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Can Caste Be Swept Away? New Socialist Initiative

October 9, 2014
Statement by New Socialist Initiative, Delhi State Chapter
It is cleaning season in India. Country’s prime minister has gone to town with a broom. He started the campaign to clean India by sweeping a dalit neighburhood of erstwhile untouchables, seemingly breaking many caste barriers. There are very few public defenders of caste system nowadays. Upper caste men and women, whose ancestors only three generations ago fought tooth and nail to not yield even an inch of their caste privileges, now cry and organise under the slogan of Equality, once affirmative action for lower castes in educational institutions and government jobs has begun to have some traction. Is now not an opportune time to sweep away the garbage of caste into the dustbin of history?
Reality is too complex for this simple hope. If caste appears to be disregarded, or flouted, in some domains, its prejudices and violence are flourishing in others. The day country’s news channels were busy showing the prime minister sweeping a dalit basti in the heart of the capital, a young woman of Madurai in Tamil Nadu was burnt alive by her family for marrying a dalit. She could have been from anywhere in the country, from Haryana in the North to Maharashtra in the West, or Bihar in the East, to have met a similar fate; if not murder, certainly social ostracism. In all villages, where majority of Indians live, habitation areas are divided along caste lines; upper castes occupying the most secure central areas with easiest access to public utilities like road, school, and panchayat ghar; and dalits on the outskirts. In cities too, where caste markers are less visible, caste networks are the most potent resource the poor fall back upon while searching for job and habitation.

Read more…

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Too Many Erasures

October 9, 2014

The Hindu Social Order is based upon a division of labour which reserves for the Hindus clean and respectable jobs and assigns to the untouchables dirty and mean jobs and thereby clothes the Hindus with dignity and heaps ignominy upon the untouchables.

(The Revolt of the Untouchables, Excerpted from Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability : Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol 5 (Mumbai : Govt of Maharashtra, 1989, 256-58)


The inauguration of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, (Clean India Campaign) with much fanfare, with ministers, bureaucrats and others holding Jhadoos evoked an interesting reaction from a ragpicker Sanjay who lives in Mehrauli with his parents. “These are the same people from whose houses we pick up garbage every day. This is part of our life. We don’t really understand why they are making it such a big deal,” Read more…

Vicious cycle of ‘Development’, Displacement and Death

October 8, 2014

Gujarat Oustees jump into Narmada Canal 

Kashinathbhau Mohite, Wang Marathwadi dam affected activist, commits suicide 

7th October, Narmada Dist/ Satara /New Delhi: False promises; snatching away of  rights  and even hope; continued mistreatment and harassment at the hands of police and administration; physical, psychological and emotional exploitation- these are not just sporadic instances but a common pattern of grave injustices seen where people have been displaced in the name of ‘development’.

On 6th October, 12 oustees of Sardar Sarovar Dam from Gadher village in Narmada district of Gujarat, jumped into Narmada canal to awaken the administration to their plight of 22 years. The official claim is that they were ‘rehabilitated’ in 1992, however in reality, they still have not been given alternate land and government job to one family member at the time of acquiring their land, which is clear and outright non-compliance of Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award 1979, Rehabilitation policy of Government of Gujarat and orders Hon’ble Supreme Court.  After 22 long years, they still await justice and were left with no other option but to resort to this form of protest. On one hand, the Government of Gujarat has always justified Sardar Sarovar Project and glorified the Narmada Canal as the ‘lifeline of Gujarat’, but  on the other, it turns a complete blind eye to its own people of Gujarat who have been so severely affected by  the displacement caused by this very project. Why this apathy? Whose interests are being served? Read more…

A Response to ‘Uniform Civil Code – the women’s movement perspective’: Rohini Hensman

October 8, 2014


Nivedita has done us all a service in kicking off a wider debate on personal laws than the ones which have been taking place within feminist groups. One of the most important points she makes is that we have correctly moved away from the demand for uniformity. Uniform laws need not be either gender-just or secular, which is what we are aiming for; indeed, patriarchal theocracies have extremely uniform family laws! She has also raised several other questions that need to be discussed. I look at some of them here in the hope of taking the debate forward.

Polygamy: Unless polyandry is also allowed, polygyny is not gender-just, and ought ot be opposed. The fact that the vast majority of Muslim women, who are directly affected by the existence of legally sanctioned polygamy, are opposed to it, makes this an obvious move for feminists. To support polygamy on the grounds that it offers more protection to second or third wives sounds like a perverse argument. If we accept it, we should also be demanding that polygamy be made legal in other personal laws! Second or third wives would surely be better protected by being able to sue their fake husbands for fraud and get hefty damages.

Contractualising all intimate relationships: Although legal recognition of stable non-marital relationships would be desirable, contractualising all intimate relationships may not be such a good idea. Read more…

On The Real Tragedy of Secular Modernity: Anand Vivek Taneja

October 7, 2014

This is a guest post by ANAND VIVEK TANEJA


In the discussion around Aarti Sethi’s essay on Remembering Maqsood Pardesi some very important questions arose. As these questions are directly relevant to my work, but also to the larger concerns of the Kafila community, I decided to dwell on them at some length. As these reflections were written in response to the comments of one particular person, I address him directly in what follows below.

Dear Imtiaz,

In your comments on Aarti’s essay, you say the following things about my work:

The tragedy of secular moderns of India is their fascination with Islam… And it appears secular modern Hindus are too busy analyzing jinns of Delhi, which is really sad!

… what do I do with the knowledge of emerging liberal ideologues working for the empire writing enchanting texts about chattan baba or the jinns?


I think that your opening statement is profound. But to understand its true depth, we need to revisit the terms “secular”, and “modern”, as well as our understandings of “Hinduism” and “Islam.” As an entry point into these questions, I will address your (rhetorical) question about what one should, and can do with “enchanting” texts about jinns. Read more…

Report on Alleged Plan of Cow Slaughter in JJ Colony Bawana: IFTU,PMS,PDSU

October 6, 2014

A team comprising of Dr. Mrigank (Delhi Committee, Indian Federation of Trade Unions, IFTU), Poonam Kaushik (Gen. Secy. Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, PMS), Rajeev (Convener, Progressive Democratic Students’ Union, PDSU) visited JJ Colony Bawana and made investigations into the reports of alleged planned cow slaughter and intimidation of Muslims.

Bawana JJ Colony is situated opposite CRPF Camp near Bawana City. It has resettled people, displaced from Yamuna Pushta, Saraswati Vihar, Laxmi Nagar etc. its population is about 1.5 lakh and about 70% are Muslims (as we were told). It is under Outer Delhi district of Delhi Police and two Police stations covers the area. Bawana PS covers village and Narela covers JJ Colony. Mr. Udit raj of BJP is MP here, who has not even been seen by the people. We were told by people that CPI (M-L) New Democracy has sent an urgent e-mail to Commissioner of Police, Delhi demanding urgent deployment of forces. Read more…

Marginalized Sections Living Under Fear – A Letter to NHRC

October 6, 2014

[We are reproducing below a letter to the NHRC Chairperson by Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai]

October 6, 2014
To the Chairperson Mr Balakrishnan, National Human Rights Commission.

Dear Sir,

There are extremely disturbing reports about the climate of abject fear that the poor and marginalised communitoies of JJ Colony, Bawana are living in, following recent incidents. Prominent residents of Delhi have carried out an independent fact finding into allegations of cow slaughter and the systematic intimidation of local Muslims. The team consisting of Dr. Mrigank (Delhi Committee, Indian Federation of Trade Unions, IFTU), Poonam Kaushik (Gen. Secy. Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, PMS), Rajeev (Convener, Progressive Democratic Students’ Union, PDSU) visited JJ Colony Bawana.

This report available here.

We urge Sir that the National Human Rights Commission carries out a suo moto inquiry into the incident and especially inquires into the following;-

From the above Report (see below) the observations made are :

1. That the allegations that there is plan of cow slaughter is bogus. There is no possibility of hiding the cows. And no cows were found.

2. That there is intimidation of Muslims and they are living amidst fear. The police protection is not enough.

3. That the organizations like Hindu Krantikari Sena are not spontaneous organizations. It is clears from the fact that among the main organizer was the nephew of BJP MLA. Also total inactivity of BJP MP is a clear indication.

4. That there is total communal harmony in JJ Colony and even today they are together. Read more…


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