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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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Triple Talaq Ban in India: Union Cabinet Passes Bill Making the Practice a Criminal Offence

The BMMA celebrates its victory over the much-debated practice of instant divorce

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Muslim women are often victims of triple talaq, in spite of the ban
Muslim women are often victims of triple talaq, in spite of the ban, VOA News
  • Supreme court had ruled that the practice of triple talaq as illegal in August 2017.
  • On December 15, the Union Cabinet passed a bill which would make it a criminal offence
  • .The bill recommends a sentence of imprisonment for three years in case of a violation.
  • The bill also makes provisions for “subsistence allowance” for the women divorced through triple talaq.

On December 15, the Union Cabinet of India cleared a draft legislation, which would make the controversial practice of triple talaq a criminal offence in India, a violation of which may result in imprisonment for a period of three years for the husband. The recently approved bill, deemed as the ‘Muslim Women’s Protection of Rights on Marriage Bill’, was framed by a group of ministers including the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and the Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and was headed by the Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

What is triple talaq

The practice of triple talaq, or talaq-e-biddat, is a Islamic ritual through which a man might divorce his wife by uttering the word ‘talaq’, that is, the Arabic word for ‘divorce’, three times. The controversial practice, which dates back to Islamic scriptures of the 8th century AD, was a common one among the Muslim population in India, often enacted through letters, emails, text messages, Skype and Whatsapp.

The Supreme Court of India bans the practice of triple talaq
The practice of triple talaq still continues, in spite of the ban, VOA News

Triple Talaq Ban

On August 22, 2017, the Supreme Court of India had banned the archaic practice of triple talaq, after a long and hard legal battle fought by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), also known as the Indian Muslim Women’s Movement. “Triple talaq is against the basic tenets of the Holy Quran and consequently, it violates Shariat … What is held to be bad in the Holy Quran cannot be good in Shariat and, in that sense, what is bad in theology is bad in law as well,” they had declared, making India the 23rd nation to ban the practice of unilateral divorce, after Pakistan, United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Many non-governmental Islamic organizations, along with certain clerics had opposed the verdict, on the grounds that it was an infringement of their right to religion, which is ensured by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution. The Supreme Court, however, had decided to uphold Article 14 of the Constitution, which grants every citizen equality before the law. The verdict had met with mixed reactions among the people of India, attracting applause as well as apprehension all over the country.

The Supreme Court of India bans the practice of triple talaq
Women can now demand subsistence allowance for themselves and minor children, VOA News

However, in spite of the Supreme Court verdict, there have been reports of instant divorces performed through the process of oral declaration, as many continued to ignore the various advisories issued by the government.
The new bill approved by the government also makes provisions for Muslim Women to demand “subsistence allowance” for herself and her minor children from her husband, in case she feels victimised by the now illegal practice of triple talaq.

 

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Women influence, irrespective of the field, is good for everyone, says Farhan Akhtar

Farhan Akhtar says that influence of women irrespective of the field is good for everyone

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Influence of women in any filed if good for everyone, says Farhan Akhtar.
Influence of women in any filed if good for everyone, says Farhan Akhtar. IANS

New Delhi, Dec 15, 2017: Actor-filmmaker-singer Farhan Akhtar hopes that actresses backing films as producers is not just a passing trend as he believes that women’s influence, irrespective of the field, is good for everyone.

Over the years, actresses like Dia Mirza, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Chitrangda Singh and Richa Chadha have shown interest in contributing to filmmaking as producers.

Asked what he thought about the trend, Akhtar told IANS here: “That’s how it should be. Not just actresses, there are also a lot of female producers and women who are working in different companies and handling the creative aspect of those companies.”

“It is amazing to see that. The more influence that we have of women in any field, why just films… it can be sports or politics also, it’s good for everyone because they have a different perspective on things because they have experienced life in different ways from what we (men) have; so, it makes a difference,” added the brother of director Zoya Akhtar.

Farhan’s latest co-production, “Fukrey Returns”, registered an opening day collection of Rs 8.10 crore on December 8. Are box office collections more important when he produces a film?

“The reason you do a film is because you want to share it with the world and when a lot of people see your film, the most tangible recognition of it is the box office collection, because you can aggregate a number through it,” he said.

But for him, success of a film also means “conceptually what is done to get people to think about things”.

“There are many films that were released in their time and not considered box office hits, but what that film meant, the kind of story-telling, the work that went into that film have sustained and at times (they are) considered as landmark films and way ahead of their times.

“So, success of a film can be gauged on many fronts; but is box office important? Of course it is, because people are putting money in a film. You don’t want anyone to lose money,” said the co-founder of Excel Entertainment that has produced blockbusters like “Rock On!!” and “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”.

The first look of his next co-production “3 Storeys”, starring Pulkit Samrat, Sharman Joshi, Richa Chadha and Renuka Shahane, was unveiled last week.

So, is a multi-starrer the formula for a hit film?

“I don’t think so. Eventually, a good story should be the formula for success… whether it is about one person in a room or 21 people in a colony like in ‘3 Storeys’. Our emphasis is on trying to tell good stories.

“Arjun Mukerjee, who is the director and writer of this film, has truly put together something that we consider very special. Now we are excited to share it with others,” he said.

Farhan is also passionate about fitness, among other things. The actor, who has fronted ads of vitamins and dietary supplements brand, is now endorsing Apollo Munich Health Insurance.

Is he deliberately focussing on health-related brands?

“It is not deliberate. I do feel good about doing it when it does happen. I don’t go around looking for it, but I guess the lifestyle that I lead, the kind of work that I do, information on my life and focus on health and fitness, encourage people to come and speak to me about it,” said the 43-year-old.

When did he start taking fitness seriously?

“I got serious about it in 2003-2004. I was shooting for ‘Lakshya’ in Ladakh. We were there for five months and I felt incredibly fit by the time I came back from there.

“When I returned to Mumbai, my energy levels were really high… it was a feeling that I didn’t want to lose. That’s when I started training with Sam (Samir Jaura), who is my trainer,” said the “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” actor.

He believes fitness is not about “going to a gym and getting big biceps. It’s much more than that”. (IANS)

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Veerappan: India’s most wanted

Veerappan was hunted by the police for over four decades, making it the longest man-hunt in India

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Veerappan was a smuggler, poacher, murderer and extortionist who was killed in Operation Cocoon
Veerappan in his heyday, He was killed via Operation Cocoon
  • Veerappan was a smuggler of ivory and sandalwood in the southern states of India.
  • He killed government officials and civilians alike when they tried to stop his illegal activities.
  • He died in October 2004 during ‘Operation Cocoon’, which was carried out by a Special Task Force.

Poaching, smuggling, extortion, smuggling, brigandry, murder — these are some of the few charges against Koose Munisamy Veerappan Gounder, popularly known as Veerappan, for whom was constituted India’s largest manhunt, on which the government spent around 1.5 million Rupees. From his childhood, narratives about the elusive dacoit were laced with fiction, as he became an object of myth when he was only ten years old, and had infamously shot his first tusker elephant for ivory. His notoriety became a national concern when the government banned ivory trade in India, and he began felling trees for precious sandalwood, thus beginning a period marred by Veerappan killing government officials and locals alike when they became an obstacle.

Veerappan unleashed a reign of terror on the southern states of India from the early 1980s till his death in 2004; during which Veerappan killing police officers and civilians alike caused a nationwide uproar. In 1990, the notorious smuggler had beheaded a forest officer K. Srinivas, which wasn’t recovered until three years later. In 2000, he had kidnapped the Kannada actor K. Rajkumar, whose release was negotiated through Nakkeeran editor Gopal, to whom the infamous poacher admitted to murdering as many as 120 people. Matters came to a head when   abducted the former Karnataka minister H. Nagappa in 2002, and killed him when his demands were not met.

Operation Cocoon:

Veerappan leading his gang in moily forest,
Veerappan leading his gang in Moily forest. Wikimedia

A Special Task Force or STF was constituted for the capture of Veerappan in 1991, which, headed by K. Vijay Kumar, launched Operation Cocoon in 2004, which finally resulted in Veerappan’s death. Kumar, aided by his previous experience with Veerappan, based Operation Cocoon on human intelligence and interaction, during which multiple STF personnel blended in with the locals in areas frequented by Veerappan. The initial stages of Operation Cocoon consisted of gaining the trust of Veerappan’s associates, till they started divulging details about his failing health. In the years before his death, the elusive outlaw seemed to have lost much of his vigour and vitality, as he suffered from diabetes, and a cataract had almost blinded him in one eye.
On 18th October, 2004, the police lured Veerappan out of familiar terrains in an ambulance, and apprehended him at a roadblock, where he was killed in the crossfire between his team and the STF, via three bullets. The photographs after Veerappan’s demise show him in a pathetic light, bereft of his signature handlebar moustache, and the agility which had facilitated his escape for over four decades.

There have been a lot of controversies regarding his death, as many media houses and activists have claimed that Operation Cocoon has derived Veerappan of a fair trial by law. Some have even claimed that he was tortured to death in police custody. The facts regarding the elusive sandalwood smuggler remain inconclusive even after a decade of his death, due to the lack of concrete evidence.