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Monday 23 January 2012

Tracing the aftermath of a Dalit massacre

The Hindu
Tracing the aftermath of a Dalit massacre

Anand Patwardhan's film probes caste atrocities, violence

Over more than 200 minutes, noted documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan opens for his audience a window into the gut-wrenchingly, unjust world of caste atrocities, violence and discrimination in 21st Century India.

Screened on Tuesday evening at the Mount Carmel College auditorium, Patwardhan's latest offering, Jai Bhim, Comrade, made over 14 long years, documents the brutal police firing that killed 10 Dalits in Ramabai Colony in the ‘City of Dreams', Mumbai, where a statue of B.R.
Ambedkar was vandalised one night.

The massacre
The story, and Patwardhan's own journey into this complex issue, begins with this massacre and the suicide of Dalit poet, singer and Left activist Vilas Ghogre six days later. Ghogre, who died unable to bear the injustice and brutal reality of the tragedy, was closely associated with Patwardhan.

Interacting with the audience after the screening, Patwardhan pointed out that though the film was about Maharasthra, this was indeed true of many other States. The shocking statistics he provides in his film, before delving into stories of caste violence in rural pockets of the State, are testimony to this: “Every day, two Dalits are raped and three killed.”

Callous sound bytes

Asked of “cause and effect”, he said: “We all bear the burden of this shame… the caste system. There is no escaping that.” It is this shameful reality that the filmmaker tries to capture, be it in his interviews with victims or the callous sound bytes given by Mumbai's upper-class urbanites who articulate their “disgust” for the “lower castes” or their opinions on the reservation system. During the interaction, many among the young audience questioned the reservation system and raised the issue of meritocracy. Patwardhan responded: “We live in a system that is [unequal and creates] inequality. Reservation is only a minor sop to assuage our conscience. There is this popular argument of meritocracy, but [you] forget that we have not been a meritocracy for centuries… we've oppressed and suppressed all along!”

Political narrative

The film, through the stories of a few central characters and Ramabai Colony, provides a deeply nuanced view of the evolution of Dalit politics in the State, including significant events in the last decade such as the Khairlanji killings. Its narrative also includes a searing critique of Dalit politics, the organised Left [in its failure to take up the caste issue], and of appropriation of parts of the Dalit movements by right-wing political parties.

“The film is critical of how Dalit parties have evolved, and also of the Left parties and their [approach to] the caste problem… Ghogre [who joined the Left in the 1980s] was expelled by the party he gave his heart and soul to,” said Patwardhan.

Revealing posters

Revisiting Ramabai Colony in 2010, Patwardhan shows how those who had fought for Dalit rights 14 years ago are now helping the BJP and Shiv Sena (the parties in power when the killing took place) blatantly misleading people into believing that they represent their cause, even as revealing posters show these same parties promoting the concept of
Brahmin or Maratha supremacy.

On this, Patwardhan explained that this had happened world over with radical movements. “Like the Black Panthers, for instance. Some the system killed, others were bought over. But there is hope. When I screened my film in slums in Mumbai, I realised that the rank and file are not going to go along with their leaders who are joining hands with the perpetrators.”
Andhra Pradesh Dalits to protest sacking of textile minister

Dalit groups in Andhra Pradesh are up in arms against the ruling Congress party over what they termed as "unceremonious sacking" of Dr P. Shankar Rao from the Kiran Kumar Reddy cabinet.
Rao, who held the portfolio of handlooms and textiles, was removed from the cabinet on Thursday, hours after the expansion of the cabinet. A Dalit leader representing Secunderabad Cantonment constituency, Rao had been a major embarrassment to the chief minister with his open criticism on various policy decisions, besides his frequent outbursts against his own cabinet colleagues. He was did not attend the recent cabinet meetings.

His sacking, though not unexpected, created a furore among the Dalit groups. Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS), which represents a major Dalit group, strongly condemned the sacking of Rao. "Removal or induction of a minister might be the prerogative of the chief minister, but the way a Dalit minister was sacked was shocking. It clearly showed the Congress and the CM are anti-Dalits," MRPS chief Manda Krishna Madiga said.

The MRPS called for state-wide agitation in protest against Rao's removal. "There would be dharnas at mandal headquarters on Saturday, followed by road blockades all over the state. We would boycott the Republic Day ceremony on January 26 and observe it as a black day," Madiga said.

The Telugu Desam Party, too, has come out in support of Rao.

The Times Of India
Dalit rape: Polygraph test on prime accused

BHUBANESWAR: Crime Branch today conducted a polygraph test on the main accused in the sensational rape and attempt to murder case of a Dalit girl even as the Odisha government provided financial assistance of Rs 75,000 to the victim's family.

"Polygraph test has been conducted at the State Forensic Science Laboratory in Bhubaneswar with due permission of the court," said Crime Branch DSP Ramesh Sethy, adding that Prasanta Pradhan was sent to judicial custody after the test.

Though a total of four persons had been arrested for the crime that took place on November 28 last year, the probe agency chose Prasanta Pradhan for the lie detection test, the official said. Pradhan was in police custody for five days twice.

The Crime Branch conducted the polygraph test on Pradhan as it has to submit a status report on the investigation into the matter at the High Court on January 25.

In another development, District Welfare Officer, Puri, Kali Prasad Das visited SCB Medical College Hospital in Cuttack and handed over two cheques worth Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 to Amulya Behera, the brother of the victim.

Meanwhile, the hospital authorities today started music therapy for the victim whose brain cell are dormant after the November 2011 incident, hospital superintendent D N Moharana said.
The Times Of India
Dalits oppose shifting of Ambedkar statue

BANGALORE: The Metro Rail underground work in front of Vidhana Soudha ran into rough weather when some dalit organizations opposed shifting of Ambedkar statue from the secretariat premises.

The statues of Jawaharlal Nehru and Subash Chandra Bose were shifted some time ago. The state cabinet on Thursday decided to shift the Ambedkar statue, but minister A Narayanaswamy was conspicuous by his absence. He had set up a technical committee to look into the pros and cons of shifting the statue. "We have no clue about the committee's report. Narayanaswamy couldn't attend the meeting as he was preoccupied with a public function in Tumkur," higher education minister V S Acharya said. Some ministers at the meeting advised the government against any hasty move on the shifting.

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