Apr 142012

The Times of India, today, quotes a report which claims that Rahul Gandhi said that he was a Brahmin.

While it can be argued that since he enjoys a special kind of family based reservation that is dependent on birth not merit, and that birth accords him privelages and power – what he says could be right, theoretically it is not so.

The last Brahmin in that family was Nehru. His daughter broke the caste rules, she married an ‘outsider’. We are a patriarchal system, and you inherit caste and all stuff associated with it from the father . In a way that also explains the Gandhi Nehru family’s sway across the decades. they are not restricted by region or by caste or even by religion. It is as misal paav as it gets.

Manu’s codes are very clear on what happens to people who broke caste laws – they are made ‘out caste’  or Jaati prashta. Caste no longer applies to them or their progeny or their progeny’s progeny. And, in the modern era that is a curiously liberating feeling, you can be what you are without bothering about caste and what caste has to say

How do i know ? my parents broke the caste laws, way way back :D

Mar 072012

The Amul Advertisement 

The question is, are they ? worthy that is… not in my opinion. they represent the worst of all other Parties in India, the corrupt brazenness of the Congress, the willingness to take to the streets and disrupt like the BJP, the parochialism of the regional parties, the unwillingness to look at an open market like the left front parties. But, above all, the aspect that gives them their own unique flavour is the nexus between the criminals and the Party. While others may take covert support, there is nothing subtle about the presence of criminals in the SP. It is upfront and present.

But I guess people deserve the Governments that they elect  and UP has elected this lot. The rest of India, as always, will pay a price for the largest, most populous state – remaining backward.

It is strange and surprising that the Congress and the BJP targeted Mayawati and her administration to such a level, without having their own organisational mechanics in place. While Mayawati may have been imperious, and mercurial and turning a blind eye to corruption, – those were not the reasons to target her. It is, as a Dalit Activist friend pointed out, the feeling that “how dare she ? How dare a Dalit Woman not know her place”… that was behind a lot of the attacks on Mayawati.  When you read the English language press on her, you realise how deep rooted caste is in the psyche ..’how dare she wear diamonds’ ‘how dare she carry a bag’ …There are others as corrupt, if not more – remember the scenes of Jayalalitha’s adopted son’s wedding ? – but Jaya speaks English, is convent educated, is one ‘of us’.. Maya, unfortunately, is not.

Yesterday a commentator on DD made a very interesting point – he said that the campaign attacks by Rahul Gandhi, the BJP were so virulent that they served the purpose of shifting the vote to the SP rather than the Congress or BJP.


The Punjab, the Uttarakhand and the Manipur elections were neither here nor there. Yes, they took place. yes, someone won. Should the winners have won — if there was any sense of right and wrong in the world, no … the Congress should not have won Manipur. the SAD/BJP should not have won Punjab. Khanduri should never have lost…yet these were the results :( .

The only election result that gives me some hope is Goa. The people of the State came out in large numbers – cutting across caste, community and religious lines – to vote out a Government & a criminal cartel that has pillaged their state, and voting in an Honest, effective man. Manohar Parrikar gives me hope to the same extent that the Samajwadi party drains that hope from me.


And finally, If the Congress wants to win, it needs to decentralize power & let others come to the fore. This is not a family business, and over reliance on one family is suicidal.  The reason for this rout is neither corruption nor any other issues. It is Organisational Paralysis brought about by all decision making – party and Government – being concentrated in the hands of two or three people. If the BJP wants to win, it needs to consolidate power in fewer hands. Too many chiefs and too few followers. Where leadership was clear, they won. Where there was too much they lost.

And why do i care ? because I don’t want a third front government. Rather one or the other – the Congress or the BJP ….but, for that they need to get their act in place.


Aug 012011

When, on day 14, I wrote about Dr.Ambedkar and his words of freedom – a friend ( a real life friend) posted a recommendation – Read Bhimayana. And, JM is a person who knows my reading habits. He has, over the years, recommended a great many books that I have enjoyed. And then Bhimayana went onto my monthly order on Flipkart.



I got the book this evening.

The first thing that strikes you about the book is the Art. Illustrated and coloured by Durgabai Vyam & Subhash Vyam – the art has an almost lyrical quality to it. Unlike most graphic novels there are no boxes. The art just flows. The graphic novel flap describes the Vyams as Pardhan Gond artists – strangely the bulk of the references I found on google were not from India, finally found something – in the Caravan magazine –  remotely related to the Pardhan Gond Art form.


bhimayana page


The artists say

“we’d like to state one thing very clearly at the outset. We shall not force our characters into boxes. It stifles them. We prefer to mount our work in open spaces. Our art is khulla (open) where there’s space for all to breathe” (pg.100)

In contrast to the art that is curvy and non linear – the writing by Srividya Natarajan and S.Anand is very linear. The story begins with an upper caste person cribbing about reservation. And the person he is talking to tells him the story of Dr.Ambedkar. The questions asked are similar to comments that I get from my students ‘oh maam but caste is over’ ‘caste was abolished’ Ambedkar didn’t want reservation’ ‘caste only happens in some villages’ and so on.

The way the authors have mixed today with yesterday – is hard hitting .

The story starts in 1901 – when 10 year old Bhim faces discrimination at school and the world at large. It looks at how people went hungry – not because they didn’t have food – but because they didn’t have access to water. It then goes on to all those instances in Modern India where Dalits have not just been not allowed to go near the water source, but harmed if they did.


The art in the book switches between black and white and colour – there seems to be no reason why it is so, but that is part of the artists’ call.

bhimayana pg 23


The book looks at key facets of Dr.Ambedkar’s struggle against the system. is a good introduction to someone who knows nothing about Dr.Ambedkar or about caste. It is not an easy read. There are parts that make you really angry. an impotent kind of rage – because you know it is not gone. you know those attitudes still exist. It may not be so blatant, at least in the cities – but it is there. JM had once told me, the only people who say caste doesn’t matter anymore is the upper caste.

You wonder while reading it, why the Dalits didn’t take up arms against those who have traditionally oppressed them. And, the term oppress is a very mild term for what was done to the Dalits for generations. The fact that Dalits did not go down the path of armed revolution is because of one man. Dr.Ambedkar.

Do buy. Do read. And get your kids to read … Bhimayana – experiences of Untouchability


this from Flipkart

Book: BHIMAYANA: Experiences Of Untouchability
Author: Durgabai Vyam, Subhash Vyam
ISBN: 8189059173
ISBN-13: 9788189059170, 978-8189059170
Binding: Paperback
Publishing Date: 2011
Publisher: Navayana Publishing For Social Change
Number of Pages: 108
Language: English


30 day Project Day 24 -gold 2

What comes to mind when you see this ?

Jul 192011

Penguin had brought out an entire series of books last year (14 to be precise) to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Indian Republic. Called Words of Freedom – Ideas of a Nation - the series covers a number of luminaries who were at the forefront of the freedom struggle. When I chanced upon this one by Dr.Ambedkar – last week when i placed my order, I wasn’t aware of the other 13. The rest have gone onto my wishlist.




The Ambedkar volume is a collection of speeches. In this post i will quote extensively from the first of these speeches. If Democracy Dies, it will be our Doom – is an Address by Dr. Ambedkar at the All India Depressed Classes Conference held at Nagpur on the 18th of July 1942 – 70 years to date… and the issues he writes about resonate even today.

It is a matter of immense satisfaction that the Untouchables have made great strides along all sides. I will particularise only three. They have acquired a degree of political consciousness which few communities in India have acquired. Secondly, they have made considerable progress in Education. Thirdly they are securing a foothold in the institutions and in the public service of the country. (pg5 &6)

Progress in the competition of communities is the result of power. The power may be economic, it may be social or it may be political. Have we the power to sustain our progress? Have we economic power? I am sure we have none. We are a class of serfs. Have we social power? I am sure we have none. We are a degraded portion of humanity. The only thing, therefore, we can depend upon for our continued progress is the capture of political power. I have no doubt that is our only salvation, and that without it we will perish. (pg. 9)

Let me begin by telling you what has been the keynote of my politics. … The basis of my politics lies in the proposition that the Untouchables are not a sub-head or a sub-section of the Hindus, and that they are a separate and a distinct element in the national life of India. (pg.10)

He then goes on to discuss his issues with Mahatma Gandhi on the inclusion of Dalits as a sub-section of Hindus. He says that though he signed the Poona Pact to save the life of Mr.Gandhi, he believed that Gandhi played unfair by never giving his true and honest consent to the principle underlying the Poona Pact.

He then talks about the Muslim League and his opposition to them and in particular the new equation of values set up by them. It also gives a glimpse of why the talks between the Congress and the Muslim League failed – repeatedly. Jinnah, possibly, didn’t want an agreement.

The Equation says that the Muslims, whatever their numbers, are just equal to non-Muslims and therefore, in any political arrangement the Muslims must get fifty percent. To this equation no one can consent. Not only it is against arithmetic; it is also against the interest of all non-Muslim including the Untouchable. (pg.18 and 19)

He then goes on to give advice to his audience:

…you must insist on being recognized as an independent and separate element in the national life of India. The theory that they are only a sub-section of the Hindus must be fought tooth and nail. Failure to get the Untouchables recognized as a distinct element, separate from the Hindus, will keep them submerged and lead to their suppression and degradation. (pg 20)

He also says -

We suffer from bad administration and not from bad laws. The administration is bad because it is in the hand of the Caste Hindus, who carry their social prejudices into administration and persistently deny to the Untouchables for one reason or another the principle of equal benefit to which they are entitled. Good Laws can do you no good unless you have good administration and you can have good administration when you have persons belonging to the Untouchables holding high administrative posts from which they could watch how other Hindu civil servants are behaving towards the Untouchables and to check them, control them and prevent them from doing mischief. (pg. 21)

And for those of you who say reservation – here is the GoI figures on reservation in the administrative services :


Secy Addl. Secy Joint Secy Director
Total No. of officers 149 108 477 590
No. of SCs - 2 31 17
% age of SCs - 1.85 6.49 2.88
No. of STs 4 2 15 7
% age of STs 2.68 1.85 3.14 1.18

( The number of officers presently working as Secretary, Additional  Secretary, Joint Secretary and Director level posts, in the Government of India and the number of SC and ST officers on these posts and their percentage, as  on 14.3.201)

And the almost prescient Dr.Ambedkar has this to say

“It is, however, not enough to ask for mere reservation. It is necessary to insist that such reservation shall be given effect to within a stated period. This is far more essential than mere reservation. For, unless you fix a period, the reservation will not come. It will be evaded on one ground or another and of course on the usual and unfathomable ground that no suitable candidate was available. We all know to a Hindu, if he is the appointing authority, no candidate from the Untouchables would be a suitable candidate. “(pg.21)

And finally in this speech he talks about the solution. He ends by talking about the support for the British war effort against the Nazis.

This is a war between democracy and dictatorship – not an enlightened dictatorship but a dictatorship of the most barbarous character based not on any moral idea but on racial arrogance. If any dictatorship needs to be destroyed it is this vile Nazi dictatorship. Amidst all the political dissensions that one witnesses in this country …we are likely to forget what a menace to our future this Nazism, if it wins, is going to be. What is more important is that its racial basis is a positive danger to Indians. (pg.26)

Looks like people flirted with the Nazi ideology even then.

He continues:

…There lies on us a very heavy duty to see that democracy does not vanish from the earth as a governing principle of human relationship. If we believe in it, we must be both true and loyal to it. We must not only be staunch in our faith in democracy but we must resolve to see that in whatever we do, we don not help the enemies of democracy to uproot the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. …. If democracy lives, we are sure to reap the fruits of it. If democracy dies, it will be our doom (pg.27)


Such vision. Such clarity. Such empathy. Still relevant after 70 years ..


And in case you are wondering, i reject Dr.Swamy’s ideology – it goes against everything I believe in. Everything that I believe to be sacred.

I may support his right to express, but i will fight his ideology with all that I can and all that i have.
And finally, the photograph for today.

It was raining cats and dogs and buffaloes and cows – almost for a week. The lakes are full, and the roads have become the moon crater. I couldn’t bear driving any more so I took a rick yesterday. This was the view through the wind screen. The “Ram” is a sticker – the two red lights belong to cars stranded ahead of the rick. It is almost like giving me a glimmer of hope on a dark and stormy day…

30 day Project Day 14 - red2

May 122010

Two very different instances of religious/caste patriarchs intervening in civil society have come to the fore in the last couple of days. Both are Anti Constitutional. And, its about time the Government and the System said religious oppression in the name of Religious freedom be damned – the Constitution comes first.

The first instance was the Khap Panchayats that has been flexing its muscles for quite some time – excommunicating and killing without consequences. They have got Navin Jindal to tow the line now.

Mr. Jindal has said -

“I and my whole family respect the years old traditions and rituals of khap panchayats. My house is their own home and they can come there any time. I am just like their own child and I can never go against them; rather I always need their blessings.”

Navin Jindal, if you remember, is the man who went all the way to the Supreme Court for the right of Indian Citizens to fly the Indian Flag, and won .

Mr.Jindal has forgotten that the Indian flag represents the Indian Republic. And, the Indian Republic is enshrined by the Indian Constitution . The Indian Constitution states:

14. The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
15. (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

If the Khap Panchayat had its way – it is not just same gotra marriages that will be nullified, but there will be penalties to anyone who breaks caste rules . And, as all of us know, these rules – if applied to their logical conclusion – will lead to the Hindus getting their equivalent of the Taliban.

I wonder if a Member of Parliament who is so ready to violate the Constitution has the right to be in Parliament !

The second instance of the Constitution being violated, is the Deobandi’s – who have declared that it is haram for women to work

“It is unlawful (under the Sharia law) for Muslim women to work in the government or private sector where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without a veil,”

If the fatwa is followed through to its logical conclusion, it would mean that Indian citizens who are Muslim women cannot be the President, Prime Minister, Member of Parliament. They can’t work in a Hospital, a Call Centre, a Hotel. They can’t teach in a co-educational school, they cannot work for a NGO, they can’t work as engineers…. This essentially means that women are barred from most professions except sweat shops where they can sit with other women and sew stuff at cut price rate.

In both cases a bunch of patriarchs want the world to bend to their interpretation of religion, and honour …. I hope that in both cases this is the straw that breaks the back of an communities that have kept quiet — and rise up to delegitimise both the Khap Panchayats and the Deobandi’s. The best way to destroy them is to stop listening to them !!

And finally – i hope everyone remembers that the reason Krishna wasn’t invited to Rukmini’s swayamwar was because he was a Yadav and she was a Kshyatriya princess.

Let us also remember that the Prophet Muhammad’s first wife was Khadijah bint Khuwaylid – a merchant who employed him.

Those who have proclaimed themselves as guardians of religion and tradition seem to have forgotten their own religion and tradition :( -