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  •  Dossier on Khairlanji Massacre

A half century after B. R. Ambedkar's death, his home state of Maharashtra has burst into flames, with rioting following the desecration of a statue in far-away Kanpur and the rape, mutilation and murder of four people at Khairlanji near Nagpur. There are serious issues underlying the recent Dalit upsurge, issues which cut to the heart of the Dalit condition in India today. These have to do not only with Dalits themselves, but also with today's politics, today's economy -- especially its neglected agrarian side - and with the economic condition and psychology of the OBCs.

As the Dalit voice in organized politics has declined, the number of caste attacks on Dalits in Maharashtra has increased. Earlier, their political strength was their best defence. For decades, they had repelled the worst excesses of landlord cruelty. Untouchability did not vanish. But they did fight it stoutly. These cultures of resistance rested on strong political movements which are today on the decline. The Dalit Panthers, once a key source of inspiration and strength is almost extinct. Electoral opportunism saw split of RPI into splinter groups and many of its leaders co-opted.

Much of India 's Dalit castes - save a tiny elite - continue to be trapped in dehumanising circumstances. That is not surprising, considering that most of them are engaged in unproductive, pre-modern economic activities. Such grossly devalued people would, clearly, have no political agency.

The Dalits who form around 15 per cent of the population of Maharashtra have been on the edge of angry frustration ever since four members of a Dalit family were raped and killed over a land dispute in Khairlanji in Bhandara district of the state. The government did nothing though the incident took place two months ago. Thereafter, there were two more incidents, where in one case in Beed district a Dalit man was allegedly chopped to death by an upper caste family. The culprits in this instance too have not been booked and this has justifiably inflamed Dalit sensitivities even more.

The investigation into Bhotmanges murder has been marred by deep-rooted caste prejudices. Evidence has been destroyed, the post-mortem report fudged, the accused given time to build their alibis and witnesses threatened. Even a month later, the State government has not intervened to prevent this grave assault on justice and the constitutional provisions for Scheduled Castes."

Most of the protestors were between 13 and 25 years old. They were waiting for a catalyst and this was provided by the beheading of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's statue in Kanpur . They were joined by their mothers (able to understand their children's anguish well) in protests and most of them importantly, were leaderless. Leaderless, in a nut-shell, has been the biggest failure of the Dalit movement.

These protesting youths are well aware that globalization means that only the fittest will survive and that their leaders have left them with little role to play in such an arena - except to use them to make up the numbers at rallies such as the morcha in Nagpur on 4th December. Real frustration sets in when the Dalit youth realizes, through self-awareness, that they are just not fit enough to survive despite the education that makes them self-aware. The protests were really not about Ambedkar's statue being desecrated, but about the rich versus the poor with the former getting richer and the latter getting poorer.

  •  Selected Readings on Religion, Politics and Culture - 24 th August 2006

Contemporary capitalism meaning corporate driven and controlled globalisation under the economic domination of the developed industrialised capitalist countries and under the imperialist hegemony of United States of America has changed the world to almost unrecognisable dimensions. The alterations were the results of varied and combined process, economic necessities of capital as well as technological innovations.

The economic aspects and the policy packages prompted by the ideology of this corporate globalisation - neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism - have received fair amount of attention in contemporary voluminous literature on the subject. The political, social, and cultural aspects are perhaps less adequately covered. No one can ignore the significant and startling occurrences but they have not been related to or analysed in the context of globalisation.

One major feature of the political and cultural complexities of this age is the revival of religion and religiosity in different parts of the world. The religious revival of the contemporary period is remarkable for a few notable characteristics. The 'revived' religion of today is marked by externalities, symbolic separateness, and public demonstrative ritualism. This religion also attempts to revive and recapture the most orthodox, strongly and narrowly delimited, ritualistic, nearly isolationist interpretations and traditions. It is as critical, contemptuous, and intolerant of internal traditions of liberal interpretation and reform as it is suspicious of and almost hostile to other religious beliefs. The revived religions of today are also strongly political and thereby anti-secular in their orientations. Though in practice all the religions compromise with and utilise contemporary technology, they are all strongly antithetical to scientific attitudes. The other notable feature is the state patronage, direct or indirect, overt or covert the religious revival receives. It is at times naked and openly partisan and at others opportunist, deniable, and underhand.

The phenomenon is global - and interestingly embraces the younger generations perhaps far more than it does the older ones. A very well known and media touted form of the phenomenon is Islamic militancy and fundamentalism. Despite propaganda led by the USA , this is not the only form of religious militant revival in the world today though perhaps it affects 'news' the most worldwide, particularly after 9/11. One can site various examples across the world affecting different religious traditions. In India the rise of Hindutva - revival of a particular interpretation of Hindu traditions for militant political motives - has threatened the secular pluralist syncretic democratic culture and civilisation of the country. Religious revival also plays a part in the rise of neo-conservatism and the strong imperial stances in the bible belt of the USA . The genocidal civil wars in the former republic of Yugoslavia are an indication of the multiplicity of forms of violent religious revival. There are increased instances of violence between the Shias and Sunnis within the Muslim fold as well as of increased violent repression of other sects within Islam. Japan also shows a revival of the militant tradition of the Shinto religion - sanitising the factors that led to the Japanese actions in the World War and varied crimes against humanity. There are also instances of non-militant religious revival - the proliferation of various sects, god-men and god-women, rituals, obscurantist beliefs and practices all indicate the extent and depth of the phenomenon. The popularity of a non-political, non-militant Islamic organisation like the Tablig is another instance. Numerous evangelical - almost fundamentalist - sects also rise within the Christian tradition.

The religious revival - with its political and cultural emphasis - poses numerous questions as it shows distinct characteristics that probably are common to the various instances observed within different religious traditions. There is a strong return to the politics of identity - of essentially primordial non-modern identity. There is a strong attack on secular democratic principles, sometimes even on republican basics - at least at a conceptual level. The revival also seeks to redefine the status and rights of the minorities and of women. It seems in a way that it almost seeks to annul the acquisitions of the age of enlightenment and modernity, save its technology.

Some features are very visible worldwide and possibly relate to this phenomenon. The expansion of global markets and global capitalism creates unprecedented inequalities - leaving vast number of people totally out of the 'triumphant' march of the economy. The masses left out often share ethnic characteristics. This leads to a politics of identity. There is the very startling phenomenon of the almost permanent insecurity of even those who are included. There is also a cultural revolt against contemporary capitalism and the alienation it introduces. Market fundamentalism also plays a role in this occurrence - in fact it is a prevalent fundamentalism that almost acquires religious zeal.

The broad questions the reader addresses are:

•  Is there a religious revival across countries and across all traditions?

•  What causes this revival?

•  Is it in some ways related to globalisation? What is the relationship if any?

•  What are the cultural dimensions of this revival?

•  Why and how does it acquire a political facet?

•  How does this facet get linked to violence, either Jihadi or Hindu communalist?

•  Are all religions equally open to revivalist interpretations?

•  Is there a fundamentalism in non-scriptural or non-prophetic religions?

•  Have secular alternatives lost out - including the idea of territorial nationalism?

We hope that the Selected Readings on "Religion, Politics and Culture" broadens our understanding and perspective and takes the debate on the subject further and makes it more specific and real for the reader. It is our wish that it should generate further informed discussion among activists as well as others concerned with the link between religion politics and culture.

•  Media and the Changing Socio - Political Reality - 2 nd April 2006

•  Source Handbook on Organic Farming

•  Peace Mumbai - International Conference on Peace and Justice in South Asia- Selected Readings - 26 th February 2006

Organizations in Mumbai have taken the initiative to organize an International Conference on "Peace and Justice in South Asia ". This is timely proposed in the background of the aftermath of the 5th Ministerial of the World Trade Organization in December in Hong Kong , the ongoing peace processes in the region and the US role and importantly enough the marked shift in the foreign policy of India . The Indian Prime Minister's visit to Britain and USA marked a perceptible shift in India 's foreign policy towards a uni-polar world dominated by US imperialism. The Indo-US nuclear deal is a valuable instrument in the hands of the US to influence Indian foreign policy. But the Indian Government seems all set to trade away even the pretence of non-alignment. India even raised doubts regarding the Iran-Pakistan-India oil pipeline, just in order to please the Bush administration. The recent stand taken by the government of India on the Iran issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a clear departure from an independent foreign policy.

South Asia

The entire region of South Asia is scarred by poverty and deprivation on one hand, and on the other, by conflict and war. Both India and Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons, and despite all talk of nuclear deterrence, this makes the region extremely volatile and dangerous. India is one of the biggest defense spenders in the world. It ordered $5.7 billion in weapons last year, overtaking Saudi Arabia and China to become the developing world's leading buyer. The huge amounts of money that India is wasting on the F-16s and F-18s being peddled by the US, can be more fruitfully spent on critical developmental needs like health, education, housing, public services and social welfare. And this is what constitutes the real human security. The rejection of this offer would go a long way towards bringing about peace in the region, with Pakistan . It's important to mention here that both have dismal ranking on the Human Development Index: India being 127 and Pakistan 135.

Similarly border skirmishes and migration issues divide India and Bangladesh . Sri Lanka , still staggering under the impact of the Tsunami and then the politics of Tsunami aid, relief and reconstruction, is being systematically plundered by multinationals, while it is still in the throes of conflict surrounding the statehood of the Tamils. Nepal 's economy is in deep crises and the monarchy has thrown out all democratic institutions and established a dictatorship in the name of fighting communism. India 's foreign policy has been extremely short sighted, centering on achieving economic and geopolitical domination in South Asia and even the rest of Asia , rather than developing friendly ties and strengthening equal regional cooperation. It is important to mention here that the Indian government is also taking about defence liberalization and opening of this sector to private and foreign investments as they feel that the threat India faces from the region is much more than the rate at which the public sector is able to manufacture arsenals. Thus it is imperative to open the defence sector.

India wants to curry favour with the US-UK-Israeli axis and become part of the so-called 'war against terror' peddled by the US , which is nothing but a vicious war against ordinary people, only to promote US military and economic interests. It is an illegitimate war against the people of Iraq , Palestine , Afghanistan and all the nations of the world.

Trade: War by other means

The US Empire, the corporations and those who control global finance try to maintain their supremacy through their trade and financial institutions, through the neo-liberal market philosophy and by physical force, by war. Trade is considered war by other means and deeply affects human security at all levels. In Iraq , for example, the bombing campaign was followed shortly by the Iraqi reconstruction and imposition of extreme neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation and free trade and before its people could elect a sovereign regime, at the behest of the US government they had applied for the WTO membership. The 5th ministerial of the WTO will discuss policies affecting the lives of the ordinary people. The powerful governments of the North will drive hardest bargains possible to gain further access to the resources and markets of the South, without regard for the terrible impact that their neo liberal policies may have on the people of these countries, including South Asia . The main issues to be discussed at the Hong Kong Ministerial are agriculture and basic services, provision and access to which entails real human security and it is possible that at the ministerial the developing countries might have to compromise to the market access negotiations. This could be a denial of services to poorer people in the developing countries. People across the world are actively engaged campaigning against the WTO, and have raised the war cry: "No deal is better than a bad deal". And consequently, working out a strategy for combating the WTO regime remains on top of the South Asian agenda.

Considering all of the above, for lasting peace in South, regional cooperation is crucial at all levels: political, diplomatic and economic. If the resource region stays divided, it provides a profitable opportunity for the global arms dealers, for the international financial institutions, the multinational co-operations, global capitalism, for the US Empire. The people of South Asia must see through the veil of illusion that has been created by the free market neo-liberal profit mongers, they have to reject the nihilist nationalism that is being used by rightist forces to divide and destroy, and they have to come together on the common aspiration for peace and justice for all.

The Event

A three-day conference in Mumbai on February 24-26, 2006 at Keshav Gore Smarak Trust, Goregaon will consist of plenaries and workshops.

The main themes of the conference are:

US Empire building in S Asia, War and trade, India Pakistan Peace process and the nuclear threat, gender perspectives on peace and violence, nationalism and sovereignty, religious sectarian violence and masculinity and militarisation. There will be a plenary devoted to discuss impact of neo liberal globalisation on each country in the region giving rise to conflicts and strife thus threatening the peace and justice.

Partner Organizations:

Mumbai organizations and networks have initiated the process as Peace Mumbai while some organizations and networks both at national and regional level have joined as partner organizations.

Peace Mumbai:

Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), National Alliance of Peoples Movements (NAPM), India Center for Human Rights and Law (ICHRL), Asia South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education (ASPBAE), Youth for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), National Youth Federation (NYF), Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development (BUILD), Focus on the Global South, India, Indo-Pak Youth Forum for Peace, Media for People, Vikas Adhyayan Kendra (VAK), Akshara, Documentation Research and Training Center (DRTC), Explorations, Initiative, Institute For Community Organization and Research (ICOR), Movement for Peace and Justice (MPJ)

Support Organisations:


•  Background Material for Workshop on "Culture and Everyday Life" - 19 th February 2005

Culture has become a central arena of contestation in the social and political life of India . The collection of articles reproduced is significant as they deal with various debates taking place in the field of culture in India . T.N. Madan deals with the essential characteristics of Indian Religions. Romila Thapar questions the modern day construct of monolithic Hinduism and critiques the Aryan theory of Race and similar rhetoric of the colonial period. She has also emphasised the role of dissent and protest in ancient India which is imperative to the civilizational aspect of Indian tradition.

David N Lorenzen analyses the spiritual depth of the medieval bhakti literature manifested in the persona of Kabir. Martin Fuchs analysis of Ambedkar's perception of Gautama the Buddha as a margadata there by the one who showed the way to liberation and not salvation is very instructive. Rowena Robinson's study of charismatic movement within the established Church in Goa concludes that it has led to democratisation of the community.

Rustum Bharucha, in his two essays traces both the construction of communalism and challenges to the same false consciousness within the normative forces of everyday life. Kumkum Sangari analyses the oppression of women by multiple patriarchies of various religious communities.

The research articles reproduced here are intended as background material for the participants in the Workshop on Culture and Everyday Life organized by Vikas Adhyayan Kendra to be held in February 13 to 20 at Vagamon in Kerala.

•  Compendium of Articles on "The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act" - April 2004 - December 2005

•  National Consultation on Water for All - 16 th November 2003


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