Skip to main content

India's Magsaysay winning rural journalist "differs" with Ambedkar, who favoured Dalit migration to cities

Dr BR Ambedkar, P Sainath
By Rajiv Shah
Well-known Magsaysay award winning writer P Sainath, who is renowned more for extensive, in-depth reports on rural India as a top journalist, has said he “differs” from Dr BR Ambedkar’s view about the need for achieving greater pace of urbanization to fight caste discrimination.
Talking with Counterview on the sidelines of a recent NGO function in Ahmedabad, Sainath said, his “disagreement” with Dr Ambedkar stems from the fact that the Dalit icon believed the rural-to-urban migration would end casteism, which has not happened.
“When he called upon Dalits to move to cities, Dr Ambedkar was speaking in a specific context and time”, Sainath, who is currently involved in an ambitious project in creating a people’s archives of rural India, said.
Calling himself "leftist journalist", Sainath, however, said, “Casteism remains alive in urban India in all its manifestations”, adding, “You just need to have a look at the matrimonial columns of newspapers to see this.”
Sainath was responding to the question about his keynote address at the NGO Janvikas’ function, held on January 28, where he said, among other things, that, for the first time since 1921, the pace of urbanization was the highest so high in the decade ending 2011, when “more numbers to were added to urban India in a decade than rural India.”
At 833.1 million, India's rural population, according to the 2011 census, was 90.6 million higher than it was a decade ago. However, the census found, the urban population was 91 million higher than it was in 2001.
In 1921, the rural population actually fell by close to three million compared to the 1911 Census – and the reason was the 1918 influenza epidemic, which killed between 11 and 22 million deaths more than would have been normal for that decade.
Sainath said, if influenza left its fatal imprint on the 1921 enumeration, the story behind the numbers of the 2011 census speaks of another tragedy: collapse of millions of livelihoods in agriculture and its related occupations, leading to “despair-driven exodus”.
The top writer-journalist was asked whether what he wasn’t contradicting Dr Ambedkar, father of the Indian Constitution, exhorting Dalits to move to urban areas. Dr Ambedkar's exhortation was based on the view that a village was "but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow mindedness and communalism.”
Sainath "clarified" to Counterview, there are several types of migration. These include rural to urban migration, rural to rural migration, urban to urban migration, he said, insisting, here, too, there is a difference between “natural migration” and “distress migration” in each of these cases.
“While I do agree with Dr Ambedkar that migration from rural to urban areas adds anonymity to Dalits, there is little to show that it has ended casteism. Those living in housing societies know the prevalence of caste-based segregation in urban areas”, he said.
“In fact”, Sainath underlined, “Even in those who immigrate to the US are not out of the caste framework. When it comes to marriage, they come to India for choose their partner from their own caste. Within the US, they have their own caste-based temples.”
Sainath’s comments acquire significance against the backdrop of top economist Arvind Panagariya, vice-chairman, Niti Aayog, holding the view that Government of India’s policy changes -- ranging from Make in India campaign, to land and labour "reforms" -- were meant to trigger migration of people from rural to urban areas in search of jobs.

Comments

Medha Patkar said…
P SAINATH'S STATEMENT IS NOT TO SEEN AS AGAINST AMBEDKAR OR CHALLENGING HIM.HeE HAD TAKEN A POSITION IN A DIFFERENT CONTEXT IN CASTIST INDIA,Which is somewhat changed, although not fully.TODAY WHEN MIGRATION IS LEADING TO DEPRIVATION OF RESOURCES ,EVEN COMMON PROPERTY,IN THE VILLAGES,WHAT DO THE MIGRANTS GET IN THE URBAN AREAS..THEY STRUGGLE FOR EVERY RIGHT ,FACE DESTITUTION TO DISPARITY...AND LIVE A LIFE FULL OF DRUDGERY.THE DALITS MAY MIGRATE WHEN THERE IS SECURITY,,SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC BUT CERTAINLY GO FOR ASSERTION OF RIGHT TO LIFE WITH DIGNITY AND RESOURCES,LAND,WATER,COMMON PROPERTY,AND CERTAINLY FIGHT AGAINST CASTEISM TOO..IN THE RURAL AREAS TOO.LAND REFORMS NEED TO BE BROUGHT TO THE FORE WHEN LANDLESS DO NOT GET THEIR DUES EVEN IN REHABILITATION,AS IN DEVELOPMENT,IN SITU.IT MAY BE CONSIDERED AS EASY TO SAY THAN DO,NO DOUBT YET THE MIGRATION NOT REMAINING TO BE THE SOLUTION AND UPPER CASTE AND CLASS PEOPLE GRABBING MAINSTREAM RESOURCES,IT IS NECESSARY TO CHANGE STRATEGIES TO TAKE THE CHALLENGE AGAINST BOTH THE EVILS,SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INJUSTICE TOGETHER.IF BABASAHEB WAS ALIVE HE TOO MIGHT HAVE SUPPORTED THIS...WE STAND AGAINST ALL INJUSTICE AND REMAIN COMMITTED TO CASTE ANNIHILATION.

TRENDING

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Modi govt 'implementing' IMF-envisaged corporate takeover of Indian agriculture

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak* The surge of wealth of Indian billionaires and the Modi-led BJP government’s onslaught on poor, marginalised and farmers continue to grow simultaneously as masses face annihilating pandemic of coronavirus. There is 90 % rise of Indian billionaire’s wealth over last one decade. It is not accidental.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

A new fad in India, coding-for-toddlers culture needs to be 'nipped' in the bud

By Aditya Pandey* We are all aware of the dire consequences of subjecting young kids to intense academic pressure from an early age. In India, we have coaching institutes like FIITJEE and Resonance offering programmes for 6th standard kids to prepare them for “NTSE, IJSO, PRMO and other Olympiads”. The duration of these programmes is around 175 hours – hours that could've been spent playing games and making friends instead.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).