abolish 'untouchability' and caste-based discrimination. As on date, courts have to intervene and order district collectors to make it possible for dalits to rightfully partake in the temple functions.

Either the constitution or the legislations or the judiciary or the other Human Rights mechanisms in the form of Human rights commissions at various levels from the states to the center are not providing effective safeguards and guarantees to ensure Dalits rights. Even the most powerful instrument currently available in defense of Dalits rights, namely SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, hardly provide effective safeguards for protection and promotion of Dalit Human Rights. Article 17 of the Indian constitution proclaims that the practice of untouchability is abolished. Denial of temple entry, prohibiting access to common water sourecs, denial of share in the common property of villages, separate burial grounds, prevalence of two separate glass system in tea stall, are some of the inhuman forms of manifestations of untouchability that exist even today.

Caste discrimination cannot end without concrete social, educational and economic changes. The irony is that dalits, comprising 16% of India’s population, suffer from a disease, even more pathetic than the practice of untouchability – the ideological dominance of the upper castes who control not only social, economic and political power in the country but even knowledge and opinion. Even the personal experience of being discriminated against does not become an issue unless ‘permitted’ by the experts and the state. To disbelieve them is a necessary precondition for dalit assertion. The Dalits have been in dark in exercising their political rights viz the denial of rights to contest the village local body election. The village Melavalavu in Madurai District evinced the murder of the Dalit Panchayat President and other six Dalits by the Dominant Caste, for they could not assimilate the winning of a post in election by a Dalit.

Education: The correlation between quality education and emancipation is well established globally. How then can we justify that 50% of dalit children (64% dalit girl children) are pushed out of the school system before they can complete even primary education? How do we ensure a strong nation, assuming that dalits are part of the nation, when we cannot even ensure basic education to 16% of our population?
Civil Protection: The current government statistics of murder, rape and assault that dalits are subjected to paint a horrible picture if extended to a history of 3000 years. We have reason to believe that approximately 21,90,000 dalits have been murdered, 32,85,000 raped and over 7,50,00,000 assaulted. The violence perpetrated on dalits cannot be rooted out until long term economic, social and political measures, such as land reforms, are firmly implemented. The helplessness of dalits gets magnified by the general apathy of bureaucrats and especially of the police force to rush to their help. Even when dalits are attacked by caste hindus it is always the dalits who bear the brunt of the violence. The Keezha-vanmani burning decades ago or the recent killings in Melavalavu and the routine massacres in Bihar and the significant lack of conviction will always remain as indelible stains on our democracy. Unless dalits too get social positions, especially in the police force, the administrative institutions will be always against the dalits.
All these things are what the government and othe s have to do for the emancipation of the dalits. But this would not be enough at all. The awareness of the dalits themselves is most essenctioal requirement. Any amount of eduction or awareness programs cannot result in the assertion of the dalits. Instead it has to come from within. Waiting for somethjng to hapaen outside to help themcome out of their pitiable state may be a pipe dream. An even more serious question is whether the state that represents a certain class and caste culture, can be entrusted with the responsibility of education, especially for dalit children. Education, if perceived as a tool of empowerment, needless to add, cannot be trusted in the hands of state agencies. The oneness of all sects of dalits and their inner force to break the shackles are the need of the day.

Friday, May 26, 2006



A 3- part article:
Post 1;   Post  2;  Post 3;


In the course of the movement for an Independent India, the problem of 'untouchability' and caste discrimination against Dalits became an international issue. It was due to the radical, bold stand that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, leading Dalit figure of the 20th century and architect of India's Constitution, made on behalf of the ''Depressed Classes' as the British prepared to transfer political power to the dominant castes who influenced the character of the Independence Movement.
He made one of his most brilliant stands on behalf of the "Depressed Classes" in 1930-1931 at the Round Table Conference in London, in which leading representatives of the various communities in Indian Sub-Continent met to discuss and come to an agreement on the main points that must be included in the constitution for a self-governing India. Ambedkar plainly told the Conference that the "Depressed Classes" would not accept any constitution for self-rule that did not guarantee them equal citizenship and fundamental rights and abolish the practice of untouchability.
Ambedkar's bold, radical stance was strongly resented by many dominant-caste leaders of the Independence Movement, who accused him of dividing the Independence Movement and playing stooge to the British Raj. They lectured him that the situation of the 'untouchables' was an internal matter and urged him to wait until Independence was achieved. (the same argument was raised when dalits wanted to reaise their issue in the THE UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) held at Durban) Ambedkar, however, saw things quite differently Religious orthodoxy and deep-rooted caste prejudice confined the nationalist movement to largely representing the aspirations of the dominant castes for political and economic power. Ambedkar was keenly aware of this.

“I am sorry to say, Sir, that I have been deluded. I find now that although some of our people would desire me and others to join them in their demand for Dominion Status, they do not join with us in demanding that the Government which will be set up under that Dominion Status shall be responsible to the people of India as a whole. I never thought there would be this division of opinion, and that I should have to stand up to defend the position we take. Now, Sir, speaking on behalf of the Depressed Classes I cannot honestly consent to responsible Government or to Dominion Status unless I can be sure that the people for whom I speak are to have a place in that constitution”.

Ambedkar's intervention at the Round Table Conference articulated an authentic democratic vision of Swaraj based on equality, liberty and fraternity, principles alien to a social order based on caste division and hierarchy. It was largely as a result of Ambedkar's interventions at the Round Table Conference that the Indian Constitution guaranteed fundamental rights, established universal suffrage, abolished 'untouchability' and guaranteed reservation in legislature and government services for Dalits, Adi Vasis and minorities.

It may be interesting to note that Gandhiji, for all the propaganda surrounding his name, did not abolish untouchability. Ambedkar, the `Father of the Indian Constitution' and greatest leader of the Black Untouchables (Dalits and Adivasis), has written about Gandhi's policy of subjugating the Untouchables,
" Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors. The sanctity and infallibility of the Vedas, Smritis and Shastras, the iron law of caste, the heartless law of karma and the senseless law of status by birth are to the Untouchables veritable instruments of torture which Hinduism has forged against untouchables. These very instruments which have mutilated; blasted and blighted the lives of the Untouchables are to be found intact and untarnished in the bosom of Gandhism."

This is because Gandhi was a staunch follower of the Brahminist caste system. :
" Supporting the caste system he [ Gandhi ] said: "I believe that caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration." He also said, "To destroy the caste system and adopt the Western European social system means that Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary occupation, which is the soul of the caste system. The hereditary principle is an eternal principle. To change it is to create disorder."
The greatest crime committed by Gandhi against the Black Race was to deny the Black Untouchables of India separate electorates and sabotaging the plan to emancipiate Untouchables :
" In the Round Table Conference held in 1932, the then British Government accepted the demand of the Dalits for separate electorate. The basis of that demand was the fact that the Dalit are not Hindu but a separate nation. Gandhi started his 'fast unto death' against that plan and sabotaged it. It was a thunderous blow to the cause of the emancipation of the Dalit."

Indeed, Gandhi displayed a marked bias against the Black Untouchables." In 1933, he established Harijan (Dalit) Sevak Sangh for the welfare of the Untouchables (Dalits). But when there was a demand for the representation of the Untouchables on the Governing Board of the institution, he flatly refused it. He disapproved appointment of Mr. Agnibhai, a distinguished personality, as a minister in the Congress cabinet in the Madhya Pradesh because he was from the Scheduled Caste."
As a supreme fate of irony, it is the Brahmins the Mahatma so supported that eventually killed him !

There were also other social redformers like E.V.R. popularly known as Periyar, a contemporary of Dr. Ambedkar. Periyar's self-respect movement began in an aggressive way at Vaikom, in the present Kerala. It was on behalf of the Untouchable castes who were not allowed even to walk on a street right before a temple. The agitation became famous as "Vaikom struggle". Dr. Ambedkar wrote an Editorial about this historic achievement in his journal, Mooka Nayak. If Ambedkar challenged the Brahmanical order of society and sought to uphold the basic human rights of the depressed classes. E.V. Ramasami's contributions were no less significant. The imprint of his struggles are to be found in the social and political spheres of the Tamil region in Southern India. His challenge to Brahmanism was sought to be posited through an alternative, democratic culture. It was the unique self-respect movement.

Monday, May 22, 2006


A 3- part article:
Post 1;   Post  2;  Post 3;


Though there are so many things about India - like its prehistoric civilization, multicultural ethnicity, present day technocratic social milieu, its upcoming prestige as a global IT giant - that can make every Indian proud, there is one another aspect of our society that would make every Indian feel ashamed. That is the caste discrimination. Indians have been living with this shame for centuries now. Can anybody with a conscience accept the atrocities heaped by our society as a whole upon those who carry the night soil on their heads, those who toil in the lands of the rich as bonded labourers for generations, those who are kept more as inanimate things than as normal human beings. How long this sickly psyche blaming all these to ‘fate’ or ‘god’s will’ will go on? Sadly none can be sure when, if ever, this blotch would be cleansed once for all from the face of Indian society.

Origin of this caste system in the Indian society dates back to thousands of years. The fair skinned Aryans arrived in India around 1500 B,C. from South Europe and North Asia. When the fair-skinned Aryans invaded India, about two thousand years before Jesus Christ they defeated the dark-skinned indigenous people, Dravidians, who were the founder of the Indian Civilization. The Aryans subjugated them, learnt many things from them and built up another civilization, which came to be known as the Ganges Valley or Hindu Civilization. To perpetuate the enslavement of the original inhabitants of India, the Aryans created the caste system, and thereby excluded them from their own society with the name of Sudra (which means slave). And more than this, another group of people were left as ‘outcastes’ who were even denied of human status. In order to secure their status the Aryans resolved some social and religious rules, which allowed only them to be the priests, warriors and the businessmen of the society. History of the Aryan intrusion into India and their dominance over the original inhabitants, Dravidians and the prominence given to the scriptures of the former were the root cause for this caste discrimination. Vedas, smiruthis and manushastra, the scriptures of Aryans became the pillars of Hinduism. Caste system institutionalized by them had been made as Varnashram ordained by their gods. Varnashram, not only classified the society into four divisions, left out the fifth category, the untouchables and even unseeables. The fate of this lot had been remaining the same for all these past millennia. The Hindu caste system upholds with religious sanctions a hierarchical society. It does not even recognize this fifth class as human beings at all. The Brahmanic varna system (`varnashrama dharma') is basically a genocidal apartheid system designed to exterminate the `black varna'. The theory of Aryan invasion could be a matter of dispute and there is, of late, a counter theroy denying the 'invasion' ofAryans. But what cannot be denied is the place for varnashram in Hindu Vedas.
Following quotes from their manushastra will prove the level of cruelty they showed towards the low caste and outcaste people:

" Having killed a cat, an ichneumon, a blue jay, a frog, a dog, an iguana, an owl, or a crow, he shall perform the penance for the murder of a Sudra." -- [ Manu IX.132 ]

" Every act that is considered the privilege of the Brahman, such as saying prayers, the reciting of the Veda, and offering of sacrifices to the fire, is forbidden to him, to such a degree that when, a Sudra or a Vaisya is proved to have recited the Veda, he is accused by the Brahmans before the ruler, and the latter will order his tongue to be cut off. However, the meditation on God is not prohibited.-- [ al-B.ii.127 Ch.LXIV ] "

· " A once-born man (Sudra) who insults a twice-born man (Aryan) with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin." -- [ Manu VIII.270 ]

· " If he mentions the names and castes (Jati) of the (twice-born) contumely, an iron nail, 10 fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth." -- [ Manu VIII.271 ]

· " If he arrogantly teaches Brahmins their duty, the king shall cause hot oil to be poured into his mouth and into his ears. " -- [ Manu VIII.272

The great distinctions of caste are to be maintained not only in the earthly life, but also after death. According to Markandaya Purana, after death, the virtuous Brahman goes to the abode of Brahma, the good Kshatriya to that of Indra, the worthy Vashya to that of the Maruts, and the dutiful Sudra to that of the Gandharvas. Apparently, the Untouchable (Dalit) does not deserve any place in any heaven, may be because of his untouchability even by gods themselves!

During the British period the rulers had tried to implement some affirmative measures to the welfare of the outcastes. They were the ones who introduced the terms: scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. British Government provided the outcastes with free lands, known as Ipanchami lands. But by the dominance of the upper castes and the ignorance of the outcastes, all the lands thus given for outcastes are with the upper castes. The term ‘dalits’ meaning ‘broken people’ was first used by Jyotiraj Phule Maharashtra (1827-1890), a backward class social reformer, to describe the untouchables and outcastes of India as the oppressed and broken victims of the Hindu society. The term is a constant reminder of their age-old oppression and deprivation. It does not actually mean poor or outcast but it is a state to which a certain section of the people have been reduced through systemic and systematic religious process and are forced to live continually in that predicament. Dalits all over India are forced to undertake the filthy and the menial work of sweeping, manual scavenging, drum beating and cremating the dead bodies. Dalits are treated as slaves and still they are forced to bear the pains of “social boycotting” an illegal pronouncement by the dominant caste people.

Naked parading, forcing Dalit women to become maidens to God, - a ritulalistic prostitution and sexual harrassment of Dalit women by the dominant caste persons, which are still a common sight in some parts of the country.
to be continued.....

Friday, May 12, 2006


The one Raj legacy other than cricket that keeps haunting India is theEnglish language and the continuing debate on the dominance of English over mother tongues. Those with good English knowledge have always an overriding advantage in Indian society and the respect they earn due to their command in that language is also immense. A young student from an educated and well-to-do family automatically prefers English medium ofeducation; English medium schools are normally keep up good standards and facilities; this automatically makes him eligible for good courses in higher education; he ends up with a plumb job and becomes a successin life. This has made everyone draw a line between the success in life of a person and the English-medium education he got. A simple equation is thus made: English medium schooling leads to good jobs and success inlife. No denying of this fact.

But there is one another side for this argument. All said and done,after all English is a foreign language and thought processes will always be in one's own mother tongue. Hence there has to be a gap between learning in one's own mother tongue and in a foreign language. Especially this is very much so in lower classes, say, till the end of schooling. So a student can acquire more knowledge faster if he does his studies in his own mother tongue and his comprehension and mastery over the subject would be much better. What he has to do in addition is to learn one another language, English and he will have definitely enough energy to do well in one more language since his learning process of other subjects through his own mother tongue would be considerably and comparatively easier than being through English. Our schooling focuses on quantity and not on quality. Loads and loads of information are fed to the students not worrying how much is being grasped, absorbed and assimilated by the students. This leads to rote learning. The cognitive levels of understanding, comprehension,analysis and appreciation are left out from our schooling system. Many a time what a student would do in lower level gets simply repeated at his college level. The pity is the college students in general donÂ’t show even a trace of knowledge of those lessons they already studied, nay, 'covered'in schools. It is because they would have learnt it then by memorizing it without understanding and simply forgotten them then and there. Anyone who teaches in the college level would be familiar with this but if nothing has been done to rectify this, the blame is squarely on the shoulders of the teaching community.

What could be ideal is to teach and lay a strong foundation in at least two languages, mother tongue and English and if possible, one more language at least since it is said that till the age of ten children have aptitude for learning languages. Once the children finish the elementary education with strong foundation in languages then in high schools different subjects could be taught up to knowledge and comprehension levels in the mother tongue. A good foundation in languages would stand in good stead both in their understanding of the subjects and also in their communication skills. This lack of a good foundation in languages - in the mother tongue as well as in English - is a common feature and this had been deteriorating fast in the last two decades. Quality or depth of knowledge has become the first sacrifice in the altar of avaricious educationists who vie for quantitity.

English is essential, no doubt, as a bridge with rest of the world. But those who have to cross that ‘bridge’ will be so few and with a strong foundation of basics in English any one can develop his virtuosity in English as and when he needs it. A noteworthy point is that even in many of the developing countries that got their freedom from earlier colonization recently have switched over to education through their own mother tongues. But in India with its multilingual and multicultural ethos a common compromising language formula is very hard to reach and we reap the consequences of it.

But, for how long?