Tragedy turned her into a fighter

My first post on this blog was about a horrific murder which exposed the casteist underbelly of India. It happened exactly a year ago near my town. Sanker, a Dalit youth was hacked to death in broad daylight for daring to love and marry a girl who was born to a higher caste. The girl had severe injuries too but survived. The attack was ordered by members of the girl’s family. Severely traumatized, the girl tried to kill herself by consuming poison but was saved.

Now the happy news. The girl in question is slowly turning over a new life.

Following her attempt to take her own life, she was counseled by her in-laws, several NGOs and volunteers. “They told me dying was not the solution. I was told to live through this caste violence to prove the point that I wanted to. I decided that I will make the dreams that my husband and I had, come true,” says Kowsalya. Now, a year later, that is what she has done.

After her suicide bid, she had moved back in with Sankar’s family, where she initially started taking tuitions for children from 1st standard to the 12th standard. “I wanted to do something to remove my mind from what happened. Plus, there was nobody to teach these children from the locality English. So I decided that I should do it,” says Kowsalya. But what she thought would be a favour to the students, turned out to be of great help to her, when it came to cracking the defence ministry exams.

[Read more…]

Savitribai Phule – a pioneer Social Reformer

January 3 is the birth anniversary of the great 19th century Indian social reformer Savitribai Phule. She was born in 1831.

She is considered to be a pioneer in the field of education, especially education of women and oppressed castes/classes.

Belonging to a backward caste herself she was educated at her home by her husband, Jotirao Phule,  who himself was a great social reformer.

Image credit - Dalit Vision

Image credit – Dalit Vision

In the social and educational history of India, Mahatma Jotirao Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule stand out as an extraordinary couple. They were engaged in a passionate struggle to build a movement for equality between men and women and for social justice. Recognising that knowledge is power and that the progress of women and Dalit-Bahujans was impossible without it, they dedicated their entire life to spreading education. The distinction of starting the first school for girls and the Native Library in the country goes to them. They started the Literacy Mission in India in 1854-55. In 1863, they started a home for the prevention of infanticide in their own house, for the safety of pregnant, exploited Brahman widows and to nurture these children. By establishing the Satyashodhak Samaj (Society for Truth Seeking), they initiated the practice of the Satyashodhak marriage ñ a marriage without dowry or a wedding at minimum cost. By throwing open the well in his house for ëuntouchablesí, Jotirao directly initiated a programme to oppose the caste system. Both Jotirao and Savitribai did not just stop at opposing child marriage; they also organised widow remarriages. They had no children of their own but they adopted a child of a Brahman widow, gave him medical education and arranged an inter-caste marriage for him. This couple did the historical work of building a holistic and integrated revolutionary cultural, social and educational movement of women-shudra and-atishudras of the country.

Here are few images from a graphic novel on Savitribai Phule called “Journey of a trail blazer”.

img_3230

 

 

 

img_3231

 

img_3232

 

img_3233

 

img_3234

Many Indians are unaware of this great reformer. Only recently she has appeared in history textbooks in schools. So it was pleasantly surprising to see Google producing a doodle today for her in India.

img_3236

I will end this post with a poem written by Savitribai.

The Plight of the Shudras

Haunted by ‘The Gods on Earth’,

For two thousand years,

The perpetual service of the Brahmins,

Became the plight of the Shudras.

Looking at their condition,

The heart screams its protest,

The mind blanks out,

Struggling to find a way out.

Education is the path,

For the Shudras to walk,

For education grants humanity

freeing one from an animal-like existence

 

 

Dalit pride march creates history in Gujarat


August 15th is India’s Independence Day. This year the most significant of Independence Day celebrations will take place in Una, Gujarat.

Una was the town that recently witnessed this cruel and inhuman public flogging of Dalits for allegedly killing cows.

image

On July 31st more than ten thousand Dalits converged for a mega meeting at Ahmedbad in protest against Dalit atrocities taking place all over the country.

[Read more…]

Bezwada Wilson gets a very deserving award

When he was just out of school he was appalled and disgusted to see workers doing manual scavenging of human excreta from dry latrines. When he conveyed his disgust to his parents they revealed that they were also doing the same job. It was shocking for him to know that he belonged to a”thotti” (manual scavenger) family. He contemplated suicide, but somehow decided to live on.

That day in 1986 changed his life, and saw the beginning of a movement that will liberate lakhs of manual scavengers all over India. It will also result in him, Bezwada Wilson, getting the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award for 2016.

[Read more…]

Dalits in Gujarat won’t take it lying down any more

Dalit Organisations have called for state wide protest shut down on Wednesday in Gujarat, India. They have decided not to take it lying down anymore.

The inhumane violence on them, clearly depicted by a video which had gone viral in which a group of upper caste Hindutva goons were seen thrashing Dalit youths mercilessly in full public view in the town of Una was perhaps the breaking point.

Image credit - NDTV

Image credit – NDTV

[Read more…]

Atheism, Racism and Casteism

Just happened to see a disgusting video frothing with racism by a popular atheist You Tuber. It was deservedly decimated by Martin Hughes and P Z Myers wrote a post about it too (of course that’s how I came to know about the video).

While watching that video, I had a déjà vu feeling.  So I tried substituting in parts of the transcript the word Dalit for black.

The video is in the format of a group of blacks questioning the You tuber.

Admit it, you hate blacksDalits !

If I hate anything about Black Dalit culture, it’s that it’s such a victim culture. Almost a victim cult — “Our Lady of Perpetual Victimization.” Every unfairness that exists in your life is the fault of white upper caste people or society stacked against you. You might as well tattoo, “It’s because I’m black Dalit, isn’t it?” to your fucking forehead.

When asked about pushing out blacksDalits out of slums to make city beautiful

What would I rather have — a slum Ambedkar colony filled with thugs who would probably shoot rob me as soon as look at me, or shops, cafe’s, restaurants, and apartments?

“What are you going to do about systematic racism casteism ?”

[Racism Casteism against black Dalit people] is not my problem in the first place. What are [the people in the video I’m responding to (Dalits)] going to do to end discrimination against atheists? Right, you ain’t gonna do shit, because it’s not your problem and you don’t give a shit

Yes, I have heard these sentiments from some upper caste “Hindu atheists” in India. Have also heard somewhat similar things from some ex Christians and ex Muslims too.  I also know atheists who believe Dalits and black Africans are less “brainy” and it is due to their “genes”.

image

Yes, atheists can be racist and casteist too, and when they are like that,  they are much more toxic.

Battle to re-write California history text books

What should history text books in California call the area of Asia, which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka ? Should they call it India or South Asia ?  How should those text books portray caste system? Should they mention family of birth is the most important factor deciding caste or should it say professional excellence also play a big role in it ?

There is a raging battle going on in California on these questions.

[Read more…]

He found death through his love

dalit

                                                                      

 Let me narrate a real life incident that happened few days ago at a place in India, few miles from my town.

A 22 year old student, Shankar, studying in final year for an Engineering course fell in love with Kausalya, a junior girl student of the same college. They got themselves married about 8 months ago. She took some time off from studies to take a job so that she can support her husband in his last year.

One day they went out shopping and were attacked by a group of unknown assailants with lethal weapons.  He was brutally murdered in broad day light while she escaped with serious injuries.

Why were they attacked and why was he killed?

In India it was a rare, almost blasphemous marriage. He was a Dalit, formerly called untouchable, from a family in the lowermost rung of caste or social hierarchy. She came from a family much above in the caste ladder. As per the custom in Indian society from time immemorial, a person should marry from his or her own caste. Dalits are considered as “sinned” souls and a marital relationship with such a family is unimaginable.

Her family vociferously opposed the marriage. They went to get legal help, but as she was above 18 years, a major as per Indian law,  she was allowed to do as per her wishes.

Though the legal system, under the 65 year old liberal modern looking Indian constitution allowed love to rule, the society, still ruled by thousands of years of Hindu traditions, refused to accept it.

Her father it seems has asked some of his friends to kill his son in law and daughter, so that he can escape the ignominy of having a Dalit son in law and a grandchild with Dalit blood.   The legal system may punish the culprits, but the sad fact is that the casteist Indian society at large will condone their crime.

India might be the most populous democracy in the world , but it still deny basic human rights , not by law but by custom, to large sections of its own population.

Picture courtesy The Indian Express