What does Jai Bhim mean to you? Let us know in the comments!
What does Jai Bhim mean to you? Let us know in the comments!
This episode tells the story of Shantuben from Hajipar village. Shantuben’s family is the only Dalit family in entire village. Shantuben’s struggle and fight against the system expose the caste based discrimination in Indian administration system.
P.K Rosy holds the distinction of being the first heroine and the first Dalit heroine of Malayalam cinema.
Most accounts of her life and work are not based on actual meetings with her as she passed away in 1988 and was never acclaimed or even acknowledged during her lifetime. However, her extraordinary life, when examined is full of instances courage, struggle and passion. Before she was discovered by the director of her film, she was already a member of folk theatre groups and had experience acting in Tamil dramas in A Dalit art form called Kaakarashi. In 1928, she was “discovered” by the director J.C Daniel and given the role of an upper caste (Nair) woman in the movie Vigathakumaran (The Lost Child).
When the movie was released, members of the Nair community were enraged to see a Dalit woman portray a Nair woman. Upper caste riots ensued. They vandalized the theatre, tore down the movie screen and proceeded to hunt down Rosy. They burned down her house but she managed to escape the angry crowd. Reports state that she fled in a lorry that was headed to Tamil Nadu, married the lorry driver and lived her life quietly in Tamil Nadu.
Whatever the case, her abilities and her Pioneering work as an actress in a caste feudo-patriarchal society must be celebrated. Only 5 years after her film was destroyed and she chased away from Kerala, upper caste women safely began acting in Malayalam films without any objection or attack. this means more than ever that We must keep the memory of P.K.Rosy’s talented and powerful Dalit womanhood alive.
Today in Dalit History we celebrate the strength and resilience of a Dalit woman, Radhika Vemula. Born of Dalit parents, she was adopted by a Shudra couple when she was still a baby. Throughout her life, she experienced several confusing realities; as an adopted child in a non-Dalit home, as a spouse in a turbulent and inter-caste relationship and in her struggle to raise her three children with little support.
She managed the economics of her household with tailoring, embroidery, construction and domestic work. There were dire times for the family when it was difficult to pull together three square meals a day. Radhika and the children all worked wage labour jobs on the side but she still encouraged them to come back after their work and read too. She was a mother determined to educate her children and sent all of them to college.
Being bright children, they were all admitted into good schools. When both her sons were in college, she made the decision to further her own education. She began a Bachelors of Arts degree through a distance-learning programme offered by Sri Venkateshwara University. So while her children were students furthering themselves, she was too!
The family was proud of their exremely intelligent older son Rohith Vemula on his admission into University of Hyderabad (uoH). They also finally experienced some financial breathing room when Rohith began receiving a monthly scholarship at his PhD programme. Radhika and the family were deeply shocked when they discovered that UoH, in association with right-wing Hindu political forces, had institutionally murdered their son and brother.
In the hard days that followed, Radhika’s deep sense of grief has been seen to be matched only by her incredible resilience and commitment to obtaining justice for her son. Rohith’s death, had thrown her right in the eye of a storm. She has been protesting outside in the same location at UoH that Rohith had when he had been unfairly expelled by the administration. She has unflinchingly experienced police brutality along with the other student protestors. She bravely calls out Minister Smriti Irani as one of her son’s murderers and refused Prime Minister Narendra Modis’s fabricated sympathy. She stands tall, leading her other two children and all the other students fighting for justice at UoH. In a towering act of revolution, on the significant occassion of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, she renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. She affirms that she did so in order to honour the memory of her son and to escape the root of their oppression.
In the face of the agonizing loss of her son, the defamation of their family, the breaches of her privacy, the continuous harassment she faces – there is one thing that is clear. Radhika Vemula is never a victim. She is a warrior obliterating every injustice on her path. We mourn with her and we honour the fierceness of a Dalit mother. Power to her struggle. Jaibhim!
On 29th November 2015, three young queer Dalits changed the face the Delhi queer pride. Dhrubo Jyoti, a journalist, Akhil Khang, a lawyer and Dhiren Borisa, a doctoral student, held up beautiful signs that they had painted. The signs summarized in three powerful words, ” Dalit, Queer, Proud”. In one extraordinary moment, both their Dalit and the Queer identities were visibilized and celebrated. Their assertion also dealt a blow to upper caste hegemony over Queer spaces like the Delhi Pride.
In reality, poor and especially trans and genderqueer Dalitbahujan contributions surpass upper caste efforts at queer liberation. They are the ones who create queer communities, protest enmasse and bear the brunt of the beatings, torture, rape and murders by society and the state. The criminalizing of the lives of queer folks through oppressive acts like the Section 377 (colonial anti-homosexuality law) also disproportionately affects poor, queer Dalitbahujan individuals, who cannot afford the price of privacy or rely on sex work for a living.
The prides in major cities however, had become reflective of upper caste queer activism whose proponents have strived to create “caste-less” spaces to dissociate queerness from caste. In Dhrubo’s pride speech, he states his reply to an upper caste individual asking him why Dalits felt the need to “bring caste into everything”. Dhrubo replies ” We bring caste up because caste is everywhere and in my everything, Caste is in my shirt, Caste is in my pant, Caste is in my sex, Caste is in my being and Caste is in every part of you too!” Together, their compelling Pride statement affirmed that the invisibilization of caste, erased Dalitbahujan struggles, history and identity
Their statement was not met without hostility. The majority of dominant castes accused them of derailing conversations of queerness with caste, but they made clear their position was one that was not posing to ease upper caste fragility but one that would help nurture inclusion.
They continue to engage by being conscious of their own privileges, by being a part of the interrogation of power structures and by opposing the prevailing silence around caste and queerness that shames Dalit queer folk into silence.
Today in Dalit History, we honor the energy of these three resolute young individuals and celebrate both their queerness and their Dalitness as they continue to enlighten us and make us proud!
I read ‘The Autobiography of A Sex worker’ book written by Nalini Jameela few months back. Though I don’t agree with her where she is trying to justify sex-work like just as another work. It’s a good read to understand sex-trade and sex-slavery in India.
Fiery, outspoken and often wickedly funny, this candid account of one woman’s life as a sex worker in Kerala, India became a bestseller when it was first published in Malayalam. Nalini Jameela, who takes her name from both Hindu and Muslim traditions, worked as a child in the clay mines. She has been a wife, mother successful businesswoman and social activist-as well as a sex worker-at different stages in her life. This is Nalini Jameela’s story, told in her inimitably honest and down-to-earth style, of her search for dignity, empowerment and freedom on her own terms. (Review from GoodRead)
Read also – India and Prostitution
Today in Dalit History, we honor the Reverend Dr Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar, a Dalit spiritual leader whose struggle and contributions have revolutionized the Church’s approach to religion, gender, caste and sexuality.
Dr. Evangeline grew up in a family of 8 children raised single-handedly by her father following the early demise of her mother. Her father was a key influence in her life, planting the seeds of Dalit consciousness and Dalit spirituality in her young mind. He encouraged her to dream big and transcend the boundaries drawn by caste and gender.
Walking the path of his lessons, young Evangeline, at 21, found herself the only girl in her divinity class. On the day of her interview, she was asked, “Why did you choose theological education as your option, when you know that the Church does not ordain women to be priests?” Evangeline’s answer challenged this logic of impossibility: “Perhaps, I will come back to teach in this College!”. And she did. Evangeline came back to teach in the same college where she gained that critical perspective.
In 2006, when the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India made an amendment to let women into their ministry, Evangeline became the first woman to hold office as the Vice President. Evangeline recalls the different painful glass ceilings that had to be shattered during that climb in life. She was told, “Evangeline, you may have secured the prestigious award for being the outstanding student of your theology class, but what will we, the male pastors do, if women opt for ministry and take away our jobs in the church? Women have enough work to do at home!”
In her attempts to revolutionize the church’s relationship to gender, she asserts that the acceptance of body and sexuality is key to faith in God. Her fiery sermons ask why it is so difficult to find acceptance for effeminacy. She asks that we break free from the understanding of women’s bodies as polluting, leaking, bleeding and sexual. She says that the image of God as cis, male, and one who condones racism, sexism, classism, casteism and ethnocentrism has damaged not only the oppressed peoples’ self-esteem but has seriously curbed our communities’ larger possibility for liberation. Her ideas have stood tall and have shook the status quo of both church and caste patriarchal society.
Today the Reverend Dr. Evangeline continues to be a theological juggernaut. She teaches at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina and focuses on building a network of struggle and resistance between Dalits and other people of color.
On first or second Saturday coming after the Hindu New Years Day (Gudhi padawa), the devadasis, who are mostly dalitbahujans, were openly sexually enjoyed in public, about hundred years ago. This is now replaced by another tradition called “Okali”, which was in vogue till 1987. It is a festival like ‘Rang Panchami’. The young boys from higher castes assemble around a pool of coloured water in front of town temple. Young devadasis in the town stand in front of them in a row, and each receives a sari, a choli and a flower garland. The coloured water is poured over the devadasis who appear virtually naked as the cloths given to them are very thin, scanty, delicate and transparent. The boys play with the bodies of devadasis as they like, doing everything just short of sexual intercourse. All assembled enjoy the scene. This happens in the name of god ‘Bili Kallappa’. [Uttam Kamble, Sugawa, p. 81]