Friday, 30 April 2010

By Dr. Shura Darapuri
Everyday like few years back, we used to get the news of serial bomb blasts, one gets the news of innocent school children, for no fault of theirs getting hurt in road accidents, incidents of traffic disruptions on some pretext or the other affecting school going children becoming almost a regular feature, some of the ‘teachers’ beating school children ‘black and blue’, yet going scot free, unpunished. Cases of molestation of students in educational institutions, students committing suicides, incidents of shameful ragging in ‘educational institutions,’ school going children kidnapping friends for ransom money, without batting an eyelid. The other day a young girl was being badly beaten by a group of adolescent boys, which was being shown on the You- Tube. The goons it seems have taken day off and have allowed entry to the so-called ‘civilized gentry’ in their trade!
The question arises where are we heading to? Does ability to use mobiles, computers, driving cars, speaking fluent English make us ‘civilized’? Even with enormous amount of degrees issued to us do we really qualify to be called ‘civilized’? We are categorized as a Third World country, and do not have much resources at our disposal, for example many areas are still not connected properly owing to lack of transport and do not of have the basic facilities like clean drinking water, electricity etc. Yet in our country, burning public property to mark protest has become a norm be it an individual or a group protest. We forget the kind of example we are setting before the posterity? In marking protest against price rise, resorting to violence, burning our country’s already scarce ‘expensive public property’ succeed in bringing it down? Then perhaps the solutions to most problems lay at a ‘stones throw’ literally. If every individual decides to resort to such modes of protest, day will not be far when we are left totally devoid of already meager basic facilities and no commodity left to call ‘expensive’ or ‘cheap’. Traffic disruption owing to the protesters causes much inconvenience to the people most of all children, old people, ailing patients, some die even before reaching the hospitals. Our sensibilities shudder at the thought of children getting hurt in a road accident yet unable to get immediate first aid owing to the delay caused by traffic dislocation.
One fails to understand, with a history of struggle for self government against an alien rule have we been successful in understanding true meaning of democracy? We have failed day after day. A school going child dies in a road accident a mother loses apple of her eye, her only child, at that time there is not a single brow of protest raised from any side .Is life so cheap in our country? There is a lingering feeling of dread and unease in the minds of every parent, till a child returns safely home from school. Calling attention of school administration or government quarters goes unheard; people have nothing to depend on but ‘god’ for the well being of their kith and kin. No wonder instead of more police stations and hospitals which ought to be there on the road, we have more religious buildings. But the thing is, where do we stand morally? Violence going unabated indicates poor state of morality! But where are we getting lessons on morality? Morality in simple words means concerned about others’ welfares as we our for ours, that is the basic condition for peaceful coexistence. It is only when we are morally strong it becomes easier for us to be rule abiding because then we can easily distinguish between right and wrong.
But in real life what are the enacting principles of morality? We are forever pointing finger at others, sometimes it is the government, sometimes it is the ‘foreign hand’. But if we go for self introspection where do we ourselves actually stand? If we read news about school children getting killed in a road accident what do we say? “A few words of sympathy or sigh a breath of relief thinking it wasn’t our child but fail to realize next time it might be, and he might become a victim of our own callousness”!
Instead of leaving everything to destiny we ought to believe in ourselves and in the rule of law and make every effort to bring to book the errant! But we wait till someone else “bells the cat” or some miracle to happen! Indians love miracles! They tend to live more in their past than present! They get fascinated by fairy tales and can’t hide their feelings of disbelief yet believing whole heartedly in the miracles. They believe so much in miracles that most of them have lost faith in themselves and others. They wait for the ‘outside force’ to work for them! That is why most remain way behind in their lessons of morality and fail to impart the lessons to their children! Violence committed in their favor is justified but when they succumb to violence it is branded as bad!
In present times when our siblings are becoming innocent patrons of violence it is time to become alert! They have to be diverted lovingly to the path of morality. They have to be taught to be truthful, honest, tolerant, compassionate, forgiving and non-violent. For peaceful coexistence and for translating democracy into reality these are the values to be inculcated in every child.
Dr Shura Darapuri
Coordinator (I/C)
Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy,
Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar University,
Lucknow. (U.P.), India
A Rendezvous with Quality Education
By Dr Shura Darapuri
Long awaited educational reforms initiated by HRD ministry have at last breathed in a fresh lease of life in the education system. But getting them implemented is the ‘ultimate trial’. The past experience has shown that most welfare measures fail the ‘acid test’. Best of the reforms find it difficult to reach and benefit those whom they are meant for and breathe their last in the files and soon get buried under more files! Right to Education Act, should not suffer the same fate.
‘Education for all’ is certainly important, but the question that comes to mind is whether presently, the education imparted at school is actually doing its job of ‘educating’ the children and training them to be good citizens of the country. HRD minister, Mr. Kapil Sibal, with his conspicuous concern for the nation, time and again emphasizes on imparting of ‘quality teaching’ in the educational institutions of the country. In that case, first and foremost, the phrase ‘quality teaching’ needs to be clearly defined. Is it, that all this while, the students have been kept away from getting ‘quality education’? How is it to be ensured? Some suggest a ‘fat pay packet’ would motivate teachers to teach well. But the next question that comes to mind is what is ‘teaching well’? Teaching the routine subjects well, without inculcating moral values in the child is quality education or training in both, which is important for the overall development of the personality, is to be regarded as the education of quality?
Teachers have a very important role to play in a country. They are like ‘the beacon of light’ for a nation. At one time, occupations providing service to mankind were regarded as ‘noble professions’, and teaching was the foremost amongst them. To teach a child was considered to be a moral obligation and a duty of a teacher. It is none other than, a teacher who knows the significance of education, in building up a nation. And a teacher is morally bound to provide education of quality, salary or no salary! It is the greatest service an individual can do for a nation, provided the sense of belonging to the nation is strong enough! Teachers have held a position of great respect in the past. But with time and reasons unknown degeneration has set in. The explanation is sought in the ‘a cause and effect’ phenomena, the general view in circulation is ‘higher the cost, higher is the standard of education.’ In other words, ‘quality education’ is available at a stone throw provided one has the means to pay the cost. Deep in the heart each and every individual aspires to buy good education at the private institutions. But be it in a private school or a government run school, the issue at stake is, whether the student is actually getting a training in ‘quality education’?
In most institutions, moral science, a subject imparting good moral values occupies a remote corner of the bag, occasionally taken out to give it a passing glance and then kept back to devote more time to the main subjects, scoring well in which matters most. No other subject imparts lessons on ‘morality’ therefore; the subject is rendered insignificant both by the teacher and the pupil, who is too ready to submit in obeisance.
That ‘humility comes with the high intellect’ is considered to be a thing of the past, now it is the rat race for high score that matters! But it is a universally accepted truth that the education is incomplete without good values. The growing incidents of violence amongst students, raises some pertinent questions with regard to the existing education system. How else does a ‘high grader’ in a reputed institution, not for a moment hesitate, to bash up a ‘newcomer’ to death with a ‘shameless’ dexterity of a criminal? How a history or a sociology student even after spending years in completing a doctorate fails to understand the issues of ‘marginalization’ or the ‘pain of the marginalized’ marring our nation and on the slightest provocation, instead of giving it a sound understanding or joining hands with the government in providing alternative solutions for bettering the situation with their expertise, remain forever ready to join the anti- reservation campaign? They too easily see ‘caste’ as ‘clearly’ as their lesser educated counterparts. But it is no fault of theirs but the fault lies in their mentors, their teachers, themselves, who failed to be good role models to their students by not practicing, what they preached or they refrained from preaching the ‘right things’! But the next question that arises in mind is, what were they actually ‘teaching’ in the classrooms?
A great amount of responsibility lies on the shoulders of a teacher. They are like ‘undeclared gods’ to their students at the primary level. Their words are being heard with utmost care, each and every action of theirs is being keenly observed and the message conveyed is being thoroughly internalized. In the company of an erring teacher, a child right from the school level learns to break rules, when, in spite of the tall claims made by the institutions of not resorting to corporal punishment, a child still finds himself being regularly traumatized by the same. Also, when in spite of the fact, that that there is one whole paper on child psychology at the BEd. level, where it is taught to be careful about a child’s emotions, they do not hesitate for a moment, to publicly humiliate the child at the slightest pretext. Their conduct exude ‘professionalism’ of high degree at a time, when their expertise could be easily used to help a seriously ill child, they ‘feign ignorance’ in handling a crisis situation due to which many children have paid a heavy price by ultimately losing their lives. The sexual molestation of the students is also on a rise and it is not easy today for parents, to put whole hearted faith in an individual claiming to be a teacher. Human sensibilities would refrain to call such individuals ‘teachers’ who have no control over their senses and so easily forget the lessons of humanity which is the foundation stone on which the citadel of education is build! If the future of our country is in the hands of such ‘teachers’ the doom of the nation is not far!
Dr Shura Darapuri
Coordinator (I/C)
Baba Saheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar University,

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Global casteism, a reality

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (April 14 ), ARVIND SIVARAMAKRISHNAN reflects on caste and international discussions on the issue.

If major civilisations make contributions to world history, then the Indian civilisation's contributions include caste, caste discrimination, caste segregation, and caste-motivated brutality; the anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's birth, April 14, provides an occasion to look at some of the ways governments respond to caste discrimination.

It appears too, that wherever substantial numbers of people of Indian descent settle, caste discrimination appears. Even the British House of Lords was sufficiently exercised about caste discrimination in the United Kingdom to debate it for specific proscription when the new Equality Bill, now the Equality Act 2010, recently came before them. Although this time the House of Lords did not include caste specifically, the government's earlier statement that the Equality and Human Rights Commission had been asked to research the issue drew the peers' rebuke that the Commission in fact said they had not been asked to do the relevant research; the government were also accused of consulting only with upper-caste groups of British Hindus.

My former tutor, a distinguished British professor of philosophy, would not have been surprised by the government's reluctance to include caste in its anti-discrimination laws. I recall his saying, “The British and the Indian ruling classes understood one another perfectly.” His father had been in the Indian Army between the wars, and he himself only rarely revealed how much he knew about India.

Another British friend told me once of an involvement he had had with a girl at his college. Well into the relationship she suddenly told him she would never marry him, as he was of a low caste. They had parents from the same region of India, they spoke the same South Asian language, and they were both young Britons. But she drew the shadow line.

Many apartheids

I recall too, listening to an acquaintance in the Oriental Plaza in Johannesburg as he savaged the now-extinct apartheid rĂ©gime, raising his voice for the benefit of a couple of stone-faced Afrikaner huisvrouwen who were browsing along the shelves. The young man's aunt, the shop manager, said quietly, “We have our own apartheid, with caste and religion and family.” That reminded me of an earlier conversation with a relative, in which I remarked that in some industrialised countries it could be difficult to tell people's class or occupation from their dress, manner, or speech, especially outside working hours. My relative froze, terrified that his children, destined for U.S. doctorates and gadget-filled mortgages in acceptably white-majority American suburbs, would get involved with ‘unsuitable' people during their studies abroad. That particular relative might have problems if asked whether President Obama's daughters were ‘unsuitable'.

The Government of India, for its part, tries to prevent international discussion of caste. At the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001, Indian representatives insisted that caste is not race, that India has legislated against caste discrimination, and that caste as an internal matter must not be discussed at such conferences. The conference adopted the phrase “discrimination based on work and descent.”

India's intransigence, however, continues. In response to the Strategic Management Plan prepared for 2010-11 by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), the Government of India notes the Plan's references to caste and adds that as the document was not negotiated the Indian mission in Geneva has been instructed to take the matter up with the UNHCHR. The 160-page document contains only three references to caste. One is a general comment that caste is one form of discrimination in the Asia-Pacific region, another is the inclusion of caste among UNHCHR's thematic priorities for the year, and the third is the observation that caste discrimination is endemic in Nepal.

Furthermore, at the 2009 Durban Review Conference, India rejected a comment on descent, saying it “lacked intellectual rigour” and ignored the drafting history of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Convention's history, however, shows that when it was first drafted in 1965 India's representative both suggested the term “descent” and said the Convention would apply to scheduled castes. In 2009, India succeeded in getting the term “discrimination based on work and descent” removed from the conference outcome document, though an earlier U.N. statement that caste is covered by CERD presumably still stands.

India's position is at best incoherent. The government's periodic report to CERD for 2006 reconfirms its opposition to any equation of caste and race by saying the Indian Constitution distinguishes between the two, and that race had been included in the Constitution because of the “moral outrage of the world community against racism” after the Second World War. This outrage, however, was not shared at the highest levels of government. A former civil servant has publicly described the way the then External Affairs Minister Y. B. Chavan and an aide violated India's own sanctions against South Africa by allowing Indian trade with the apartheid state through the Bank of Bermuda in the mid-1970s.

Domestically, Indian government statements, including replies to MPs, often list the legislation prohibiting caste discrimination as though that eo ipso proves effective action. A single example serves to undermine that. The National Crime Records Bureau's records for the period 1995-2007 show that under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, the police registered 441, 424 crimes, but field-survey estimates suggest that the recorded figure is about one third of the actual figure; for Scheduled Tribes it is about one fifth.


The proposition that caste is solely an internal matter for India is untenable. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay, has said publicly that globally, caste discrimination affects 260 million people; about 170 million of them are in India. In contrast to India, Nepal, until 2007 a Hindu state by constitution, regards caste discrimination as indistinguishable from racial discrimination, and has confirmed that it will work through the U.N. to counter caste discrimination; the European Union has made a similar commitment. The pity is therefore all the greater that India is so dismissive of international cooperation and so unwilling to take the lead over what the Prime Minister himself has called a blot on humanity.

Courtesy: The Hindu
Contemporary relevance of Baba Saheb Ambedkar

"Ambedkar’s Buddhism was a Buddhism of a minority trying to liberate the entire nation. Ambedkar opposed separatism but always kept in mind the unique nature of the oppression of the Dalits."

By Basil Fernando

(April 17, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka Guardian) Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s memory was celebrated by large numbers of admirers and followers in India and outside once again this week. Perhaps no other modern contemporary leader of India is as much remembered by such large numbers of (mostly much oppressed) people throughout India as Ambedkar is. One-time untouchables, who now called themselves Dalits, a name that was given to them by B.R. Ambedkar, remember him as an inspiration in their own struggles to regain their dignity. Perhaps no people have been put into such a degraded position in society anywhere as the untouchables of India. The millions of people who belong to these groups have fought a battle to re-emerge as people with dignity, and to that revival Ambedkar has contributed greatly.

Ambedkar’s political thought is still very relevant to not only to the politics of India but also to politics in South Asia in general. South Asian countries are today facing deep crises, unable to develop political and social institutions to guarantee stability to their societies primarily because of centuries of oppressive and social political systems that were their heritage due to the caste system. The caste system essentially was a system of domination by a small group, called Brahmins, who developed most sophisticated forms of cunning into the social control systems of their time in a way that even for centuries they could maintain their dominance. The damage that was done in the process of repression that accompanied the creation and the maintenance of the caste system have become the obstacles to the development of the intelligence the creativity and the capacity of all the people to deal with contemporary problems. Their past holds them in their bondage. The bonds are so deeply engrained into the very nervous systems that generation after generation people are reproduced with mentalities that prevent them from realizing the capacity for freedom and capacity for deeper social communion in each other in their social context. Deep divisiveness inbuilt into the South Asian culture was created by these centuries of subtle of social control. Methods of control were formulated as rules of religion and rituals to which the individual life was so deeply tied up.

The idea of the individual freedom is so alien to this cultural heritage. The intricate mechanism that entraps people emotionally and psychologically by various kinds of mythical beliefs got so engrained in the minds of all due to this past.

"Ambedkar’s political thought is still very relevant to not only to the politics of India but also to politics in South Asia in general. South Asian countries are today facing deep crises, unable to develop political and social institutions to guarantee stability to their societies primarily because of centuries of oppressive and social political systems that were their heritage due to the caste system. "

A few great leaders in India understood the depth of the internal bondage of the Indian mind created by this history. Some saw it purely as philosophical problem, like for example Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo devoted the later part of his life trying to influence the younger generation to break away from the mindset that has entered into their society, retarding all, from one generation to another. He said that the great creativity that India once was had been devastatingly destroyed at sometime point of time.

It was B.R. Ambedkar that identified the cause of the retardation of the Indian creativity, which is also the source of the retardation of the mindsets of people of other South Asian countries. He saw that purely by way of mental exercises this bondage cannot be broken. What needed to be broken were the social the social linkages which had tied up the minds of the people over centuries. To this he gave and for the understanding of this processes he devoted his time. And his way of understanding was not by reading into the text of the past but into the lives of the ordinary folk of India spread in that vast country.

In the poverty of India was the evidence that was necessary to look into in order to discover the methods by which people lives are destroyed by this terrible heritage.

Jawaharlal Nehru in the Discovery of India tries to talk about the glories of India in the past. Ambedkar on the other hand tries to demonstrate how the glory was lost and how the bondage of the Indian minds and the Indian spirit and as a result the Indian way of life was come to what it is today. It is this discovery that has the capacity and the liberating effect that not only the masses but the entire country is in need of in order to face the challenges of the modern times.

Ambedkar was well-versed on history and the political theories which have been produced in the process of struggles for democracy. He was also deeply aware of the history of minority problems in the world. He understood that if a minority problem is not properly resolved entire civilizations can be destroyed in conflicts which not only destroy the minorities but entirety of society.

Ambedkar needs to be studied much more by the younger generations who are in search of solutions to the kinds of problems that they very often which they feel that there are no solution to. The easy solutions many have sought have not worked. There is a depth that needs to be explored in order to be able to explore all the possibilities of getting over these severe problems. In the work of Ambedkar there are great insights that are yet to be explored and in that exploration the real glories of the past of the sub-continent could reemerge. Pseudo respect for Buddhism today was challenged by Ambedkar who himself became a Buddhist by trying to rediscover the actual history of Buddhism in India. The destruction of Buddhism in India was a result of the caste struggles in India and in that struggle the certainties that the Brahmins had developed to get victory and to win back their dominance were also constantly exposed by Ambedkar.

Without doubt, Baba Saheb Ambedkar is the greatest political leader in modern South Asian history, with regard to his understanding of the linkage between social controls exercised by religion and its influence in the contemporary history. While Mahatma Ghandi saw the meaning of freedom in terms of getting rid of the colonial power and passing the power to local elites, Ambedkar saw freedom of Indians from the point of view of getting rid of cultural inhabited bondage of created by the caste system. He saw centuries old practices in which social control of the masses has been done mainly by the use of language, rituals and ‘ethical codes’ reinforcing the caste domination over the masses.

Ambedkar also saw moments of liberation in Indian history. That was the way he saw Buddhism. He called Buddha his guru. He said that he didn’t learn principles of democracy from Western philosophers but from his guru, Gautama Buddha.

"My Personal Philosophy"

"Positively, my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: liberty, equality and fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha. In his philosophy, liberty and equality had a place: but he added that unlimited liberty destroyed equality, and absolute equality leaves no room for liberty. In his philosophy, law had a place only as a safeguard against the breaches of liberty and equality; but he did not believe that law could be a guarantee for breaches of liberty or equality. He gave the highest place to fraternity as the only real safeguard against the denial of liberty or equality or fraternity which was another name for brotherhood or humanity, which was again another name for religion.

"Law is secular, which anybody may break while fraternity or religion is sacred which everybody must respect. My philosophy has a mission. I have to do the work of conversion: for, I have to make the followers of Triguna theory to give it up and accept mine. Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set out in the preamble to the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion, denies them." Dr. B.R.Ambedkar( From All-India Radio broadcast of a speech on Oct. 3, 1954)

In this famous radio broadcast, he summarized the fundamentals of his belief in democracy as having its roots in the teaching of Buddha. He also devoted many years of his life studying Buddhism and wrote large volumes on the teachings of the Buddha. In 1936, in a speech which now remains as a political classic, entitled ‘Annihilation of Caste’, he attributed the roots of caste to be based on the ideals of religion created by Brahminism. He declared that though he himself was born to that tradition, he will not die within it. Fulfilling this promise, 20 years later he converted himself publically to Buddhism, with over 500,000 followers in a public ceremony held in Nagaland, India.

Ambedkar’s Buddhism was a Buddhism of a minority trying to liberate the entire nation. Ambedkar opposed separatism but always kept in mind the unique nature of the oppression of the Dalits. However, he understood that unless the entire nation rejects the traditions which keep its masses under oppressive social control, the minority cannot find liberation. He was fully aware of his capacity to create political chaos if he wished to do so. He consciously avoided that path, despite of the difficulties involved. He was the only Indian leader who openly opposed Mahatma Ghandi on his limited approach to deal with the problem of Dalits. However, he shared the common burden of Indian liberation from the British and even became the law minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. In fact, he was the chief draftsman of the committee which drafted the Indian constitution. He understood that the minority cannot win its right by destroying democracy. He also understood that by suppressing the minorities’ struggle, the majority are ruining themselves also. How true, even in the modern context of South Asian countries.

To the struggle for enlightenment in South Asia, Ambedkar has made a lasting contribution. And this contribution needs to be understood to further the process of trying to deal with the contemporary problems within all South Asian nations.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ambedkar Jayanti Hijacked by Mayawati

Ambedkar Jayanti on 14th April has been celebrated by dalits in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and other parts of the country at fixed venues for the last many years. But this time it has been hijacked by Mayawati in Uttar Pardesh. It was allowed to be celebrated at the places fixed by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) only and that too in the form of a political protest rally against the Central Congress Government. This undemocratic act of Mayawati has deeply hurt not only the Dalits but other sections of society also.
Let us take up the case of Lucknow; the capital of U.P. Ambedkar Jayanti has been traditionally celebrated at Hazratganj crossing where a statue of Dr. Ambedkar is installed. Ambedkarites of Lucknow used to take out processions and tableaus and reached the Hazratganj crossing to join the big rally in the evening. Different social and government employee’s associations used to put up their stalls in which water, sweets and small literature was distributed. The Jayanti has been celebrated at this point since its beginning in Lucknow. A large number of men, women and children used to throng this place in the evening till midnight. But this time this crossing presented a sad and deserted look for which Mayawati is responsible.
This time an undeclared ban was imposed on this celebration at this point by Mayawati government. It is learnt that a senior powerful minister of Mayawati government had summoned the office bearers of various Dalit organizations who used to arrange Ambedkar Jayanti at Hazratganj crossing. He told them that this time Ambedkar Jayanti will not be celebrated at this point rather it will be celebrated at Samajik Parivartin Sthal, Gomti Nagar as arranged by BSP. When some organizers objected to it they were threatened to comply with the orders. They were told that busses will be provided to them to carry their men to Gomti Nagar. In spite of these orders when some persons tried to take out a procession, they were obstructed by police and not allowed to proceed further. As such, this time Dalits had no option but to join BSP rally much against their wishes. This has greatly hurt the feelings of U.P. Ambedkarites.
It is also worth mentioning that previously Mayawati had forcibly removed the statue of Dr. Ambedkar and name plate of persons from this crossing which was got installed by Lucknow Dalits after a long struggle. In its place a different statue of Dr. Ambedkar was got installed by Mayawati and she put her own name plate there at. It was opposed by some persons but of no avail.
It is learnt that a similar action was taken in all other districts of U.P. The people were forced to join BSP protest rally rather than allowed to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti in their own way. Administrative power was effectively used to prevent people from celebrating the Jayanti independently. It is sad that Mayawati did not allow the Dalits of U.P. to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti in their own way rather they were forced to join the BSP protest rally. As such this time Ambedkar Jayanti has been hijacked by Mayawati which has hurt the feelings of the dalits of U.P.