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MCL's sponsors 250 BPL Dalit Farmers in Sambalpur - Odisha News Insight
Profile: Clampdown after Indian caste riots - The National
Owning Ambedkar sans his views - The Hindu
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The Times Of India
Odisha News Insight
MCL's sponsors 250 BPL Dalit Farmers in Sambalpur
Sambalpur, August 26, 2010: For healthy and sustainable crop, small and marginal dalit farmers in Sambalpur district of Odisha will not have to look at the sky anymore.
Thanks to Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL), the small and marginal poor dalit farmers in western district now have their own Deep Bore-wells in fields to water their harvest timely and produce maximum yield.
The Coal Ind ia subsidiary in Odisha sponsored 250 Below Poverty Line (BPL) dalit farmers to avail the state government scheme that provides an irrigation facility at a subsidised investment of Rs 10,000.
On the initiation of District Collector Mr Balwant Singh, who identified the BPL dalit farmers facing hardships in their agricultural activities in Sambalpur district, MCL sponsored Rs 25,00,000 for 250 irrigation facilities to poverty-stricken farmers and boost the agriculture produce from the district.
Mr A N Sahay, Chairman-cum-Managing Director, MCL, toured villages in Jamankira block of district along with Collector Mr Balwant Singh and met the beneficiaries working in their fields.
The poor agrarian villagers expressed their gratitude to the MCL for extending a helping hand and ensuring irrigation facility in their own fields.
''Agriculture is an important aspect for prosperity and development of the nation and MCL will always try to contribute towards agricultural growth'' said Mr A N Sahay, congratulating district administration for sincere efforts in bringing out change in the life of these small and marginal farmers.
Profile: Clampdown after Indian caste riots
AUGUST 27TH, 2015 - 12:28 AM JAMES HAMILTON
CASTE-RELATED violence continued yesterday in western India despite a curfew imposed after paramilitary and police forces fought to contain riots.
The curfew covered at least five cities in the state of Gujarat with mobile phone reception cut off in an attempt to prevent gangs gathering.
Teargas and batons were used by security forces after mobs burned vehicles and hurled stones and sticks at police.
Yesterday as a general strike hit the region, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for peace, saying: "Violence will not benefit anyone. The only way forward is to have a peaceful dialogue."
Schools, shops and businesses were all shut yesterday with Gujarat's largest city Ahmedabad, almost completely shut down by the strike.
At least a dozen police officers were injured in the riots according to Gujarat police chief, PC Thakur.
"The agitators clashed with the police and members of the lower castes," he said. "They have burnt down nine police stations and over three dozen buses. We had to impose a curfew to control the clashes."
However, the leader of the protesters, 22-year-old Hardik Patel, accused security forces of targeting the Patel community.
"The police have assaulted members of my community and behaved like terrorists. We will carry out our movement peacefully. I am asking my supporters to fast in support of our cause," he said.
The clashes broke out on Tuesday in protest over Patel's detention by police after he led a huge demonstration in the state capital.
This was the result of long-simmering tension over positive discrimination given to the lower castes and the "untouchables" or Dalit people in India.
The action is aimed at helping them overcome centuries of discrimination but there is growing resentment in many areas over the places reserved for the Dalits and lower castes in schools, colleges and government jobs.
The Patels are just one of the communities claiming either that the system should be abolished or that they too should be given special status.
Around one fifth of the 63 million people in Gujarat are of the Patel community which is heavily involved in the diamond cutting and polishing industry and also farms some of the best land in the region.
However, the Patels claim their livelihoods are becoming increasingly difficult as agriculture and industry have been heavily hit by high inflation.
They also claim their young people are being denied places in college because too many are reserved for Dalits and lower castes.
The Patels are demanding to be included in the quota for government jobs and education places. If the changes are not made, say the Patels, the whole system should be scrapped.
Chief minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel has called on her community to stay calm. She said the Patels' demands could not be met as the 50 per cent of school places and jobs reserved for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) were already taken and the Supreme Court of India has ruled that no more can be set aside.
While the Prime Minister – formerly chief minister of Gujarat, his home state – comes from a caste included in the OBC, he has previously said India must rise above its caste based divisions and try to achieve a merit-based society. Modi, whose father was a tea seller, has repeatedly stressed his own rise to power from lowly origins.
It is unlikely, however, that people will pay much heed to his desire for a meritocracy as caste divisions are deeply embedded in Indian society and likely to influence the pending state election in Bihar where Nitish Kumar, the chief minister, belongs to the Patel community and has made clear that his sympathies lie with the Gujarat protestors.
Despite the attempts of recent Indian governments to outlaw caste violence, it still claims many lives each year.
Last October, upper-caste men raped five Dalit women in Bihar's Bhojpur district while hundreds of Dalit families were chased from their homes in neighbouring districts after a Dalit man attempted to run against higher-caste candidates in a local election.
The higher castes' resentment could have been fuelled by the appointment last May of Dalit Jitan Ram Manjhi as chief minister of Bihar. He has introduced policies to help members of his community as well as reportedly urging them to have more children so that Dalits can become more politically powerful.
"A deep-rooted bias prevails against … those from the downtrodden sections of society … I have myself been a victim of caste bias," Manjhi has said.
While some scholars say the origins of the caste system are pre-modern and lie in ancient religious texts, others maintain that the classifications were made more rigid by the British Raj who used it as a mechanism for administration, giving the best jobs only to the upper castes.
Social unrest in the early 20th century led to a change of policy with a certain number of government jobs reserved for the lower castes. After independence in 1947 the caste-based jobs reservation policy was expanded, with discrimination against lower castes made illegal.
Rapid urbanisation over the last few decades has weakened the caste system according to some sociologists but if this week's protests in Gujarat are any indication there is still a long way to go.
Owning Ambedkar sans his views
The Gujarat government cannot selectively impart the ideas and legacy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
Earlier this month, on August 12, several media outlets reported that the Gujarat government's Department of Social Justice and Empowerment withdrew four lakh copies of a Gujarati textbook meant for students of classes VI to VIII, titled Rashtriya Mahapurush Bharat Ratna Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. The book, authored by Dalit scholar P.A. Parmar and published by Surya Prakashan, Ahmedabad, was selected and assigned by the same government department to mark the 125th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar (1891-1956), starting from his birthday on April 14, 2015 and continuing for one year.
According to a statement given to members of the press by K.D. Kapadia, the Director of Scheduled Caste Welfare, "The publisher added some things in the book that were seen as sending a wrong message to the impressionable mind of primary school students… Some matters pertaining to religious conversion that are there in the 22 vows of Dr. Ambedkar were added by the publisher, which were seen as going against the message of national integration. Government's action will be in the interest of the public."
The withdrawal of this book — which had been printed in huge numbers and had arrived at various district headquarters for further distribution — raises the obvious issue of the necessity and propriety of book bans in a democratic culture. It also reminds us of the unwarranted interference by government bodies that are, strictly speaking, not meant to be dealing with education policy or implementation, in matters of syllabus creation, textbook content and socio-political "messaging" that targets young students, to use Mr. Kapadia's language.
Conflict over textbooks
The banning of books and the continuous conflict over school and college textbooks are problems that have come up repeatedly in Indian public life, across States, and political parties, from the Left through the Centre to the Right. These actions are not "in the interest of the public", although they are invariably sought to be justified on these grounds.
More worrying in this case is the stated reason for the withdrawal of the book. Dr. Ambedkar announced his decision to convert to Buddhism, took a formal diksha from Buddhist monks and, in turn, led the conversion of close to half a million people on October 14, 1956, in Nagpur.
He called the faith Navayana or the New Way, a protestant Buddhism based on his reinterpretation of classical Buddhism, his re-reading of its canonical texts, as well as his reorganisation of its central doctrines, tenets, practices and institutions. In the last year of his life, he wrote a massive work titled The Buddha and His Dhamma, to make the teachings of the Buddha accessible to modern readers. As part of the public ceremony of joining this new religion, followers collectively took 22 vows, written by Babasaheb himself.
In the weeks following the Nagpur initiation, and the months following Dr. Ambedkar's death on December 6, 1956, close to four million people, mostly Dalits, (predominantly Mahars from Maharashtra), adopted this faith.
The purpose of Ambedkarite Buddhism is to liberate Dalits from untouchability and other forms of social exclusion and humiliation, all of which flow from the low status assigned to them in the orthodox Hindu caste system. Dr. Ambedkar's vows are meant to both induct converts into a genuinely egalitarian society and enable them to leave behind modes of living, thinking and believing that were hierarchical, violent and humiliating.
It is clear that the vows serve the dual purpose of discarding the old and adopting the new. They help Neo-Buddhists reject the Hindu way of life that had oppressed them for centuries, and, at the same time, assert their adherence to an emancipatory creed.
Dr. Ambedkar's Buddhism was as much an indictment of Hindu varna dharma as it was a modern statement of equality, intended to deepen the vision of the Constitution while also recalling the original critique of the Buddha against Vedic orthodoxy. When the laws and promises contained in the liberal statute books proved inadequate, he tried to place vulnerable communities on an equal footing by endowing them with a positive identity and a separate programme of action.
Left to himself, Dr. Ambedkar might have preferred a "civic religion". For him, Buddhism supplemented the new republic's guarantees of equal citizenship, universal adult franchise, fundamental rights, reservations, freedom of religion and a secular state that he had struggled to establish. But the main difficulties of Dalits stemmed from the very structure of Hindu society, which did not change much despite Independence and the Constitution. As he said in a speech to the Constituent Assembly, the political revolution was not accompanied by a social revolution. He also recognised that ordinary people in India, across castes and communities, drew strength from traditional religious faiths of various kinds. Babasaheb hoped that the Navayana would have the two-pronged effect of addressing both the problem of inequality and the desire for a religion — one that generated self-respect and a distinct identity — among his followers.
In arranging the vows in a particular order, Dr. Ambedkar seems to have wanted to first clear the ground, ensuring that ample distance is created between the Hindu faith (and along with it, the outcaste status) that the seeker was born into and the new Dhamma that is going to be embraced. The condemnation of Hinduism is unequivocal, and takes precedence over the utterance of Buddhist vows.
The break amounts to a "rebirth", as is stated in no uncertain terms in the penultimate vow (Vow 21: "I believe that I am having a re-birth"). The Gujarat government official's words call this "going against the message of national integration", but obviously, it's the rather more forceful refusal of the Ambedkarite Buddhist to remain integrated within the Hindu fold that has caused the discomfort and led to a withdrawal of the textbook in question.
The government in Gujarat and the Centre want to appropriate the legacies of modern historical figures like Sardar Patel and Dr. Ambedkar even though this makes little ideological sense, given the values these stalwarts espoused and their lack of congruence with Hindutva politics. The BJP also has cynical designs on Dr. Ambedkar with the aim of capturing a share of Dalit votes. The government-sponsored celebration of his 125th anniversary — but the inability to actually stomach his critical views on the caste system or on Hindu deities, rituals and beliefs — is an excellent illustration of the hollowness of the Hindu Right's claims to speak in favour of Dalit rights, national integration or the public interest.
Mr. Parmar, the book's author, went on to tell journalists that he would rather that the textbook have a few blank pages or contain more photographs of Dr. Ambedkar, than that the publisher, one Dharmesh Kothari, include the vows of his own accord, without consulting with him. Withdrawing the book seems like a defensive ploy on the part of an implicitly Hindu — and Hindu majoritarian — government to shield what Mr. Kapadia called "the impressionable mind" of the student reader just as it is about to encounter the radical force and fiercely anti-assimilationist tendency of the Navayana doctrine.
This is unacceptable. Students in Gujarat and elsewhere must be allowed to learn how Babasaheb sought to make a better, more equitable India. If to achieve this goal, he had to attack the worst aspects of society, religion and politics, whether "Hindu" or Indian, so be it. Our young, the future citizens of this country, have to be made aware of the courage it took Dr. Ambedkar to seek to annihilate caste.
(Ananya Vajpeyi is with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi.)
The Times Of India
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