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Readings For An Anti-Caste Education

Words by Sukhnidh Kaur

October 04, 2020

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We are the people..we are the nation- Our Emotion Dried up Our Words by Balaji Ponna

India is experiencing profound grief in light of a crumbling economy, political suppression, and the widening of existing inequalities. One finds, yet again, that at the root of this violence is the pervasiveness of casteism. Today, as the country protests the rape and murder of Dalit women and the systems that have led to it, it is important to reflect on the rotten spirit of casteism that infects us.

 

To my fellow caste-privileged allies: This month, we might attend marches, proclaim allyship on social media, and write about the Hathras incident as if it takes death to jolt us into action (and as if caste-based sexual violence has only now been given impunity). We may condemn physical caste-based atrocities, the government's inefficiency, and sometimes even our families – and yet seldom reflect on our own role in inflicting social violence.

 

Caste is here – in our socialization, codified in the structures and norms that surround us, perpetuated by our ways of life. It is so present in our everyday rigmarole that we have simply normalised it, convinced that we are “good” by virtue of our words. By functioning within the status quo, we have already failed the imagination of the Indian democracy. 

 

Even acknowledging privilege is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Andrea White writes about how such confessions rarely lead to political projects aimed at dismantling the structures of domination that enabled said privilege. Rather, the confessions become the political project themselves, their benefits being ephemeral.

 

Our duty today is to direct anti-caste education and practices toward ourselves. The intent, as Dr. Ambedkar said, is to annihilate caste - both within and outside of ourselves. Kiruba Munusamy, advocate at the Supreme Court of India, tweets about how instead of stringent new laws, democratic change can only be brought by structural reforms through proportional representation. 

 

Such education requires time, persistence, and listening, which is in many ways the opposite of our flitting on social media each time a hashtag trends. 

 

The eighth edition of Akademi Mag's Love, Pavemented collates a few anti-caste readings from Dalit and Bahujan activists and leaders.

 

How Can I Be An Ally?

  • Smashboard recently shared an Instagram post on how to be an anti-caste feminist when you have caste privilege, which included lessons on forming coalitions with Dalit feminists, not butting in when two Dalit feminists are in disagreement, and acknowledging caste privilege. Read the whole post here.

  • Also, read Caste Privilege 101: A Primer for the Privileged, where Thenmozhi Soundararajan and Sinthujan Varatharajah write about the migration of caste, its existence in the diaspora, and its structural and generational nature. It also includes a sample of social locating questions for the purpose of self-examination.

 

Where can I access the works of
Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar?

  • Dr. Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste text. You can also listen to it here

  • Dr. Ambedkar's Philosophy of Hinduism, which answers fundamental questions about whether Hinduism recognizes equality and fraternity. Free PDF

  • Dr. Ambedkar's Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability through religious, political and social lenses. 

  • Translations of Dr. Ambedkar's works in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, or Kannada, offered by Velivada. 

  • Dr. Ambedkar's collected writings and speeches, offered by ambedkar.org.

Land and dominance by Randeep Maddoke

There was myth that land is a mother of the peasantry, actually it’s a commodity, a tool to maintain dominant status to caste repression marginalising agricultural labourers in India. In the times of industrialisation/capitalism, agricultural land relationships are changing as peasants their relationship with land and their status

Also read...

  • The collected works of Periyar, compiled by Dr. K. Veeramani. In the first few pages, you can learn about who Periyar was, his life's trajectory, and work. 

  • Dr. Anand Teltumbde's The Persistence of Caste. Free PDF

  • Kancha Ilaiah's Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism, which outlines the role of caste and religion in socio-spiritual systems. Free PDF

  • Kancha Ilaiah's Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture, and Political Economy. Free PDF

  • Equality Labs offers resources on caste abolition and Hindutva, South Asian Activism, Dalit History Month, caste in India and the diaspora, a reading list, and more.

 

Anti-Caste Climate Justice

Here's a comprehensive YouTube playlist of videos and documentaries that help us understand why India needs anti-caste climate justice. Thanks to Sriranjini Raman for compiling this. Follow her on Instagram.

Women and Trans Writing

Ash Blanket cover on his own way by Naresh Suna

Naresh looks into incidents in his region where whole settlements of ‘lower’ caste communities of a village were burned and destroyed. Their livelihoods, food, clothes, shelter but also their identities, dreams and future turned into ashes.

Here at Akademi Mag we hope to create space for voices that are otherwise erased, obscured or censored. If you would like to publish or work with us, please reach out to contact@akademimag.com. We are here to help, support and encourage you the best we can.

Further Reading on Akademi Mag

Meena Kandasamy is an Indian poet, fiction writer, translator and activist from Chennai. Link to original tweet.

Artwork from Broken Foot – Unfolding Inequalities Exhibition

 

‘Broken Foot – Unfolding inequalities’ is a curatorial fundraiser exhibit curated by Prabhakar Kamble & Rumi Samadhan. It is Artists United Collective’s first online exhibition project and fundraiser. The sixty participating artists collectively raise a voice through their various forms of dissent – as projections of subjects representing as well as interrelating the context of ‘Labour’ and ‘Nation’.

10th July- 10th October, 2020.

SUKHNIDH KAUR writes and researches about human behaviour, politics, and the internet. You can find her at @pavemented on Instagram. 

 

Love, Pavemented Newsletter offers insights into contemporary politics and philosophy, global news headlines, gems from the internet, curated messages from inspiring figures exclusively for readers, and more, twice a month. Click here to subscribe.

Further Reading

Readings For An Anti-Caste Education

The eighth edition of Akademi Mag's Love, Pavemented collates a few anti-caste readings from Dalit and Bahujan activists and leaders.

SUKHNIDH KAUR

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We Must Call It What It Is: Caste-Based Violence

A nineteen-year-old girl who belonged to a Dalit community was brutally raped and killed by four upper caste men. This is not just a case of rape. It’s a caste atrocity.

JYOTSNA SIDDHARTH

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‘A silk weaver can only weave silk, he cannot wear it.’

The Tamil film, Kanchivaram, explores the exploitation of weavers in Tamil Nadu through the story of its protagonist Vengadam, who belongs to the traditional silk weaving community, and is set within a period that saw weavers struggling with economic inequality and rapidly rising suicide rates.

SAACHI D'SOUZA

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Your rainbow doesn't hide your casteism

There are a lot of structural reasons why Guruswamy and Katju get to present themselves as leaders of this movement, and in doing so, tap into exactly the structural violence through which Section 377 has come to be represented.

AKHIL KANG and VQUEERAM ADITYA SAHAI

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It Means I Have Been Arrested

Umar Khalid was arrested on 13th September. He was arrested for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to incite the violence that broke out in Northeast Delhi in February 2020.

EDITORIAL TEAM

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