Hafta 287: The Dalit identity and Indian politics, New Education Policy, and more


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In this week’s Newslaundry’s panel of Abhinandan Sekhri, Manisha Pande, Raman Kripal, and Anand Vardhan are joined by Suraj Yengde, an award winning scholar, author, and activist in the field of caste, race, and ethnicity studies and labour migration in the Global-south. Currently, he is a senior research fellow at Harvard-Kennedy School. Suraj has also been nominated for the ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’ and is a recipient of the ‘Dr.Ambedkar Social Justice Award’ in 2019 and the ‘Rohith Vemula Scholar Award’ in 2018.

The conversation begins with discussing the reclamation of Dalit identities in pop culture. Explaining this with the rise of Chamar pop with tracks like ‘Put Han Chamara De’, Suraj says it is counterintuitive to the masculine, toxic Jat pride seen in pop-culture spaces and the embracing of Dalit identity, but not through the Brahiminical lens. ‘The way that Jat is used not just as Jat pride, but also to make other people feel low’, he adds.

Suraj also talks about the discomfort around Dalit folks owning their ancestry, and the reason behind the loudness of Dalit politics. He says, “ If a Dalit claims his or her Dalitness, the other person feels attacked all of sudden. They say, ’Why do you even mention that, I don’t look at you as a Dalit’.”

Raman asks Suraj whether there are any Dalit political leaders who can match Kashi Ram’s counter-culture since Mayawati’s impact seems to fading. To this, he says “India is a petri-dish of identity-based politics,” and there needs to be a decentralisation of Dalit political future. He also discusses the role of media and how it only highlights a few individuals. Suraj adds, “Media manufactures leaders in India. Media manufactured Modi as a leader, and even in the Dality community that’s the same.”

He also explains the deep distrust amongst Dalits against the current political dispensation, “where it will probably take two Ambedkars and two Gandhis to really bring back the faith in electoral democracy.”

Abhinandan brings up Chandrashekhar, the emerging face of Dalit politics in India and asks Suraj about his impact. Suraj points to the immense pressure on the Bhim Army leader who has been slapped with draconian laws. He says, “Chandrashekhar really needs to embrace Kanshi Ram,” and start caderising to bring out the subaltern stories.

The panel also discusses the ‘survival burden’ of Dalits and the exclusion of Dalit voices in national matters, the New Education Policy, and how far has RSS been successful in shaping it since 2014.

This and a lot more, only on NL Hafta. Tune In!

Song: Jhootha Kahin Ka


0:21: Introduction and Headlines

09:51: Caste Annihilation

45:48: India’s new education policy

1:17:37: Subscriber Letters

1:35:58: Saifuddin Soz’s Detention

1:50:26: Subscriber Letters

2:07:23: Recommendations

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