Friday, June 17, 2016

An Overview of Contemporary Telugu Poetry

An Overview of Contemporary Telugu Poetry
P. Kesava Kumar
 Professor in Philosophy, Delhi University, Delhi

Telugu society has always been a land of struggles. These struggles have naturally had their impact on the Telugu literary production. In intellectual realm, the contradictions of the society are opened up and articulated through literature. The class struggles are followed by the identity politics. The last quarter of the century has witnessed the movements that have mobilized women, dalits, Muslims, and the people of Telangana for a democratic and human society. These new social movements have been critical about organized struggles and philosophies of both traditionalism and Marxism. In fact, the new social movements are well articulated through literature. This new literature has changed the ideological landscape of literature.  The language, idiom, style and aesthetics have been refreshed and redefined in much more concretely. This new literature has set the agenda of politics of change. Poetry becomes a medium for the emerging new intellectuals of Telugu society to express their anger and social aspirations in contesting the dominance and hegemony. The Contemporary Telugu poetry of feminist, dalit, and Muslim is fully committed to their own social experience and celebrated the dignity, self-respect and pride. The literature has been much closer to life.
Against Feudalism: Progressive Literature
In Telugu society, the progressive literature (Abhyudhava and Viplava) inspired by the Marxism has set the standards and canons of literature. It is a revolt against the ‘classical literature’ (Sampradaya sahityam) and romantic literature (Bhava Kavitvam) of 1920-1940. The progressive literature took new turn in 1970s by identifying with ongoing revolutionary struggles. The revolutionary literature (Viplva samityam) has had its mark till 1980s. The poets rebelled against the ideology of fascism, feudalism and capitalism in support of new democracy and socialism.   The progressive poetry mostly revolved around the themes of ‘humanism’, ‘revolution’ and ‘classless society’ (rythu coolie rajyam). The poet, Sri Sri is the iconic figure of this tradition. Apart from progressive literature, we too find different streams of Telugu poetry such as Anubhuthi(Experiential) and  digambara (Nude). However, in all these literary traditions, the writers and readers were mostly drawn from the category of the upper caste middle class male. The entire literary discourse is centred on either abstract human being or class by erosive of cultural markers such as caste, gender, religion and region. From 1980s onwards with the rise of conscious intellectuals from the lower castes and women exposed the shallowness of the ‘modernity’ and ‘progressiveness’ adopted by the literary world. In this process, they not only questioned the canons of literature but also dismissed the celebrated Telugu progressive modernists.
Feminist Poetry against Patriarchy 
From 1985 onwards, feminist poetry came as a strong dissenting voice against patriarchal structure that mainly responsible for oppression and exploitation of women. By 1990, feminist poetry has established as a different genre of Telugu literature. Feminist poetry is a frontal attack on stereotype images of women, sexuality, gender discrimination and male domination. Private space such as home, kitchen becomes public discourse. Through the literary craft, the feminist writers punctured the myth of body, pativravytam (chastity), motherhood and domestic labour and argued for freedom. The tales of unconcerned personal life   got political articulation through this poetry. Neelimeghalu (Blue clouds, 1993), Gurichoosi Pade Pata are the earlier collective anthologies of feminist poetry. Jayaprabha (Yuddhonmukhamga(1986), Vaamanudi Moodo Paadam (1988), Ikkada Kurisina Varsham Ekkadi Meghanidi (1991) and Yasodharaa Yee Vagapemduke (1993), Kondepudi Nirmala (Nadileche Gayalu, Hrudayaniki Bahuvachanam), Vimala (Adavi Vuppongina Ratri)  Volga, Vasanta Kannabiran, Mahe Jabeen, Patibandla Rajini, Ghantasala Nirmala, Revathi Devi, Silololitha, S.Jaya, K. Geetha, Savitri, Mokkapati Sumathi , Mandavarapu Hymavathi, Ravulapalli Suneetha, K.Varalakshmi, B.Padmavathi, Challapalli Swaroopa Rani (Mankena Poovu), M. M. Vinodini, Jupaka Subhadra, Jelli Indira are among the prominent feminist poets of Telugu literary world. The feminist poetry rebelled against the prejudiced social rules in male dominated society: The movement I am told/ it will burn me,/I want to embrace the sun. /Just once... That’s how I am. /I always want to do/What’s prohibited (Mahe Jabeen, Physical Geography).They retaliated  against the sexist outlook of society by asserting themselves: Looks/From two eyes/dart like needles/roam freely on lumps of flesh…..A day shall come/when women in this country have/thorns/not only in their eyes/but all over their bodies  (Jayaprabha,  Choopulu(Gaze)). Dalit women poets came as internal critics of feminist poetry by bringing into the issue of caste oppression faced by dalit women along gender discrimination. As dalit feminist writer says: When has my life been truly mine/In the home male arrogance/sets my cheek stinging/while in the street caste arrogance/splits the other cheek open (Challapalli Swaroopa Rani, Mankena Poovu)
Dalit Poetry for fistful of Self-Respect   
Dalit literary movement came in the backdrop of dalit struggles against caste atrocities, especially against the Karamchedu (1985) and Chunduru massacres (1991).  The quest for the search of their own Dalit identity makes dalit poets to broaden the literary horizons. They declared that we will write about ourselves. Ideologically they confronted with both Brahmanism and alternative ideologies such as Marxism. They opened up the issue of caste as primary social reality and penned for casteless society. The condemned symbols and life styles are converted into symbols of protest. They performed the poetry by invoking the collective social memory. They introduced the dalit language to the Telugu public against textual and sanskritised Telugu.
The early 1990s poetry anthologies, Chikkanavvutunna Pata (Thickening Song, 1995), Dalit Manifesto (1995), Padunekkina Pata (Sharpened Song, 1996) are set the tone for dalit poetry. At this historical juncture debated: Who is dalit? What constitutes dalit literature? This controversy resolved in course of time by considering whatever is written by the Dalits with their conscious social experience is only qualified to be Dalit literature. Ambedkarism becomes the ideology of dalit literature.
Dalit movement has produced many promising young poets. Dalit leaders have become poets. Madduri Nagesh Babu((Veliwada,(Untouchable Locality,1997), Meerevutlu?(What People Are You?,1998), Rachabanda(Village Square,1997), Naraloka Prarthana ( A Prayer of This World, 2002), Vidi Aakasam(A Separate Sky,1999)), Kalekuri Prasad, Pydi Teresh Babu ((Alpapeedanam(Depression in the Ocean,1999)), Hindu Maha Samudram(The Great Hindu ocean,1999), Nenu Naa Vintalamari Prapamcham (Me and My world of Wonders,2007), Satish Chander (Panchama Vedam( The Fifth Veda, 1995)), Kathi Padma Rao(( Nallakaluva (Black Lotus,1996 ) Bhhomi Bhasha, Kattelamopu)), Bojja Tarakam((Nadiputtina Gonthuka (The Voice that gave Birth to the River, 1983), K.G.Satyamurthy alias Sivasagar (Nadustunna Charitra, The Ongoing History,2004), Gaddar (Gaddar Patalu), Gorati Venkanna, Masterjee, Yendluri Sudhakar ((Varthamanam,   The Present,1985, Vargeekaranam(Categorization)),Sikhamani ((Chilaka Koyya (The Wooden Hanger, 1993), Nagappagari Sunderraju (Chandala Chatimpu), Vemula Yellaiah, Challapalliswarooparani (Manankena Poovu), Salandra, Sambhuka, Thullamalli Wilson Sudhakar, M M Vinodini, Joopaka Subhadra, Darla Venkateswara Rao         ( Dalita Tatvikudu), G.V.Ratnkar (Matti Palaka), P.C Ramulu, Juluri Gowrisankar, Prasada Murthy.

Dalit poets protested against the social practice of untouchability and raised their voice for fistful for self-respect: ‘I am still a prohibited human being/Mine is an expelled breath/ ..The moment he left a mark of prohibition on my face/My race/Was gradually murdered   (Yendluri Sudhakar, The Present).  I’m the wound of the people, a communion of wounds./For ages, a slave in a free country,/subject to insult, atrocity, rape, torture,/someone raising his head for a fistful of self respect./My very existence in this nation, drunk on caste and wealth,/is a protest( Kalekuri Prasad, For a Fistful of Self-respect). The poets constructed the counter history against the figures of Brahminical mythology by invoking alternative symbols like Ekalavya, Sambuka (Siva Sagar, Nadustunna Charitra). From the stubs of those thumbs there now sprout nibs of steel/ to write history anew. ((Sikhamani, Vade Asuddha Manavudu (That Fellow is the unclean Human being, 1984)). Dalit poetry is determined against brahmanical history and their writing is committed in demanding the citizenship and social justice which is denied for generations: In this Country we want a piece of land/These clouds has to be vanished/These walls must be collapsed/…I want real citizenship/will you give it?...I want a touch/I want you to shake my hand with your heart (Madduri Nagesh Babu, What do I want?). They further cautioned the nation that without the labour of dalit communities, this country could not flourish. With pride they declared that this nation was produced out of their labour ( Juluri Gowri Shankar,. Padamudralu,( Foot Prints)).

Sharpening of Identity Politics: Madiga, Muslim and Telangana Poetry

With the assertion of new identities such as Madiga, Muslim and Telangana , the terrain of Telugu literature too has changed remarkably. Dalit literature too has undergone significant transformation with further assertion of social constituents of dalit category by 2000s. Madiga poetry (Madiga Chaitanyam), Bahujana Poetry (Ventade Kalalu , Poetry of Backward Castes) are further democratised the dalit poetry. Muslim poetry has emerged as a new literary genre after the Gujarat massacre with the poetry anthology, Jala Jala.  With the demolition of Babri Masjid , Muslim community has  been pushed to  insecurity and terrified further with Gujarat massacre. In the context of self insulation of community, Telugu Muslim poetry opened up the ongoing anger and uncertainty of Muslim community through poetry.  As Reflecting on this situation : Long before I was born/my name was listed among traitors….Yes, my birthmark is me/my existence, my citizenship/It’s my ancestral property/inherited from the earth/the sky, the air/the surroundings I live in/ It’s a wound that never heals( Khadar Mohiuddin, Puttumacha (Birthmark,1991)). The Muslim poets through their poetry not only depicted the insecurity and ill-treatment of the community and narrated the tale of social economic backwardness of the community.  Skybaba ( Jaljala (Ed), 1998), Khaza (Fatwa), Shajahana (Nakhab), Anwar (Aja (Ed.) ), Iqbal chand (Black Voice, 1995), Khasim Shaik, Afsar (Valasa (Migration)), Yakoob (Sarihaddu Rekha (Borderline)), Haneef, Mahe Jabeeen are some of the prominent poets of Muslim poetry.
Telangana poetry has been established in the backdrop of struggle for separate Telangana state. This poetry is a celebration of the pride of Telangana and its culture against the exploitation of this region. The aspirations for Telangana people were well articulated through the cultural and literary forms. Dalit, Bahujan, Muslim and Women writers and cultural performers played a key role in Telangana literature. The dalit performer poets Gaddar, Gorati Venkanna, and Andesree culturally set the political tone of separate Telangana. At present Telugu poetry is at crossroads looking at the democratic path to move ahead. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

        Madras: New Cinema of Dalit Genre

                                     Prof.P. Kesava Kumar 

Pa. Ranjith’s film Madras is a unique film in the history of Tamil Cinema and creating new genre of films. This is both realistic and political cinema that captures the life of slums of the city. In other words, it is a filming of rhythm of everyday life and struggles of dalits of the city that includes joy, struggle, violence, politics and love. There are many reviews about the film that appraising the life of slum (Housing board) of North Chennai for its crude realistic narration. The film is explicit in bringing the identity of the characters and their social locations rather keeping obscure as the case with popular cinema but nobody wants speak in these realistic terms. This is political film of dalits searching for their own space in otherwise dominated by Dravidian parties. The political space of dalits is not given. For this they have to struggle to negotiate with existing space to create a space of their own. The control over the wall, symbolizes the power in public sphere. This is an ordinary love story having the backdrop of politics, violence, emotions and poverty. Altogether, it is Pa. Ranjith’s well crafted commercial, realistic and political dalit cinema.

This film is unique in many ways in the film history of Indian cinema in general and Tamil cinema in Particular. This is a political cinema that differs with the political genre of Mani Ratnam, Shankar and Ramagopal  Verma as it revolves around the urban slum dwelling dalit youth. It is realistic and politically sensitive apart from a regular love story. We can feel this difference in every frame of the film, of its music, dialect and body language. The film sutured with dalit grammar. The film depicts the life of Vyasarapadi   Huda colony of f North Chennai, which is the hub of dalits. The film consciously worked out that Vyasarpadi (North Chennai) is not a home of gangsters as generally viewed from outside but people with political spirit. The film revolves in the backdrop of conflicts of Dravidian politics in the city. But presents the search of political space of dalits within larger politics and also make an effort to have their own autonomous political space.  The contestation of the power is symbolically seen through the undercurrent theme of the film, that is, struggle for wall. The wall is used as metaphor in this film.  Every dalit struggles of the city culminated in the claims of political articulation through an assertion of ‘This wall is ours’. The wall is used for political writing. It also reflects not only visibility of the dalits in public space but also control over that space. The hero represents the urban educated (software engineer) youth from this locality but not alienated from the roots of everyday life of Dalit colony in the city. He was caught in the political conflict and he wants to leave for the political aspirations of the community in that locality. He believes that friendship means not only sharing the ambitions of one’s own life but politics too. The girl he loves is politically active than him. She is a daughter of   Ambedkarite and also involves in struggles. Her role presented as an active heroine rather a glamorous doll. We can feel the ruggedness of urban dalit life very much reflected in the film, weather it is foot ball, music or dance. ‘The Blue boys’ of the film reminds   the Afro American music. The character Johnny (mentally disturbed) was effectively used as symbol of political satire of slum dwelling against wretched earth. The love and sex of Mary and Anbu was as natural as their son Ronaldo.  The dalit hero of this Untouchable spring firmly believes that we are not born to die but also have to live with pride, if necessary by eliminating our enemies. Madras is a new cinema of dalit genre proved even commercially successful. Indian Cinema has to move in their direction, there is no other way.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Ambedkar's Conception of Equality

Ambedkar’s Conception of Equality 

                                                            Dr. P. Kesava Kumar

Equality is a central concept in a political thought. Equality is an egalitarian principle. Historically, the demand for equality has its justification on many grounds. It came to forefront as the moral or rational critique of society. Sullivan viewed the idea of equality as fundamental value of life. Human history witnessed many struggles against existing inequalities. Equality presupposes the democracy. The political thinkers recognized that formal equality of citizenship is not enough for substantial and meaningful life. Dahl defines democracy in terms of substantial equality in political resources. Barber argues that democracy is the politics of equality. Robert Post too argues that democracy requires that persons be treated equally insofar as they are autonomous participants in the process of self government. Democracy requires an equality of democratic agency. At the same time democracy and equality are mutually reinforcing and mutually antagonistic. At root, a deep theoretical tension exists between democracy and various notions of distributive justice that seek to protect the moral equality of citizens. Insofar as democracy is a form of government committed to self-determination, democracy must also encompass self-determination about the meaning of the moral equality of citizens. Democracy is an ideal for human beings because it is the only form of society which at once depends upon and provides for the organization of free communication. It demands equality, because it is only as equals that men can communicate; it values the individual, because it is only the individual in his difference from others who has anything to communicate to them, and because it is only the freely communicating individual who is fully rational and the source of creativity. John Dewey has said that shared experience is the greatest of human goods. Like all moral goods, it is at once an end in itself and a necessary condition for the realization of all other goods. Equality as a moral ideal is crucial for realization of democratic political value, especially in a society where inequalities are internalized.

The philosophers visualized egalitarian society based on their conception of equality. In eighteenth century the intellectual scheme explains that the existing inequalities are experienced as an intolerable burden and struggles for equality develops. Society generates unfreedom and inequalities of power, status and wealth, thus destroys the natural state of freedom and equality. Locke came with a theory of natural rights. Thinkers of social contract, Locke and Rousseau believed that individual surrendered his/her natural freedom and equality to the state for the sake of economic cooperation and physical safety. Individualism, with its claim for equality and freedom is later historical phenomenon. The thinking of social contract assumes that the accomplishment of common purposes necessitates the voluntary surrender of primary, natural equality and freedom to social inequalities. This ideological scheme underlies most modern thinking about equality and inequality. Against the rigid and hierarchical social structures and its inbuilt inequalities emerged equalitarianism, individualism and libertarianism as an egalitarian value system. They began as a phenomenon of change. The premodern societies characterized with unfreedom, inequality, suppression and restriction of individuals. These restrictions were presumed to be rooted in divine, or natural, order and not viewed as oppressive. When reason is applied to this order, the hierarchy requires rational legitimation and justification. It must appear to conform to principles of justice. In premodern times, such justification was based on ascription: differentials of power, status and wealth were derived from inherent characteristics such as ancestry, birth or caste; people were privileged or underprivileged be-cause of what they were and not for what they accomplished. The modern Western industrial society replaced ascription by achievement: differences were justified by the degree to which different individuals attained social goals and values. Ascriptive aristocracy was replaced by a meritocracy wherein merit consisted of achieving that which society valued most. Hierarchies based on ascription are also more rigid, whereas those based on achievement allow up-wards, and downwards, mobility; one can never change what one is, but one can change one's social position by achievement and performance. Achievement replacing ascription as the legitimizing principle went hand in hand with a class struggle. Achievement replacing ascription as the legitimizing principle went hand in hand with a class struggle. The bourgeoisie, in its struggle with the aristocracy in England and with the Ancient regime in France, attacked the traditional ascriptive inequalities through their demand for liberty and equality. The ideal of equality had the socio-historical function of attacking the existing inequalities, but it led, in turn, to new inequalities based on achievement. Achievement of economic success gradually replaced ascriptive salvation; economic performance became the source of individual worth. It is important to understand that this transition from an ascriptive to an achievement-oriented society took place hand in hand with the emergence of capitalism.

There is a long tradition of combining the values of individualism with equality. One of the doctrines associated with individualism is the natural sovereignty of each person. We are not born masters and servants, rulers and ruled. All are born free; no one may claim natural authority over another. Individualism is a doctrine which emphasizes the dignity and worth of each individual; Egalitarianism is powerfully represented in recent moral and political philosophy. John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Thomas Nagel have defended views that count as egalitarian. An egalitarian theory might be based on an appeal to equality itself as a moral ideal.

Like virtue theorists such as Kant, Ambedkar considers man as an end himself/herself and used as instrument of means. Ambedkar endorses the Beard view of equality expressed in Freedom in Political Thought. Equality has differently understood in applying for human societies in comparison with mathematical notion of equality. Equality has to be understood with the fundamental characteristics that are common to humanity. These characteristics may be named as primordial qualities or biological necessities. As a matter of emphasis one may point out inequalities in physical strength, in artistic skill, in material wealth, or in mental capacity. But it remain fact that fundamental characteristics appear in all human beings. Their nature and manifestations are summed up in a phrase ‘moral equality’. By emphasizing on moral equality Ambedkar is critical about the supporters of inequality, who argues that in physical strength, talents, and wealth, human beings are not equal. No rational exponent of moral equality has even disputed the existence of obvious inequalities among human beings, even when he has pointed out inequalities, which may be ascribed to tyranny or institutional prescriptions. The Declaration of Independence does not assert that all men are equal; it proclaims that they are ‘created’' equal. Ambedkar holds that in essence the phrase ' moral equality ' asserts in ethical value, a belief to be sustained, and recognition of rights to be respected. Its validity cannot be demonstrated as a problem in mathematics can be demonstrated. It is asserted against inequalities in physical strength, talents, industry, and wealth. It denied that superior physical strength has a moral right to kill, eat, or oppress human beings merely because it is superior. To talents and wealth, the ideal of moral equality makes a similar denial of right. And indeed few can imagine themselves to have superior physical strength, talents and wealth will withhold from inferiors all moral rights… A society without any respect for human personalities is a band of robbers.

The objections to equality may be sound and one may have to admit that all men are not equal. But what of that? Equality may be a fiction but nonetheless one must accept it as the governing principle. A. man's power is dependent upon (1) physical heredity, (2) social inheritance or endowment in the form of parental care, education, accumulation of scientific knowledge, everything which enables him to be more efficient than the savage, and finally, (3) on his own efforts. In all these three respects men are undoubtedly unequal. But the question is, shall we treat them as unequal because they are unequal? This is a question which the opponents of equality must answer. From the standpoint of the individualist it may be just to treat men unequally so far as their efforts are unequal. It may be desirable to give as much incentive as possible to the full development of every one's powers. But what would happen if men were treated unequally as they are, in the first two respects? It is obvious that those individuals also in whose favour there is birth, education, family name, business connections and inherited wealth would be selected in the race. But selection under such circumstances would not be a selection of the able. It would be the selection of the privileged. The reason therefore, which forces that in the third respect we should treat men unequally demands that in the first two respects we should treat men as equally as possible. On the other hand it can be urged that if it is good for the social body to get the most out of its members, it can get most out of them only by making them equal as far as possible at the very start of the race. That is e reason why we cannot escape equality. This position reminds the Rawl’s theory of equal opportunity. According to John Rawls justice is the first virtue of social institution. Rawls affirms an Equal Liberty Principle that guarantees equal basic or constitutional liberties for all citizens and a Difference Principle that requires inequalities in the distribution of certain social and economic benefits, the primary social goods, to be set so that the long-term holdings of primary social goods are maximized for the citizens whose holdings are least. The Fair Equality of Opportunity Principle holds that social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity. In other words, institutions should be arranged so that any two persons with the same native talent and the same ambition should have the same prospects of success in the competition for positions of advantage that distribute primary social goods. The combination between egalitarianism and justification of inequalities was achieved by the idea of equality of opportunity. It contains an element of equalitarianism; everybody is supposed to begin at the same starting line; but the inequalities that emerge in the competitive struggle are accepted. The idea of equality of opportunity makes possible the representation of the resulting unequal income distribution as just: because of initial equality, the resulting inequalities are supposedly based on merit. The idea of equality of opportunity can serve its purpose to justify existing inequalities only if one believes every-one has an equal start and accepts the resulting inequalities as meritorious. Both beliefs are open to grave doubts. There are obvious flaws in the assumption of an equal start; differences in environment, background, education and other factors distribute the chances very unevenly, indeed.

Ambedkar poses certain questions: Does the Hindu social order recognise the individual? Does it recognize his distinctiveness his moral responsibility? Does it recognise him as an end in himself, as a subject not merely of disabilities but also of rights even against the State? The Hindu social order does not recognise the individual as a centre of social purpose. For the Hindu social order is based primarily on class or Varna and not on individuals. In the Hindu social order, there is no room for individual merit and no consideration of individual justice. If the individual has a privilege it is not because it is due to him personally. The privilege goes with the class and if he is found to enjoy it, it is because he belongs to that class. The disability is the disability imposed upon the class and if he is found to be labouring under it, it is because he belongs to that class. It refuses to recognise that men no matter how profoundly they differ as individuals in capacity and character, are equally entitled as human beings to consideration and respect wellbeing of a society. The Hindu social order is reared on three principles. Among these the first and foremost is the principle of graded inequality. The second principle on which the Hindu social order is founded is that of fixate of occupations for each class and continuance there of by heredity. The third principle on which the Hindu social order is founded is the fixation of people within their respective classes. The hindu social order is based on graded inequality. This scheme has designed and protected to maintain social inequality. The Hindu social order leaves no choice to the individual. It fixes his occupation. It fixes his status. All that remains for the individual to do is to conform him self to these regulations. Ambedkar observed that the principle of graded inequality has been carried into the economic field. ‘From each according to his ability; to each according to his need’ is not the principle of Hindu social order. The principle of the Hindu social order is: From each according to his need. To each according to his nobility. Every side of social life is protected against the danger of equality.

Ambedkar concludes that inequality is the soul of Hinduism. Inequality is the official doctrine of Brahmanism and the suppression of the lower classes aspiring to equality has been looked upon by them and carried out by them, without remorse as their bounded duty. For in Hinduism inequality is a religious doctrine adopted and conscientiously preached as a sacred dogma. Inequality for the Hindus is a divinely prescribed way of life as a religious doctrine and as a prescribed way of life, it has become incarnate in Hindu Society and is shaped and moulded by it in its thoughts and in its doings. In the Philosophy of Hinduism the interests of the common man as well as of society are denied, suppressed and sacrificed to the interest of this class of Supermen. The Brahmin or the Superman of the Hindu social order was entitled to certain privileges.

Man must grow materially as well as spiritually. Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation was summarised by the French Revolution in three words, Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. The French Revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality. We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasised that in producing equality society cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha. Communism can give one but not all.

For Ambedkar, the source for equality lies in dhamma of Budhism in his work Budha and his Dhamma .Dhamma to be a sadhamma must promote equality between man and man. Religion must uphold equality otherwise it is not worth having. The religion is better which promotes the happiness of others simultaneously with the happiness of oneself and tolerates no oppression. The religion of the Buddha is perfect justice springing from a man's own meritorious disposition.

Hinduism is inimical to equality, antagonistic to liberty and opposed to fraternity. According to Ambedkar, justice has always evoked ideas of equality, of proportion of compensation. Equity signifies equality. Rules and regulations, right and righteousness are concerned with equality in value. If all men are equal, then all men are of the same essence, and the common essence entitles them of the same fundamental rights and equal liberty… in short justice is another name of liberty, equality and fraternity.

For Ambedkar, the roots of democracy lie not in the government but in social relations. In social relations are hierarchical, inequal, oppressive and exploitative in caste society. He maintains that the preconditions for the success of democracy are that there must not be glaring inequalities in society and there must be statutory provisions to mitigate the sufferings and safeguard the interests of the oppressed. The society must be based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity in order to ensure social endosmosis. Therefore, Dr. Ambedkar, while speaking on “conditions precedent for the successful working of Democracy”, in Poona, emphasized that, “The first condition which I think is a condition precedent for the successful working of democracy is that there must be no glaring inequities in the society. There must not be an oppressed class. There must not be a suppressed class. There must not be a class which has got the entire privileges ad a class which has got all the burdens to carry. Such a thing, such a division, such an organization of society has within itself the germs of a bloody revolution and perhaps it would be impossible for democracy to cure them.”According to him, economic inequalities are inherent in the capitalist economy which makes political equality assured by democracy worthless. Thus, according to Ambedkar, the failure to recognize that political democracy cannot succeed where there is no social and economic democracy has vitiated parliamentary democracy.

Ambedkar maintained that though “parliament democracy developed a passion for liberty, it never made a nodding acquaintance with equality. It failed to realize the significance of equality and did not even endeavor to strike a balance between liberty and equality, with the result that liberty swallowed equality and left a progeny of inequalities”

“A political democracy without an economic and social democracy is an invitation to trouble and danger”. Social democracy alone can assure to the masses the right to liberty, equality and fraternity. So, democracy is not only a form of government but a way of life through which social justice can be established.

Ambedkar firmly believed that political democracy cannot succeed without social and economic democracy. In his concept of democracy, he opined that political democracy is not an end in itself, but the most powerful means to achieve the social and economic ideals in society. Associated life is consensual expression of shared experience, aspirations and values.

This is to conclude that Ambedkar has not only philosophically conceptualized the concept of equality and also demanded and fought for equality. He has negotiated with western theories of equality from Indian social context. Like social contract thinkers Locke and Rousseau argues that by virtue of human beings, he/she has certain inalienable natural rights. All human beings are equal. He further carried with Kant by considering human beings are end in themselves and not used as a means. He upholds the notion of universal rationality that upholds the morality and dignity. Like in the west, Ambedkar too argues for individualism against orthodox religion and demands to recognize the worth and merit of the individual. He too combines the individualism with a sense of equality and freedom.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Thol. Thirumavalavan addressing at  a seminar on Philosophy of Ambedkar at  Pondicherry University 

                                                                        With Thirumavalavan

Monday, November 26, 2012

(Un) Making Literature: Dalit Literary Imagination
Dr. P. Kesava Kumar

  In India, English is a privileged language .It is the legacy of colonialism. It is the language of bureaucracy. In post independent India, it is still enjoys the power of elite. It is the language of institutionalization of academics. Colonialism, Modernity, rationality, western thinking, technicality, printing, writing culture and ‘Indian literature’ are having convergence with English. The intellectual expressions are borrowed from English thinking. The literary expressions are of natives too shaped by English studies, though they expressed in vernaculars. The Indian literature in vernaculars is defined in western literary genres. This may be witnessed with literary forms emerged within print forms such as short story, novel, and drama. As an active recipients of English, the literary expression of Indian intellectuals who are happened to be social elite as a nationalists/nativists are invariably in the boundaries of western literary canons. The literature influenced by Marxism made an attempt to redefine literature from materialistic and class perspective, but it also confined to the already established structures of literature. The post -Marxist, post-structural, post-modern, cultural studies and post-colonial frameworks to certain extent broadens the canvas of literature/culture and its functions. The marginalized/submerged life, literature and knowledge systems are bringing into a view. This trajectory has not only demolished the celebrated literary/cultural canons but changed the very discourse of literature. As a result the nature and function of English studies too significantly changed. In this historical and theoretical backdrop, literature viewd from a dalit perspective may change the very idea of literature and so the English studies.

As his engagement with post-colonial literature (decolonizing literature) the world known Kenyan writer Ngugi determined to write in his own language Gikuyu rather continuing in English. Orhan Pamukh, Turkish novelist who won the noble prize for literature has categorically made a point in his Noble prize speech that we are far away from literary centers but not away from literature. These acts have implications for literature and English studies.

In India, from early nineties, Dalit literature has emerged as a new literary genre by contesting the western literary frameworks and local vernacular literatures of both brahminical and Marxist literatures. The orality, authenticity, lived experiences, cultural rootedness, ethics of politics, shared experiences and struggles of liberation of dalit literature are resisting the canons of literature of both English studies and vernacular knowledge systems. Dalit literature has epistemologically, ethically and politically providing a new ground for literature. It demands not for inclusion of this literature in English studies but compelling us to see what constitutes literature.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Politics of Atrocity: Towards Understanding Caste Violence

Dr.P.Kesava Kumar

The word ‘atrocious’ is an adjective form, meaning very wicked or cruel or shocking. The noun form of it is atrocity, meaning wicked or cruel act. Atrocity is an act. Legislation preventing it is confining to the limited objective of avoiding such act. Legislation is intended at prevent of cruel act because it is unbearably inhuman, appealing to our realist aesthetic. The statist use of a term atrocity does not go beyond its apparent inhumanity and explore into socially constituted intersubjective meanings of the atrocity. The state already assumes a sanitized picture of society as consisting of simple individuals located outside caste bound cultural contexts. At least it intends to build such a society, completely ignoring the intersubjective nature of social meaning.

Atrocity annihilates all attempts to give life meaning and destroys forever a subject’s possibility of seeking justice as well as the individual’s relation with the world. The idea of atrocity is associated with acts of assaults and violence against an individual or group which are illegitimate, inhuman and cruel. It has different contextual and structural meanings. Genocide, caste violence, gendered violence, rape, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, war, slavery and torture are some examples of atrocity. The terms atrocity and violence are often used as synonymously. But these are two distinctive categories and are invariably related to each other. Violence is a sociological and cultural category .It is mostly descriptive in nature. Atrocity is a moral and political category. It is evaluative in nature.
I believe the philosophical discourse on atrocity may be providing a new meaning in freedom of the self in a caste society. The idea of atrocity had different dimensions in case of caste violence. Caste violence could not be reduced either to physical or psychological phenomenon. More than physical and psychological, it is a social, cultural and religious phenomenon. The phenomenological method may provide link to connect the victim, perpetuator, state, social structure and social agencies involved in the phenomenon of caste violence. The purpose is not to identify or describe different political positions in the phenomenon of atrocity. But it is to strengthen or justify the moral and political position of victim of atrocity in relation to other positions. This phenomenological method may help in grounding the possibility of communication by negotiating with other.

Public intellectuals tend to either subjectivise or objectivise the social world. Poets/writers tend to  subjectivise the meaning of social act like atrocity while academics tend to see this as end product of play of objective forces like class. Public movements-when they attempt to remedy atrocity, they do so by trying to mobilize people by conscientizing them throughteaching the objective picture of the world and thereby making them consumers and carriers of that picture.insightful analyst could gives us some kind of intersubjectivity intrinsic to social world. Either subjectivist or objectivist description deny the possibility of accessibility to intersubjectively constituted social world. Invoking phenomenology cautions us about impossibility of making social world according to our wishes. Social worlds can be understood culturally constituted intersubjective social meanings. Atrocity occurs and it is an instance of crises of normative hindu social order due to alteration in the internal perspective of the actor. However, the norm remains to be hindu social order. Reconciliation takes place through readjusting each other’s perspective according to that norm. Atrocity also happens in the context of invoking objectivist just conceptions of the world into the village social world or also in the process of negotiating intersubjective veracity of objectively just norms.

‘Dalita Rananinadam’(2005), a compilation of analytical essays on atrocities against dalits , that took place between 1985-2005 provides an understanding of atrocity viewed by dalit intellectuals who are actively involved dalit movement of this period.  Chunduru Nethuti Charitra (2008) is about Chunduru massacre, contains the testimonies/witnesses of dalit victims of that massacre produced in SC/ST special court, published by Kulanirmulana Porata Samithi. Kathi Padma Rao, the dalit leader emerged from the struggle against Karamchedu massacre argues that Upper caste (kammas) are targeted dalits of Karamchedu by consolidating their energies all possible way (kamma manpower of nearby seven village, tractors, weapons and by keeping police under their control).When the dalits are not organized, they used to attack individual dalits in their cattle sheds. Now they changed their strategies by understanding the collective strength of dalits. He illustrates that the perpetuators of Karamchedu massacre and the dalit victims have different philosophical background. Whenever dalit castes are resisting the feudal caste hegemony, the upper caste are killing, raping and massacring dalits by consolidating their political, Social (caste), economic power. In establishing their caste hegemony, they are unifying their social force. This atrocity has to simply understand as an issue of economic or political oppression but as an hegemonic caste massacre. This has to be resisted through the weapons of philosophy of annihilation of caste.[i] K.G.Satyamurthy, another dalit leader commenting on Chunduru massacre, though there is significant economic change in agrarian society of coastal Andhra, but in corresponding to this, there was no change in social and cultural life. If that change took place, upper caste would not respond in such atrocious way against the idea of self-respect of dalits .[ii] Another Dalit writer Ravi Kumar in his foreword to S. Viswanathan’s Dalits in Dravidian Land expresses that caste violence has not only changed its pattern and also changed its geography. Even when a small development or incident leading to the empowerment of dalits takes place, casteist forces are at the forefront of efforts to quash it. The instruments of the state cooperate with these forces. The judiciary too plays its part. And further adds that the important aspect of recent caste clashes was the fact that the dalits had begun to retaliate. It is more explicit in most of the caste atrocities.[iii]
Caste violence is socially located and had an historical continuity. It manifests in many forms. It is constituted and a cognitive act. It is relational and intentional. The perpetuator, caste hindu and the victim, dalit makes sense of their acts and came up with different meaning to the same act. Dalit victim articulates the caste violence as an atrocity committing against him. The perpetuator, the caste hindu justifies his act of violence by pointing out the violation of social norm by the dalits. The perpetuator projects the targeted dalit as violent, anti-social and potential threat to ‘public’. Rather observing the caste violence as an emotional act took place between individuals or a group, we have to take note of social structure and institutions that are undercurrent of this phenomenon. The social merit of these structures has to be evaluated in terms of social justice and common good. As dalit leader Kathi Padma Rao observed, the perpetuator and the victim have two different world views. It is the clash of brahminical world view of upper caste hindu and the world view of annihilation of caste represented by dalit. As it is observed, for dalit leaders understood atrocity as a reaction to retaliation of dalits against caste hegemony for the sake of self-respect. For caste hindu , his act of violence is to maintain his status and control over dalits, which he has foreseen as losing with the assertion of dalits. State has seen the atrocity as the breaking of law but in practice unable to implement it due to its social character. As a result state limiting to itself as a dealer of compensation for victims rather intervening in the social process to minimize the social inequalities. The academic understanding on atrocity is a reflection of this process and ultimately ends in reproducing the knowledge, which is mostly empirical in nature. It lacks proper theoretical direction and obviously keeps in status quo of society. The social scientists are limiting themselves in explaining the social conditions that leads to violence rather providing normative and political understanding of the issue. At most the theoretical understanding is confines to liberal humanistic or Gandhian in case of understanding caste violence. In this context, dalit literary writing to certain extent captured the idea of atrocity and provides the normative meaning to atrocity by locating it socially and historically. Though it was a cultural construction of dalit writer that reflects his subjective position, but to a possible extent they opened up the diverse subjective positions. In Bojja Tarakam’s Nela, Nagali and Mudeddulu, we may find how dalit subjectivity got erased by the caste hindu, who happened to have control over the land and resources. The power denies the identity of dalit as a human being and reduced him to a third bull. An attempt to live as human being leads to knowing about oneself and questioning the power that obviously leads to violence. The author    has not only depicts the conditions that leads to violence and explains the functioning of the social structure as a whole against the labourer, subordinate, dalit. To overcome this atrocity of slavery, he suggests that dalits should have land, education and political power. To transform the society requires courage to fight against this inhuman and oppressed society. Kolakaluri Enoch’s Oorabhavi provides the multiple meanings of atrocity by capturing the complexity involved in the society and explaining the caste violence. It also provides the strategies adopted by the dalits in resisting the everyday caste violence. In our philosophical understanding of atrocity we have to take note of these dimensions of caste violence in order to change the inhuman, oppressive and exploitative social system. Rather describing the phenomenon of caste violence, our understanding of atrocity has to acknowledge the politics of resisting the caste violence.

End Notes

[i] Padma Rao, Katthi Karamchedu O Charitrika Malupu, Dalita Rananinadam, Hyderabad: Yedureetha Publications, 2005,p.6

[ii] Satyamurthy.K.G.quoted in Dalita Rana Ninadam, p.55

[iii] Ravi Kumar, (2005) Waiting to lose their Patience, In:  Viswanathan,S. Dalits in Dravidian Land, Chennai: Navayana, , p.xxvii

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Kalekuri Prasad: Dalit Poet Raised for Fistful of Self Respect
Kalekuri Prasad: Dalit Poet Raised for Fistful of Self Respect

Bojja Tarakam : Nela..Nagali...Moodeddulu

Bojja Tarakam's book Nela,Nagali, Mudeddulu is a story of indian agrarian society.It is a literary narration of social history of dalits living for many  generations.It depicts the changing hegemonic social relations and unchanged life of dalits .It explains invariable nexus between caste,land and power.This book is a philosophical note of indian society from victims point of view.This book was published by Hyderabad Book Trust in 2008.Interestingly there is no discussion on this book so far.To understand the politics of power and hegemony of upper caste, one should read this book.

Bojja Tarakam is known as dalit leader in telugu society.He is politically active from the struggle against Karamchedu masacre to till recent agitation against Laximpeta massacre.He has written poetry, prose and essays in support of dalit struggle.Though they are powerful writings, they were discussed in lager literary and political debates.His poetry collection 'Nadi Puttina Gonthuka' is prior to dalit literary movement of eighties and nineties.In this he dismissed Gandhi and the image of "Mahatma" for not having the experience of dalit life.Kulam-Vargam(Caste-Class) is a book of political theory that charecterizes the Indian society.He explains that indian society is both caste and class ridden and also explains the relation between caste and class.As a result his struggle aims against caste and class and had a dream for casteless and classless democratic society.
Nela. Nagali..Modeddulu is how a dalit reduced to a level of domestic cattle  by not allowing him to think as a human being.In this work, he explains the evolution of Indian society and accumulation of wealth in upper caste and victimization of dalits . This is a different genre of writing in dalit literature.

Vimala: From 'Adavi Uppongina Ratri' to 'Mrugana'


Vimala is known for revolutionary feminism and her commitment for revolution through her writings and powerful speeches in public.Her poetry collection 'Adavi Uppongina Ratri is a representative poetry of revolution from feminist perspective.It had a great influence on later literary movement of feminism.
After eighteen years, she came up with her anthology of poems titled as 'Mrugana'( 2008).As she wrote in her foreword ,What shall I write, when my beliefs, ideology, philosophy and its practice are challenged? She consoled herself  that poetry may be "intenemo".In telugu society from early nineties onwards identity politics has radically changed the political discourse, especially the struggles of dalit, women, madiga dandora and telengana.We have seen new intellectuals and writers in this time.The established writers too influenced by these struggles and changed their literary and political articulation by internalising these sensitives. of course, there are dilemmas for intellectuals!
With her commitment and grasping of social dynamics of telugu society, she can reflect on these easily.But her 'Mrugana' came up with many doubts, questions.Her poetry become 'I' centric contrary to 'We' centric.The poetry is filled with Samundramu (Sea),chandrudu (moon), seetakokachilukalu (Butterflies), nostalgia , and disturbed dreams.Konni sandarbhalu-konni sandehalu.The poetry seems to be dense and philosophical expressed from lived experience.It is not explicitly political like her earlier collection.
But in this Mrugana, we may not find any poetry either in identification or expressing solidarity with ongoing struggles such as dalit, telangana or dandora.It doesn't mean that the writer doesn't have concerns for these struggles. She has to come up with fresh expressing rather struggling herself philosophically. This is the responsibility of the celebrities of revolution/marxism of yesterday rather disillusioned with the dream of revolution.