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Academics, Activists Condemn Police, RSS Outfit Violence Against Dalits in Kerala’s Vadayampady



Dalits protest

Dalits have been fighting against ‘a caste wall’ built around the community space in their neighbourhood in Vadyampady for over a year now. Representative image. Credit: PTI New Delhi: Around 50 academics and activists on Thursday released a statement condemning the police and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-sponsored violence against Dalits in Vadayampady in Kerala. For over a year now, Dalits have been fighting against ‘a caste wall’ built around the community space in their neighbourhood in Vadyampady, east of Kochi.

On February 6, 2018, six RSS activists were arrested for allegedly threatening noted Malayalam poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar in Kollam district when he was returning after addressing a gathering at a function on February 5 night. Sreekumar had expressed his solidarity with Dalit protestors. The issue was raised in the Kerala assembly on Tuesday, and chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office directed the police to take action and conduct a probe into the incident. Read the full text of the statement below.

Statement Condemning Violence Unleashed by the Police and the RSS Outfits Against Dalits in Vadayampady

We the undersigned express our grave concern over the brutal violence unleashed by the State Police and the RSS outfits against the Dalits in Vadayampady in Kerala. Dalits in Vadayampady are protesting over a year now against the ‘Caste Wall’ built by the upper caste blocking Dalits from entering into the common space/playground used by the public for decades. The peaceful protest by Dalits against the wall of exclusion is met with brutal attacks by the police force of the state commanded by CPI-M led left government, as well as by the upper caste in the locality led by the RSS. It is indeed shocking that the police manhandled and arrested those who went to Vadayampady in solidarity, and also to participate in Dalit Self Respect Convention, including well-known activists and writers such as K.K. Kochu, K M Salim Kumar, C S Murali, Mrudula Devi Saidharan, Dr. Dhanya Madhav, Dr. P G Hari, KK Baburaj, and Gomathi Augustine of Pembillai Orumai.

Ironically, the police acted as spectators when the RSS attacked the Dalit protesters. The violence in Vadayampady is one among the several recent instances of the police brutality and connivance in the RSS led onslaught against Dalit protestors and media reporters in the state. It is alarming that even the state police forces commanded by a left government is colluding with the right wing religious extremists to protect the interest of the upper caste, their illegal claims and acts of social segregation. This and the subsequent inaction by the law enforcing agencies had enabled a vacuum in law and order leading to physical and verbal assault against poet Kureepuzha Sreekumar by the RSS outfits on his way back to his home after declaring his solidarity with the Dalit protesters. We strongly condemn the attack on Kureepuzha Sreekumar.

We are also concerned about the cold response of the government and the left parties who attempt to side-line the police violence as a ‘minor issue’. CPI-M and other left parties in the government are supposed to be part of the progressive forces of the country. But it is felt that the Dalit-Adivasi agitators are often portrayed by even the dominant left as Maoists/anarchists/terrorists in their attempt to strategically delegitimise the Dalit-Adivasi Struggles. We are afraid that this would result in the weakening of fight against various social injustices while increasing the attack on the marginalised groups in the country. The current Dalit struggle in Vadayampady which has been ongoing for more than a year has roots in how Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized groups in Kerala have been discriminated against accessing public places, and deprived of land and resources by both left and right wing governments. We feel strongly than ever now that the situation of state forces colluding with right wing religious forces unleashing violence against Dalit protesters in Kerala is equally alarming that of the cases of from elsewhere from the country and needs to be resisted. We call forth all the progressive forces in the country and beyond to contempt and challenge the increasing violence against the Dalits and urge those agencies whose mandate to uphold the values and rights promised in the constitution to take steps to bring the culprits before the law in a befitting manner.

Signatories: Ruth Manorama, National Convenor, National Federation of Dalit Women, Delhi, Anand Teltumbde, Writer, political analyst and civil rights activist with CPDR, Maharashtra, Gajendran Ayyathurai, Postdoctoral Fellow and Study Advisor, Centre for Modern Asian Studies, University of Gottingen, Germany, Sharika Thiranagama, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Stanford University, United States, Virginius Xaxa, Professor of Eminence, Tezpur University, Assam, M. Kunhaman, Professor, TISS, Mumbai, Rupa Viswanath, Professor, Centre for Modern Asian Studies, University of Gottingen, Germany, A.K. Ramakrishnan, Professor, School of International Studies, JNU, Delhi, K. Satyanarayana, Professor, EFLU, Hyderabad, Sanal Mohan, Associate Professor, School of Social Sciences and Hon. Director, IUCSSRE MG University, Kerala, Asha Kowtal, General Secretary, Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, M. Amruth, Historian and Sociologist, KFRI, Thrissur, Kerala, T.M. Yesudasan, Retired Professor and Writer, Kerala, K.S. Madhavan, Writer, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Calicut, Cynthia Stephen, Writer and Researcher, Sylvia Karpagam, Public health doctor and researcher., Ravichandran Bhathran, Founder of Dalit Camera, Karthik Navayan Batulla, Writer, Human Rights Activist, Irfan Engineer, Director of CSSS, Mumbai, Sruthi Herbert, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom, M.B. Manoj, Assistant Professor, Department of Malayalam, University of Calicut, Vikramaditya Thakur, Assistant Professor, University of Delaware, United States, Rekha Raj, Programme Manager-Women Rights, Amnesty International, Bengaluru, Rajesh Komath, Assistant Professor, School of Social Science, MG University, Kottayam, Parthasarathi Muthukaruppan, Assistant Professor, EFLU, Hyderabad, Sumeet Mhaskar, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Student Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University , Delhi., Abhilash Thadathil, Assistant Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Mythri Prasad-Aleyamma, Associate Fellow, Institute of Human Development, New Delhi, Anish Vanaik, Assistant Professor, O.P. Jindal Global University, Delhi, Varsha Ayyar, Assistant Professor, Centre for Labour Studies, TISS, Mumbai, T.V. Sajeev, Scientist, KFRI, Thrissur, Brahmaputhran, Daya Hospital, Thrissur, Prashanth Bansode, Associate Professor, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics, Pune, Satheesh Kumar, Assistant Professor, History, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, M.V. Bijulal, School of International Relations and Politics, MG University, Kottayam, N. Gopakumaran Nair, HoD, History, University College, Thiruvananthapuram, K.M. Sheeba, Associate Professor, Department of History, Sree Sankaracharya University, Kalady, Kerala, Dickens Leonard M, Guest faculty, Univ. of Hyderabad., Mythri P.U., School of Distance Education, University of Calicut, Manju E.P. PhD Research Scholar, Univ. of Hyderabad, Sanjay Kumar Paswan, Independent research consultant for social sector agencies, Patna, R. Manohar, Regional Coordinator, Human Rights Defenders Alert India, Dr K. Babu Rao, Human Rights Forum, Hyderabad, Sukla Sen, Peace Activist, Mumbai, Subhash Gatade, New Socialist Initiative, Siddharth, Independent Researcher, Bengaluru, Jayaseelan Raj, Assistant Professor, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Maya K.S, Writer, PhD Research Scholar, Christ College, University of Calicut, Kerala, Prameela, Assistant Professor, Sanskrit Sahitya, Sree Sankaracharya University, Kerala, Jentle Varghese, Guest Lecturer, Government College, Kottayam, Kerala, Chandran Komath, Assistant Professor, Government College, Kottayam, Kerala,
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BURMA OPTIONS

Special Contribution
By Roland Watson(dictatorwatch)
Jan 20, 2018

Kachin soldiers

Everybody goes on and on about how complicated the situation in Burma is, but when you boil it down there are only four options. The first is just to accept things as they are, a Burman dictatorship and now with Aung San Suu Kyi as its spokesperson. This means continuing racism and attacks in the country’s ethnic nationality homelands, and low-grade but never-ending repression everywhere else, including against the media.

But, while the Burma Army will carry on buying new weapons systems, the ethnic armed organizations will never disarm, and the Civil War will endure. The generals will never be able to impose their will such that the resistance is defeated. With this status quo, the refugee and IDP crises will never be resolved. Economic development will further never take off. The people will remain impoverished.

The second option is renewed popular uprising, in combination with the ethnic resistance. Particularly when Suu Kyi is gone, the people may finally decide that enough is enough. This would have the two-fold benefit that all the different groups in the country would be united, and the likelihood, not only the possibly, that the regime would be overthrown. If everyone works together, the dictatorship can be vanquished in short order.

The third option is that some of the ethnic nationalities on their own declare independence. This possibility reflects the fact that the Burman dictators will never willingly cede power, and also the prospect that through offensive guerrilla warfare the Burma Army can be expelled from their homelands. This option currently applies for the most part to the members of the Northern Alliance Burma, and looking at the map it is easy to envision both Kachin and Shan States separating and becoming new, free countries - federal democracies in their own right.

The fourth option follows from the third. Were the Northern groups to declare independence, many of the other resistance armies around the country might follow suit. One or a few freedom struggles could transform into the long-awaited national liberation revolution. If the people then took to the streets as well, including the Burman general public, this would effectively duplicate option two and the country would soon be free.

The generals and Suu Kyi have made their choice clear - option one. We await the day when the people are determined to fight without compromise for their democratic aspirations. Note: For option three, please see my recent statement, Break up Burma?
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Changing Times for Intellectuals and Activists in India

Special Contribution
By Pushkar Raj

Dr. MM Kalburgi (75) was shot dead in his residence

Intellectuals and activists are the conscience of a society but they face a crisis of survival in the country today as Gauri Lankesh’s killing last month demonstrates. Gauri is the fourth intellectual activist who was silenced through a murder.

Earlier, Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist activist, was killed in August 2013 for his activism against superstitions such as black magic and child sacrifice followed by Govind Pansare, a left-wing politician, writer of Shivaji Kon Hota, in 2015 for revealing secular side of Maratha icon Shivaji. Kannada scholar M M Kalburgi was also killed in the same year for hurting Hindu sentiments signaling a message of strangulation for those who live by thinking, writing and speaking.

The people close to the ideology of Hindutva are suspected to be behind these killings as the intellectuals are considered a threat by them. Kalburgi and Gauri had more than a dozen cases filed against them in different courts by various radical Hindu groups. After the death of Gauri, a BJP member of the Karnataka state legislature suggested that if she had not criticized Sangh Parivar, she would still be alive.

Ideologies create a fixated worldview

Ideologies, by definition and practice restrict thought within bounds- be it of time or space- therefore, at times, tending to be highly irrational and destructive for example, communalism, fascism, maoism and nationalism , to name a few. Hindutava too falls in the same category and its adherents have a flat Worldview rooted in myths and Manusmriti, an ancient text similar to other religions’ treatises.

A writer however, goes beyond ideologies, travelling with time, seeking truth, challenging, explaining and expressing social reality through what he lives by – writing and speaking. In the words of famous Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, the writer creates “new values” for a society. However the status quo forces such as Hindutva do not appreciate this role of the writer, so when Kancha Illiah argues that Hindutva promotes social smuggling, or Kalburgi, reveals a disconnect between Lingayatism and Hinduism, the followers of Hindutva resort to intimidating, harassing and finally purging the intellectual.

Constitution under threat

Jawaharlal Nehru wrote The Discovery of India in the 1940s, underlining a set of new values on which later the Indian constitution was based becoming a shared and supreme ideology of all the citizens of the new republic. Barring the Emergency (1975-77) writers wrote, as Jean-Paul Sartre held, “to exist and express their freedom.” They enjoyed freedom of conscience and fulfilled, to repeat Sartre again, their “moral and ethical responsibilities of observing the social political moments, and to freely speak to their society.” However, the writers are in a peculiar bind today. On one hand, society is so radicalized that as a social class they are perceived as a threat, and on the other, the constitution of the country is unable to protect them because those guiding its implementation do not fully believe in it. Addressing its lawyers’ wing last week, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat stressed that the constitution should be changed according to the ethos of the country.

Thinking of the state of intellectuals in India today, one is reminded of Turkey about a decade ago in 2006, when noble laureate, Orhan Pamuk was charged, with “insulting Turkishness” for referring to the Armenian genocide of 1915-17, which the nationalist government denies. It was the beginning of AKP’s rise under Recep Tayyip Erdogan gradually leading to total crackdown on dissent. Today hundreds of writers, journalists and activists, including country director and chairman of board of Amnesty International, Idil Eser and Taner Kilic are in jail. With 5.1 per cent average ‘development’, Erdogan regime is holding nearly total control over media and Internet and in the words of Pamuk, the writer of Istanbul, “so many crazy, unacceptable things are happening”. The ruling party though maintains that Turkey is a secular parliamentary democracy as envisioned by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (father of Turks). Thinking of a decade ahead, one is inclined to ask, will India become like present-day Turkey? It is a cynical but relevant question.
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