Vivek Kumar 8th Feb. 2002. The Pioneer New Delhi
President KR Narayanan, in his Republic Day-eve address, once again pointed out the disturbing reality at the grassroots. He described it as the existence of "crying socio-economic issues," which are the cause of struggle in the Indian society. On the one hand, President Narayanan praised the Indian democracy, but on the other, like Babasaheb Ambedkar, he argued that its success would be relevant only if it is reflected in the social milieu. For achieving the same, he emphasized uplift of the deprived classes, which to him comprised specifically of women and Dalits.
It is not as if the President has raised these issues for the first time; earlier as well, in his own way, he had reminded the then Chief Justice of India about the need to give representation to Dalits in judicial appointments. However, what is interesting about President Narayanan's address this time is that he has quoted from the Bhopal Declaration adopted at the recent conference of the Dalits in the capital of Madhya Pradesh. This speaks volume of his sensitivity towards the tragedy of the deprived sections. The reference also suggests that there is something concrete and substantial for the Dalit uplift in the Bhopal Document.
The President specifically referred to the point made in the declaration that asks all private industry/corporate houses to implement the "Diversity" principle in workforce immediately. He also touched upon the point: "Make affirmative action mandatory in all private institutions, including industries and corporate sector, which receive state patronage in any form- from land at concession rate to tax benefits, etc., and also develop capacities and skills of Dalits to help them meet the demands of these different sectors."
One can imagine that the report relating to minority employees in America's private sector released by the US Equal Opportunity Commission and mentioned in the Bhopal Document, must have prompted the President to touch this point. According to this report, the representation of the minorities at different levels of private workforce is 27:37. Though such data is not available on the Dalits, but one can very well imagine the percentage of their representation in India's private sector if we compare it with their representation in the Government and other related services.
In all these sectors, despite constitutional provisions, their representation has been far from satisfactory. And taking the performances of Central and various State governments in this regard, the President has aptly suggested the nation to take speedy and appropriate steps to establish diversity in ownership of assets, institutions and knowledge industries.
The President's advice for establishing diversity in different realms of society should not be equated or confused with his demand for reservation in the private sector. In fact, he is raising a bigger issue than one merely of reservation of jobs for Dalits, as he is aware of the efficiency and impact of the same in the changing economic scenario in India. He is arguing for democratising civil society. And this can be established if our society too turns democratic by allowing the Dalits to flourish in entrepreneurship, ownership of assets, production of knowledge and as heads of state institutions.
This reminds us again of the Bhopal Document, in which Ambedkar has been quoted: "A democratic form of Government presupposes a democratic form of society. The formal framework of democracy is of no value and would indeed be a misfit if there was no social democracy... the politicals never realised that democracy was not a form of Government: It was essentially a form of society."
On the basis of the above discussion, we can argue that the President has started a very important debate: Should we say that big business houses were born rich or is it that they have amassed wealth because of the helping hands of the state? They ask why is capital not available for the creative labour of the Dalits. The state can provide tax holidays, soft loans, land and electricity at reduced rates, only to the big business houses. But why have these facilities been denied to the Dalits? Why can't Dalits be given helping hands? Big business houses in India are crying for level-playing field for themselves because of the MNC onslaught. But have they ever thought in the same way for the socially degraded, poverty stricken and capital starved Dalits? If Dalits would have also got the same state patronage, they too would have excelled as competent entrepreneurs.
Big business houses have even appropriated the traditional and stigmatised occupations of the Dalits with technological development. This has relegated the Dalits as manual labourers in their own craft: Shoe business, dry cleaners, piggery, etc. Neither the state nor the civil society cares for the Dalits. A little respect for these sections would have saved them from sinking further into penury.
Hence, it can be inferred that both the President and the Bhopal Declaration point at the crying need for vocational training with readymade capital for Dalits, along with the procurement policy of the Government for the Dalit uplift in the era of globalisation/ liberalisation/ privatisation and information- technological revolution. This is because jobs in the Government sector are shrinking.
By Shramana Ganguly
Ahmedabad, March 20
A delegation of the National Human Rights Commission, on a three-day visit to the state to probe the communal riots in the wake of the Godhra carnage, was attacked on Wednesday by a mob that allegedly belonged to the Sangh Parivar.
Justice J.S. Verma's car was gheraoed on the premises of Circuit House Annexe C around 7 pm after the delegation concluded a meeting with representatives of various non-government organisations.
According to eyewitnesses, saffron-clad activists, about 20-30 in number, gheraoed the car as it was about to leave for a visit to one of the relief camps in the city.
"They shouted slogans against the representatives of the commission and demanded that they be heard," said one of the representatives of the NGO. Human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash, who was also present on the spot, expressed shock over the incident.
"NHRC is a commission that minorities look up to for justice and equality. We are shocked to witness even the NHRC being targeted by unruly mob. What can people of minority communities hope now," he remarked.
Reportedly, the police officials present to look into the security of the delegation were mere onlookers. Tension prevailed for 10 minutes. NHRC chairman of the Gujarat chapter P.G.J. Nampoodhiri told The Asian Age that the vehicle transporting the representatives was gheraoed by a mob and they demanded to talk to Justice Verma.
When Justice Verma declined to talk to them they blocked the path of the car and raised slogans. No police complaint was filed, said joint commissioner of police sector (II) M.K. Tandon.
When contacted, the personal secretary to Justice Verma, Mr Y.S.R. Murthy, outright denied that such an incident had occurred.
Bhopal, March 20: Bahujan Samaj Party president Kanshi ram today said Mayawati could become the next chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, failing which fresh Assembly elections would have to be held. All political parties in Uttar Pradesh must get ready to accept Mayawati as the chief minister, he said at a public meeting here adding that "if they do not do so then they should be ready for fresh elections."
He said the BSP was ready for another Assembly election in UP, where Mayawati had twice served as the chief minister.
Congress vote-share in UP has fallen from 48 per cent in 1985 to eight per cent at present while that of BSP had gone up from only 2.4 per cent to over 21 per cent in the last 17 years, he claimed. Addressing the meeting held to protest atrocities on Dalits in Madhya Pradesh, the BSP president said "it is the duty of Chief Minister Digvijay Singh to protect the lives of its citizens." "If he fails to do so, we will punish him," he added.
He claimed in next Assembly elections, scheduled to be held in Madhya Pradesh in 2003, his party would definitely get more than 116 of the total 230 seats.
The Samajwadi Party's plans to form a government in UP ran into rough weather when the Governor recommended President's rule in the State saying that no party enjoyed the required support.
Reports that the SP and Congress relations have turned sour were put to rest when SP leader Amar Singh said though he could engineer a split in the Congress in Uttar Pradesh, he would desist from it because he wanted to convert the "mistrust" into "a relation of trust".
"I can split the Congress but will not do so. Congress is ready to break there. But I do not want to split it because I do not believe in the policy of disruption," Singh said.
The Samajwadi star who hogged the newspaper headlines of late by getting Amitabh Bachchan to campaign for the SP, said "I have sought the support of (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi. If she agrees to support, I will accept it. If she doesn't, I will have no bitterness," he said in a recent television show.
New Delhi, March 20: Lok Janshakti Party chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Wednesday laid three pre-conditions including a possible resignation of leaders from the NDA government and definition of ties with the BJP for the merger of his party with the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party.
Samata Party and jd(u) leaders may have to quit the Council of Ministers, resolve to adopt a policy of issue-based support to the NDA government and define the nature of relationship they proposed to have with the BJP as pre-conditions for the merger, Paswan said. Paswan said if jd(u) and Samata leaders agree to his pre-conditions, he was willing to resign from the Cabinet. "If the jd(u) and Samata Party leaders are serious about a merger, they will have to abandon their desire for office. Otherwise, this effort is meaningless," the Minister said.
The maya of parivar relations
By KANCHA ILAIAH The Sangh Parivar thinks that it is a modern avatar of Maha Vishnu, who branched off into several divine avatars. The Sangh Parivar too has branched off itself into several wings to capture power in the country. But at no stage does the root God disown the different avatars that he has undergone. The Sangh Parivar that owes its allegiance to Lord Rama, who is one of such avatars, does not mind disowning one another for reasons of power and politics.
The RSS is the original god of all the branches — the BJP, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the ABVP, the Swadeshi Manch, the Pragya Bharati and so on. Quite strangely at times one wing of the parivar gets disowned by the other and each branch claims absolute autonomy from the others. Suddenly now, the VHP wants the nation believe that its agenda is different from the agenda of the BJP and the RSS. The BJP pretends to oppose the construction of the mandir, the VHP pretends to go against it and the RSS pretends to mediate between these two organisations.
The real relationship of these organisations has become a maya. Now the nation has to debate where the real key to this mayawada lies. It is understandable that Hinduism as a religion believes in maya and karma as that theory was evolved in an ancient period when spirituality and the philosophy of maya went hand in hand quite comfortably. But how do we understand the mayawada relations between different wings of the same parivar that branched off to perform different activities? At times they claim that they are one and the same and at times they claim that they have nothing to do with one another. When Advani's Ratha Yatra started to demolish the Babri Masjid, of course, to actually capture the gaddi at Delhi, the RSS, the BJP, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal claimed that they all belong to one family. They coordinated their activities very well. That coordination was not even hidden. Advani repeatedly congratulated the VHP for keeping the temple agenda — at that time of destruction of the masjid — alive. He repeatedly congratulated the RSS for doing the ground work. The Bajrang Dal was praised for organising the trishul squads for intimidating the minorities — of course, the nation as well.
RSS, being the mother of the parivar, spread its philosophy and organised the squads that executed the operations. BJP had grown to its present position not because of its positive programmes but because of the very same issue of mandir. Now that the parivar's political branch is in power, the religious branches must claim autonomy in order to keep the communal agenda alive. After the NDA came to power, the RSS and the VHP mobilised huge amounts of money for building the temple and the Bajrang Dal was training its cadre to use lathis and firearms effectively. If foreign money comes for feeding the poor, for treating the sick, for educating the Dalit and tribal children, the parivar raises the bogey of swadeshi but it mobilises millions of dollars for building the Ram temple from all over the world.
The camps to train youth to use firearms have increased in number in the country. The Saraswati shishu mandirs are slowly turned into Hindu madarsas. The Human Resource Ministry under Murali Manohar Joshi sought to turn the Indian education system into Hindu madarsas. The result of all this has been seen in Gujarat. As a BJP prime minister sits in Delhi, the party's militant leader heads the home ministry and the nation is taken for a ride by allowing the parivar organisations to play havoc across the nation. A sanghchalak of the RSS heads the Gujarat government and the activists of the parivar burn innocent Muslims alive, besides looting and torching their houses and shops without any compunction. Yet we did not see pain in the face of any one of the parivar leaders. Some of them, with beaming faces on TV channels, were justifying the brutality. In newspapers, some of them were shamelessly defending it as a Hindu response to Muslim action at Godhra. If the Godhra orgy was the handiwork of the ISI, as they themselves claimed, how do innocent Muslims of Gujarat become responsible for that? Burning a train is barbarous but where is the language to describe burning people alive by herding them into houses or by lighting fire to cars and jeeps transporting children and sick people?
The parivar network has now expanded to sadhus and sants quite openly. Earlier some people were arguing that Hinduism is different from Hindutva. Now the Sankaracharyas, sadhus and sanyasis are camping in Delhi. The Sankaracharya of Kanchi mediates the relationships between parivar organisations. The prime ministerial office is buzzing with sadhus and sanyasis. Did not democracy enter into a phase of its own death? After the BJP came to power, RSS, VHP and Bajrang leaders started operating from the chambers of Central government ministers. The sadhus and sanyasis are seen in the corridors of power. This is the first phase of transition from democracy to theocracy. The parivar that is claiming that it represents the Hindu majority interests can tell the nation as to what is the caste composition of the top organisational structure of its organisations.
What is the representation of the SCs, the STs and the OBCs in the decision-making bodies of the VHP, the RSS and the Bajrang Dal? It is a fact that among the masses who are being mobilised around the Ram mandir issue, the OBCs constitute the largest in number. There is an awareness among the SCs even at the village level that however hard they work towards construction of the Hindu institutions they will be kept either outside or on the fringes of the Hindu institutional structures. The STs are not even being mobilised as they are seen as vanavasis (forest people) by the parivar organisations. The muscle power of the parivar organisations basically comes from the OBCs. But what is the presence of the OBCs in the decision-making bodies of the parivar? If we go by the names, the spiritual location of sadhus and sanyasis, who were sitting in judgment of national issues, how many SC or OBC people are there in the high-powered Hindu team? If the top Hindu leadership constitutes Brahmins, Baniyas and Kshatriyas, what does its majoritarianism mean? How did the parivar ideology change the social relations among the people? Should the SCs and OBCs work only as musclemen to burn people alive, loot the houses of imagined enemies — Muslims and Christians? That is what seems to have happened in Gujarat.
Within the parivar one organisation opposes the reservation for OBCs, another organisation opposes the right to equality within the temple. The OBCs have no voice within that organisation. They cannot set an agenda. Naturally when they are not there in the decision-making bodies they cannot set any agenda. The parivar network has a basic agenda of not allowing the OBCs to come up in civil society. But when it comes to using them as musclemen these organisations speak the language of Hindu nationalism and Hindu faith but what is the OBC space within the Hindu business?
Ever since the BJP came to power privatising the industry is an ongoing process. Who are buying these industries? It is the upper caste Hindutva business establishments that are buying the disinvested industries. Are they providing employment to the OBC youth in those industries? On occasions like the one created in Gujarat the Hindu language becomes inclusive. But in day to day life they use the language of exclusiveness. In the normal course the OBCs are the other. How long can these relations exist in this mode? When it comes to changing of these relations, Vajpayee, Advani, Ashok Singal remain silent. Giriraj Kishore says that if caste system is abolished the rights of upper caste Hindus get affected. Obviously, the OBCs even now are seen as human beings of mere muscle to execute the upper caste agendas.
Public Meeting organised by Dalit Solidarity Network(UK)
House of Commons, London
Tuesday, 12th March 2002
Sat Pal Muman
Mr. Chairman and distinguished audience,
I am grateful to the Dalit Solidarity Network for inviting me to address you here today. We have just heard from Anne Mcferran and Roger Yates of the appalling plight of the earthquake victims in the Indian state of Gujarat. Not only were the so called Dalits the unfortunate victims of a natural calamity but their plight was exasperated by the religious bigotry, prejudice and exclusion that we have all seen in the recent administration of relief aid in Gujarat.
In this address, I will use terms like Untouchables, Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes and Dalits interchangeably. This is for historical reasons but they refer to the same set of people who are now being commonly referred to as Dalits. In a short address such as this, I can only briefly outline the shocking state the Dalits are in by pointing out some social and educational indicators and also by highlighting atrocities committed on them due to their lowly status.
It is difficult to imagine for any westerner how the mechanism of Caste based discrimination prevails. Its subtle modus operandi has evaded the attention of the world at large thus far but its affects on those who are its victims are worse than slavery. The annual register of the number of atrocities committed on the Dalits reads like a death register during Hitler's Nazi Germany when Jews were persecuted.
The Dalit community is denied its basic human rights and is also at the receiving end of the most brutal and oppressive forms of discrimination and exclusion. 'The national psyche and public discourse in the country accepts uncritically the rigid hierarchy and discrimination caused by caste and thereby denies that caste is a major source of prejudice and brutal violence'.
POLITICS OF CASTEISM
The politics of Casteism and the associated practice of Untouchability are rooted in the ancient Hindu religious belief that " ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOT BORN EQUAL". This notion is deeply entrenched in the psyche of the so called upper-caste Hindus which lead them to see themselves as a 'superior race' and the Dalits as the 'inferior race'. This religious notion pervades the life of the Hindu and makes the so called upper-castes commit acts of violence and hatred against the Dalits.
The psyche of the Hindu has been created by the undemocratic, barbaric Laws of MANU, an ancient Law giver. This ideology was re-enforced by later religious writings.
In the Laws of Manu it is written:
In Ch.3..S.251 Food gets polluted by the smell of a pig, by the look of a dog, and the touch of a Sudra (the low caste person).
In Ch. 8, S.413, A Brahmin (high caste priest) can take work from a Sudra (lowly) for wages or no wages. The Sudra (low caste) has been created by Brahma (God) to serve the Brahmins (Priest Caste).
Ch. 10, S.125, A Brahmin (Priest caste) may give for the livelihood of Sudra (low caste) the remnants of his food, his torn clothes, and tasteless grain.
Ch.2. S.7, A Dharma (religion) attached to each caste is in accordance with the sacred Vedas (holy books of Hindus).
HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS AND INDIAN DEMOCRACY
There is complete lack of respect for the Dalits human dignity and equality. Indeed, the violation of their fundamental human rights is a daily occurrence - rights which are laid down in United Nations fundamental human rights instruments; including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic; the Social and Cultural Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination etc. of which India is a Signatory. Indeed the Liberty, Equality, Justice and Fraternity for every citizen is also guaranteed by the Constitution of India itself.
Of the Largest democracy in the world' this is what the President of India Mr. K R Naraynan addressing the nation on 26th January said of the Indian people. "Even today it is amazing that we have not become an inclusive society in spite of the political triumph of our democracy. The discrimination being suffered by women, the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes is a crying denial of the democracy that is enshrined in our Constitution."
The Government of India has enacted various legal instruments to safeguard the interests of the Scheduled Castes. For example, it has established The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is a statutory body, which came into effect in 1990. It is meant to look after the welfare of these communities but unfortunately, it is little better than a 'rehabilitation centre and a parking lot for defeated politicians and unwanted bureaucrats'.
The SC/ST Commission is required to monitor whether funds released by the Centre for projects to empower SC/ST communities are utilised properly. It was discovered by its own chairman recently that most states had diverted, for other purposes, the funds earmarked for Dalits.
The Government operates a policy of reservations to provide employment for the Dalits through positive discrimination through implementing a quota system of 22.5% within governmental institutions.
Whilst, releasing the report on November 17 last year at a press conference the chairman of the commission, Mr. Dileep Singh Bhuria, said the representation of Scheduled Castes on January 1, 2000, was 11.29 per cent in Group A services of the Central Government and 12.68 per cent in Group B as against the stipulated 15 per cent In other areas such as public sector enterprises, public sector banks, insurance companies and central universities, the situation was even more bleaker.
ATROCTIES ON DALITS
Providing statistics for 1999, the report states that Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh accounted for 65.4 per cent of the total number of atrocities against the Scheduled Castes. While 6,122 cases were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan had 5,623 cases and Madhya Pradesh 4,667 cases. As for Scheduled Tribes, Madhya Pradesh topped the list with 1,976 cases followed by Rajasthan with 1,221. While the report takes note of the fact that there are several States with no incidence of atrocities/exploitation, it laments the delay in disposal of cases.
Citing the example of Uttar Pradesh where 74,307 atrocities cases pending courts.
When reading out statistics like these it is easy to forget that there is a human face behind each number.
BONDED LABOUR AND DEVDASI SYSTEM
Human Rights Watch, Washington Think Tank, in its 1996 report, states that there are more than 115 million children in child labour, which 20 million are working in Hazardous Working Conditions, most of these children being from the lowest caste (Untouchables and Tribals). The Report states that
"..children were in bondage in agriculture, brick kilns, stone quarries, carpet weaving, handlooms, matches and fireworks, glass bangles, diamond cutting and polishing; that child bondage and force labour were connected with trafficking, kidnapping, repression, absence of freedom of movements, beating, sexual abuse, starvation, abnormal working hours and hazardous working conditions." ..82nd session, Report III, (part 4a), pare 42 referring to India, ILO, 1995.
The Hindu religious traditions in certain parts of India force 6 year old female Untouchables to marry temple gods by coercing their parents who are landless labourers. At puberty the girls are raped and every year 5000-10,000 of these children are secretly auctioned to the brothels of Bombay and other major cities. This system is known as Devdasi or Maidens of God. Other sanctified female child prostitution is called Jogins where a child at puberty is forced to stay with her parents as a BONDED LABOUR and the Hindu masters visit her at her house to have the sexual pleasures.
UN Commission on Social Development report 1996 states that half of the world's poor, below poverty line, are in South Asia, out of which 300 million are at starving level. Most of these starving people are Untouchables and Tribals. India's 80% population lives in villages. 90% of Dalits live in rural villages as landless labourers. Over 60% are illiterate, totally dependent for their survival on the high caste Hindus. They are ill paid, ill fed and forced into bonded labour.
Chief Justice P.N.Bhagavati in one of his judgements on bonded labour wrote very graphically to illustrate the plight of bonded labourers. "They are a non-being, exiles of civilisation, living a life worse than of animals. For animals are at least free to roam about as they like and they can plunder or grab food whenever they are hungry, but these OUT CASTES of the society are held in bondage. Robbed of their freedom they are consigned to an existence where they have to live either in hovels or under the open sky and be satisfied with whatever little unwholesome food they can manage to get, inadequate though it be to fill their stomachs. Not having any choice, they are driven by poverty and hunger into a life of bondage, a dark bottomless pit from which, a cruel exploitative society, they cannot hope to be rescued. " (Human Rights in India Today, 1992 edition, NCDHR page 177).
In many rural villages Dalits cannot fetch water even from a public well or the well gets polluted as per Hindu beliefs. They cannot socialise in village cafés for fear of pollution.
Almost every second Dalit is a landless agricultural labourer, more than 60 per cent of them are illiterate, only 9.85 per cent enjoy the three basic civic amenities - safe drinking water, an electricity connection and a toilet together. 'Hardly any Dalit works in the nation's stock exchanges or in corporate offices at Nariman point or in showrooms at Delhi's Connaught Place The trickle down theory hasn't worked for the Dalits'.
The Hindu Fanaticism for hatred also extends to the Christians living in India.
From a report: Translated from Daily Sangbad dated January 3rd, 2002. One Mr. Christian claimed that since 1999, there had been 417 cases of attacks on Christians in the State in which 33 persons were killed and 203 seriously injured. Last year, Gujarat topped the list of attacks on Christians in the country with 65 cases recorded followed by 62 cases in Tamil Nadu, 55 in Kerala and 50 in Orissa.
India may be the only country where if an Untouchable landless lady complains to her master about unfair wages, she is stripped and paraded naked as it happened in Bhopal, Uttar Pradesh and near Bombay in the last 2 years. The shock is so severe to the lady that she commits suicide later. The Hindu master wants to teach the lesson to the slave.
I will conclude by recalling the words of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar:
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the emancipator of the Untouchables, once wrote of the ideals of a Social Democracy. He said that, "A democratic form of Government presupposes a democratic form of society. The formal framework of democracy is of no value and would indeed be a misfit if there was no social democracy",
Addressing the Plenary Session at the Round Table Conference held in London on 20th November 1930, Dr Ambedkar impressed on the British that 'it must be recognised that Indian Society is a gradation of Castes forming an ascending scale of reverence and a descending scale of contempt - a system which gives no scope for the growth of that sentiment of equality and fraternity so essential for a democratic form of Government. It must also be recognised that while the intelligentsia is a very important part of India Society, it is drawn from its upper strata and although it speaks in the name of the country, it has not shed the narrow particularism of the class from which it is drawn.'
In his Book Annihilation of Caste published In 1936, Dr. Ambedkar writes that 'the effect of Caste on the ethics of the Hindus is simply deplorable. Caste has killed public spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of public charity. Caste has made public opinion impossible. A Hindus public is his Caste. His responsibility is only to his Caste. His loyalty is restricted only to his Caste. Virtue has become Caste ridden and morality has become Caste bound. There is no sympathy to the deserving. There is no appreciation of the meritorious. There is no Charity to the needy. Suffering as such calls for no response. There is Charity but it begins with the Caste and ends with the Caste. There is sympathy but not for men of other Caste. The capacity to appreciate merits in a man apart from his Caste does not exist in a Hindu. There is appreciation of virtue but only when the man is a fellow Caste man. The whole morality is as bad as tribal morality.'
He accused Hindus of committing treason against their country in the interest of their Caste.
These words are as relevant today as they were over 65 years ago.
Finally, In another section of the same book he writes of slavery that 'slavery does not merely mean a legalised form of subjection. It means a state of society in which some men are forced to accept from others the purposes which control their conduct. This condition obtains even where there is no slavery in the legal sense'.
Friends, the world owes a moral duty to liberate the Dalits from the thraldom of slavery. Today, the Western world has declared war on Terrorism. Let this war extend to a war on Caste which is also a form of terrorism.
Tuesday, 12th March 2002
Sunday, March 24, 2002 (Chennai):
As the Lagaan team keeps its fingers crossed hoping that they will win the Oscar for the best foreign film, Dalit intellectuals and activists have started a campaign against the film being awarded an Oscar, alleging that it is anti-Dalit.
The protesting group of Dalit intellectuals has said that the film portrays the character Kachra in a bad light, focusing on his disability rather than his merits. And as millions of Indians hope that Lagaan wins an Oscar, Ashutosh Gowarikar and Aamir Khan will now have to contend with this new sneer campaign which has started against the film.
According to Punitha Pandian, Editor, Dalit Murasu, “We feel that Dalits are being degraded and wrongly portrayed in Lagaan. Dalits are affected by the fact that such a film is going for an Oscar and that has to be stopped.”
Even Dalit activists have joined the anti-Lagaan bandwagon saying that the movie is an affront to Dalit sentiments. R Thirumavalan, Dalit Panthers of India, “No film should demean Dalits.”