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‘Dalit Foods’: Entrepreneur Chandra Bhan Prasad’s Initiative to fight Casteism in India

Chandra Bhan Prasad's 'Dalit Foods' is an effort that seeks Dalit empowerment via creating acceptability and ensuring inclusivity in the society

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Chandra Bhan Prasad, Dalit Foods. Image source: www.youtube.com
  • Chandra Bhan Prasad started ‘Dalit Foods’ in a bid to foray into food-processing industry, which still is difficult for a Dalit
  • The business is limited to Delhi for now, the expansion will be based on customers’ response
  • The website is basic one and lists mango pickle, turmeric, flax seeds, coriander and red chilli among other products

When in 1942, at All India-Depressed Class Conference, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar envisioned his “battle for freedom” and proclaimed, “with justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose our battle,” little did he know that even after 72 long years of struggle, his dream of realising social and economic equality for the marginalised will remain a far-fetched one.

Be it the very recent Rohith Vemula suicide case or the incident where 100 children left the school premises in Karnataka, refusing to eat food ‘contaminated’ by a Dalit cook in November 2015, the caste system continues to haunt the country.

India Today quoted a 2010 report by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) brought to surface that a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes. Every day, on an average- 3 Dalit women are raped, 2 Dalits are murdered, and 2 Dalit houses are burnt.

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In the light of these shocking revelations, any effort aimed at mending the already incurred damage appears to be a huge step.

The Dalit Studies Conference. Image source: casi.sas.upenn.edu
The Dalit Studies Conference. Image source: casi.sas.upenn.edu

In one such effort, Indian journalist and political commentator, Chandra Bhan Prasad, has launched an e-commerce food business under the name ‘Dalit Foods’, which will test and challenge the age-old connection between caste and occupation as Dalits still find it extremely difficult to endeavour into the food and food-processing industries.

Speaking to Live Mint, Prasad who is also a Dalit entrepreneur and adviser to the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, termed the venture to be a “social experiment.”

According to him it is a risk taken to find out “whether there are any takers for Dalit food in India and if India has really transformed from a country where people thoroughly cleaned the kitchen if a Dalit even stepped into it to one in which people would buy food items knowing they are manufactured by Dalits.”

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Prasad also pointed out that the name ‘Dalit Foods’ holds a special significance and is “equivalent to making a political statement in a country where the Dalit has emerged as a political category.”

Prasad believes that though Dalits have come out and have engaged themselves with other communities, it is time for them to assert their identity openly and added that it was time the Dalits integrate with the society in a real sense.

While the business is limited to Delhi for now, the expansion will be based on customers’ response.

Started off as an e-commerce owing to the financial constraints, the website is a very simple one. It enlists mango pickle, turmeric, flax seeds, coriander and red chilli among the other products it sells, which serve as staples in any Indian kitchen.

“We have special turmeric which is grown in water-deficient Wardha district of Maharashtra. The coriander is from Bundelkhand. The red chilli is from Mathania in Rajasthan,” said Prasad.

He added, “The mango pickle I am selling is not like any other pickle. We don’t use any acid as a preservative. In my community too, there are some who are very poor and have thick chapatis with only red chilli and salt. Those who are relatively better-off use achar (pickle). So, achar for us, is made in a way that it becomes as good as a sabzi (curry).”

The business has been started with an investment of five lakh and is in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry, a lobby group.

While the venture is small-scaled for now, it intends to achieve big by seeking acceptance and inclusivity for the Dalits.

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Don’t Lecture India; Look at Your Own Record

Many countries worldwide have a horrifying record regarding human rights

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Europeans have a horrifying record regarding human rights violations. Pixabay

By Maria Wirth

Europeans have a horrifying record regarding human rights violations. Germany is well known for an unprecedented, systematic holocaust of Jews and gypsies right in the middle of Europe only 80 years ago. Yet Britain, France, Portugal and others were as brutal with equal or even higher number of humans killed in their colonies. Their victims count many millions and many of them were Indians.

The Arabs, Turks and Mongols, too, have a horrifying record regarding human rights. The number of victims killed also goes into many millions, and many of them were Indians.

The Muslims invaded India already over thousand years ago and were as brutal as ISIS in our times. Unspeakable torture and beheadings were done on massive scale. Even the supposedly benign “Akbar the Great” slaughtered Hindus in huge numbers. The collective sacred threads of the Brahmins massacred by him is said to have weighed 200 kilogram. Can one even imagine such incredible injustice and brutality to civilians and priests? Thousands of temples were destroyed. Hindu women were sold into sex slavery. Hindus even had to open their mouth and receive gratefully the spittle by Muslims sitting on horses, and slaughtering cows was seen as “noblest deed” because it was so painful for Hindus, is recounted in “Legacy of Jihad” by Andrew Bostom.

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Hindu women were sold into sex slavery. Pixabay

The brutality experienced by Hindus was so horrendous that, even in independent India, they hardly dare to complain when they are subjected to cruel discrimination. It is painful to read comments whenever Hindus are killed or raped by Muslims: “This won’t make news, as the victim is only a Hindu”. It is so sad, but understandable after what they have gone through for over thousand years. They had no way to get justice; had to bear their suffering silently.

Guru Nanak cried out to the Supreme, and it is part of the Grant Sahib, “Having lifted Islam to its head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread… Such cruelties they have inflicted and yet Your mercy remains unmoved….Oh Lord, these dogs have destroyed the diamond-like Hindustan.”

The British colonial masters were not less brutal. Their disdain for the natives was incredible. Winston Churchill is on record saying that he “hated Indians” and considered them a “beastly people with a beastly religion”. Celebrities like Charles Dickens wanted the Indian race ‘exterminated’ and considered them vile savages and Max Mueller wanted them all converted to Christianity.

Britain looted and reduced the formerly wealthiest country of the world to painful poverty, where during their rule over 25 million people starved to death, 3 million as late as in 1943 in Bengal.

The crimes of the British colonialists are, like those of the Muslim invaders, too numerous to list. They tied Indians to the mouth of canons and blew them up, hanged scores of them on trees, and even just after over one million Indian soldiers had helped Britain to be victorious in the First World War with many thousands sacrificing their lives, General Dyer gave orders to shoot at a peaceful gathering in Amritsar in 1919 where thousands died. An old coffee planter in Kodagu told me that even in the early 1950s there was a board in front of the club house in Madikeri. It read: “Dogs and Indians not allowed”.

Can anyone imagine the pain those Indian generations went through, having arrogant, often uncouth ruffians looting their land and despising them as dogs?

How could Europeans and Arabs be so cruel to other human beings? The reason is that they saw themselves as superior and others not quite as human.

Religion played a big role in making them feel superior. Both Christianity and Islam teach their members that only their religion is true and that the Creator will reward them with eternal heaven, but will severely punish all those who do not follow their ‘true’ religion. If God himself will torture them eternally in hellfire, why should his followers be good to them? Wouldn’t it mean siding with God’s enemies and betraying Him?

But on what basis do they consider only their religion as true and themselves as superior? The reason is that the respective founder of their religion allegedly said so. No other reason exists and no proof. On this flimsy basis, Christians and Muslims treated other human beings most inhumanly, believing they are destined for hell while they themselves are God’s favorites and will go to heaven. This brainwashing in the name of religion happens even in our times and its effect is still not questioned and analysed.

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Christians and Muslims treated other human beings most inhumanly. Pixabay

Yet today, neither white Christians, nor Arab or Turkish Muslims are constantly reminded of those terrible crimes of their forefathers. “The present generation must not be held accountable for the sins of their fathers”, is however not applied to Hindus and especially not to Brahmins. Media keeps hitting out at them as if they had been the worst violators of human rights in the past. Hinduism is portrayed as the villain due to the “horrific and oppressive” caste system.

Anyone, who knows a little about history, knows that this is false and malicious. The structure of Hindu society into four varnas or categories is mentioned in the Vedas and depends on one’s aptitude and profession – Brahmins, who memorise and teach the Vedas, Kshatriyas, who administer and defend society, Vaishyas who supply the society with goods and Shudras, who are the service sector. The varnas are not fixed by birth in texts like Bhagavad Gita or Manusmriti. But the British themselves cemented ‘castes’ (a Portuguese word) in their census and then turned around and accused Hindus of their birth-based, fixed caste system.

There was however one more category which the whole world has been told about and which is used to the hilt to despise Hinduism. They were the untouchables who do unclean work, like handling dead animals, cleaning sewers, etc. The fact that other varnas avoided touching them is still made a huge issue of in the West. In fact it is portrayed, as if this practice made Hindus the greatest violators of human rights and makes the millions tortured and killed by Christians and Muslims pale in comparison.

Yet there is no proof that even one of those untouchables has been killed for doing unclean work. Higher castes may indeed have looked down or still look down on those whose job involves dirt, which is unfortunately a human trait in all societies. It has nothing to do with Hinduism. Most people are aware that such work also needs to be done.

There is in all likelihood another angle regarding “untouchability”, which the British did not realize: Ayurveda knew already 3000 years ago that invisible germs can cause serious illness and those dealing with cadavers and dirt are more likely to carry and spread those. However, the British didn’t know about this fact till only some 150 years ago, when Louis Pasteur claimed that germs cause sickness. (By the way, Google describes this discovery as “crowning achievement of the French scientist”, and avoids mentioning India’s ancient Ayurveda).

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Higher castes may indeed have looked down or still look down on those whose job involves dirt, which is unfortunately a human trait in all societies. Pixabay

Now in today’s time of “social distancing” due to the Corona Virus, we know that not touching others is a precaution to prevent potential infection and has nothing to do with discrimination. The British could have given Hindus the benefit of doubt that they avoided physical contact with certain people due to caution. But since the British didn’t have the advanced knowledge about harmful germs they could not see the possible reason behind it.

Since Independence, the caste system is officially abolished and discrimination against lower castes is a non-bailable offense. Yet the West still makes a huge issue of the caste system and untouchables. Why? Was this the greatest crime the British could find against the “natives” and therefore exaggerated it tremendously?

Also Read: Lockdown Diaries: Online Sales of Gardening Products Shoot Up

This is not to say that people of higher castes didn’t or don’t look down on lower castes, but the demonization of Brahmins is most unwarranted, as Brahmins are least likely to harbour hatred for others due to their strict rules for sadhana which requires them to keep a very high standard of mental and physical purity.  Yet evangelicals, NGOs, international media, Muslim organisations, they all are after them and Hindus in general. They attack them for “atrocities” which never even happened, while the unspeakable atrocities, which were perpetrated upon them, are ignored. It’s a classic case of noticing the speck in the brother’s eye, but not the beam of wood in one’s own eye.

They got away with it for too long, because Hindus didn’t react. The meekness of Hindus was legendary. They were even called cowards. Yet in recent time, Hindus are becoming more assertive. They realize that the constant attacks on them are malicious, and that they are being fooled in the name of secularism because neither Christians nor Muslims can be secular. They are by nature communal because they need to make their community spread all over the world.

It is time to call out this blatant insincerity. When a head of state, like Imran Khan, accuses the Modi government in a tweet of “moving towards Hindu Rashtra with its Hindutva Supremacist, fascist ideology”, he better looks at his own country and his own ideology. A Hindu Rashtra with its inclusiveness and freedom are any time better than the exclusive, supremacist ideologies of Islam and Christianity, which force human beings into a strait-jacket of blind belief and several Muslim states threaten even today those who want to get out with death sentence.

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Women Less Likely To Succumb to Heart Diseases: Study

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Women less likely to die of heart diseases, says study. Pixabay

In a growing list of studies on whether women are less prone to heart disease than men, fresh research of more than 160,000 people in 21 countries that was published in The Lancet has revealed that women are less likely than men to have cardiovascular disease (CVD) and die from it.

According to the study, there have been concerns that women with CVD are managed less aggressively than men which could lead to women having poorer prognoses. Some have attributed this to a treatment bias against women. “In our global study, we observed that while prevention strategies were used more often by women, invasive strategies such as percutaneous coronary intervention and coronary artery bypass surgery was used more often for men,” said study first author Marjan Walli-Attaei from McMaster University in Canada.

“But, overall, outcomes such as death or a new heart attack or stroke in women were lower than in men. This suggests there may be factors other than a treatment bias against women that contribute to the treatment differences,” Walli-Attaei added. It didn’t matter if women had, or didn’t have, a previous heart attack or stroke. It also didn’t matter where they lived around the world and nor their economic status, the study said.

The information came from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological (PURE) study which followed the participants an average of 10 years. It is the first global study to document the risk factors, use of treatment, the incidence of heart attacks and strokes and mortality in people from the community, rather than just hospital patients.

The findings showed that women with no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) were more likely to use preventative medicines, control hypertension and to have quit smoking, compared to men. According to the researchers, the lower rates of invasive cardiac treatments of women with CVD could be partly explained by the fact that fewer women than men have the type of extensive atherosclerosis that requires medical interventions.

“Other studies have reported that sex differences in invasive cardiac procedures are not seen once we consider the extent and severity of coronary artery disease,” said study co-author Annika Rosengren. “This suggests that the lower rates of coronary interventions in women are appropriate as they have less extensive disease,” she said. There is, however, substantial concern about the differences in treatment between poorer and richer countries.

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Women with CVD have managed less aggressively than men which could lead to women having poorer prognoses. Pixabay

The differences in outcomes in both women and men in low-income countries, where approximately 40 per cent die within 30 days of a heart attack or stroke compared to the less than 10 per cent in high-income countries, is a matter of substantial concern, the researchers noted. Another research, published earlier this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that men and women largely suffer the same heart attack symptoms.

Also Read: Multiple Sclerosis Risk in Urbanites High Due To Air Pollution

Investigating why heart disease generally develops later in women than men, another study published in journal Cardiovascular Research in 2017, demonstrated a link among female ovarian hormones, the circadian system which regulates the body’s day-night cycle, and the observation that women enjoy significant protection against heart disease when compared to men. (IANS)

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India Witnesses a 37% Rise in Cyberattacks in the First Quarter of 2020

The report shows that India ranks 27th globally in the number of web-threats

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India has seen a 37 per cent hike in cyberattacks in the first quarter of 2020. Pixabay

India has seen a 37 per cent increase in cyberattacks in the first quarter (Q1) of 2020, as compared to the fourth quarter (Q4) of last year as a result of social media disadvantages, a new report revealed on Saturday.

The Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) report showed that its products detected and blocked 52,820,874 local cyber threats in India between January to March this year.

The data also shows that India now ranks 27th globally in the number of web-threats detected by the company in Q1 2020 as compared to when it ranked on the 32nd position globally in Q4 2019.

“There has been a significant increase in the number of attacks in 2020 Q1 that may continue to rise further in Q2 as well, especially in the current scenario where we notice an increase in cybercriminal activities, especially in the Asia Pacific region,” said Saurabh Sharma, Senior Security Researcher, GReAT Asia Pacific at Kaspersky.

The number of local threats in Q1 2020 in India (52,820,874) shows how frequently users are attacked by malware spread via removable USB drives, CDs and DVDs, and other “offline” methods.

Protection against such attacks not only requires an antivirus solution capable of treating infected objects but also a firewall, anti-rootkit functionality and control over removable devices.

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The high numbers of cyberattacks are likely to keep rising in Q2. Pixabay

According to the firm, the number of local threats detected in Q4 2019 was 40,700,057.

India also ranks 11th worldwide in the number of attacks caused by servers that were hosted in the country, which accounts of 2,299,682 incidents in Q1 2020 as compared to 854,782 incidents detected in Q4 2019, said the report.

Also Read: Reimagining Business Models for a Post-Pandemic World

“We see smartphone users being targeted more due to mass consumption and increased digitalisation,” Sharma said.

“Risks like data leakage, connection to unsecured wi-fi networks, phishing attacks, spyware, apps with weak encryption (also known as broken cryptography) are some of the common mobile threats that Android users face,” he added.

“In order to mitigate some of the major risks like data breaches, targeted ransomware attacks, large scale (distributed denial-of-service) DDoS attacks, etc, businesses will need to allocate their budgets correctly to build a stronger security infrastructure,” said Dipesh Kaura, General Manager for South Asia, Kaspersky. (IANS)