Tag Archives: Round Table India

Times of India covered Dr. Ambedkar Caravan among Round Table India, NACDOR, APSC and Dalit Camera


Few months back, Al Jazeera show on Dalit History had mentioned comments from the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Caravan. Today, Times of India covered about Dr. Ambedkar Caravan. Read from here –

In recent months, racial violence has been foregrounded in the US, with the Charleston incident in which nine black church-goers were gunned down and other incidents of police brutality that are no longer possible to deny. And all of a sudden, Black Twitter has become a preoccupation with the US media, reminding it of its own evasions.

Hashtags around race like #icantbreathe #Blacklivesmatter found their way into many feeds, pushed themselves into wider view, and forced a reckoning. The LA Times recently even assigned a reporter to cover Black Twitter, while acknowledging that “it is so much more complicated than that”.

African-American struggles have inspired and tactically informed anti-caste activism. But could Dalit-Bahujan Twitter exert a similar force, in India?

Take Round Table India, a forum of writers that aims for “an informed Ambedkar age” and sees caste as the primary fissure in Indian society. They aggregate news on politics, society and culture, they comment and critique, and try to be a hub for Dalit-Bahujan voices. ‘Unlike mainstream media, we aren’t casteist – we have many upper castes writing, at least as much as their share in the population,” says Naren Bedide, one of the founders.

It’s only half a joke. The media is scandalously unrepresentative – in 1996, Pioneer journalist B N Uniyal found that he hadn’t met a single Dalit journalist in his entire working life. In 2006, a Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) study found that 90% of the decision-makers at English newspapers and 79% of TV journalists were upper-caste.

In other words, the media frames national events, but does not include most of the nation. It speaks with near-unanimity on IIT’s “standards” when it pushes out Dalit students; it misreports caste-based violence as “farmers’ clashes” or lovers’ quarrels when it reports them at all; and it often misses the real import of events. “When others interpret the world for you, can you change it?” is the question that drives Round Table India. “We don’t have, and don’t expect access in the media. It’s a conscious decision to build spaces of our own,” says Bedide. As he sees it, it is a structural conflict, and one can’t use the tools of savarnas, like mainstream media, to dismantle their edifice of hierarchy.

There are blogs like Atrocities News that wrenched attention to the Khairlanji killings and continue to document caste-based attacks. But there are also blogs with entirely different missions, Facebook and Twitter accounts, mailing lists and Whatsapp groups – and to club them all together as Dalit social media flattens their diversity. Shared Mirror, for instance, is a platform for Dalit poetry, translated and new. Savari, a space by Adivasi, Bahujan and Dalit women, speaks with its own distinctive voice.

There are forums dedicated to history and to challenging narratives and erasures, like Dr Ambedkar’s Caravan, which has over 500 articles so far. In April, activists across the board celebrated Dalit History Month, creatively resisting the attempt to reduce Dalit history solely to one of atrocity. This was, again, a nod to Black History Month. Hashtags like #Dalitlivesmatter are often used to galvanize others.

TOI

Twitter, though, is still a hostile medium, say many of these writers. “It is full of either Internet Hindus or Congressis and left-liberals, there is no understanding of other issues,” says Bedide. Facebook, which nurtures more like-minded groups and longer conversations, is more useful, says Ashok Bharti, chairman of the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR). “If any incident happens anywhere, it is on my Facebook page in five minutes. It’s better than a wire service, though the stories are often raw,” he says.

“Dalits are still untouchable on social media; if I post anything about Dr Ambedkar or Dalit history in a general forum, I get blocked in a few minutes,” says Pardeep Attri of Ambedkar’s Caravan.

Of course, there is no unified Dalit social media, any more than there is a single Dalit politics across the country, fragmented as it is by sub-caste, region, gender, class and ideological preference. And yet, social media offers something new. Dalit Camera, a YouTube channel, records life “from untouchable eyes”. Bathran Ravichandran, who founded it, says that social media, with the many perspectives it offers, has “broadened the views and values” of Dalit activists around the country. Social media only supplements, in a small way, the grassroots work that goes on around the country, he says.

Others are skeptical of the reach and representativeness of social media Dalit voices. Political analyst and activist Anand Teltumbde describes them as “a small fraction of Dalits, who just talk to each other”. According to him, a sharpened sense of caste and sub-caste identity makes it harder to make common cause with others, and only props up their elite adversaries.

Meanwhile, groups like NACDOR prefer to engage with mainstream media and institutions, and use social media for direct access and advocacy. So does the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) at IIT Madras, which has a vocal social media presence. Akhil Bharathan of APSC thinks that caste, as an all-encompassing framework of oppression, also compels one outwards, to think of gender, class, and minority justice, and to form alliances. While these voices may now be a “counterpublic”, drowned out in the din of powerful interest groups, the “ultimate aim is to be the public,” says Bharathan.

Source – TOI

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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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What can a ‘sincere’ Dalit do?


My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality – Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.

On my last article, “What can a ‘sincere’ upper caste person do?“, I received many emails, most of them labelling me as casteist, asking me what a Dalit should do? I have heard these type of questions many a times from my friends, confused with what they should do, how they can contribute, where they should contribute and I suppose these and many questions come to the minds of Dalits who really want to contribute to the community. Though, I am not an expert or maybe not as experienced as many are, but I would try to reply with all my capacity – on things I feel should change immediately. But before that let me make one thing clear: that Dalits usually don’t have many options so many of the things that I would be talking about in this article may sound impractical to many Dalits, but still I believe we must do our best. Also, here in this article, I am not talking about our illiterate brothers and sisters but about the highly educated ones, who are pretending to be asleep.

Let me start with Dalit women. When I was researching for my article ‘India and Prostitution – My thoughts and experiences‘ – most of the women working as sex-slaves are from lower castes. Not that I didn’t know all these facts but after meeting many people I almost went into depression. On one occasion, I even met the sole survivor of ‘Khairlanji killings’ and I’ll never be able to forget the Khairlanji massacre. In states like Madhya Pradesh almost 100% women working as sex slaves are from the lower castes. Dalit woman is most the disrespected, unprotected, and neglected person in India. We must learn to respect and protect our women. We must believe that if upper caste men demand respect or do ‘whatever’ to protect their women then we must also do ‘everything’ to respect and protect our women.

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Stop fighting in the name of Dr. Ambedkar– Dalits, in the name of Ambedkar, are fighting to prove that they are the real ‘Karva Pullers’ of Dr. Ambedkar, but everyone knows that the reality lies somewhere else. Remember what Dr Ambedkar said:

“With great difficulty, I have brought this caravan where it is seen today. Let the caravan march on and further on despite the hurdles, pitfalls and difficulties that may come in its way. If my people, my lieutenants are not able to take the caravan ahead, they should leave it where it is seen today, but in no circumstances they should allow the caravan to go back.”

Dalits are divided into countless organisations, societies and parties etc but till now we have not been able to achieve anything remarkable. I agree, we need as many organisations as we can have and neither am I denying the impact these organisations might have been able to make in their own spheres but we must agree we really need one major organisation which will work for Dalits at all India level. When in need we must support every organisation and must forget our differences or petty benefits.

Start a national level newspaper/magazine – as I said above, there are many organisations, societies and parties working for Dalits, the same is true with magazines. Since childhood, I have been reading many magazines published by various Dalit organisations/publishers, and since childhood I have wondered why there can’t be a single national level newspaper or magazine? There are about a hundred small Dalit magazines published every month. We always make a noise when Dr. Ambedkar is ranked below Gandhi by some manuwadi newspaper or magazine, but why don’t we think bigger and unite all these Dalit magazine publishers and bring out one single magazine? We can do many more things apart from releasing our own ranking.

I am not saying that these existing magazine publishers should stop publishing but I want them to start working on a national level magazine or newspaper along with the existing ones. I believe it would be easy if we can unite at least one magazine publisher from each state and ask them to contribute one article for the national level magazine. In this way, we can easily bring out one national level magazine and challenge the hegemony of manuwadi media. One reason I see behind the defeat of BSP in the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh is because no media was established by Behan Mayawati in 5 years; and on the other hand, the corrupt SAD-BJP government of Punjab won the elections because SAD has a stronghold in the media – it started two new channels in Punjab and holds major shares in Punjabi newspapers. So, what are we thinking about or waiting for? Don’t tell me we don’t have resources or money, if we can operate separately, we surely can operate united.

The book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, published in 1852 and authored by Harriet Beecher, was the second bestselling book of the 19th century, next only to the Bible. This anti-slavery novel had actually intensified the sectional conflict that finally led to the American civil war and ultimately resulted in the abolition of slavery under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The book’s impact was so great that it is said that when Abraham Lincoln met author Stowe at the start of the Civil war, he commented, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” Believe it or not, this is the power of the ‘pen’. Start writing, write your mind. Start writing whatever comes to your mind and one day you will surely be able to make a difference. Create blogs, prepare e-mail lists, websites, SMS, create videos, do each and everything that you can to raise the Dalit voice. Internet gives us many opportunities to promote Buddhist values, understanding and insights on the global scale. Use Internet wisely. Round Table India is a great initiative, one step towards making people aware and everyone must support the Round Table India team.

You have been stripped off your true history, your culture, and everything. So, what are you afraid of? Dalits weren’t Hindus or Dalits didn’t use to go to temples. Our festivals, our Gods, our eating habits, our lifestyle and each and everything were different. Who stripped you of all these? Do you have to visit temples to get all these back? I seriously doubt that. How many of us seriously follow the 22 vows administered by Dr. Ambedkar? I feel ashamed when I see many of my Buddhist friends from Maharashtra visiting the Shirdi Sai temple. Whenever I visit my friends’ homes, no doubt I always see Dr. Ambedkar’s pictures there but along with that I always find some idol or picture of one of the 33 crore fake Gods. And I could never understand why they are not able to come out of slavery or why they could never change their mindset even after 55 years of conversion. Stop visiting temples– why don’t Dalits understand that money donated by you at temples is used against you?And follow the 22 vows administered by Dr. Ambedkar.

I can keep on writing on this topic (such as: if you can, teach someone, inspire someone, start a school, start library, start a scholarship for Dalit students, adopt Dalit students etc) but I don’t want to make this article long. So, I will end it with a few more final words.

Don’t tell me that all this is impossible to be done. When you are ready to die at the  warfront fighting with unknown persons, what happens to you when you have to fight with the known enemy? What happens to Dalits when their own mothers and sisters are stripped naked in the streets and in broad daylight? Doesn’t your blood boil with anger? Unite. Take time out of your busy lives, encourage others in their strife, encourage Dalit students for higher studies & create such a system which will give legal and financial aid to Dalits. More importantly, take time to listen to what they have to say, share positive thoughts, give them confidence, and bring the best out of you. You surely can make a difference. If you can’t do any of the above, don’t do anything, just read what Dr. Ambedkar said, read the rich history of Dalit ideals. Selfless devotion, dedication with enthusiasm and an assertive mass movement will lay the foundation of the Dalit movement.

P.S. – This article was originally posted at Round Table India. Please spread the message, Like the post and share it with your friends.

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What can a ‘sincere’ upper caste person do?


It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep. –Malcolm X.

After I wrote the last article on Untouchability & Satyamev Jayate, I got an email asking me –so do I think no upper caste person does any good for Dalits? It is a perfect time for this question. I had wanted to write on the same topic for some time now as there was a discussion going on in a forum on almost the same topic – do organisations owned/run by upper caste people really do any work for Dalits?

Before, I answer this question; can anyone tell me an instance in history where upper caste people ‘collectively’ have done anything for the upliftment of Dalits? You may point to some individuals who have done their bit but if you check out the history of India, there is no such instance where upper caste people ‘collectively’ have done anything for the betterment of Dalits. All that upper caste people want is power and upper caste people have perfected the art of projecting themselves as friends of Dalits. By winning the friendship/support of the Dalits, so called ‘progressive upper caste people’ are able to use Dalits as a pawn in the social-economic-political game. Dalits are nothing but a game played by ‘progressive upper caste people’, based on tokenism or false promises of equality. In this game, played on the rules of deception, only upper caste people have gained and Dalits have remained on the bottom rung.

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Many so called ‘progressive upper caste people’ are just like foxes, they keep hiding their true nature and they misguide till the time comes to put their jaws on the misguided. Such people are more dangerous than the people who snarl openly against Dalits. I have never seen a ‘sincere’ upper caste person helping Dalits without any real motive.

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