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Writing

Skype Transcript of Conversation with Kancha Ilaiah

April26Below is a transcript of the Skype conversation with Kancha Ilaiah from April 25, 2013:
The Annihilation of Caste Reading Group: you are a keen observer of different kind of caste groups and purposes, joel lee is interested in what your perspective on the politics of the sanitation labor caste (safai karamchari/valmikis etc.)
Kancha Ilaiah: They are not very politcal,
KI: most of them are illiterates or semi-literates
ACRG: It is reported that Ambedkar called Valmiki a “one man ad agency for ramrajya” would you agree with this?
KI: no Ambedkar did not agree with that ramarjya concept itself
KI: Valmiki was wrongly shown to be a Dalit
ACRG: Can you tell us a little bit about untouchable God… what was the motivation behind writing the book
KI: I wanted tell the story of Brahminic cunning in different situations, states and contexts therefore I chose a novel form
ACRG: you had mentioned in buffalo nationalism that castes of mind was an important book but at the same time you also mentioned that the notion that the British invented caste is faulty could you elaborate on this
KI: The british did not invent caste becasue if you read my God as political philosopher you can there was caste at Buddha’s time itself. What the Brits did was they brought caste into census
ACRG: the tone of your writing differ from your columns to your books… are you writing with different audiences in mind?
KI: The columns I write for large newspaper audiences but books I write for social transformation and for long term engagement
ACRG: Prashanth would like to know about your opinion on caste in Sri Lanka
KI: Caste in srilanka is not in the same form as it in India. It was intervened by Buddhism and also that was basically a Dravidian nation. So brahminism did not work there as it worked in India
ACRG: what should be the priority of the dalit movement today
ACRG: are prospects for dalitbahujan solidarity better than they were ten years ago ?
KI: reservation in private sector and english education for all in govt schools from lkg to 12 th class
ACRG: what is your opinion of the argument that the most effective means to dalit liberation is engagement with capitalist enterprise
KI: that is one aspect. But how do they handle capitalism without having english education across the board. the reginal languages are abstacle in their move on capitalist path
ACRG: would reservations on a class-based system or a point-based system be preferable to caste-based reservation?
KI: no point based resevation does not work only caste based one works now
ACRG: you have mentioned in Why I am not a Hindu — the very important point about nomenclature and the importance of the disuse of terms like “upper-caste/lower-caste” “untouchable.” … you have given a strong explanation but the same types of terminology prevails even in scholarship today (even in what claims to be emancipatory) … can there be any genuine change without change in nomenclature — what kinds of efforts need to be made to change the way people talk about caste?
KI: Nomenclature is one aspect. using lower and higher caste is not good. one way is to use productive castes non-productive castes. But I use dalitbahujan. The media uses Dalit-bahujan. there is this the govt usage of sc,st and obc. it depends on the user
ACRG: thank you very much sir, we won’t take up anymore of your time. Hopefully we can have you with us again next year for a spoken conversation
ACRG: we would all like to thank you for your books and your courage

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The Persistence of Caste

March29Summarized by Lakshmi Gopal

Click here for the Audio Recording feat. Dr. Parsed

Click here for the Audio Recording feat. Prof. Teltumbde 

Though the “Hindu” system of hegemony (aka caste) originated in some distant and lonely Afghan plain riddled with tribes and other such tribulations, it holds the Indian nation and its diaspora at ransom to this day. Caste persists. This much is certain. Still, where does it live, and where will it go to die?

At the Safai Karamchari Andolan headquarters in New Delhi, Wilson Bezwada reads these lines from a vernacular Telugu newspaper: “I do not know when I was born, but I died thousands of years ago.” A contemporary Dalit poet penned the verse in Telugu to describe the Dalit condition, not long before he hung himself.  The poet wrote for all who suffered under the grueling blade of caste hierarchy in India: “The rivers of this land are made from my tears, the Ganga purified by my pain.” He did not commit suicide. He was killed–stabbed repeatedly by a murderous idea. He was sane in the face of the insanity of oppression–this cost him his life.

For the past two weeks, The Annihilation of Caste Reading Group took some time to investigate the nature of the persistence of caste. We considered the issue through interactions with three scholars: In the first week, we were mentored by civil liberties activist Wilson Bezwada. In the second week, on March 29th, we were mentored by Dr. SMJD Prasad and Professor Anand Teltumbde. Dr. Prasad is the General Secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), a wing of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). Prof. Teltumbde is a Professor at the School of Management at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur. He is a civli rights activist and author of the book “The Persistence of Caste,” which served as the central text for the topic at hand.

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Of Shit, Servitude and Destiny

BezwadawilsonSummarized by Lakshmi Gopal

Today, all across India, we hear battle cries: Men and women are banding together to end an institution of servitude far older than the Atlantic slave trade and far more diabolical. We are witnessing the beginning of the end of caste. Caste will die in India in this century. People like Wilson Bezwada will ensure of this.

On Friday March 15, Wilson Bezwada mentored The Annihilation of Caste Reading Group. He gave us deep insight into the current persistence of caste at the ground level. As the Founder and National Convener of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, Bezwada is fighting India’s dirtiest battle. He has set out on a simple mission: He will end manual scavenging in India within his lifetime.  Continue reading

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Paul Divakar Mentors the Annihilation of Caste Reading Group

Annihilationofcaste

Summarized by Lakshmi Gopal

Click here for the Audio Recording of this session

“..People sometimes ask…why the Pope does not introduce this or that reform? The true answer is that a revolutionist is not the kind of man who becomes a Pope and that a man who becomes a Pope has no wish to be a revolutionist.”

What will the legacy of B.R. Ambedkar mean to India and the world one hundred years from now? It is not uncommon or insignificant that extraordinary genius remains under-appreciated in its time, waiting in the wings as the lens of human consciousness develops the capacity to penetrate into its beckoning depths. Far ahead of its time, even in this day and age, Ambedkar’s The Annihilation of Caste is one such exceptional tract of extraordinary human insight. Though currently undervalued, its universal frame suggests that it must eventually take its place as a guiding beacon of the Indian nation.Like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X, the legacy of M.K. Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar form an essential binary. One person paves the way for immidiate change, taking into consideration current sensibilities, while the other constructs the dreams of tomorrow–shattering every rotten, but dearly held sentiment that stands in the way. Today, we understand Gandhi and Ambedkar as polarities, in time perhaps we will see that they are two essential parts of the same puzzle of India.One hundred years from now, with the distance of time, we might realize that Gandhi was but India’s pope. His complicit charisma threaded together an unlikely nation. Ambedkar is our revolutionist. He set the terms for our freedom and through his drafting of the Indian Constitution, he won a victory that Gandhi never could. Unlike Gandhi, he did not see the nation that would exist in the next year, the next decade or the next five decades. He imagined the contours of a nation that persisted beyond this century and into the next. He constructed the strong foundations necessary for such longevity. His commitment to fundamental human equality and social justice sealed the nation together in an unbreakable bond. Through his words, his deeds, and his greatest legacy to the people of the Indian nation: the Indian Constitution, he has left us the foundations for the construction of an eternal nation. He has set his legacy in the strongest of stone. How our current generation decides to engage with his legacy, will determine the fate of our own legacy, as well as the fate of our nation.

On February 22 2013, The Annihilation of Caste Reading Group had its inaugural session with Mr. Paul Divakar, National Secretary, Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. We read the seminal Indian text, our reading group’s namesake, The Annihilation of Caste by B.R. Ambedkar. We requested Mr. Divakar, a leading Indian activist and humanitarian and inspiration to people across the globe, to Skype in with us from New Delhi. He guided us through the tract at the level of textual interpretation, socio-cultural practice and current-day realities.

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