Arundhati Roy tilts towards Gandhi: Prof. K. Y. Ratnam

A report on the special discussion on ‘Politics of Publication and Introductory Paradoxes’ held on 28th March, 2014, inUniversity of Hyderabad

                                                                  – S Swaroop Sirapangi

Dr B R Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA), University of Hyderabad organized a special discussion over Navayana’s latest volume, ‘Annihilation of Caste: The Annotated Critical Edition’, which also includes an introduction by Arundhati Roy entitled as ‘The Doctor and the Saint’.

The original text of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste is annotated by Anand S of Navayana and is preceded by Arundhati Roy’s introduction. This text has created a lot of stir among the dalit/dalit-bahujan intellectuals and the debate has been continuing in various forms on the ways and modes of presentation of this volume, especially over the internet on Ambedkarite sites like Round Table India, and in social media forums like http://www.facebook.com and on some other ‘mainstream’ electronic media sites too. Against this background, the present initiative of ASA should be understood as a sort of continuation of such debates. Perhaps, this could be the first organized attempt to deliberate upon the contents of this volume by the dalit-bahujan intellectuals, in a space other than social or online/electronic media!!

The inaugural launches of this volume were held at Delhi and Mumbai and though another event was supposed to be held recently at Hyderabad, it got cancelled at the last moment. It was intensely rumored that one of the prime reasons behind this cancellation at Hyderabad was due to threats from some of the dalit-bahujan groups towards this volume’s content, which is seen as negative from various vantage points. But in due course of time, it was proved that all such rumors of threats were not genuine, and were perhaps intentionally spread by some regressive elements with vested interests, who wished to portray the dalit-bahujan critique in a negative light.

ASA at University of Hyderabad has taken this initiative towards a constructive deliberation upon the content of the volume by inviting a few prominent dalit-bahujan intellectuals from Hyderabad itself.

The formal particulars of this special discussion as released by ASA can be observed from the following released poster:

asa poster on aoc

The first person to open the discussion was Dr K Y Ratnam. He saw the text both in positive and negative shades, and made objections to the negative shades, and appreciated some positive aspects. His prime objection/s arose from the comparison between Ambedkar and Gandhi – by treating the former as a wild ‘cactus grove’ and the latter as a ‘shining path’, quite in opposite ways!!

He attempted to compare both S Anand and Arundhati Roy’s views, as expressed in the volume’s ‘introduction’ and ‘conclusion’, respectively. He pointed out that in the conclusion it was mentioned that ‘Annihilation of Caste can only be possible when Ambedkar’s writing/s is taken seriously’.  But, in the introduction, Arundhati Roy raises the question: ‘can caste be annihilated?’

The annotated Annihilation of Caste section is to be considered as the main text of the volume, while Arundhati Roy’s introduction to the Annihilation of Caste under the title ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ is viewed as a sub-text. He found fundamental problem/s with the sub-text of Arundhati Roy, though due to time constraints he was unable to enlist full details at length. He found that the sub-text written by Roy, does not match the main textAnnihilation of Caste by Babasaheb.

Arundhati Roy’s introduction is a very ‘current’ text, dealing with very current issues such as the violence across the country as reflected in the Khairlanji violence against the Dalits, unemployment, the monopoly over wealth of the nation by the dominant castes, their control over the media etc. Given that context, when caste pervades Indian society Roy asks,has caste been annihilated? Has it been annhilated or does it continue to be there? She tries to say even the emergence of BSP, and its rule in states like Uttar Pradesh could not attempt to annihilate caste. 

Reading Arundhati Roy’s introduction, he felt that it was somewhat tilted towards the ‘Saint’, the ‘sainthood’ of Gandhi, while outrightly saying that the ‘Doctor’ failed.  

The sub-titles given to different parts of the introduction are also revealing, in his view. While writing on Gandhi, the title ‘shining path’ is used, and when writing on Ambedkar she titles the section ‘cactus grove’. Further, he said, while questioning ‘can caste be annihilated?’, she says Ambedkar’s western ideas are a setback. So Gandhi is more relevant, that is what she wants to convey, he felt.

While coming to the Adivasis and Untouchables – the issues of ecology, big dams etc., are all viewed within the Gandhian framework whereas Ambedkar’s views are not taken into serious consideration. In the constitution formation, Ambedkar gave a lot of importance to Dalits and tribes, he recalled.

He highlighted how the ‘Saint’ who stood against industrialization, urbanization, modernity, etc., was, paradoxically, supported by industrialists till his death! How he was looked after by the industrialists of the day like Birlas, etc!!

But, on the other hand, though Ambedkar stood for such things genuinely, he was not extended any patronage!! Further, he observed that in a way, the author (Arundhati Roy) attempted, or tries to project that Ambedkar’s western ideas pose problems, while Gandhi’s ideas have developed relevance, in the contemporary Indian discourse!!

In his opinion, both Anand and Arundhati Roy tilted towards Gandhi; they referred to Ambedkar’s limitations, while they praised Gandhi. But he felt that even though she did not criticise Ambedkar and even praised him, but she was careful in her use of words, in comparison with Gandhi who was more straightforward in his criticism of Ambedkar. On the whole he observed that the ‘Sainthood character of Gandhi’ was not reflected in the introduction, though it got highlighted in the title of the volume. He denounced Gandhi as lacking any saintly character, by pointing towards some of his most gruesome mistakes like his opposition to Ambedkar ideologically, his position towards women, his activities and characteristic positions in South Africa – like his demand for separate access to public places for Indians in South Africa while denying separate eletorates to the Dalits in India. These are questions that are not attempted to be resolved in the introduction.

The second person to share his views was Prof Kancha Ilaiah. He started his talk by questioning the audience whether anyone of them was for against this book, especially by attempting to enquire – was there anyone from the audience who attempted to protest against this book, when it was scheduled to be inaugurated in Hyderabad, recently?

B Chandrashekar Rao, faculty, Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad interfered in this dialogue from the audience and observed that someone like Arundhati Roy was not required to introduce Ambedkar and everyone knows aboutAnnihilation of Caste‘s content by heart!! Prof Kancha Ilaiah initiated his discourse on this issue by taking inference from Chandrashekar’s point and observed his views from academic methodological vantage points.

He recollected his readings of the Holy Bible and Quran in different versions and annotations and felt there is nothing wrong in annotations and in-fact annotations will certainly benefit a serious scholar!! But, wondered whether any mis-annotation has taken place to this volume or not. For him, even after looking at the social background of Anand (Brahmin) there is nothing wrong if he annotated this text.

But then, he went on to put forward his other methodological observations, like:

a) No introduction should be lengthier than the book,
b) The present introduction, of this much length, is not required, and
c) Giving a different title to the sub-text, the introduction, is also a methodological problem (i.e. The Doctor and the Saint)

He found a primary problematic mismatch between the ‘title and the introduction’ and went on to argue that there is a mismatch between the actual text of Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ as annotated by Anand and Arundhati Roy’s introduction titled as ‘the Doctor and the Saint’. So, he advocated the separation of Anand’s annotations and Arundhati’s introduction. For him, Arundhati’s introduction should be brought out as a separate volume, for which there will not be a problem from his side!!

The last person to address the audience was senior lawyer Bojja Tharakam, who is also well known in Andhra Pradesh for his re-publication and distribution of ‘Annihilation of Caste’ at a very reasonable price, long ago. In fact, Bojja Tharakam was also supposed to be chairing the Hyderabad session of the book’s launch some days ago, which got cancelled.

Tharakam observed that though persons like Anand and Arundhati Roy (primarily referring to the latter) have every right to criticize Ambedkar and/or Gandhi, they cannot do such a thing by choosing to write a ‘preface’ to a volume like Annihilation of Caste!! Thus, in one way or the other he went along with Prof Kancha Ilaiah’s line of argument, and in fact, in the end, went on to openly align with Ilaiah’s side and opined that the two texts of Anand and Arundhati should be separated.

He raised serious objections over the understanding and presentation of Arundhati Roy on Ambedkar, Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste and Ambedkar’s total engagement with the caste discourse and related questions. Caste, in his opinion cannot be understood merely by reading, but it should be primarily experienced.

Prior to Ambedkar there were no intellectuals who raised their voice for annihilation of caste, though there were intellectuals who were for removal of untouchability or/and for removal of caste distinctions between or among different castes (but not for annihilation!!)So, the uniqueness of Ambedkar lies in his quest for Annihilation of Caste, which Arundhati failed to understand effectively.

He also took very serious exception to Anand’s posture in this entire discourse, from the point of lack of acknowledgement of the previous versions of this text in circulation in various forms and in various Indian languages, etc. Without such attempts of acknowledgment, he is projecting this book as the first attempt towards introduction of Ambedkar’s Annihilaton of Caste!!

He observed that it seems as if through the publication of this volume Ambedkar was sought to be minimized/undermined/criticized by highlighting Gandhi in an undue manner. He questions, why Gandhi should be brought into this discourse? In his view, Ambedkar and/or his Annihilation of Caste could have been directly introduced without any reference to Gandhi.

All the speakers opposed any ban on the book, but Prof Ilaiah and Bojja Tharakam felt the introduction should be separated from the book.

Originally Published over http://www.roundtableindia.co.in on March 31, 2014.

Advertisements

Paper Presentation on ‘Politics of Religious Intolerance: The Case of Christians in Telangana’

Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP), Maulana Azad National National Urdu University (MANUU), Gachibowli, Hyderabad hosted a National Seminar on ‘Communal Violence, Persecutions and Social Exclusion of Muslims and Christians in India’, during March 20-21, 2014.

I’ve presented a paper as part of this National Seminar in collaboration with Mr Ch Syam Kumar, Ph.D., Scholar, Department of Anthropology, University of Hyderabad. The abstract of this paper can be observed in the following form;

 

Politics of Religious Intolerance: 

The Case of Christians in Telangana

S Swaroop Siraapngi[1]

Ch Syam Kumar[2]

Social stratification is a common phenomenon across the globe from times immemorial and India is no exception to this phenomenon. In-fact, India has its own social stratification, based on various factors like caste, religion, linguistic nature, etc and all such factors plays their roles in various forms, even if required collectively!!  Gautama Buddha was regarded as the first person to systematically counter the Hindu or Brahminic intolerance in the Indian Sub Continent. And, then onwards ‘Revolution and Counter Revolution’ (as coined by B R Ambedkar) has been taking place in various forms.

Even the modern democratic, constitutional political history of India based on liberal principles is unable to bring full-fledge dignity and honor for the marginalized sections. The best instances in this regard can be of the religious intolerance against the minorities, like Christians.

In this scenario, the present paper attempts to bring out politics of religious intolerance with special reference to the Christians in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh.


[1] Mr S Swaroop Sirapangi is pursuing his Ph.D., Political Science at Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad

[2] Mr Syam Kumar is pursuing his Ph.D., in Anthropology at Department of Anthropology, University of Hyderabad.

The concept note and further details of this Seminar can be found – MANUU Seminar / MANUU on Minorities / National Seminar Brochure

 

National Seminar on Communal Violence, Persecutions and Social Exclusion of Muslims and Christians in India

 

MAULANA AZAD NATIONAL URDU UNIVERSIT

National Seminar

on

Communal Violence, Persecutions and Social Exclusion of Muslims and Christians in India

March 20-21, 2014

Organized by

Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy

Maulana Azad National Urdu University

Hyderabad-500 032

Andhra Pradesh

About the University

Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU) is a Central University established at National Level in 1998 by an Act of Parliament to promote and develop the Urdu language and to impart vocational and technical education in Urdu medium through conventional and distance modes. Sprawled over 200 acres, the head quarters of the University is located at Gachibowli, Hyderabad.  The objectives of the University are to promote and develop the Urdu language, to impart education and training in vocational and technical subjects through the medium of Urdu, to provide wider access to people desirous of pursuing programmes of higher education and training in Urdu medium. Special focus of the University is to promote women education so as to reduce the existing educational inequalities in India.

About the Centre

The Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy was established in May 2007 at Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad. Its’ key objectives include contextualizing and problematizing, while conceptualizing, the exclusion and inclusion existed on the lines of caste/ethnicity and religion, in the society. It also plays a key role in suggesting policy formulations aiming at eradicating the problem of social exclusion and discrimination and protecting the rights of these groups. The Centre has acclaimed its’ existence as one of the few such Centre’s started in India following the UGC’s initiative to establish and promote the Centre’s for study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy during X Plan. Its activities include, teaching, research and action oriented programmes in collaboration with the reputed bodies working in the areas of social development among the socially excluded groups.

Prelude

India is a country of diverse cultures, communities and religious groups. As per the Census reports, Hindus are the majority community with 80.5% of the total population while Muslims and Christians constitute as minority communities with 13.4% and 2.3% respectively. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right in India which is guaranteed by the Constitution. Preamble of the Indian Constitution states that India is a secular state and every citizen of the country has an equal right to practice and promote their religion peacefully (Articles 25-30).

However, persecutions of Muslims and Christians in different forms have been taking place since independence and the right-wing forces have resorted to many such forms. The intensity level and the series of incidents on these minority groups numerically have increased during the last two decades and both the Muslims and Christians have been made the victims of these attacks. As has been rightly said that, communalism is basically a political and not a religious phenomenon and much depends on the kind of political developments that take place.

Of late, India has witnessed several anti-Muslim communal riots. The Muslim massacre of 2002 in Gujarat and recent Muzaffarnagar (UP) are the worst examples of carnage in the contemporary history. The 2002 Gujarat massacre was perceived to be a culmination of hatredness accumulated towards Muslims by the consistent concerted efforts of Hindu right wing groups. This kind of extreme violence cannot be seen as a stand alone incident. Since the independence, the Muslim population has had to deal with a sense of insecurity arising from such mass scale riots. The Jamshedpur riots of 1964 and 1979, the Bhagalpur riots (1989), Bombay riots (1992), Bhopal riots, Bhiwandi riots, Pune Best Bakery case, the recent Muzafarnagar riot (2013) etc., are some of the worst examples where Muslims were categorically targeted and persecuted.

While the Muslims are targeted as vengeance for the alleged historical factors, Christians have become their targets for the missionary activities. From 1960s to 1997, at least 70 incidents of violence against Christians had been reported. Since 1998, Christians in India have become a daily target of violence. According to a Human rights Watch report, the number of incidents of anti-Christian violence rose in the months following the victory of the BJP in 1998. Targeted attacks against Christians started with burning alive of Graham Stuart Staines (1999), culminated in Kandhamal carnage which occurred in 2008. Several religious priests and pastors were attacked brutally and some of them were killed in the pretext of converting people into Christianity.

The religious intolerance that resulted in riots and violence, despite several constitutional provisions indicate that the Indian civil society also did not get reconciliated.  Earlier, communal violence was confined to only certain parts of the country. But for the last 20 years, with the emergence of militant right-wing organizations/politics, it has become a regular phenomenon at all India level. In addition to the physical attacks on religious minorities, incidents of bombing, ransacking, attacking, desecrating and damaging the properties of mosques and churches and their graveyards constantly get reported in newspapers and TV channels. Several reports pointed out that the violence against the Muslims and Christians was to be definitely seen as an act of ethnic cleansing by Hindutva militants.

The processes of ethnic cleansing and ghettoisation of both Muslims and Christians have resulted in another somewhat unusual side effect or externality in states that have seen severe communal conflicts. Religious violence, specifically, is motivated by or in reaction to precepts, texts or doctrines. It includes violence against institutions, persons, objects or when the violence is motivated to some degree by some religious aspect of the target or precept of the attacker.

Several studies indicate that the Hindu right wing organizations have been involved in encouraging negative stereotyping of Muslims and Christians. The stereotyping is based on the fabricated historical incidents where Muslim rulers had allegedly destroyed Hindu temples and religious places. The stereotyping of Christians is around man-woman relations celebrating Valentine’s Day and for conversions / proselytizing activities. Consequently, the minorities in a way are living in total insecurity and the credentials of India to be a secular state is also under threat.

The proposed National Seminar on the communal violence and social exclusion of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians in India, aims to bring scholars from both the minority communities together and to evolve a major discourse to combat communalism. It also aims at examining the deteriorating conditions in this multi-cultural and multi-religious society. It tries to understand the diversity of Indian society and the range of multi-dimensional factors influencing the status of religious minorities. It assesses the situation of both Muslims and Christians against the backdrop of rising majoritarianism and religious fanatism in the name of nationalism.

Objectives of the Seminar

The objective of the Seminar on the status of religious minorities in India is to initiate a discussion on the need to go beyond the stereotype image of Muslims and Christians in India. It makes an attempt to understand the various factors responsible for communal violence and persecutions against religious minorities in India and suggest method for minority religious institutional, ideological and social collaboration.

The seminar will try to examine:

(a)    What are the major problems of minority groups facing today? and

(b)   What are the common grounds between these two major religious communities?

The Seminar provides a platform to scholars, researchers, activists, policy makers and the academia to formulate their views on the situation of Muslims and Christians and the problems they are facing in contemporary. The seminar will evolve an intellectual discourse about situation of religious minorities in India and address the problems they face in all spheres of life.

Broad Themes of the Seminar:

The Seminar proposes to address the following broad themes:

  • Conceptual and Theoretical aspects of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies with special reference to Religious Minorities
  • Communal Violence in pre and post-independent India: Factors, Agents and Victims
  • Persecutions of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities- the forms of persecutions
  • Socio-Economic and Political Contributions of Islam and Christianity in India
  • The Question of Proportional Representation to Minorities and Socially Excluded Communities
  • Empowerment through Inclusion of Muslims and Christians
  • Legal, Economic and Political and Cultural issues involved in Communal Violence and Persecutions
  • Status of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians and the Question of Reservation
  • Way-Ahead: Road-Map for peaceful coexistence

Sub-Themes

  • Socio-economic status of Muslims and Christians in India
  • Existence of Caste-cultural relations in Islam and Christianity in India
  • Dalit conversions into Christianity and Islam and their status
  • Interfaith Relations in India: Focus on Muslim and Christian communities
  • Prejudice and Violence against Muslims and Christians
  • Situation of Muslim and Christian women
  • Islamophobia
  • Media and Religious Minorities
  • Desecration of religious texts and places of worship
  • Indian State, Society, Secularism in relation to Islam and Christianity
  • Indian Constitution and Freedom of Religion in India
  • Political representation of religious minorities

Call for Papers

Original papers or case studies are invited on any one of the given themes for presentation. The papers are to be neatly typed in double space in font 12, Times New Roman with 1.5 cm margins on all sides.  The papers (written in English/Urdu) along with an abstract not exceeding 300 words should be submitted to: csseip_manuu@yahoo.com  or sathaha@yahoo.com or akumarthirao@gmail.com

Important Dates

Last Date for Abstract Submission     : 10.03.2014

Last Date for Abstract Acceptance    : 12.03.2014

Last Date for Full Paper Submission  : 16.03.2014

Seminar Date: March 20-21, 2014

Registration Fees

Faculty Members / Researchers          : Rs.500.00

Students / Research Scholars              : Rs.250.00

Registration fee should be paid through any nationalized bank Demand Draft drawn in favour of Seminar Coordinator, CSSEIP 2014 payable at Hyderabad. Participants may also pay the registration fee in cash on arrival at the venue.

Address:

Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and

Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP)

Room No 213, IMC Building,

Maulana Azad National Urdu University,

Gachibowli, Hyderabad-500 032

Andhra Pradesh

Accommodation & Travel

Accommodation and TA will be provided to the outstation participants whose papers are accepted for presentation. However participants are encouraged to avail TA from their respective institutions.

How to Reach University at Hyderabad

Hyderabad is well connected to national and international destinations with both national and international air carriers as well as Trains. University is located at Gachibowli which is almost 35 km away from the airport and 22 kms from Secunderabad and 16 kms from Hyderabad Railway station.