Row over ‘untouchable’ Indian dog

21/09/2011

BBC South Asia

24 September 2010 Last updated at 19:26 GMT

Row over ‘untouchable’ Indian dog

Police in India are investigating claims that a Dalit woman has been ordered to pay compensation to the high-caste owners of a dog she fed.

Sunita Jatav with Sheru

Sunita Jatav fed Sheru some leftover bread

The woman says the village council wants her to pay a fine of 15,000 rupees ($330) for feeding the dog, which the owners have now kicked out. They are reported to have said the dog is “untouchable”, but deny being motivated by caste considerations. Although widespread, discrimination against Dalits is an offence in India. Dalits, who make up nearly 20% of the Indian population, say little has changed despite the government enacting various laws banning caste-based discrimination. ‘He got very angry’ The incident took place in Malikpur village in Morena district in central Madhya Pradesh state. “I made some roti [Indian bread] and took it to my husband who works in a farm. After I had fed him, we had some leftovers which I gave to the dog,” the Dalit woman, Sunita Jatav, said. She said the owner of the dog, Amrutlal Kirari, saw her feeding him. “He got very angry and said ‘You’ve fed my dog, it has become an untouchable now’.” Mrs Jatav said Mr Kirari left the dog, a black mongrel called Sheru, tied to a pole outside her house. On Monday, the village council met and decided that Sheru had been defiled and hence Mr Kirari should be paid 15,000 rupees as compensation, Mrs Jatav alleged.

On Tuesday, she approached the district collector of Morena who ordered an inquiry into the incident. Senior police officer in the area, Baldev Singh, told the BBC that he was investigating the matter. He said Mr Kirari had alleged that after eating the bread, Sheru fell ill. Mr Kirari said he abandoned the dog at Mrs Jatav’s house so she could look after it and nurse it back to health, Mr Singh added. Dalits – formerly untouchables – are considered at the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Any discrimination against them is an offence and punishable by law.

Courtesy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11403486

 

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Narendra Modi fast is farce

18/09/2011

It is disappointing and shameful the way BJP and some of its allies have exhibited their support for Narendra Modi’s fast for ‘atma shuddhi’ and ‘sadbhavna’. Gujarat Congress leader Shankar Singh Vaghela has also gone on fast though without much notice of the media. Vaghela comes from the Hindutva background and understand very well the tricks of the game. Those who have read the Supreme Court order know it well that it has given instruction to authorities to file cases as per the SIT report. There is every option for the people to again go the court and seek justice if the local authorities in Gujarat again try to subvert justice. However, the issue here is much bigger and the way the entire game is being played, it has wider political repercussions too and need political understanding of the entire game.

While every political party is free to go for its political campaign and can approach any community in India, however there are a few questions before that. In a democratic society there is no space for fasting which is nothing but an act of blackmail and side tracking the real issues. Therefore political battles have to be fought politically and not through apolitical blackmails. Fasting is nothing but re-imposition of the brahmanical values on India. Right from the period of Gandhi all the symbols adopted and exhibited for fasting are brahmanical and widely open to interpretation without saying directly. The war cries during these fasts are so loud that any one who oppose them genuinely face threat of physical intimidation. So, the non violent fasts are actually more violent than the physical violence as they expose your vulnerability.

Anyone who has seen the ‘progress’ and ‘peace’ in Gujarat can vouch for Narendra Modi. Gujarat is a very prosperous state and there is little doubt about that. But this is also a fact that it was so much before Narendra Modi as dominant Gujaratis are business mind and they have succeeded in their business world over. But has the business mind in Gujarat really brought a change in the ‘mindset’ of common Gujarati which Narendra Modi and others in the Sangh Parivar boast so much? Can we say that Gujarat is a state which has no discrimination and every body live in peace? Yes, because the Gujarat which Narendra Modi boast and develop actually is a Gujarat of Varna Vyavastha, of caste system and none of them have the courage to stand against that. If we ask these questions and make a checklist then the reality would exactly the opposite. Are inter caste marriages common in Gujarat and the answer is a big no. Similarly, we all know the fate of people marrying beyond their religious identity. So what has changed in Gujrat Mr Modi? Yes, all the Babas, and Sadhus are more popular than ever in Gujarat. The sas-bahus idiocies are too popular in Gujarat and therefore bollywood jump in that market.

If you compare Gujarat with Punjab then the differences will be sharp. Gujarati’s are businessmen but by heart not as open as the Sikhs. Sikhs also prospered and traveled world over like Gujaratis have much wider community sense than Gujaratis. They have also developed business and entrepreneurship. But see the difference. The progress in Punjab is over all and inclusive while in Gujarat it is exclusive and those living in margins are still living the same way. Today, the Dalits in Punjab whether it is the Mazhabis or Ravidasis are much better and liberated than their counterparts in Gujarat. Go to any Dalit basti in Gujarat particularly the Valmikis and you can hear the story of the racial prejudices in Gujarat.  In Punjab too they face discrimination against the vary tenants of Guru Granth Saheb yet Dalits retaliate in Punjab. They have their own Gurudwaras and strong community leadership has emerged.

Gujarat is not just Anand, Ahmedabad, Baroda or Surat. Gujarat is also Kheda, Porbandar, Kutchch and other tribal regions. Ask those regions about the changes and you will realize it.

Narendra Modi claims that there were no communal riots in Gujarat since 2002. Yes, there could not have been as the entire state machinery was used so much against the minorities that their life became hell and economy totally collapsed. It take time to rebuild in a state where a complete economic embargo was put on Muslims and Christians. Don’t we know that before the Muslim became direct target of the Hindutva brigade, it were the Christians, their churches and institutions that came under sharp attack from the Hindutva gangs who had clearly got state patronage.

Gujarat is very unfortunate in many way. Unfortunate because the cocktail of corporate and religion is working wonder in Gujarat. The powerful upper castes in Gujarat are more than ever powerful. They have migrated abroad. The condition of Dalits and tribal is so bad that none of them have power to stand up at the moment. Most of them have either state government jobs or at maximum private jobs owned by Patels, Sidhis and Jains whose political sympathies with Hindutva are well known to be described here. The Dalits even if they want to revolt may not be able to do so under the grave economic pressure. That has happened in a very systematic way. Whenever the Dalits organize their rallies and programme, their activities are watched and observed and later they are isolated. The economic dependency has hampered their movement for a different political understanding other than the upper caste parties of Congress and BJP. Muslims in Gujarat seems not to have any other option than switching their loyalty here and there as their condition is the worst.

Modi’s supporters are proposing Gujarat model for development. One does not know in which world they love. Can Gujarat be really called a developed state? A good state for investment and a better governed state are two different dynamics. If Gujarat is so good that every international company are vying to be here then why the Gujaratis living in Africa, Europe and Americas come back to their original land and restrengthen it. Why they still need to go abroad to earn much.

Gujarat riots were engineered to break the backbone of Muslim business. It is the basic tendency of the Hindutva protagonists to engineer riots where the Muslims had a sizeable business presence and the result from various communal riots reflect that. The isolation of Muslims in Gujarat was complete. If peace comes at the cost of leaving in submission and subjugation then Modi and his fanatic friends must understand that it will not be. Injustice anywhere is a threat to peace. If people are unable to get justice in the political set up then obviously it breed communalism on both the sides.

Today, Narendra Modi condemns communalism and caste-ism. He blames the policy of appeasement in the past sixty years. The fact is that India has been ruled by the upper caste upper elite during all these years Mr. Modi. And if he means that Indian state has appeased Muslims and given some thing special then Modi must understand that Muslims face the worst form of discrimination in the government jobs and private corporations. Even taking a house on rent is difficult to get and finally the person has to find the ‘Muslim’ locality’. Such ghettosiation helps the communal politicians and their leaders as the more the communication gap between the two communities the bigger the business of these loud mouths who shout at each other posing a threat from the opposing sides.

There is no denying the fact that India need to move forward. And for it the shortsighted policies must go. For this, the tamasha of fasting must stop. All these fast are meant against some one. Most of these fast are done by the caste Hindus to regain and retain their leadership and stop the others from gaining any right. Gandhi’s fast against untouchability was a betrayal to Ambedkar’s struggle for social justice and Dalits which he so valiantly fought. Anna’s fast looked intimidating to the Dalits, OBCs, and Muslims of India. Now Modi is fasting to cleanse himself while Congress too is fasting.

The political battles are to be fought politically but when the politics is just an adjustment and calculation then we can expect anything sincere from the political class which has become expert in saying things according to its convenience.

In the Gujarat University campus, sharing platform with Modi were various political leaders. Modi say ‘ India is run through constitution’, now this is another statement. Why any one has to host tricolor in India or say Vandemataram. While Modi’s supporters have not started following Anna, but such tactics are clear enough in projecting one particular community or people who disagree as traitors. When you say that India is run through constitution, it is because you want to communicate that you have been exonerated by the highest court of the land which is absolutely farcical. The Supreme Court’s Judgment has not exonerated Modi. In fact, Supreme Court must take a suo moto cognigence of such blatant lies and misinterpretations of its order.

We all know the agenda of the Hindutva protagonists. Most of them do not have faith in the constitution of India. Modi feel that the past 60 years India appeased to different castes and religion. Modi hate castes because it is obstructing his way. May be true because he is not a powerful Patel of Gujarat and at the initial phase the Patel lobby had actually tried to overthrow him.

Gujarat may be having a high growth rates but Gujarat’s Dalits and Adivasis too want Gujarati’s to leave their caste mind. The narrowness of Gujarat’s caste mindset can not be matched to openness in Punjab which a Dalit can feel. And in Punjab the Dalits too retaliate and react if they are under assault. We can not expect that in Gujarat at the moment. The openness that the Muslims have in Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar is much bigger than the peace of Gujarat. The blending of Muslims in the Ganga Jamuni culture is tremendous and despite all problems they too can retaliate when time comes. If Modi say that there were no curfew in Gujarat it is because the social ostracisation of marginalized communities in Gujarat completed with Modi. Along with Modi all the Gujaratis should atone for their caste mind. Gujarati’s want to enjoy liberty and freedom elsewhere but they do not want to give the same in their own state Mr Modi. So, these tamasha being oraganised in Gujarat will serve little purpose.

The problem of Gujarat is multifold. The oppression and control of the poor of Gujarat is complete. They will revolt against the elite of Gujarat who have Modi as their hero. That day is not far over. The so-called governance will then crumble. As far as the media is concern, the least say about them is the best. They were the most fascinating observer of YSR Rajshekar Reddy, the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh and today they can see YSR and his corrupt regime. So, Modi is good for them as he serves their interest. Let us ask a question to Modi what radical changes has he made in the lives of a common Gujarati? What is the standard of an ordinary road transport bus of Gujarat? Is it a better transport service than Rajasthan or Haryana? What about the college education in Gujarat? Is it providing better research than others? Yes, Gujarat is have business mind and that is why they can claim to have an IIM in Ahemdabad and one for the rural development in Anand. But what about the common education in school? What about the Panchayats in Gujarat?

Finally, Mr Modi, so many people were arrested under POTA in Gujrat, particularly in Godhra. I have visited those families and seen their pain. Old, young, visually impaired, we have seen people virtually living in deep dejection and isolation. How will they get justices who are in jail without any trial? How will people react if so many people without trials are in your jails on the one side while on the other side those who should have been behind the bar, are enjoying the fruits of power.

Yes, Mr Modi, caste was not discovered sixty years ago. It is a heritage that you feel proud. All those rishis, munis, sadhus and sanyasis that you bring on your stage and shout Bharat Mata ki Jaya are afraid of caste. They know it better that today thank to constitution of India these people are now standing up and reacting. Yes, Ambedkar’s constitution have given them power, understanding that in democracy number matters and it is here all the good friends of Narendra Modi are afraid of. Not of Modi but so-called opponents are also afraid of that weapon as the real threat to India according to them, does not come from Pakistan but the assertion of Dalit Bahujan. It is actually this feeling which is disturbing India’s ruling elite whether it is Kapil Sibol or Chidambaram or Jayalalitha-Advani and Modi. In this historic war, Muslims are simply becoming the tool to be used. They have to decide which side of the war are they on. It is not a war between Congress or BJP. It is actually a war between India’s minority upper caste elite and those who have suffered India caste based hidden apartheid. The power elite in India is desperate at the moment and looking for some savior such as Anna Hazare or Narendra Modi. Fortunately, India is such a diverse and huge country that despite all the propaganda material at their disposal they know it well, things are not that simple which our news channels want us to believe. Yes, India’s poor understand all these forces much better than those who make their opinion through TV channels. This desperation will not work. The upper caste upper elite in India need to believe in democratic set up and not try to subvert it through desperate means as end of democracy will only open caste anarchy in India. Let us not allow India to go the Afghanistan way by such short sighted policies of ignoring important division and genuinely addressing those issues. For the sake of a few leaders, a country’s unity cannot be put on stake. Coming days are more challenging for India as we need to see whether the perpetrators of crime will be punished as per law of the land or will they use this opportunity to take power in their own hands in the name of people’s verdict by creating hysterical situation and total polarization on religious line. The idea of India is under the threat.

http://nvonews.com/2011/09/17/narendra-modi-fast-is-farce/comment-page-1/


Ambedkar: A Radical Economist

07/09/2011

A new resonance

In his views on crucial issues pertaining to economic development, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar comes across as a radical economist who would have staunchly opposed the neoliberal reforms being carried out in India since the 1990s.

VENKATESH ATHREYA

DR. BABASAHEB AMBEDKAR was among the most outstanding intellectuals of India in the 20th century in the best sense of the word. Paul Baran, an eminent Marxist economist, had made a distinction in one of his essays between an “intellect worker” and an intellectual. The former, according to him, is one who uses his intellect for making a living whereas the latter is one who uses it for critical analysis and social transformation. Dr. Ambedkar fits Baran’s definition of an intellectual very well. Dr. Ambedkar is also an outstanding example of what Antonio Gramsci called an organic intellectual, that is, one who represents and articulates the interests of an entire social class.

While Dr. Ambedkar is justly famous for being the architect of India’s Constitution and for being a doughty champion of the interests of the Scheduled Castes, his views on a number of crucial issues pertaining to economic development are not so well known. Dr. Ambedkar was a strong proponent of land reforms and of a prominent role for the state in economic development. He recognised the inequities in an unfettered capitalist economy. His views on these issues are found scattered in several writings; of these the most important ones are his essay, “Small Holdings in India and Their Remedies” and an article, “States and Minorities”. In these writings, Dr. Ambedkar elaborates his views on land reforms and on the kind of economic order that is best suited to the needs of the people.

Dr. Ambedkar stresses the need for thoroughgoing land reforms, noting that smallness or largeness of an agricultural holding is not determined by its physical extent alone but by the intensity of cultivation as reflected in the amounts of productive investment made on the land and the amounts of all other inputs used, including labour. He also stresses the need for industrialisation so as to move surplus labour from agriculture to other productive occupations, accompanied by large capital investments in agriculture to raise yields. He sees an extremely important role for the state in such transformation of agriculture and advocates the nationalisation of land and the leasing out of land to groups of cultivators, who are to be encouraged to form cooperatives in order to promote agriculture.

Intervening in a discussion in the Bombay Legislative Council on October 10, 1927, Dr. Ambedkar argued that the solution to the agrarian question “lies not in increasing the size of farms, but in having intensive cultivation that is employing more capital and more labour on the farms such as we have.” (These and all subsequent quotations are taken from the collection of Dr. Ambedkar’s writings, published by the Government of Maharashtra in 1979). Further on, he says: “The better method is to introduce cooperative agriculture and to compel owners of small strips to join in cultivation.”

During the process of framing the Constitution of the Republic of India, Dr. Ambedkar proposed to include certain provisions on fundamental rights, specifically a clause to the effect that the state shall provide protection against economic exploitation. Among other things, this clause proposed that:

* Key industries shall be owned and run by the state;

* Basic but non-key industries shall be owned by the state and run by the state or by corporations established by it;

* Agriculture shall be a state industry, and be organised by the state taking over all land and letting it out for cultivation in suitable standard sizes to residents of villages; these shall be cultivated as collective farms by groups of families.

As part of his proposals, Dr. Ambedkar provided detailed explanatory notes on the measures to protect the citizen against economic exploitation. He stated: “The main purpose behind the clause is to put an obligation on the state to plan the economic life of the people on lines which would lead to highest point of productivity without closing every avenue to private enterprise, and also provide for the equitable distribution of wealth. The plan set out in the clause proposes state ownership in agriculture with a collectivised method of cultivation and a modified form of state socialism in the field of industry. It places squarely on the shoulders of the state the obligation to supply the capital necessary for agriculture as well as for industry.”

Dr. Ambedkar recognises the importance of insurance in providing the state with “the resources necessary for financing its economic planning, in the absence of which it would have to resort to borrowing from the money market at high rates of interest” and proposes the nationalisation of insurance. He categorically stated: “State socialism is essential for the rapid industrialisation of India. Private enterprise cannot do it and if it did, it would produce those inequalities of wealth which private capitalism has produced in Europe and which should be a warning to Indians.”

ANTICIPATING criticism against his proposals that they went too far, Dr.. Ambedkar argues that political democracy implied that “the individual should not be required to relinquish any of his constitutional rights as a condition precedent to the receipt of a privilege” and that “the state shall not delegate powers to private persons to govern others”. He points out that “the system of social economy based on private enterprise and pursuit of personal gain violates these requirements”.

Responding to the libertarian argument that where the state refrains from intervention in private affairs – economic and social – the residue is liberty, Dr. Ambedkar says: “It is true that where the state refrains from intervention what remains is liberty. To whom and for whom is this liberty? Obviously this liberty is liberty to the landlords to increase rents, for capitalists to increase hours of work and reduce rate of wages.” Further, he says: “In an economic system employing armies of workers, producing goods en masse at regular intervals, someone must make rules so that workers will work and the wheels of industry run on. If the state does not do it, the private employer will. In other words, what is called liberty from the control of the state is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer.”

India’s experience with neoliberal reforms since 1990 shows that Dr. Ambedkar’s apprehensions regarding the implications of the unfettered operation of monopoly capital, both domestic and foreign, were far from misplaced. As has been documented and written about extensively, during this period of neoliberal reforms, there has been no breakthrough in the rate of economic growth. At the same time, there has been a distinct slowing down of the rate of growth of employment and practically no decline in the proportion of people below the poverty line. Agriculture has been in a crisis for some time now and the rate of growth of industry has also been declining for several years now. At the same time, despite a slower growth of foodgrains output, the government is saddled with huge excess stocks, which it seeks to sell abroad or to domestic private trade at very low prices.

The government and its economists, instead of recognising that the crisis is the product in large part of the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, propose a set of so-called second-generation reforms. At the centre of these reforms is the complete elimination of employment security. The war cry of the liberalisers is: “Away with all controls and the state, and let the market rule.”

In this context, one cannot but recall Dr. Ambedkar’s words that liberty from state control is another name for the dictatorship of the private employer. Whether on labour reforms or on agrarian policy or on the question of the insurance sector or the role of the public sector in the context of development, Dr. Ambedkar’s views are in direct opposition to those of neoliberal policies.

It is indeed a pity that self-styled leaders of Dalit movements, who invoke Dr. Ambedkar’s name day in and day out, do not examine carefully his views on key issues of economic policy and their contemporary relevance for the struggles of the oppressed. One may not expect much from those Dalit-based political forces which think nothing of cohabiting with the Sangh Parivar, but even many sections of the Dalit movement which proclaim a radical stance on social (and sometimes economic) issues do not raise the question of land or of the role of the state in the sharp manner in which Dr. Ambedkar does.

Dr. Venkatesh Athreya is Professor and Head of the Department of Economics, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi.

Courtesy: http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl1915/19151150.htm

Volume 19 – Issue 15, July 20 – August 02, 2002