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Identity politics and the annihilation of castes

Anand Teltumbde

Identity, one's sense of self and its persistence, as shaped through ascriptive and subjective processes, is natural to humans as social beings. Identity politics, however, is not natural. It is articulated through a persistent sense of discrimination and oppression, either innate or induced, along the axis of 'defining' one identity from among many. Identity politics thus necessarily veers towards becoming essentialist. Consequently, rather than understanding oneself as having heterogeneous and multiple identities, people are provoked to support the politics based on a particular identity.

Although 'identity politics' can draw on intellectual precursors from Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) to Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) – writers who have actually used this specific phrase[1] – it became more pronounced in the second half of the twentieth century through large-scale political movements (second wave feminism, Black civil rights in the U.S., gay and lesbian liberation, and the American Indian movements) which were based on claims about the injustices done to particular social groups. The specific discourse with its contemporary baggage has gained prominence only in the last twenty years. These social groups highlighted their identity in response to the experience of cultural imperialism (including stereotyping, erasure, or appropriation of one's group identity), violence, exploitation, marginalization, or humiliation by others.[2]

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Gujarat: Myth and reality

Bhalchandra Mungekar

A war of words has erupted between the chief ministers of Bihar and Gujarat. Bihar's chief minister Nitish Kumar has slammed Narendra Modi for taking potshots at the state's slow socio-economic growth. The altercation began with Modi saying that caste politics has ruined states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Hitting back, Nitish has said that Modi should look at the conditions in his own state before criticising others.

For the last several years, Modi has been successful in projecting his "vibrant Gujarat" as a role model of economic growth and himself as ''Vikas Purush". Though one must give due credit to Modi for his effective skills in making projections, one must also critically analyse this "growth story of Gujarat" based on facts and figures. Regretfully, as one examines the facts since Modi came to power in Gujarat in 2001, the story appears to be hollow and, at times, contrary to what is being projected.

First, about the rate of economic growth. During 1995-2000 and 2001-10, Gujarat increased its annual rate of growth from 8.01% to 8.68%. But so is the case with other major states such as Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. In fact, Gujarat was ranked second after Rajasthan (8.34%) in the first period and third after Uttarakhand (11.81%) and Haryana (8.95%) in the second period. What is remarkable, Bihar and Orissa, the two most backward and poverty-stricken states, have also shown growth pick up from 4.70% and 4.42% in the first period to 8.02% and 8.13% in the second period. Even smaller states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have registered growth of 11.01% and 8.96%, respectively.

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NCERT book blanks out Ambedkar's role as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee

Chandra Bhan Prasad

Are Dalits turning intolerant? Are they emotional and scornful to reason? These are some of the questions the mainstream media asked, following the controversy over publication of an Ambedkar cartoon in an NCERT book. In the process, a new stereotype on Dalits may have been created.

The authors of the NCERT book, 'Indian Constitution at Work,' are amazed at the response of 'emotional-devotional' Dalits. "They have not read the book," and "they have not understood the context of the cartoon," were refrains of the authors. In other words, Dalits are not applying their minds. "Dalit intellectuals have stopped being argumentative. After all, it is for the first time that Dr Ambedkar is being introduced to India's young minds," they said.

Let me give the reasons why Dalits are upset. Let's begin with the cartoon. Legendary cartoonist Shankar published the cartoon in 1949, in his Shankar's Weekly, which was meant for a discerning audience; the weekly did not have a mass circulation.

Shankar's readers lived in the times of Dr Ambedkar and Pt Nehru, and knew them well. However, the same cartoon is now presented before Class XI students in an entirely new context. Why do the authors try to show the 'snail pace' taken to draft the Indian Constitution to young minds? Is it to promote Ambedkar or is to paint him as a lazy professional?

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Not about intolerance

Chandra Bhan Prasad

Wrong history real issue, not cartoon

A couple of weeks back, almost all television channels and newspaper carried the controversy that arose over a National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) book that had a caricature of Dr BR Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru. The newspapers, news channels and columnists were aggrieved that the Dalits were increasingly turning intolerant. This in itself is a big achievement for the community. Newspapers, news channels and hundreds of columnists have so far rarely shown concern for the social intolerance Dalits face daily. The fact that the media actually decided to run stories about it is really amazing.

The cartoon, created in 1949 by eminent political cartoonist Shankar, shows BR Ambedkar, chairman of the drafting committee, riding a snail with Jawaharlal Nehru standing behind with a whip in his hand. The cartoon was included in the Political Science textbook of Classes IX to XI. Of course, the NCERT has decided to remove the cartoon from the next lot of books.

The question here is not about the cartoon. But the debate that followed. Many scholars last week, continued to talk about freedom of expression. Some said that the Dalit MPs were muzzling freedom of expression. They cited Parliament's resolve of deleting the cartoon from the NCERT textbooks. This is definitely breaking news material. After all, it is good to know that some intellectuals have realised that there is a thing called freedom of expression.

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Food fascism

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha_ilaiah_copy_copy_copy_copyAfter the beef festival in Osmania University, Hyderabad, on April 15 — in which 1,500-2,000 students belonging to SC/ST/OBC communities and some faculty members participated — was attacked by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists, food culture has become an issue of national debate.

The ABVP and RSS attacked the students who ate beef, burnt media vans covering the festival and a bus on the Osmania campus. Predictably, they used only SC/ST/OBC students to get the job done. Osmania students, leaving behind their image as agitators for a separate Telangana state, became the harbingers of social reform that could protect the Muslims, who often face hostility sparked by the notion that it is ungodly to eat beef, even in this region.

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Dr Ambedkar and Engaged Buddhism

 

 

Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar

Introduction

It must be mentioned in the beginning that, though Dr Ambedkar took oath in Yeola (in District Nasik of Maharashtra) in 1935 that, though 'he was born a Hindu, he would not die a Hindu', and he fulfilled his mission after nearly 21 years, by formally embracing Buddhism on 14th October, 1956 on the occasion of his historic conversion in the city of Nagpur, he was attracted towards the Tathagata since his childhood. The incident was of his passing of the Matriculation, when Shri Keluskar, his esteemed and learned teacher, gave him a complimentary copy of the Tathagata's biography written by the teacher himself. A brilliant and inquisitive student that the young Bhimrao was, got attracted towards the Buddha's message and came under its influence since then and remained so throughout his life.

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