Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dalits in the social life of India

Let me confess that I am a late bloomer as far as dalit ideologygoes. It is possible that I continue to be misguided, despite tryinghard to find the truth and not fooling myself about it. Pleaseenlighten me if you feel that is the case.I am related to Dr. Ambedkar on my fathers side. Some of my relativesare active in RPI. But I did have a mixed religious identity, due tomy upbringing. I studied at IIT as a reserved category student andfaced the usual problems. It left me with an identity crisis. Myexperience at IISc was similar. But my thinking has progressed and Ifeel reconciled with my dalit identity. But I am willing to be rid ofthis illusion, if it is indeed an illusion. Some other points.1. King Ashoka did donate money to non-buddhist religious causes. Iam sure that as king, he must have even presided over some functionsof non buddhists. Buddhism as a religion is not about "my way or thehighway, it is about the middle way". Of course, we cannot burn ourself respect and give respect to others. I did that once and learntmy lesson. I have been more careful since then.2. Rigoberta Menchu, a nobel prize winner has articulated the centralissue faced by many communities like the dalits. I quote (see below)from the one passage I read which inspires my thinking, speech andaction till this day.3. I reiterate, based on the inspiration from Rigoberta and myadmittedly limited knowledge of buddhism and Dr. Ambedkars thoughtthat we cannot afford to isolate ourselves. We have to integrate, wehave to negotiate... So staying away from functions of non dalits isnot good for us. We have to participate. But we have to make surethat we retain our self respect.RegardsPratap

*****************************************************NOBEL Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu's autobiography, "IRigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala", is set in the 1970s,a period when the native population of the Maya Indians facedgenocide which almost uprooted entire villages. It was during thistime that the Maya Indians began their agitation for land and foundedunions which threatened the rule of the totalitarian and ruthlessgovernment of Efraim Rios Montt. Menchu's book is an account of thisterrible violence, and its publication is largely responsible for theinternational attention to the crime against human freedom whichmight have gone unnoticed because of the remoteness of the highlandsin Guatemala where militarisation and systematic killings were takingplace.Rigoberta Menchu, perhaps the most talked about woman in Guatemala,is a leader who had advanced beyond mere reformism. Her concern is tobe oppositional, to be a public intellectual (though she is hardlyliterate) who takes up any issue of injustice, dogma or oppression,particularly the dominance of certain forms of human exploitation soas to develop a politics of resistance. Though Spanish is not hermother tongue, she had to learn the language of the oppressor and useit as a tool against the Spanish imperialist rule backed by the USA.A Quiche Indian, her struggle has been to assert her individualityand cultural autonomy. The supression of the past 500 years led to adetermined revival of the culture, language and faith of the Indiansshe so wholeheartedly represents.Having survived the genocide which liquidated hundreds of hercountrymen, she tells her fascinating and sad story about hersuppressed history and the fundamental questions about the identityof her race. It is a work of great humanity, poignancy and couragegiving the account of the dreadful moments when her 16-year-oldbrother, Petrocinio, was burnt alive in front of family members andthe weeks of agony her mother went through before the army left herto die. Menchu proclaims her allegiance to her ethnic group, devotingher life to overthrowing the relations of dominance and exclusionwhich characterise internal colonialism.In her writings she takes up issues of difference and marginality,and looks intensely to the future when her people would finally livein a world that no longer rests on European hegemony. Sheemphatically maintains that we in the Third World inhabit thestructures of violence and violation. Ours is the dilemma of themarginal, incapable to an extent of a radical critique of thedominant. Either we have to re-identify our culture and integratewith the dominant or we risk our political survival.Very realistically she presents some of these risks which avulnerable and economically and militarily backward race faces; themore vulnerable the position, the more one has to negotiate. Menchuhas created a demand for a dialogue, and not, as Gayatri Spivaksays, "a neutral dialogue which essentially results in the death ofhistory". Menchu refuses to be defined by negation and exclusion.Her story is deeply moving because what she has to say is simple andtrue. It is not a fictional but a real world that she creates thatconstantly questions metropolitan cultures and all this is sincerelywoven into the first-person narrative. It is a cry for therestoration of humanism and in particular the classical value ofharmony. Menchu's voice is one the people around the world are ableto hear, especially because it is full of triumph, sadness andsensitivity. She tells her story well with the art which concealsart, so that a series of narratives becomes a complex exploration ofthe meaning of the history of exploitation.Speaking for all Indians of Latin America, she has succeeded inunmasking their historical reality. She traces the meaning of therhetoric of nationalism to her own life, the history of the land andthe inhuman treatment of the natives. Needless to say, rhetoric thatconcerns issues of wider consequence are often sincere in the veryarticulation, a fact often misunderstood by short-sighted andconformist critics of capitalist development and the inevitablechange that goes with it. Menchu's story is about slavery andsuffering through history, and its sheer authenticity demandsworldwide attention.Rigoberta Menchu's work and personal history are not external to eachother, but have an inter-connection, always suggesting a fresh rangeof investigation. Her autobiographical novel should be read inconjunction with works such as Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" orTyeb Salih's "Season of Migration in the North", which "write back"to the cultural assumptions and modes of representation of westernhistory. At the top of her agenda is the study of de-colonisationwithin which she and her people begin to recognise the centrality ofviolence in European culture and the brutalisation of the ThirdWorld. She does not view her people as objects of history, but assubjects forced to sacrifice all for the reconstruction of a new andindependent nation.And ironically, her appeal is to the old European ideology ofnationalism towards which she and her people endeavour to channeltheir energy. Like the Martiniquean poet Aime Cesaire or the Trinidad-born British author C.L.R. James, her work is based on studies ofdomination and control, made from the standpoint of a struggle forindependence and fundamental human rights. The result of such effortsis the upsurge of unprecedented opportunities for the oppressed whoare imperceptibly moving into positions of power. It is only lastyear that the Commission for Historical Clarification issued itsreport describing the government's act "racist" and highlightingthe "massacre, scorched-earth operations, forced disappearances andexecutions of Mayan authorities, leaders and spiritual guides". Thisindicates the attempt to destroy the "social base of the guerrillas"as well as the cultural values that ensured cohesion and collectiveaction in Guatemalan society.Menchu's sister aptly remarked at a rally held recently inGuatemala, "A revolutionary isn't born out of something good, he isborn out of wretchedness and bitterness." The revolutionaries likeMenchu are the avengers of death and their race cannot beextinguished "while there is light in the morning star". They have nopersonal needs while their countrymen live in horrifying conditions.But there will be a time when, "we'll all be happy perhaps not withnice houses but at least we won't see our land running with blood andsweat".Such politics are not learnt at school. Like Menchu one has toturn "One's own experience into something which is common to a wholepeople", to "rise and demand" (in the words of Miguel AngeloAstureas) so that "the universe will bear your hope". And in thisspirit Menchu continues to "speak truth to power" in spite of thedeath threats and telephone harassment she and her friends in theMenchu Foundation have been victim to in the last few months.She holds the government of Alfonso Portillo responsible forthis "climate of terror" and has warned the powerful leaders ofGuatemala that she would never retreat from her defence of humanrights and a universal set of concerns, all of them relating toemancipation, including revisionist attitudes to history and culture.Her voice shall always seek connections with her culture and hercommunity to contest the dehumanising effects of dictatorships. Thiscapacity for resistance is the most significant location of the humanagency of colonised peoples.Menchu's humanism is not homogenising so much as liberational andoppositional, not embedded in any theoretical paradigm so much asbeing located in a historically bound category.*****************************************************---

In, VIJAY SONAWANE wrote:> Dear Mr. Pratap Tambay,>> Your postings are revealations to me about you.> What you were doing at IISc.? You must have gone there> after graduation. By the time one finishes graduation,> his/her ideology is settled and one has acquired some> maturity.Ambedkarites are hooked to Phule-ambedkar> philosophy much earlier. In the youth, some of them> are capable of becoming Dalit Panthers.>> I was aghast to read that you were a President of> Ganesh Mandal at IISc. I am sure that you must have> shown your willingness for your Vaishnavization, that> is why you could become the President of the Mandal.I> can not imagine that you were not aware of 22> commandments given by Babasaheb till the time you> became a graduate.>> The way only those who are willing to remain a slave> can be made slave,in the same way, only those who are> willing to tolerate humiliation can be humiliated.> This happnes and will keep happening to every Dalit> who will not not say loudly that I kick BSO, I am not> a Hindu and I observe 22 commanments.>> I remember to have read your bizzare statement on> this forum in connection with Vipassana that you might> not mind being assimilated in Hinduism. ( I am not> able to recollect your statement verbatim). It> indicates that you are still willing to be> Vaishnavized.>> Vijay Sonawane>>>>> > Message: 3> > Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 12:49:57 -0000> > From: "Pratap Tambay" > > Subject: Threat to democracy: Shinde in Pandharpur> >> > Hi All,> >> > The defiant act of the pandharpur clergy, esp.> > coming at a time, when> > Shinde has set the cat among the pigeons (by pushing> > for reservations> > in the private sector) needs to be viewed seriously.> >> > I am neither congresi, nor RPI, nor BSP. I am dalit.> > A dalit brother> > has been disrobed in public. The opposition to> > Shinde's reservation> > agenda is not as easy to argue with, as this> > opposition. While the> > former is more important, the latter is a useful> > opportunity to push> > the dalit world view in the media. Pushing the> > latter will help us in> > the former. So I think that we should speak up and> > do something -> >> === message truncated ===>>>
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