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Sunday, April 07, 2019

Atrocities against Muslims and Dalits in India

  • Continued from the above post

The Noor Cultural Centre event began with a series of video screenings of both Indian and international news reports on the lynching spree that suddenly erupted across northern India after Narendra Modi’s ascension to power. Aparna Sundar of York Centre for Asian Research introduced the discussants – Sanobar Umar of Queen’s University and Chinnaiah Jangam of Carleton University.

Sanobar Umar read a piece she had especially written for the program; it was a straightforward reiteration of the atrocities on Muslims and Dalits by the proponents of Hindutva. 

She emphasized that she made a clear distinction between extremists and nationalists. Sanobar said it would be erroneous to call the proponents of Hindutva proponents as Hindu nationalists because nationalists who fought for the freedom of India did not believe in the narrow interpretations of caste and religion; they strove hard to represent all Indians. 

On the other hand, the Hindutva proponents are Hindu extremists who are exclusivists. She said, during the Q&A session, that the Indian state has actively ensured either through legislation or through judiciary that the Indian Muslim stays casteless.

Chinnaiah Jangam’s presentation was an in-depth, studied look at the history of exploitation of the Dalits in India. He said the event was the first in North America to discuss the Dalit-Muslims suffering and violence.

Jangam said that today, the Dalits have truly arrived on the Indian political and social scene. “You can neither suppress us nor silence us. Tracing the history of the rise of Dalits, Jangam said the rise of Dalit literature (which began in the 1970s in Maharashtra) spread across all Indian languages in 1980s and 1990s. This created awareness among the Dalits of their status in the Indian society.

He said Ambedkar was aware of the non-egalitarian nature of Hindu religion and had termed the caste system as a division of labourers and not as a division of labour, as the upper caste Hindus have often defined it. It is because of this inherent hierarchical nature of Hindu religion that is not into proselytizing, despite all the claims of ghar wapsi, because a Hindu has to belong to a caste.

Jangam said the privileges that the Hindu upper castes enjoy make them insensitive and inhuman to the sufferings of caste and religious minorities. The Manu Smriti codified the Hindu caste system and denied knowledge to the Dalits, monopolising it exclusively for the Brahmins. He said that despite the concentration of power in the upper castes, and especially the Brahmins, the history of Hindu religion is replete with resistance against the upper caste dominance.

Jangam said the effect of colonialism globally was the destruction of indigenous cultures, but in India, caste and colonialism colluded and it is during the colonial period that there was a sudden discovery of the rich and glorious history of Hinduism and that led to the assertion of the Brahminical supremacy. 

Colonialism consolidated and strengthened the caste system. The Dalit voice was suppressed. In the grand nationalist narrative, the Dalits obviously wanted to know where are we in this narrative?

He said after independence, the makers of modern India had a vision of a new India that would be a home for everyone. Only in India can one find such an example – one cannot conceive that a black person would be invited to write the constitution of the United States, or a native person is invited to write the constitution of Canada, but in India, a Dalit was entrusted with the task. 

The Indian Constitution is one of the most egalitarian documents and the primary reason for this is that it was prepared by a Dalit.

Jangam said, Ambedkar emphasized that while the constitution guaranteed constitutional equality, the Indian society continued to ensure that there was no social equality.

Talking about the present crisis that the Dalits and Muslims face in India, he explained that in the past, the educated Dalit was a target of violence because she is a threat to the caste system. But the last few decades the Dalits have closed the gap and the condition of Dalits is much better than the condition of the blacks in the US. And that is the reason these days it is the poor Dalits who are the target of the ire of upper caste Hindus.

Laws such as the SC ST Atrocities act are unique with no comparable legislation anywhere in the world. And therefore, any dilution of the act should be resisted.

The Q&A session turned out to be confrontational with a number of right-wing Hindutva proponents questioning the basis of organising the discussion. Jangam had a great answer to their protestations: Organise your event.

Here is a television chat show organized by Tahir Gora's TAG TV
that presents the other side of the debate

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