PERSPECTIVE

Monthly Archives: JUNE 2019


The Doctor and The Saint
Caste and other demons; Can Dalits rightfully claim that they have a ‘homeland’?
24.06.19 - Subhash Gatade
Caste and other demons; Can Dalits rightfully claim that they have a ‘homeland’?



"Gandhiji, I have no homeland.” The first meeting between Gandhi and B. R. Ambedkar, who later became chairman of the drafting committee of independent India’s Constitution and its first law minister, is memorialized in this sentence. It expresses the centuries-old plight of those most oppressed in the varna hierarchy under the "institutionalised social injustice at the heart of the country”.
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Arundhati Roy’s introduction, which discussed Gandhi’s problematic understanding of caste and race, had caused tremendous consternation in Ambedkarite circles and discomfort in liberal/Gandhian circles too.
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Has there been a qualitative change in the situation of the ‘ex-untouchables’ since this meeting some 90 years back? Can Dalits rightfully claim that they have a ‘homeland’? Figures collated by National Crime Records Bureau show that "a crime is committed against a Dalit by a non-Dalit every sixteen minutes”, including four rapes a day and murders of 13 Dalits every week. And these figures do not include "the stripping and parading naked, the forced shit eating, the seizing of land and the social boycotts…” This is the backdrop of the book, The Doctor and The Saint: The Ambedkar-Gandhi Debate — Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste by Arundhati Roy. It earlier formed part of an introduction to an annotated 2014 edition of Annihilation of Caste — the historic pamphlet Ambedkar wrote when invited by the ‘Jat Paat Todak Mandal’ in Lahore. The invitation was withdrawn after the hosts read the lecture draft.

 
The Doctor and the Saint: The Ambedkar-Gandhi Debate — Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste; By Arundhati Roy, Penguin, Rs 299 
 
Roy’s introduction, which discussed Gandhi’s problematic understanding of caste and race, had caused tremendous consternation in Ambedkarite circles and discomfort in liberal/Gandhian circles too. The book brings into sharp focus the continuity (with minor changes) in Gandhi’s understanding, especially vis-à-vis caste. It quotes from Gandhi’s speeches and writings to make this clear; for example he believed that "caste represented the genius of Indian society”, that "if Hindu society has been able to stand, it is because it is founded on the caste system”. He refused to eat with people of the Balmiki community in Delhi. "You can offer me goat’s milk,” he said, "but I will pay for it. If you are keen that I should take food prepared by you, you can come here and cook food for me.” His approach to the mixed dining of savarna and erstwhile ‘untouchables’ is also evident in the way C. Rajagopalachari assured caste Hindus during the Vaikom struggle in 1924: "Mahatmaji does not want you to dine with Thiyas or Pulayas. What he wants is that we must be prepared to touch and go near other human beings as you go near a cow or a horse.” Quoting Ambedkar, the book also says that Gandhi had opposed the historic Mahad Satyagraha, the first revolt of the Dalits for dignity and human rights: "Not only did he not give his support, he condemned it in strong terms.” 

Mahatma Gandhi
 
It is extremely difficult to defend Gandhi’s patronizing tone regarding the ‘antyajas’ (he christened them ‘Harijan’ — god’s people) as also his largely status quoist view on caste. He wanted to abolish untouchability but believed in varnashrama dharma, which, according to Ambedkar, was the ‘parent’ of the caste system. Discomfort, again, overwhelms us when, in his famous 1909 political tract, ‘Hind Swaraj’ — with which "Gandhi remained pleased to the end of his days,” says Roy — he presents a "trenchant denunciation of modernity”, which "indicts the industrial revolution and modern machinery”.

While unpacking Gandhi’s view on this "project of unseeing”, it needs to be emphasized that he remained true to his convictions and, in spite of opposition from some Congress leaders, endeavoured to include abolition of untouchability as part of the national movement. It is a less known fact that Gandhi’s zeal to abolish untouchability, which included the entry of ‘untouchables’ in temples or allowing them access to public wells was construed as an ‘attack on Hindu religion’ by the Sanatanists and he faced tremendous resistance from them.
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In any case, how should one look at this debate so many years after its main protagonists have gone? 
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There are at least two known instances when they tried to kill him, once in Deoghar, Bihar, and the other in Pune, when his car came under a bomb attack in 1934 — incidentally, he was not there.

Roy’s book discusses how Ambedkar’s "encounters with humiliation and injustice began from his early childhood” and throws light on his contemporaries in anti-caste movements led by Swami Achootanand, Babu Mangoo Ram and others. It explains the background of Ambedkar’s authorship of Annihilation of Caste, discusses how he viewed the issue of caste, called for its annihilation and describes the tremendous challenges he faced in this mission.

B. R. Ambedkar 
 
Ambedkar’s work calls upon the people to "discard the Shastras… have the courage to tell the Hindus that what is wrong with them is their religion”. Its scathing attack on Hinduism shocked many; he exposed Hinduism’s inflexibility by underlining that "there is one thing which Hinduism has never been able to do — namely to adjust itself to absorb the Untouchables or to remove the bar of untouchability”. What is less underlined is that "Ambedkar believed … the two enemies of the Indian working class were capitalism and Brahminism”. Annihilation of Caste thus uncovers Ambedkar’s radical understanding: "The seizure of power must be by a proletariat… Can it be said that the poor in India recognise no such distinctions of caste or creed, high or low?”

However, there are places in the book where it appears that Roy is revisiting her assertions. For example, her claim that "Savarkar had supported Mahad Satyagraha” seems to be a little far-fetched because Savarkar believed all his life in Manusmriti and consistently opposed any independent initiative by the ‘Untouchables’. In response to their temple entry movement he had proposed a ‘Patit Pawan Mandir’ — a separate temple for them. Roy’s understanding that "From a Dalit point of view, Gandhi’s assasination could appear to be more a fratricidal killing than an assasination by an ideological opponent” suggests her rather shallow understanding of the danger of communal fascism or the project of converting India into a Hindu rashtra.
Arundhati Roy 
 
In places, Roy also seems a bit harsh towards Gandhi whereas she is not equally ruthless about Ambedkar. She does not linger on the fact that, barring a limited period, Ambedkar never had very friendly relations with the Congress; he presented his view of the party in his What Gandhi and Congress Have Done for the Untouchables just two years before Independence. Yet, he readily accepted the Congress’s offer to become law minister and chairman of the Constitution drafting committee. How can one explain this?

In any case, how should one look at this debate so many years after its main protagonists have gone? Notably, Roy is dealing with this humongous reality called caste: how the Gandhian view of caste still dominates the commonsense of a majority of Indians and why Ambedkar’s attack on caste and his denunciation of Hinduism could not make enough impact. Her chief concern has been that Ambedkar’s rage "be fully understood”. By being somewhat provocative, she has succeeded in doing that.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:
 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties 
A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION
BAD, BAD WOMAN! 

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL

 

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





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Machismo in Punjab
13.06.19 - Ramjot Sodhi
Machismo in Punjab



Punjab as a society is popular for its dances, songs, bravery, generosity and loudness. To understand Punjab, one has to look at it in the light of the centuries of wars and battles at this "Gateway to India". This history has fuelled the idea that Punjabis "work hard, play harder and fight the hardest". However, it has also rendered Punjab a patriarchal society, with a long history of female infanticide, and later, foeticide. Male dominance in all spheres has been the standard in the society.

The Economic Survey of 2017-18 highlights the phenomenon of "son meta-preference" which involves parents adopting fertility "stopping rules”, having children until the desired number of sons is born. This is quite visible in Punjab, as there are thousands of families having 3-4 daughters and the youngest child a son, leading to notional category of "unwanted girls". According to the census data of 2011, the sex ratio of Punjab was 895 (895 females per 1000 males), one of the lowest in the Country. If this data was not alarming enough, the child sex ratio was even worse at 846 (846 girls per 1000 boys).

Similarly, the Female literacy rate in Punjab is only 70.73% as compared to 80.44%(census 2011) for males. The reasons for such a disparity in literacy are - expectations from the girls to focus equally or even more on learning the household chores; being a patrilocal society, especially in rural areas, investment in a girl's education is considered a wastage of time and money; in case of poverty, girls are the first ones expected to leave the studies and look after home while parents are out to earn wages.

Consider another social phenomenon, in the growing-up years, once the child enters teenage, he/she is stopped from playing with the children of opposite gender because along with various other presumptions, it is simply expected to maintain the ages long pattern of segregation between the two genders. The deep-rooted segregation is stiffened by ensuring that boys play masculine sports which will build their physical strength like Football, Cricket while girls are imagined to get engaged in feminine sports, ones with strong aesthetic elements, or otherwise stay indoors to ensure protection of honor of the family in the era of rising crimes against women by the ferocious men.

The entrenched segregation has led to increasing mistrust among the two genders, as the society has not matured enough yet. When a girl says, "all boys are alike, and are opportunists", without realizing that the phrase 'all boys' also includes her brothers, cousins, it reflects on the high level of suspicion towards the boys. Even the statement, "aaj-kal changge munde/kudiyan milde kithe ae!"(these days, where one could find good boys and girls!), while looking for a match, signifies the widening gap between the present lot of young guys, girls and the perceived image of a traditional ideal bride/groom, highlighting the prevailing sense of despair.

In the context of girls, still labels like - "Tota", "Purja", "Bottle wargi", "Kudi fsaani", "kudi tikaani" etc are used. Even lyrics of Punjabi songs reflect the queer mindset, as "pattu char panj kudiya fasayi firda ni pattu char panj" (The dude has snared 4-5 girls). Another gem,"Jine vich balliye tu saari sajdi, Ohne jittan mitran de boot aunde aa"(Your entire budget of make-up, preparation is only worth the price of my shoes), hence, boasting the male chauvinism.
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In Punjab there is a culture of abusing in every mood, but has anybody pondered upon the fact that why abuses are always on mother and sister, never father and brother?
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Without giving overt and covert support to consumption of alcohol, one may ask that when it comes to drinking liquor, in Punjab, why is it a social taboo for females and not males? Why in marriages and social functions, barring a few exceptions, only men could be seen in designated - tables and areas, boozing and occasionally creating ruckus in drunken state, while their female partners are expected to stand the awkwardness and take their drunken men home?

Domestic violence, another indicator of reigning patriarchy, is witnessed even in educated and progressive families. The infamous twitter video of Baljeet Kaur, a resident of Amritsar, released almost a year and a half ago, confessing her ordeal regarding violence by her husband is a case in point.

In Punjab, as highlighted in the movie "Udta Punjab", there is a culture of abusing in every mood, but has anybody pondered upon the fact that why abuses are always on mother and sister, never father and brother? The reason for this is that women are generally considered, more or less, property of men.

So, now, the larger question which needs to be answered is, "Does the Punjabi society need a revamp to re calibrate and re balance the gender equation?" The simple answer to this could be that rather than waiting and looking for some radical changes, big intentions and small steps in the right direction would prove potent in ameliorating the status of women. As, gender neutral and value based education be provided in schools from the beginning, which will help in liberating the society of the centuries old ingrained stereotypes. Even Literature, History which shapes the intellect of the youth is made neutral, by giving equal space to the heroic verses of women, which are countless.

Cinema and Music, both, leave a deep impact on the minds of the people, emphasis on gender neutrality in these, would go a long way. Scholar Theodor Adorno, suggests that 'Music has been reduced to "Seismographic Traumatic shocks"', also stands true for Punjabi music, which is produced with the sole aim of becoming overnight hit and rich without giving due weight to gender considerations. However, the veteran and the young singers, need to realize their responsibility towards the society apart from the single-minded focus of gaining stardom.

Family being the first institution from where socialization begins, holds the biggest responsibility towards assuring equal status to both the genders but for this, gender sensitization needs to be done so that parents belonging to various classes, are enlightened about their responsibilities.

The Government needs to start campaigns about the sensitization on the matter, ensuring to elevate women to the status of men, rather than providing any kind of positive discrimination to them, which later becomes a political tool to be used skillfully by the politicians.

Media is another important player in achieving the goal of neutrality, by showcasing women in a positive light, highlighting their acts of boldness and not objectifying and stereotyping them. The cliché of presenting women, in soap operas, media, as subservient to men, who shed tears on every small or big occasion, presenting them as weaker gender than the rigid men, be proscribed by the women and the society in general.

Last but not the least, the women need to assert themselves, make their presence and importance felt. They need to liberate themselves - from the shackles of Patriarchy and the culture of denial of freedom to them and need to lift themselves up at par with men, so that they can walk, run and fly high along with the men.
 
 
Ramjot Sodhi is studying Political Science at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
 
 
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles:
 

KYUN KE HUM HAIN HINDUSTANI

Three Women of 1984

 FROM 1984 TO BARGARI - Hurt & angry, we’ve tried rage, anger. Did we miss karuna?   

REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE     

KARTARPUR SAHIB: A CLARION CALL FOR PEACE IN AN AGE OF CYNICISM

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

Healers & Predators – The Doctor is In, & is very corrupt

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties 
A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES 

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION
BAD, BAD WOMAN! 

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL

 

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT





[home] 1-2 of 2


Comment

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comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

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