Category Archives: Dalit History Month

7th June in Dalit History – Dr. Ambedkar demanded equal representation of Scheduled Castes in the Executive Council


7 June 1945: Dr. Ambdekar wrote a letter to Field Marshall Lord Viscoll Wavell seeking adequate representation of Scheduled Castes in the Executive Council (letter copied and pasted)

NEW DELHI, 7 June 1945

Dear Lord Wavell,

I am grateful to you for asking me in my capacity as the leader of the Scheduled Castes to be a member of the Conference which you propose to call in furtherance of your proposal for the Indianisation of the Executive Council. I told you, for reasons, which I need not repeat here, that I am unable to accept your offer. Thereupon you desired me to name a substitute. Though I have expressed my disapproval with your proposals, I do not wish to deny you such help as you may derive from the presence of a Scheduled Caste representative in your Conference. I am, therefore, prepared to suggest a substitute. Judging on the suitability of various names that occur to me, I cannot think of any other name than that of Rao Bahadur N. Siva Raj., B.A., B.L. He is the President of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation and is also a member of the Central Legislative Assembly and of the National Defence Council. If you like you may invite him to the conference as a representative of the Scheduled Castes. There is one other matter to which I feel I must draw your attention right now. It relates to the extreme inadequacy of the representation given to the Scheduled Castes in His Majesty’s Government’s proposals for the reconstitution of the Executive Council. Five seats to 90 millions of Muslims, one scat to 50 millions of Untouchables and 1 scat to 6 millions of Sikhs is a strange and sinister kind of political arithmetic which is revolting to my ideas of justice and common sense. I cannot be a party to it. Measured by their needs, the Untouchables should get as much representation as the Muslims, if not more. Leaving needs aside and taking only numbers the Untouchables should get at least three. Instead, they are offered just one in a Council of fifteen. This is an intolerable position.

This is a matter to which I drew your attention at the meeting of the Executive Council held on the 5th June when you explained His Majesty’s Government’s proposals to the Council. At the meeting of the 6th morning you replied to the criticisms offered by Members of Council the previous evening on the merits of the proposals. I naturally expected that you would also deal with the point I had raised. But to my great surprise you completely ignored it and made no reference to it whatever. It could not be that I was not emphatic enough. For I was more than emphatic. The conclusion I draw from your omission to refer to it is that either you did not think the matter to be of sufficient importance to deserve your notice or that you thought that I had no intention beyond lodging a protest. It is to remove this impression and to tell you in quite unmistakable terms that I propose to take definite action should His Majesty’s Government fail to redress the wrong that I feel the necessity of writing this letter.

ambedkar-jayanti-sms

I would not have felt as hurt as I do if such a proposal had come from the Congress or the Hindu Mahasabha. But it is a decision by His Majesty’s Government. Even the general Hindu opinion is in favour of increased representation to the Scheduled Castes both in the Legislature and in the Executive. To take the proposals of the Sapru Committee as an indication of general Hindu opinion, the proposal of His Majesty’s Government must be admitted to be retrograde. For, this is what the Sapru Committee has said:—

” the representation given to the Sikhs and Scheduled Castes in the Government of India Act is manifestly inadequate and unjust and should be substantially raised. The quantum of increased representation to be given to them should be left to the Constitution-making Body.

” Subject to the provisions of clause (b) the executive of the Union shall be a composite cabinet in the sense that the following communities shall be represented on it, viz.— (i) Hindus, other than Scheduled Castes. (ii) Muslims. (iii) Scheduled Castes. (iv) Sikhs. (v) Indian Christians. (vi) Anglo-Indians.

” (b) The representation of these communities in the executive shall be, as far as possible, a reflection of their strength in the Legislature. “

I may add that two of my Hindu colleagues in the Executive Council have in the memorandum they have presented to you this morning expressed that the representation given to the Scheduled Castes in His Majesty’s Government’s proposals is inadequate and unfair. What shocks me [is] that His Majesty’s Government with all their profession of being trustees for the Scheduled Castes and contrary to their repeated declarations should have treated their wards in such an ill-liberal, unfair and unjust manner and far worse than enlightened Hindu opinion would have done I feel it, therefore, my bounden and sacred duty to oppose the proposal by every means at my command. The proposal means a death knell to the Untouchables and will have the effect of liquidating their efforts over the last 50 years for their emancipation. If His Majesty’s Government notwithstanding its many pronouncements wish to hand over the fate of the Untouchables to the tender mercies of Hindu-Muslim combine, His Majesty’s Government may well do it. But I cannot be a party to the suppression of my people.The conclusion to which I have come is to ask His Majesty’s Government to redress the wrong and to give to the Untouchables at least 3 seats in the new Executive Council. If His Majesty’s Government is not prepare(d) to grant this, then His Majesty’s Government should know that I cannot be a member of the newly constituted Executive Council, even if I was offered a place in it. The Untouchables have been looking forward to a full recognition of their political rights for some time past. I have no doubt that they will be stunned by the decision of His Majesty’s Government. And I would not be surprised if the whole of the Scheduled Castes decided as a matter of protest not to have anything to do with the new Government. I am sure their disillusionment will bring about a parting of the ways. This is what I anticipate will be the result of His Majesty’s Government’s proposals, if they are not revised. So far as I myself am concerned, my decision is made. I may be told that this is not the final shape of things. This is only an interim arrangement. I have been long enough in politics to know concessions and adjustments more [once] made grows into vested rights and how wrong settlements once agreed upon become precedents for future settlement. I cannot therefore allow grass to grow under my feet. If I have capacity to judge aright, I visualise that the distribution of seats though it begins as a temporary arrangement will end by becoming permanent. Rather than be left to regret towards the end, I feel I must lodge my protest against it at the very beginning.

It may well be that His Majesty’s Government may not mind my eclipse and even the eclipse of the Scheduled Castes from the future Government of India : nor regret the consequent parting of the ways between the British Government in this country and the Scheduled Castes. But I believe it is only fair that His Majesty’s Government should know what I have to say about the subject. I have therefore to request you to communicate to His Majesty’s Government my proposal for increase in the representation of the Scheduled Castes in the executive Council and the course of action I propose to take if the proposal is rejected by them.

I am,

Yours sincerely

B. R. AMBEDKAR

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Why Dalit History Matters


This article was first posted at Round Table India.

If you want to destroy a society, destroy its History and the society will get destroyed automatically – Dr. Ambedkar

Dalit History Month

Dalit History Month

Nobody till now has questioned winners; neither will anyone in the future ask them, how have they won? Fiction is “generally accepted falsehood” or “non factual literature”, whereas the History is “systematic continuous record of events”. Dalit history has been maligned and distorted since ages. Historians ought to be freeless, sincere, open minded, open hearted, truth seeking & also courageous to show the truth at any cost but it is the misfortune of the Dalits of India that historians have always presented a distorted picture & never showed the truth to the people. Being Dalit, we have been taught to hate ourselves, we have been taught that Dalits’ don’t have any history; we have been taught Dalits can’t do any good. Who taught you all this? The upper castes did. Hence, almost everyone confuses history with fiction & historians have made people blind, deaf & dumb – have disabled people from thinking rationally. Historians have made us believe and worship fictitious characters such as Krishna and Rama.

A few years ago, the Punjab School Education Board came up with a 4th standard book in which Guru Ravidas was shown worshiping King Rama and Sita. But in reality, Guru Ravidas was against idol worship and he never worshiped any of these two deities. Not only this, the names of Guru Ravidas’ parents, his date of birth and even the Guru’s name were wrongly published! Further, it was taught to us that Guru Ravidas was a disciple of Ramanand but nowhere in Guru Ravidas’ bani (teachings) will you find Ramanand’s name mentioned even though the names of other saints such as Saint Kabir, Saint Namdev etc., are mentioned in his bani. A few days back, Mohan Bhagwat from RSS was claiming that Dr. Ambedkar believed in RSS’ ideology!

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Dalit History Month – Remembering Jogendra Nath Mandal


Today in ‪‎Dalit History‬ we focus on the powerful legacy of freedom fighter Jogendra Nath Mandal. His crucial role in the founding of India and Pakistan came from his strategic position as the significant Namashudra leader of United Bengal.

As the Indian subcontinent was moving towards independence, Dr. B.R Ambedkar and the Congress Party of India clashed bitterly over the rights and representation of scheduled castes. Ambedkar was an unyielding critic of the Congress party’s positions on many issues, which he believed were not in the interest of the scheduled castes. Thus when members were being elected to the Indian Constituent Assembly, the Congress party in Bombay saw to it that Dr. Ambedkar was not elected. However, Jogendra Nath Mandal, who had been nominated from Jaisur and Kulna (undivided Bengal), sacrificed his seat to Dr. Ambedkar so that he could become part of the 296 member constituent Assembly. In doing so, Mandal ensured there was at least one Dalit present in the drafting committee of the Indian constitution.

Jogendra Nath Mandal

Jogendra Nath Mandal

As a leader of the Namashudras, Mandal found common cause with the Muslim League, in their demand for Pakistan. His reasons were, “First the economic interests of Muslims in Bengal were generally identical with those of the Scheduled Castes…and secondly that the Scheduled Castes and the Muslims were both educationally backward.” He hoped that in Pakistan, Dalits would be equal, as freedom from the oppression of Caste Hindu landlords and moneylenders would cease. For M.A. Jinnah, the 1st leader of ‘Pakistan’ had assured them freedom to practice any religion; In his speech of August 11, 1947 he said, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State.” Thus on August 15,1947 Mandal became a member and a temporary chairman of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, and agreed to serve as the Minister for Law and Labour. He also served as the second minister of commonwealth and Kashmir affairs.

Sadly, his time in Pakistan was not peaceful as he could not stop the increasing violence against Dalits in the country. First, his demand to have two more Dalit members as ministers was also ignored by Liaquat Ali Khan, then Prime minister of Pakistan. Second, he countered the proposed Objectives Resolution that defined Pakistan, an Islamic state, which disregarded the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. Later in October 1950, he resigned and went to Calcutta (now Kolkata) in independent India.

Mandal later tried to enter the Indian political sphere in 1967 but failed in his attempt as he was one of the founding members of Pakistan. He contested in the Barasat constituency in the year 1967 and was defeated. Jogendra Nath Mandal died on 5 October 1968 at the age of 64 years in Bangaon in the state of West Bengal, India.

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Al Jazeera Show on Dalit History Month – India’s ‘untouchables’ reclaim the past


In case you missed last night Al Jazeera Show on India’s untouchables reclaiming the past with Dalit History Month, here is the recording of the same. Please watch and share it with your friends.

Comments from the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Caravan was also shown in the show. Here is the snapshot of the comment.

Comment on Al Jazeera Show

Comment on Al Jazeera Show

 

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Dalit History Month – Inspirational Living Smile Vidya


Today in Dalit History we honor the inspirational Living Smile Vidya. An activist, actress and author, Living Smile Vidya has transformed trans politics in India through the fearlessness of her work in all of her creative mediums.

Born into an Arunthathiyar community, Living Smile Vidya writes poignantly of her journey to be recognized as a woman in her breakthrough biography “I am Vidya”, India’s first transgender autobiography. The book outlines her struggles with gender realization as a transwoman in her teenage years, her traumatic gender reassignment surgery, and her turbulent journey with her family. Originally written in Tamil it has now been translated into English, Malayalam, Kannada and Marathi and is taught in colleges throughout South India. In addition to the book, a critically-acclaimed Kannada film, “Naanu Avanalla, Avalu (I am not he, I am her)” adapted her story and has won mwon 2 National Awards and a Sahitya Acakemi Award.

Smile Vidya

Beyond her writing, Living Smile Vidya is also an accomplished actress. She was the first full-time trans theatre actress, and her acting to date includes 20 performances with 9 eminent theatre directors. She also made the leap from theater to film acting in short films and documentaries. Her performances have tackled the changing face of masculinity and the ongoing exploitation of Dalit women, while addressing humanity and peace in relation to gender and political space. For her substantial body of performance work, the British Council for excellence in Theatre awarded her the Charles Wallace India Trust scholarship in 2013.

The tcenter of her creativity though is her activism. Living Smile Vidya through her own painful experience, speaks out against the violence that occurs to her community when trans people are stigmatized and forced to beg or do sex work to survive. She fought that sentence; and was one of the first trans people to work in a professional setting as a banker. With this win, she continued to fight for the recognition of her community by being the first trans person to have her chosen gender identity reflected in her passport.

Living Smile Vidya continues to fight for trans affirmative action that reflects the intersectionality of their identities under caste patriarchy. She asserts that the unique trauma of growing up a trans creates an emotional, social and economic space that must be addressed on its own. This is a new frontier for her activism; as she was one of the five transgender people, who, last November, had approached the Madras High Court demanding a 3% reservation under a new category, mirroring those for people with disabilities. She asserts that affirmative action is vital to this journey: “When parents see a transgender child, they think of begging or sex work as their future. How will they accept their own children if these are their only options?”

To her leadership, courage, beauty, and a powerful truth, we salute Living Smile Vidya! Jai Bhim!

Please share the information with your friends. Follow the Dalit History Month on Facebook from here and check www.dalithistory.com

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Dalit History Month – Remembering Dalit Women’s Declaration


Today, in Dalit History we explore the Dalit Women’s Declaration at the Hague. In March 2006, After international advocacy that began as early as 1996, over 200 gathered at the historic Hague Conference on Dalit Women’s Rights, which led to the drafting of the Hague Declaration on Human Rights and Dignity of Dalit Women.This gathering was led by Dalit women’s organizations and was a clarion call to action to the international community.

Dalit Women’s Declaration at the Hague

Dalit Women’s Declaration at the Hague

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Dalit women are one of the largest socially segregated groups in the world and make up more than 2% of the world’s population. In addition to their poverty is the grief of caste-based sexual violence, and the harrowing reality is that over 67% of Dalit women have faced some form of sexual violence.

This declaration was a watershed moment; for the conference brought Dalit Women leaders from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka to give testimonies of violence and exclusion. More importantly, the delegates developed a key advocacy and strategic declaration aimed at being the blueprint for the next phase of the Dalit Women’s Movement.

This included a plan of action to incorporate Dalit women’s issues into several UN documents including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and treaties, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as well as the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Check Also – Dalit History Month – Jhalkari Bai – A Legendary Dalit Woman Warrior

The Hague declaration also called on South Asian governments to fully support Dalit Women in their assertion, and to ensure Dalit women and girls were brought on par with the general population in terms of overall development within a period of 5 years. And beyond implementing the rule of law, to end the culture of impunity. Finally, the Declaration also called upon the international community to undertake and support this in possible measure.This blueprint compelling vision is still relevant today and is a snapshot of history into the rise of the international Dalit women’s movement.

Read the declaration and the report here.

Please share the information with your friends. Follow the Dalit History Month on Facebook from here and check www.dalithistory.com

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Dalit History Month – Remembering Ayyankali


Today in Dalit History we honor Ayyankali, the Dalit firebrand in Kerala who fought Caste apartheid through innovation and resistance that inspires even till today. A contemporary of Ambedkar he was born into the Pulaya community in Thiruvananthapuram. He burned with the injustices his community faced. Dalits were landless and exploited, punished for crossing into caste hindu areas, and both men and women were targets of violence forced to into draconian states of undress.

Ayyankali

Ayyankali

In the face of this violence Ayyankali took it as his life mission to challenge every form of Caste discrimination. His rebellion began with an ox-cart. Ayyankali dared to break the Caste restrictions by riding on the public road while also wearing caste hindu clothes. Though attacked by the Upper Castes, his bold move launched the Southern Kerala movement for Dalit Rights that eventually won in 1900 the right for Dalits to walk along the public roads.

Ayyankali went further and launched the first schools for Dalits with Dalit teachers. Though the school was destroyed by upper caste thugs, this educational revolution could not be stopped. In 1907 the Travancore government passed an order mandating that all Dalit children be admitted into the schools. Despite this law, Upper Castes blocked its implementation to which Ayyankali led a statewide Dalit strike.

Through much difficulty the strike held and the battle for education extended to Dalit rights as exploitative landlords started whipping workers who dared to wear clothing and who also protested the landlords’ sexual exploitation of Dalit women. The outraged landlords started setting the homes of workers on fire. Ayyankali responded by setting the landlord houses on fire. Stricken with fear, never knowing when they might be attacked, the landlords sued for peace.

Through this and all his efforts he constantly faced terrible violence and a state that abetted caste perpetrators. He often did not hesitate to retaliate with violence seeing it as a form of raw protest of the oppressed. He even banded together teams of brave Dalit men and women and organized martial arts training for them. This group became the “Ayyankali Pada” (Ayyankali’s Army). With the failure of the state implementing the rule of law for all, he then established his own people’s courts, including a supreme court!

Finally, he took on the Caste apartheid dress code for Dalit women where Caste hindus insisted Dalit women could not cover their upper bodies. His challenge overturned this measure in 1916 and sent a message that the upper caste sexual exploitation of Dalit communities was unacceptable.

To his enduring spirit of rebellion we salute Ayyankali! JaiBhim!

Please share the information with your friends. Follow the Dalit History Month on Facebook from here and check www.dalithistory.com

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Dalit History Month – Remembering Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar


‪Dalit History‬ today is honored to write a post on our dear Babasaheb on this special day. While to the most of the world, Dr. B. R Ambedkar is known as the architect of the Indian constitution, a social reformer, and an eminent jurist; his contribution as an economist, as an advocate of women’s rights; as a writer, an educationist, and a philosopher is also equally important. In this capacity he is not only a Dalit icon but a true revolutionary and is recognized as a founding father of independent India.

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born the 14th child on April 14th, 1891 into Mahar family. Discovered by a Maharaja Sayaji Rao he received a full scholarship and went on to study at the Elphinstone College, Mumbai in 1908. From there he was one of the first Indian to study abroad and he went to pursue economics at the Columbia University. Later, he became a professor of political economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics. In 1920, he went to London to get his Bar-at-Law at Gray’s Inn for Law. On 8 June, 1927, he was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Columbia. From 1920 to 1930, he also published a series of newspapers namely Mook Nayak (The Silent Hero), Bahishkrit Bharat (Exiled India), Samata (equality), and Janata (People)

Dr. Ambedkar

Dr. Ambedkar

Upon his return to India he faced vicious caste discrimination with top employers refusing to hiring him. Thus began Dr. Ambedkar’s relentless struggle for equality for Dalits. He had a multi-pronged strategy: First eradicate illiteracy, then focus on the economic upliftment while also using non-violent struggle against visible symbols of casteism, like denial of entry into temples and drawing water from public wells and tanks. He later added the powerful call for Dalits to leave Hinduism for Buddhism. Leading to one of the largest mass conversion in world in Nagpur where over 600,000 Dalits joined Him in becoming Buddhist.

His focus on Dalit Liberation often put him at odds with Gandhi and it was due to Ambedkar that Gandhi eventually shifted his draconian position on caste. Ambedkar’s leadership in the independence movement ensured Dalits were at the table in the crucial Round Table conferences that led to the formation of the Indian State. While disappointed at the refusal of separate Dalit electorates, it was his advocacy that led to the reservation system that helped provide affirmative action to Dalits and Adivasis in government and public institutions.

In the wake of his legacy this post is a call to read and learn more from this Dalit Giant. He leaves behind a rich treasury of speeches and almost forty books that are still relevant today. In fact his seminal text Annihilation of Caste is available for free everywhere around the world. In his honor we leave you with his exhortation to educate, agitate, and organize. And of course the Dalit salutation which is a honorary reference back to him: ‪‎Jai Bhim‬.

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