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The purpose of reservation

 

Gail Omvedt

The wave of rioting at the time of the Mandal Commission showed that the goal of reservation had not simply been unfulfilled, but totally distorted. It revealed, among other things, the degree to which educated upper caste youth had gotten into the habit of considering the Government administration not as "public service" but as a source of employment - with lucrative salaries and pensions, not to mention ample scope for bribe-taking.

Bribery - a major theme of Phule's polemical 19th century writings - has not apparently changed very much. There are undoubtedly many honest officials, but they are fighting a system that gives them very little scope, one which binds together politicians and bureaucrats in a nexus of corruption. International surveys of corruption in Government show India at the bottom of the list; losses in "transmission and distribution" of the State electricity boards; the necessity of giving "weight" in order to get projects approved or papers moved through desks in administrative offices, all remain flagrant. In this context, the idea that reservation somehow has an adverse effect on "merit" and "efficiency" looks somewhat laughable. Since the mass education which all the anti-caste radicals so fervently sought has also remained a distant dream, this has rendered the masses of toiling people more dependent on the literate officials and activists.

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Ms. Gail Omvedt's ill Advice To Dalit Bahujans

Referring to a recent article "Congress, Dalits and elections" by Ms. Gail Omvedt in the Hindu, the Dalits need to think and take some hard decisions: Empowering of Dalit-Bahujans was started by Mahatma Phule in mid nineteenth century, furthered by his widow Sawitribai, later supported by Rajarshi Shahu in his state and lastly implemented by Dr. Ambedkar in whole of India.

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The Dravidian movement

 

Gail Omvedt

"So many movements have failed. In Tamil Nadu there was a movement in the name of anti-Brahmanism under the leadership of Periyar. It attracted Dalits, but after 30 years of power, the Dalits understand that they are as badly-off - or worse-off - as they were under the Brahmans. Under Dravidian rule, they have been attacked and killed, their due share in government service is not given, they are not allowed to rise.''

So says Dr. Krishnasami, leader of the militant movement of the Dalit community known as "Devendra Kula Vellalas" of southern Tamil Nadu and founder of a new political party, Puthiya Tamilakam. This sense of disillusionment with the Dravidian parties is pervasive among not only the Dalits but also many militant non-Brahmans as well. The anti-caste movements of the past, in Dr. Krishnasami's words, have failed to achieve their main goals. Mr. Thirumavalavan of the Liberation Panthers speaks of discrimination and atrocities against those who fight against the evil and adds: "Castes keep their identity just as before, they don't intermarry, there are no longer any self-respect marriages."

Like Dr. Krishnasami, he does not reject the goals of the movement, arguing "the Dalit struggle has to be for the liberation of a nationality", and Hindutva should be opposed through Tamil nationalism. He feels that the existing Dravidian parties have betrayed the Dalits.

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Marx and globalisation

 

Gail Omvedt

Today, as India faces the challenge of an unprecedented globalising world, with goods from Korean automobiles to Australian apples and Chinese toys coming into its markets, most of the marxists in the country are confronting it as a demon, trying to erect something like a "Great Wall" against the threat from without, though China itself has long since relegated its own to a tourist attraction.

The rhetoric is moving to new heights, but opposing "liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation" has become such a mantra of the Left, often contradicted by its proponents when they are in power, that we may be excused from seeing this opposition simply as a way of maintaining and arousing its traditional trade union base.

In fact, the whole depiction of globalisation as "neocolonialism" is in many ways against the very spirit of Marx, who proclaimed the immense creative-destructive forces of capitalism with the intention not of preventing their growth, but of moving through them, going beyond history to the establishment of a socialist society.

The Communist Manifesto itself reads almost like a paean to the forces of globalisation, describing capitalism as giving "a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country... In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations... The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National onesidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures there arises a world literature". As capitalism revolutionises the means of production and social relations, it smashes the barriers of feudalism and mercantilism everywhere, destroying old feudal bondages and old medieval certainties and antiquated dreams. Capitalism is ever-moving, ever-changing, and forces humans to face the reality of change and their own role in it: "All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned and man is at last compelled to face, with sober senses, his real conditions of life..."

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Muslim-Dalit Relations

Gail Omvedt

Islam is a religion of egalitarianism and brotherhood. After the defeat of Buddhism, it maintained these values in India for centuries. Not only did those who became Muslims benefit by escaping from caste restrictions, but Muslim rule also provided a social and political context for the growth of Bhakti movements.

Within these, to a greater or less degree, Dalits and low castes sought a religious equality and expressed a devotionalism which heralded a supreme deity not very different from Allah. Syncretic cults also emerged, large and small, and the masses sought to memorialize holy men of whatever faith. The larger of the new cults, such as Sikhism and the Kabir Panth, probably never saw themselves as separate religions or as part of Hinduism or Muslims until recently.

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Khairlanji Dalit Massacres: Justice for the Victims Aborted

 

A K Biswas

(First published in 'Mainstream Weekly' in September 2010)

Part I

"If someone takes someone's life (deliberately and not accidentally) then he forfeits the right to his life".

~ John Stuart Mill

The judgment delivered by a Division Bench in quadruple murders of members of the Bhotmange family, village Khairlanji, district Bhandara in Maharashtra left everyone with a sensitive mind shocked and dismayed. Surekha Bhotmange and her 18-year-old daughter and two sons, including one who was disabled, were brutally murdered by an upper-caste mob on September 29, 2006.

The Bench concluded that the accused, who were sentenced to death by the District and Sessions Court, Bhandara, were not driven by hatred against the Bhotmange family members, who were Scheduled Castes. The High Court held that the accused took revenge! This sounds like a joke widely prevalent in pre-independence India. The bureaucracy often termed starvation death as death due to malnutrition.

Justice and fairness of treatment for the victims belonging to the socially disadvantaged is practically non-existent in India. In denying justice, very sound and cogent reasons and arguments couched in ceremonial legalese are advanced on behalf of the aggressors to satisfy analytical quest. However, the caste system, needless to note, prompts discrimination, which undoubtedly is the root cause for denial of justice to the Dalits and adivasis. Khairlanji is a case in point.

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