Skip to main content

Cancel Romila Thapar as Ambedkar Memorial Lecture speaker as she "overlooked" caste issues: Dalit body

By Our Representative
In a surprising move, a top Dalit rights organization, Dalit Bahujan Adivasi Collective (DBAC), has taken strong exception to Prof Romila Thapar, one of the foremost historians of India, for the 2016 Ambedkar Memorial Lecture (AML) at the Ambedkar University, Delhi (AUD).
Professor emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Thapar recently threw her weight behind the students during the recent police crackdown on JNU campus. The lecture has been organized on the 125th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar, April 14.
Raising the pitch against Thapar, who has been a long-time critic of Hindutva idologues, the DBAC said, thought it "respected" her "vast body of work", the differences with her do not just stem from "her upper caste identity alone."
DBAC underlined, the differences are also ideological in nature -- "due to the fact that most of her intellectual and political positions have largely been determined by a Left liberal ethos, which in its Indian avatar has overlooked, to a great extent, the centrality of caste in social, political, economic, and cultural formations."
"This lacuna, which we can broadly identify even in Prof Thapar's work, is also a by-product of an array of privileges (including her upper caste/class location)", the DBAC said, adding, "Also significant in this context is the fact that her body of work has shown no direct commitment to Ambedkar's radical vision on history and politics."
Providing a list of previous speakers, the DBAC, which has written a letter to the university vice chancellor, said, all those chosen by the university to speak on the occasion in the previous years also represented "the same upper caste discourse which preserves the status quo and has suppressed those interpretations of Indian history and society which have emerged painstakingly from the margins over several decades."
Going ahead with its sharp critique, the DBAC said, "This naturalisation of privileges is in fact detrimental to the development of Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and minority discourses on history."
Calling itself a "student collective that is motivated by Ambedkarite vision and thoughts", with a strong backing of a section of Dalit academics and professionals, the letter asked the vice-chancellor to "immediately reconsider Prof Romila Thapar's selection to deliver the Ambedkar Memorial Lecture in 2016 and consider more relevant scholars."
It further said, "Henceforth, in the selection of speakers to deliver the AML, there should be an institutional mechanism to ensure participation of onlyscholars from Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and minority communities; scholars from any other backgrounds who have had a longstanding commitment to Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and minority discourses in ways that mark them in the league of Ambedkarite scholars; and scholars whose work has engaged directly with Ambedkar's own speeches and body of writing."
Calling selection of speakers for AML series "exclusionary" the letter said, "Addressing such issues is especially urgent in the context that this year, the University is celebrating the 125th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar."
It goes ahead to say, "It hardly needs restating that the upper castes (savarnas led by the Brahmins), by carefully and wilfully sustaining a caste hierarchy, have monopolised the production of knowledge within academia, both in India and abroad. Such hegemonic practices have systematically and consistently placed hurdles before Dalits, Bahujans, Adivasis and minorities from accessing spaces of knowledge production on equitable grounds."
"This", the letter said, "is more than evident given the overwhelming representation of savarnas in both faculty and student positions across universities in India. Such monopolisation is accompanied by other (very often invisible) forms of institutionalised caste discrimination both within and outside the university space."
Those who have been called to speak on to deliver the AML series are:
  • 2009: Bhikhu Parekh – Ambedkar's Legacy
  • 2010: Veena Das – Citizenship as a Claim or Stories of Belonging among the Urban Poor
  • 2011: Deepak Nayyar – Discrimination and Justice: Beyond Affirmative Action
  • 2012: Ashis Nandy – Theories of Oppression and Another Dialogue of Cultures
  • 2013: Upendra Baxi – Restoring 'Title Deeds to Humanity': Lawless Law, Living Death, and the Insurgent Reason of Babasaheb Ambedkar
  • 2014: Gopal Krishna Gandhi – Leading India
  • 2015: Aruna Roy – Is unbridled capitalism a threat to Constitutional Democracy?
"While these speakers may be some of the 'best minds' of the country, it is more than evident that there is a clear (if not deliberate) pattern of exclusion of scholars from Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi and minority communities", the letter insisted.
---
Access full letter HERE

Comments

Unknown said…

The claim of DBAC may correct but restricting people like Romila Thapar may not be the solution. We must keep in mind that most of them are known for their anti-caste & anti-Brahmanism position except Ashish Nandi who has openly accused Dalits as most corrupt last year. We need to make them more accountable by challenging them instead to exclude. Otherwise, people who are against Dalit will use this position as an opportunity. DBAC must be careful and reconsider it's decision. warmly !
SMA said…
AGREE.

TRENDING

Hindutva founders 'borrowed' Nazi, fascist idea of one flag, one leader, one ideology

By Shamsul Islam*
With the unleashing of the reign of terror by the RSS/BJP rulers against working-class, peasant organizations, women organizations, student movements, intellectuals, writers, poets and progressive social/political activists, India also witnessed a series of resistance programmes organized by the pro-people cultural organizations in different parts of the country. My address in some of these programmes is reproduced here... 
***  Before sharing my views on the tasks of artists-writers-intellectuals in the times of fascism, let me briefly define fascism and how it is different from totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is political concept, a dictatorship of an individual, family or group which prohibits opposition in any form, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over public and private life. It is also described as authoritarianism.
Whereas fascism, while retaining all these repressive characteristics, also believes in god-ordained superiority of race, cultur…

Gujarat refusal to observe Maulana Azad's birthday as Education Day 'discriminatory'

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government decision not to celebrate the National Education Day on !monday has gone controversial. Civil society organizations have particularly wondered whether the state government is shying away from the occasion, especially against the backdrop of "deteriorating" level of education in Gujarat.

Congress 'promises' cancellation of Adani power project: Jharkhand elections

Counterview Desk
Pointing out that people's issues take a backseat in Jharkhand's 2019 assembly elections, the state's civil rights organization, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, a coalition of activists and people’s organisations, has said that political parties have largely ignored in their electoral manifestos the need to implement the fifth schedule of the Constitution in a predominantly tribal district.

Banned? Indian ports 'received' 38 US plastic waste containers reexported from Indonesia

By Rajiv Shah
An Indonesia-based international environmental watchdog group has dug out what it has called “a global pollution shell game”, stating how officials in Indonesia approved re-exports of “illegal” US waste shipments containing plastics mainly to India, as also to other Asian countries -- Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam -- instead of returning them to the US “as promised.”

With RSS around, does India need foreign enemy to undo its democratic-secular fabric?

By Shamsul Islam*
Many well-meaning liberal and secular political analysts are highly perturbed by sectarian policy decisions of RSS/BJP rulers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially after starting his second inning. They are vocal in red-flagging lynching incidents, policies of the Modi government on Kashmir, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the demand for 'Bharat Ratna' to Savarkar who submitted 6-7 mercy petitions to the British masters (getting remission of 40 years out of 50 years' sentence), and the murder of constitutional norms in Goa, Karnataka and now in Maharashtra.

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah
This is in continuation of my previous blog where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

Rushdie, Pamuk, 260 writers tell Modi: Aatish episode casts chill on public discourse

Counterview Desk
As many as 260 writers, journalists, artists, academics and activists across the world, including Salman Rushdie, British Indian novelist, Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in literature, and Margaret Atwood, Canadian poet and novelist, have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the decision to strip British Indian writer Aatish Taseer of his overseas Indian citizenship.

Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.

Church in India 'seems to have lost' moral compass of unequivocal support to the poor

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
In 2017, Pope Francis dedicated a special day, to be observed by the Universal Church, every year, as the ‘World Day of the Poor’. This year it will be observed on November 17 on the theme ‘The hope of the poor shall not perish for ever’; in a message for the day Pope Francis says:

'Discussed' with Modi, Gujarat Rann Sarovar proposal for Kutch runs into rough weather

By Rajiv Shah
Top Saurashtra industrialist Jaysukhbhai Patel’s by now controversial proposal to convert the 4,900 sq km Little Rann of Kutch area, an eco-sensitive zone – a UNESCO biosphere, world’s only wild ass reserve, and a nesting ground of lesser flamingoes – into a huge sweet water lake, called Rann Sarovar, has suffered a major roadblock. At least three Central agencies have expressed serious doubts about its feasibility.