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Tuesday 8 November 2011

Dalit traders to make Delhi their base
Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 04, 2011
Last Updated: 23:42 IST(4/11/2011)
The national Capital is all set to have a formal, structured group of Dalit entrepreneurs who will hit the market from Saturday to sell their goods and integrate themselves with capitalism as a form of empowerment.
"Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI), which was based in Pune till now, is launching its Delhi chapter on Saturday," Dalit intellectual Chandrabhan Prasad told HT. Significantly, the launch event is called Dalit Job Givers' Party.
"Dalits are not always seekers as they are shown to be. They are also givers," said DICCI chairman Milind Kamble. "Entrepreneurship is an even bigger form of empowerment than government job quotas."
The Dalit movement in India moved from an emphasis on "autonomy" from upper castes — reflected in Ambedkar's demand for separate electorates and call to embrace Buddhism - to a focus on empowerment through access to government jobs via reservations. Mayawati's BSP was an off-shoot of Kanshi Ram's Backward and Minority Communities Employees' Federation, a body comprising Dalit government servants.
Badri Narayan, an expert on UP Dalit movement, says, "Now, empowerment is being sought through market participation rather than government jobs. But this is more a representation than a reality.” However, Kamble says Dalit entrepreneurship is a necessity, with the market expanding faster.
The Telegraph
NAC rules for Montek on poverty plans
New Delhi, Nov. 4: The Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council has listed dos and don’ts for Montek Singh Ahluwalia on the special component plan that forms a part of the five-year plan devised by the Planning Commission.
The council has focused on the Dalits in the special plan that has two sub-plans: one for Dalits and the other for tribals.
The council’s working group on Dalit issues — Harsh Mander and Farah Naqvi are in the team — has asked the Centre to pass an enabling law to monitor the schemes undertaken by the special Dalit plan, track the amounts spent on them to the last rupee and facilitate social auditing.
The council asked the plan panel to fund only such schemes where “tangible benefits” accrued to the Dalits and demanded that the money allotted should be made “non-lapsable and non-divertible”.
Explaining the rationale for the last demand, the council said before the plan outlays were allocated to the ministries and departments in the Centre and the states, the commission must compulsorily earmark a proportion for the Dalit sub-plan.
Mander and Naqvi underlined that the designated amount must not be parked with a ministry but must be handed out to all the departments and ministries that had a proven record of doing targetted programmes for the Schedules Castes.
They added that if the Planning Commission was to achieve the 12th Plan’s declared aim of “closing the gap between the SCs and the rest” through the SC sub-plan — introduced in the late seventies — it should ensure that the Dalit-specific projects were “protected” and indeed funded even more.
“The practice of showing notional outflows by ministries/departments to account for the special component sub-plan shall be discontinued,” it stressed.
The NAC has asked to constitute a separate body to vet and sanction the schemes.
Sonia’s panel, in concrete terms, said boarding schools for Dalit boys and girls must be set up in villages, towns and cities.
The council also demanded programmes to allow Dalits greater access to irrigated land, create self-employment schemes and enterprise development.
The Pioneer
Friday, 04 November 2011 21:12
VR Jayaraj | Kochi
Bottom of Form
Kerala’s CPI(M)-led Opposition LDF is presently on an agitation against the alleged insult hurled out at its leader AK Balan, a Dalit, by the Chief Whip of the Congress-led UDF Government with casteist remarks but records show that the Marxists themselves have liberally used such insulting remarks against Dalits when it suited them.
The Left stalled the proceedings in the Assembly the other day over the insult Chief Whip PC George, known for making acerbic remarks in speeches in the House and outside, showered on October 28 on Balan, former minister and State CPI(M) secretariat member, with his statement “I am not saying much as he belongs to Scheduled Caste.”
Despite intense Leftist protests since October 28 inside the Assembly and outside and severe criticisms from several leaders in the Congress and other coalition constituents, George, vice-chairman of the Kerala Congress (M), a constituent of the UDF, has stubbornly refused to apologize for his derogatory references to Balan.
The Opposition has announced boycott of George in the Assembly and outside. They will also not participate in TV talk shows if George participates in such programmes. Balan himself has lodged complaints with the Chief Minister and the DGP requesting action against George under Prevention of Atrocities against SC Act, IPC and provisions of the Police Act.
However, Dalit activists point out that the CPI(M)’s protests in the name of Dalits and their rights are nothing but hypocritical drama because the Marxists themselves have allegedly used derogatory remarks against Dalit whenever that suited them. “Now, when one of them has suffered a blow, they feel the pain,” said Suresh Kumar, an Adivasi in Aralam, Kannur.
Dalit rights workers recall the infamous reference to Congress’s former Dalit minister MA Kuttappan by former Marxist chief minister late EK Nayanar, an upper caste Hindu. Nayanar had then referred to Kuttappan as “That Harijan Kuttappan” but “Kerala has not heard an apology coming from him,” said Suresh.

The Nationalist People’s Forum recalled how M Vijayakumar, a former Marxist Minister and ex-Speaker, had insulted BR Ambedkar, the social section he belonged to and a poor people’s slum in Thiruvananthapuram with his statement that the most suitable place for an Ambedkar statue was the Chenkalchoola slum in the capital.
The forum took a direct dig at Balan himself saying that he had not included even a single Dalit in his personal staff when he was power minister in the 2006-11 LDF government. It also alleged that those who wanted action against George for a “normal” reference as “SC man” had been eager to deny quota benefits to Dalits.
Kochi-based sociologist BS Panicker points out that the Kerala Marxists have consistently refused to listen to the grievances of Dalits. “When about 10,000 Dalits agitated at Chengara in Pathanamthitta for land to live and cultivate, the former LDF government threatened them saying they would have to face police with tooth and claw,” he said.
“Then chief minister VS Achuthanandan had termed the leader of that Dalit stir as a rubber thief. The LDF had described the agitating Dalits as agents of the LTTE and Maoists,” Panicker said. The Marxists had even taken a theoretical position that identity politics was not acceptable as part of a clever move to break the non-political unity among Adivasis and Dalits unity, he added.
The Telegraph
- Worldwide, English remains the choice for communication POLITICS AND PLAY - Ramachandra Guha
In 1905 and 1906, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, his wife and their children shared a home in Johannesburg with an English couple, Henry and Millie Polak. Later, writing of their life together, Gandhi recalled that “Polak and I had often very heated discussions about the desirability or otherwise of giving the children an English education. It has always been my conviction that Indian parents who train their children to think and talk in English from their infancy betray their children and their country. They deprive them of the spiritual and social heritage of the nation, and render them to that extent unfit for the service of the country. Having these convictions, I made a point of always talking to my children in Gujarati. Polak never liked this. He thought I was spoiling their future. He contended, with all the love and vigour at his command, that, if children were to learn a universal language like English from their infancy, they would easily gain considerable advantage over others in the race of life. He failed to convince me”.
Gandhi added that while he insisted on his children speaking at home in Gujarati, and learning through that language, “they naturally became bilingual, speaking and writing English with fair ease, because of daily contact with a large circle of English friends, and because of their stay in a country [South Africa] where English was the chief language spoken”.
The private debate between Gandhi and Polak has had very many public echoes down the decades. In the 1920s, Gandhi and Tagore argued in print about whether a love for the English language betrayed a colonized mindset. The Mahatma thought it did, whereas the poet, a prophet of a rooted cosmopolitanism, argued that Indians could glory in the illumination of lamps lit in languages and cultures other than their own.
After Independence, the battle between these positions was truly joined, when the brilliant, maverick socialist, Rammanohar Lohia, launched and led an ‘Angrezi Hatao’ andolan, a movement to banish English from the face of India. (With a splendid but also somewhat malicious sense of timing, he chose the occasion of a visit by the queen of England to intensify the agitation.) Lohia was answered in turn by Tamil politicians and intellectuals, who feared that in the absence of English, Hindi-speakers would exercise a sort of colonialist dominance over the southern, western, and eastern parts of India. Thus Hindi signs were defaced across Tamil Nadu by followers of E. V. Ramaswami ‘Periyar’— a leader as brilliant and as maverick as Lohia. Meanwhile, Periyar’s former adversary, C. Rajagopalachari, now joined him in opposing Hindi and in promoting English as the language of communication between different parts of India and between India and the world. To the argument that English was a foreign, even an imperialist, language, Rajaji answered that since the goddess Saraswati had given birth to all the languages of humankind, we could and should claim English as our own.
The debate continues. In Karnataka, for example, many prominent intellectuals — among them the novelist, U.R. Ananthamurthy — argue that a child must speak and learn exclusively in her mother tongue until she enters high school lest she become totally disconnected from her social and spiritual roots. (Ananthamurthy is an admirer of Gandhi and a former disciple of Lohia, but, withal, very much his own man, who makes the argument with a distinctive flair and originality.) On the other side, Dalit activists suggest that the promotion of Kannada is an upper-class ploy to keep them away from the fruits of modern learning. They say that once the Brahmins denied them access to Sanskrit; now, the descendants of those Brahmins wish to deny the Dalits access to the modern language of power and privilege, namely, English.
This subaltern endorsement of the foreign language has taken a most interesting form in north India, where the writer-activist, Chandra Bhan Prasad, has chosen to build a temple dedicated to the ‘Goddess English’ in his own home state of Uttar Pradesh. Described in the Wall Street Journal as “a bit of a maverick” (he is also, I might add, brilliant) Prasad believes that the Dalits can achieve emancipation via a deeper and fuller engagement with English.
A century after Gandhi and Polak debated the question in Johannesburg, arguments about the relevance of English to India and Indians continues. The debate has moved on, of course, since society and history have moved on too. One might foreground three significant changes since Gandhi’s time. First, there are now far more inter-community marriages, particularly among the middle and upper classes. And if a Gujarati marries a Tamil, or a Bengali weds a Malayali, then the default language of their children, and of the family as a whole, tends to become English. Second, although Britannia no longer rules the waves, English continues to be the major global language, its pre-eminence a consequence of America having replaced Great Britain as the great imperial power of the age. Whether spoken in the queen’s diction or in its American or other variants, over most of the world English thus remains the language of choice for communication between people of different nationalities.
The third change is, in the Indian context, arguably the most significant. This is that there is now a real hunger for English among the poor. As many readers of this column will know, from their own experience, domestic servants are determined that their children will not follow them into their profession. They recognize that the best way to escape hereditary servitude is for their children to learn the language of mobility and opportunity, which of course is English. The desire to learn English thus runs deep among all castes and communities. Poor Muslims are as keen to learn the language as are poor Dalits or adivasis.
Whether one approves of it or not, this rush to learn English is unstoppable. Rammanohar Lohia and his followers have lost the battle to banish English from the imagination or learning experience of the Indian child. That said, one might still wish for a sort of historic compromise between the positions articulated by Gandhi and Polak. We live in a land of a quite extraordinary diversity of linguistic and literary traditions. And yet in practice we tend to privilege one language at the expense of all the others. That so many middle- and upper-class Indians speak only English is a shame; that so many subaltern and working class Indians do not have access to decent education in English is equally a shame.
As for Gandhi’s children, despite their father’s insistence that they speak and learn only in Gujarati, they willy-nilly picked up the lingua franca of Johannesburg, which fortuitously was also the lingua franca of the world. In the enclaves of class and language that Indians live in, the promotion of bilingualism and multilingualism is certainly more difficult. It is easy enough for a child of the elite to acquire a smattering of Hindi (or Marathi or Kannada) phrases; how much more enriching would it be for him to learn the language well enough to read widely in its literature. By the same token, children from subaltern families are constrained by money and class from acquiring more than a functional knowledge of English.
Gandhi is not known to have been a model father, but by the accident of circumstance in at least this respect his children turned out to be more fortunate than other Indians. Their bilingualism came naturally, with the language of the home being supplemented by the language of the city they lived in. In contemporary India, on the other hand, a meaningful and enduring bilingualism remains out of reach of the vast majority of citizens.

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