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“Ants Among Elephants” by Indian-Origin Author Sujatha Gidla is Creating Waves in the US

Interview with Sujatha Gidla, who recently wrote a memoir capturing the life of Dalit community in India

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Dalit Women protesting against exploitation
Dalit Women protesting against exploitation. Wikimedia
  • Many instances of discrimination and humiliation that she and her family were customarily subjected to
  • This Independence was not real independence, it was only transfer of power
  • Caste-based discrimination is uniquely cruel

New York, USA, August 27, 2017:  The nation has just celebrated Independence Day with great pomp and fervor but does this special occasion evoke similar sentiments among the Dalits living in the country? No, contends an Indian-origin author Sujatha Gidla, who was born an “untouchable” and is now creating waves in US literary circles with a provocative memoir capturing the life of her community in India.

Until recently, Sujatha Gidla was just another New Yorker, working as a conductor on the City Subway. But her recent memoir, “Ants among Elephants: : An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India”, which not only details her memories of growing up as a Dalit woman in India but also lists the many instances of “discrimination and humiliation” that she and her family were customarily subjected to, has thrust her into the limelight.

On how she responds to special occasions like Independence Day, the author said that, as children, they would admire iconic figures like Gandhi and Nehru, and celebrate the day but things changed gradually as they become more aware.

ALSO READ: Religious minorities, Dalits face discrimination in India: A report by US Commission on International Religious Freedom

“When I joined the RSU (Radical Students Union) we were told that (this) Independence was not real independence, that it was only transfer of power. And now we don’t feel anything because we are not made to feel that we are Indians like other Indians.

“It is the same thing in the universities where I studied. I don’t have that pride of my alma mater because we were not treated as equals. None of us have that pride, not even my mother,” Gidla told IANS in an email interview from New York.

The author further quipped that, by and large, “this is not independence” for members of her community.

“There have been many types of discrimination in various parts of the world. As far as I know, caste discrimination is uniquely cruel. There is racism in America, but I will never compare it with caste and rather say that caste is much worse.

“I will also say this: Blacks here are murdered, they have been lynched. But I have never read about another place where untouchables are fed excreta, made to drink urine and paraded naked. Even under slavery, the slave owners took care to feed their slaves in order to keep them fit to work. Untouchables in India never even had that,” Gidla said.

Sujatha Gidla reiterated that untouchability is neither a religious nor a cultural problem. It is rather a social problem and that there has to be “some sort of fundamental change”; otherwise the Dalits will “continue to suffer”.

Elaborating on the “suffering” that she repeatedly mentions in the book, Gidla said most Dalits in India, particularly those trying to fight against the caste system, live under constant duress due to verbal attacks and the threat of physical violence.

“Our neighbors in India have been actively trying to kick my mom out of her apartment. Her (upper) caste colleagues hate the fact that her daughter wrote a successful book.”

“That is the irony; we cannot even celebrate the publication of the book because we are afraid that it will make people around us unhappy. Even fellow untouchables are not posting it on social media for fear of being exposed to their colleagues and (upper) caste friends as untouchables,” she elaborated.

Also Read: Dr. Kallol Guha: Anglophonic Education will not uplift Dalits

Gidla’s grandparents converted to Christianity at the onset of the 20th century and were educated at Canadian missionary schools. She too, with the help of Canadian missionaries, studied physics at the Regional Engineering College in Warangal, in what is Telangana today. She was also a researcher in applied physics at IIT-Madras.

Gidla initially worked as a developer in software design, then moved to banking but lost her job in 2009 during the economic crisis. Finally, she took up the job of a conductor at the New York Subway.

This book, Gidla said, initially began as an investigation into the caste system but finally took the shape of a memoir as her family members also enriched its pages with their personal experiences and reflections.

So what would bring “freedom” in the true sense to Gidla and her family, as also to over 300 million Dalits in India?

“True freedom is equal access to everything in society -education, jobs, etc. When that is achieved, the prejudices will begin to disappear, but only gradually, not instantaneously. Without having equal access to economic betterment all these words about caste being an evil practice or we should treat untouchables with respect are meaningless,” she maintained.

The book has been published in the US by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan publishers, and is yet to hit the Indian market. (IANS)

 

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Catalonia Independence : Spanish PM plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders to take control

Many Catalans who want to remain in Spain will approve of this strident action. But those who want independence for their region are likely to see this as a provocation rather than a solution

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The Spanish Prime Minister said one of his aims is to restore peaceful co-existence to Catalonia by removing its leaders. VOA

Madrid, October 22, 2017 : Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has outlined plans to remove Catalonia’s leaders and take control of the separatist region.

Speaking after an emergency cabinet meeting on Saturday, Rajoy stopped short of dissolving the region’s parliament but put forward plans for elections, BBC reported.

The measures must now be approved by Spain’s Senate in the next few days.

Large crowds have gathered in Barcelona to protest against direct rule from Madrid. It comes almost three weeks after Catalonia held a disputed independence referendum.

Spain’s Supreme Court had declared the vote illegal and said it violated the constitution, which describes the country as indivisible.

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has ignored pleas from the national government to abandon moves towards independence.

Rajoy said the the Catalan government’s actions were “contrary to the law and seeking confrontation”. He said it was “not our wish, it was not our intention” to impose direct rule.

This will be via Article 155 of Spain’s constitution, which allows it to impose direct rule in a crisis on any of the country’s semi-autonomous regions.

Spanish law dictates that elections must be held within six months of Article 155 being triggered, but Rajoy said it was imperative that the vote be held much sooner.

Reports say that Spain’s interior ministry is preparing take control of Catalonia’s Mossos police force and remove its commander Josep Lluís Trapero, who is already facing sedition charges.

The government is also considering taking control of Catalonia’s public broadcaster TV3, El País newspaper reported.

Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras said Rajoy and his allies had “not just suspended autonomy. They have suspended democracy”.

Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau said it was a “serious attack on the rights and freedoms of all, both here and elsewhere” and called for demonstrations.

The president of Barcelona football club, Josep Maria Bartomeu, said the club gave its “absolute support for the democratic institutions of Catalonia chosen by its people”.

But he called for any reaction to be “civil and peaceful” and said dialogue was the only way to a solution.

Eduard Rivas Mateo, spokesman for the Catalan Socialist party — which supports the Spanish government’s stance but also wants constitutional reform — said he could not accept a “harsh application” of Article 155.

ALSO READ Catalonia Protesters Demand Release of Separatist Leaders

But Ines Arrimadas, head of the centrist Ciudadanos party in Catalonia, which is against independence, said holding fresh elections would “restore goodwill and democracy” in the region.

Rajoy’s use of Article 155 had been widely anticipated, but his announcement when it came still had a huge impact. The article has never been invoked before, so there was a certain amount of mystery surrounding its potential reach and meaning.

Although Rajoy insisted that Catalonia’s self-government is not being suspended, many will disagree. The removal from office of Carles Puigdemont and all the members of his cabinet, to allow ministers in Madrid to take on their duties, amounts to a major reining in of Catalonia’s devolved powers.

The Spanish Prime Minister said one of his aims is to restore peaceful co-existence to Catalonia with these measures.

Many Catalans who want to remain in Spain will approve of this strident action. But those who want independence for their region are likely to see this as a provocation rather than a solution. (IANS)

 

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Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here

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hindus
Hinduism. Pixabay

Oct 06, 2017: Have you ever wondered what being a Hindu means? Or who is actually fit to be called a Hindu? Over centuries, Hindus and Indians alike have asked this question to themselves or their elders at least once in their lifetime.

In the 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal” the court identified seven defining characteristics of Hinduism but people are still confused to what exactly defines being a Hindu in the 21st century. It’s staggering how uninformed individuals can be about their own religion; according to a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya there are various common notions we carry about who a Hindu is:

  • Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu
  • If your parents are Hindu, you’re are also inevitably a Hindu
  • If you believe in reincarnation, you’re a Hindu
  • If you follow any religion practiced in India, you’re a Hindu
  • And lastly, if you are born in a certain caste, you’re a Hindu

After answering these statements some fail to remove their doubts on who a Hindu is. The question arises when someone is unsure on how to portray themselves in the society, many people follow a set of notions which might/might not be the essence of Hinduism and upon asked why they perform a particular ritual they are clueless. The problem is that the teachings are passed on for generations and the source has been long forgotten, for the source is exactly where the answer lies.

Religion corresponds to scriptural texts

The world is home to many religions and each religion has its own uniqueness portrayed out of the scriptures and teachings which are universally accepted. So to simplify the dilemma one can say that determining whether someone belongs to a particular religion is directly related to whether he/she follows the religious scriptures of the particular religion, and also whether they abide to live by the authority of the scriptural texts.

Christianity emerges from the guidance of the Gospels and Islam from the Quran where Christians believe Jesus died for their sins and Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Similarly, Hinduism emerges from a set of scriptures known as the Vedas and a Hindu is one who lives according to Dharma which is implicated in the divine laws in the Vedic scriptures.By default, the person who follows these set of religious texts is a Hindu.

Also Read: Christianity and Islam don’t have room for a discourse. Hindus must Stop Pleasing their former Christian or Muslim masters, says Maria Wirth 

Vedas distinguishes Hindu from a Non-Hindu

Keeping this definition in mind, all the Hindu thinkers of the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy accept and also insist on accepting the Vedas as a scriptural authority for distinguishing Hindus from Non-Hindus. Further implying the acceptance of the following of Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Puranas etc as a determining factor by extension principle as well.

Bottom Line

So, concluding the debate on who is a Hindu we can say that a person who believes in the authority of the Vedas and lives by the Dharmic principles of the Vedas is a Hindu. Also implying that anyone regardless of their nationality i.e. American, French or even Indian can be called a Hindu if they accept the Vedas.

– Prepared by Tanya Kathuria of Newsgram                                                                

(the article was originally written by Shubhamoy Das and published by thoughtco)

One response to “Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here”

  1. Hindu is a historical name for people living “behind the river Indus”. So, everyone living in India is a Hindu, eventhough he might have a different faith.

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JNU Ideologues are Spewing hate in the name of Dissent and nurturing Anti-India ideologies

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JNU
JNU has become den for left politics. VOA
  • By Amit Srivastava

Sep 16, 2017: With the help of media propaganda and public opinion manufacturers, JNU has become an epitome of left politics – Viciously nurturing the anti-India ideologies and placing them into state establishment through their sympathizers.

They hate a lot of things that are Indian or having Indian identities. Their perpetual anathema is cleverly placed with covert name of ‘dissent’. It would be interesting to know, how they instill a failed and violent ideology like Marxism through inroads of hate.

Before 93rd amendment for OBC quota in higher education, JNU had very progressive admission policy with weightage number for backward districts, castes and also for women. Though these deprivation points still exist, but since half of admission is done on caste lines, these points are less relevant now. Owing to its admission policy and standard entrance exam, JNU has been providing excellent higher education opportunity for the students from remote rural areas at par with metro educated students.

Ironically, left parties with help of communist faculty members also exploit this opportunity as they get fresh cadres who could easily get disconnected caused by the language difficulties, cultural shock and administrative difficulties. A person with deeply rooted Indian value system won’t accept valueless violent ideology of Marx. Brainwashing such person is not easy. Hence the process of indoctrination begins with very first day of admission at JNU.

Earlier, admission process in JNU was cumbersome and lengthy. Comrades used to catch new comers in the name of admission assistance. Now, this opportunity is lost as there is single window admission process is adopted by JNU administration. Another step to trap the new comers is artificial scarcity of hostel. You are on their mercy of ‘these seniors’ who offer you to stay with them. And sometimes 6-7 students stay in 10-by-15 hostel rooms. More freshers in one comrade’s room means more problem, hence more opportunity to brainwash them.

First stage of abomination start with inciting new-comers to hate individuals including hating own self. This hate is designed to suit the social conflict theory of communism. If you are a general category student, you must hate yourself for being born in ‘upper caste’ and must accept it wholeheartedly than only you would be ‘ready’ to abuse political opponents on caste line.

If you are from OBC-SC-ST and Minority, you must hate those ‘upper caste’ guys living with you in the same campus, no matter they’re even poorer or more deprived than you. Irrespective of rationality and humanity, you must hate them; because they’re born in bourgeoisie castes, and you should assume yourself as proletariat, even if you are richer and dominate than most of them. This hate is mandatory. Selective crimes are extrapolated to justify it. Incidents like Khailanji, where Dalits were burned alive, are used to consolidate this hate. But details of culprits are purposefully hidden and ignored as they don’t belong to ‘general caste’ and this may derail the hate direction.

Minority students have to hate Hindu co-students as per the conditioning of the leftist mentors. Hindus are blamed for their all problems. OBC-SC-STs are encouraged to hate Hinduism too. If there are complacent with it, they’re encouraged to shun Hinduism and accept more exploitative Islam, Christianity or atheism. At same time, Muslims and Christians students are encouraged to be more religious and fanatic for their respective faith. This is why JNU communists encourage Islamic or Christian festivals but gets reprimanded if students celebrate Hindu festivals in the campus.

This abhorrence has another intense level of inculcation. Female students from remotely rural areas are too attached with their families. Girls won’t be a good ‘recruiting’, ‘facilitating’ and a devoted comrade, until they respect family system and existing social ethics of the society. Hence, they’re taught that they’re the master of their own body. Their vagina belongs to them and their father has no right to say with whom they shall sleep. This typical teaching is very crucial and preached through woman comrades in very delicate ways by living with them, fanaticizing with them with instilling a false sense of empowerment and freedom among them… only to sexually exploit them for own leaders or an allurement for the new recruits.

JNU’s left ideologues are not limited to a close campus. Congress governments have been giving them important posts in order to devise new divide-and-rule policies. After debacle of 2014, these master-less Maoists of JNU are left with no one to support. Their political existence was long gone.  Post General Elections 2014, they engineered several caste-riots, devouring state-funding and abusing the same state. Unfortunately, they failed into it too.

Within JNU, they opened another sister concern named ‘BAPSA’ – an organization that not only abuse Hinduism on daily basis, but also abuse the students who belong to Brahmin or ‘Savarn’ castes. The right to live with dignity for these ‘savarn caste’ students is violated by BAPSA and left-relict in name of Social Justice. Ironically, JNU administration allows such caste abuses in name of sociological studies. Much grave violation of thousands of students’ fundamental right to live with dignity is violated every day.

However, these avant-garde social terrorists still think that they can potentially harm the ruling BJP party by taking Bhimrao Ambedkar’s name. Now a days, Student wing of Naxalites, DSU used ‘Jai Bhim’ along with ‘Lal Salam’ in order to immunize itself from the responsibility of offending content it circulate within JNU campus. It is high time for Ministry of Human Resource Development and JNU administration to stop the violation of personal dignity of students. We must not allow the abuses and exploitations just for the sake of intellectual pleasure and useless showoff of tiny campus victory.

Amit can be reached at Twitter @amisri


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