Let them learn!


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It is the time to break the shackles that undermine our educational institutions

The educational sector in India is seemed to be far more an elitist domain as the recent clamour on equality in education is brought into the spotlight. Though the constitution ensures the fundamental right to education for each and every one of its Indian citizens, caste-based discrimination that grips the society at the grass roots denies equal access owing to the hierarchic order undercurrent in the community. Even the primer institutes of the country which claim to have broken the caste barriers tend to adopt an anti-Dalit approach in the façade of lifting the lesser privileged.

“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of stardust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living…All the while, some people, for them, life itself is the curse. My birth is my fatal accident…” The terminal words of Rohit Vemula, a Ph.D. scholar at the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide following his suspension over the quarrel with the student wing of the elite ruling party points to the casteism that grabs India’s finest Central University. Further, the death of five Dalit students who killed themselves between the period of 2005 and 2015 at the same institute tell yet another tale of oppression. This is not the case of Hyderabad University alone. The suicide of two Dalit students at the Osmania University and the silencing of students associated with Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle at IIT Madras reminds the fact that the age-old Chaturvarna system still exists in our society.

Nothing has changed much since independence in the matter of mindset regarding Indians. Though appears to be liberal and tolerant, the caste system is engraved in our mind in such a way that we still have temples where Dalits are not permitted to enter. The whole notion of “purity”, pollution and the practices of “untouchability” that began centuries ago based on the caste system still finds a place in modern India. The inability of so-called “upper class” to acknowledge and respect people of other classes has resulted in a series of issues ranging from their denial of basic rights to ill-treatment at the hands of “feudal” lords.

Education is meant for social revival. It is always through the light of the wisdom that darkness evaporates. The educational institutions which are supposed to be the centres of impartial, unbiased learning turn out to be prejudiced and one-sided in its approach, through the alliance with elitism. As a result, Dalits who are downtrodden in the society are plunged further into an abyss as the system which upholds social equality itself paves the way for alienation and social exclusion.

The discrimination against Dalits has led to the increased number of dropouts in schools and colleges. A survey conducted by the local newspaper shows that about 44.27% of Dalit students leaves school at the primary level. The reasons for this farthermost step include corporal punishment, denial of access to school water and segregation in classrooms. The prejudiced attitude of teachers coupled with their dual mentality towards haves and have-nots aggravates the scenario causing depression and sense of insecurity among Dalit students and thus leading to irregular attendance in the classroom, less concentration in studies, lower performance and ultimately become drop outs!

The plight of Dalit students at a remote village on the Madurai-Virundhunagar border is tragic as the government school had “systematically” kept the Dalit students away. A. Kathir, founder of Evidence, an NGO working against caste discrimination says that “We found through the RTI act that segregation has been going on for decades though the state administration had failed to identify it. The Dalit students of the village study at a missionary-run school”. Monisha, a final year commerce student of a local city college recounts her school days where she was forced to use the outside lavatory meant for workers and was also pulled up when something was stolen in her class.

The number of Dalit students opt for higher education is remarkably less compared to students belonging to other communities. The recent survey by Times of India shows that northern parts of India have frugal Dalit representation in the matter of higher education compared to the higher castes. Though a number of reasons can be point out including extreme poverty and migratory labour, the “ostracisation” of students belonging to marginalised sections can be regarded a central issue in dragging the students out of the college. As Stalin Rajangam, Dalit writer points out, “explicit untouchability does not exist on campuses these days. But caste has evolved and exhibits itself in subtle ways in terms of access to facilities and equality among students”. Apart from these, there are many social and physical factors which contribute to the lesser number of Dalits in higher education centres.

Many times, a Dalit student was considered the “other” in the institution. Anpumani, a third-year engineering student at a local college in Chennai thinks that people always looked down whenever he told his caste. Even though he got admission through merit, fellow students have a feeling that he was “lucky enough” to get a reservation. Further, he was teased for his “Tanglish” and he was compelled to write senior’s records.

V. Krishna, a Dalit faculty member at the University of Hyderabad, speaks about the “type of ghettoization” he and his fellow Dalit students went through while he was a student there; “There was no choice, but to be in the company of each other”. Quite often, institutional bias towards Dalits led students to kill themselves. Venkesh, a Dalit research scholar committed suicide as the university refused to provide a research supervisor or guide for him despite his repeated requests. Another Dalit student P. Raja took his life as the faculty denied to publish his mark. Mr Krishna confirms the unfriendly environment in primer institutes as he says; “Dalit students find it difficult to get past the biases that surface in all modern academic spaces as teachers, staffs and administrators are not concerned about this”. Moreover, the recent resignation of fourteen Dalit faculty members at the Central University also shows the gravity of the matter. The ill-crafted cut down of budget allocated for the scholarship of Dalit students along with the erratic decisions of the government further pours oil to the fire.

The economic condition of Dalits often acts as a curb to the dreams and aspirations of students. Though the parents wish to provide education to their children, financial position compels them to encourage their children to take up odd jobs. The inadequate basic amenities coupled with the lack of proper guidance hinder Dalit students to carve a path for themselves. Though the reservation system offers better representation in primer institutes, it isn’t sufficient to bring forth deserved people. Further, reservation itself creates a feeling of incapability as the “general category” tends to look them as “less qualified”. Satish Deshpande, a professor at Delhi school of Economics, thinks that admission to educational institution makes “reserved category a de facto identity for lower caste students, where the upper caste identity is subdued and referred to in secular terms as “general category””.

Activist Anoop Kumar notes that majority of students who commits suicide has strong academic achievements and he believes that it is their claim to equal treatment that which upsets the academic establishments. Though claims to be the space for open and liberal discussion, it is the hard time we need to realise the hostility lurking behind smiley faces in our educational institutions.

(With inputs from The Hindu, Times of India)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT Let them learn! by Riya Mathews


Sambalpuri Dance


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What is more relieving and revitalizing than a story narrated through dance in the form of folk art? Their life is expressed with pure dedication and hard work. They are practised by such like-minded group of people who live in rural areas, who express their daily work and ritual.

One such group performing in Namma Bengaluru this week has come all the way from Orissa to showcase their favourite Sambalpuri Dance form. The group, led by Guru. Mohit Kumar Swain, M.A & Ph.D. in performing Arts, has been a sporting spirit. Sambalpur is in the western part of Orissa and has distinct culture and identity in terms of language, dance, songs & clothing.

Sambalpuri dance form is a ritual folk dance and is performed for various local festive occasions like Dusserah & Bhaijunta. The young unmarried girls stand in line or in a semi- circular pattern; for the well-being of their brothers. Dalkhai, a popular folk song is sung on this occasion with various instruments. The instruments used are Dhole, Muhuri, Nishan, Tasa, Barsi, Gini, Ghungara.

 


Aney Na Dance Group – Arunachal Pradesh


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Aney Na dance group of Hrusso, is a small community of West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh has come to Bangalore. Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family. The group is led by Mr. Ajay Sidasow, District art and cultural officer. The group has travelled for 7 days.

Aney Na group has been performing this dance form for more than 10 years in different parts of the country. They wear three traditional cloths which includes ‘Sasie Polo’ which is in the form of a cot. Aney Na dance form has main two instruments Bella and Sedhi. There costume deeply reflects its indigenous culture. Silver ornaments play an important role in the female costume. North East Cultural Centre has helped them to showcase their dance form to the other part of India.

Mr. Ajay Sidasow, District Art and Culture officer talking to Harsh Singh in the video.


‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2017’ Continues To Mesmerize Bengaluru


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Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2017’, at Kalagrama organised by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India showcases diverse cultural extravaganza. The show started on Sunday continues to connect people with India’s rich culture till 8th of March, 2017.

Dr Sajith E.N., Director, South Zone Cultural Centre, Ministry of Culture, Govt of India said, “In our effort to ensure the sustenance of our traditional art and cultural forms, not only ours but all the zones under the able guidance of Ministry of Culture is and shall be conducting such Cultural Carnivals across the country to bring these authentic Art, Handicraft and food forms closer to the public of our country”.

The event highlights of 6th March’s cultural festival were the Qawwali performances by Warsi Brothers; Asad Khan Warsi and Amzad Khan Warsi (the Qawwāls), Bharathanatyam by Shijith Nambiar and Parvathi Menon. Kalagrama’s amphitheatre was enthralled by the popular folk performances presented by Kud dancers from Jammu and Kashmir, Rathwa Adivasis from Gujarat, Teratal Dancers from Rajasthan, Bihu Dance performers from Assam, Lai Haraoba Dancers from Manipur, Pooja Kunitha from Karnataka, Sambalpuri dancers from Odisha and Tarpa Tribal Dance from Silvassa.

After a tremendous response on the inauguration day, the carnival saw a great footfall from the city on the second day. Ministry of Culture has opened this event for public and free entry for all.


The Stakeholders Of Morality


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How moral policing has seemingly turned Kerala from God’s own country into Goofs’ own country!

For the rest of the world, it was a typical Valentine’s Day. But it turns out to be a drastic day for Aneesh, a 22-year-old man and his girlfriend, who happened to be there at the wrong time in the Azheekal Beach in Kollam. Harassed by the moral scavengers of an anachronic era, Aneesh hanged himself following the mental trauma.

Only a couple of weeks ago, two youngsters went live on Facebook when the couple were allegedly targeted by two police personnel while inside the Museum Park in Thiruvananthapuram for their “indecent” behaviour.

A boy was beaten black and blue in University College in Thiruvananthapuram by SFI activists while watching a play along with his friends inside the campus in another instance of moral policing.

A law student in Kozhikode registered a police complaint as she was bullied by the members of Muslim League on social media for dressing unconventionally and befriending non-Muslim boys.

With several incidents popping up, moral policing has become a stark reality of the highly progressed State. Despite high literacy and seemingly liberal attitude in Kerala, the conservative society is still blinded by the age-old Victorian morality. Adhering to the patriarchal dogmas, living within the moral stricture, fabricated by the socio-political and religious leaders, Malayalees have failed to understand the definition of relationship in the longer run.

Perceiving every relationship of opposite genders with sexual connotation, the society has essentially grown backwards over the years. Right from the childhood, segregation of boys and girls is a common scenario that can be seen in the educational institutions and public spaces. The gender inequality which stems from the houses, endorsed by various institutions, perpetuates eternal vigilantism to promote the cultural ethos of the bygone era. By nurturing the gender bias, the society has objectified women, cornering them to be easily susceptible to the villainy of the “guardians” of morality.

K Meryl, an M.A. student from a premiere institute points out the menace within the social institutions as it prefers women to stay inside the patriarchal laxmanrekha of modesty and domesticity. “The danger of this mentality is that one doesn’t realize how it affects society on the whole. Forcing one sect of people to compromise on their individuality just so, some others can be happy is nothing short of disastrous and dangerous”, she says further.

Attacking vehemently over the “pseudo” liberalism, Meryl considers it as a gross mistake to assume that Kerala is a liberal State. According to her, “Liberalism in Kerala (or any other Indian State) is like the oil smear on the surface of sewage. People are willing to adopt a few liberal ideas without fully understanding what they entail”.

Having embraced the puritanical mind-set, many of the Keralites lean over the moral code, hesitating to think beyond what was being taught by the patriarchal system. But, as Praveen S R P, a journalist, observed, the changes of the past two decades have upset this situation, with more young boys and girls coming out together in public spaces. “This has created resentment among a particular section, which are also not very adept at interacting with the opposite sexes. Their frustration and resentment comes out in the form of violent attacks on couples in public spaces. Ironically, many of the moral polices also double up as voyeurs and stalkers”, Praveen elucidates.

The inability of society to think about a healthy relationship between opposite gender is another issue that led to the moral policing. As every relation is perceived through only one angle, people could not understand mutual respect or friendship between two people belonging to opposite gender.

Sabloo Thomas, a journalist at Deccan Chronicle, points out that most of the Keralites are seen progressive outside but deep within their heart, they are very much conservative. For them, public display of affection indicates an illicit relationship. With a tendency to regulate and impose moral code, they peep into the privacy of others. When he says, “basic hypocrisy leads to frustration”, the harsh reality regarding the progressive Kerala society is once again brought into the limelight.

The objectification of women through popular media deeply installed a sense of authority among the moral cops. According to Saranaya S Nair, a journalist from Thiruvananthapuram, they see women as a sexual commodity to fulfil their desires. It is the superior claims of patriarchy perpetuated by the outside world side-lines women to become an easy prey to the custodians of morality.

L Arun, a professional from Kannur throws light into the piteous state of women when he says that women are still politically and religiously marginalized. He thinks that lack of healthy relationship between men and women and society’s imposed moral view on sex creates sexual frustration. “Many a times, attack on women is a manifestation of sexual frustration”, he says further. Pointing out the superior mentality of man as another reason behind the attacks, Arun also thinks that bullying attitude has been evolved from this.

The problem lies in the lack of understanding regarding the opposite sex. “Kerala has an obsessive abhorrence towards intermingling of sexes. It begins with schooling. In our primary classes, according to the teachers, the biggest punishment of that time was to sit in between girls”, says Nithin Jose, a motivational speaker and blogger from Kottayam.

The segregation which begins in the educational institutions, later become a part and parcel of life. By secluding the opposite genders, the chances to understand each other come to a halt. Further, with separate schools and colleges for boys and girls, the idea of co-education becomes a distant dream.

With no proper understanding of the opposite sex, people often did not know how to respect the person belonging to other gender. With less sexual freedom and free interaction, moral policing arises from the sexual frustration caused by the lack of opportunity.

According to Praveen, “Moral policing is an act which reeks of hypocrisy”. With stringent morality in broad day light and surfing of pornographic sites in the darkness of night, the hypocrisy of the Kerala society is not a hidden fact. According to a government data released in January, Alappuzha and Thrissur are included in the top ten places in India for surfing and sharing of child sexual abuse material. With double standards in morality, how far the “progressive” state can claim its entitlement as God’s own country is to be seen.


Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2017 Reaches Bengaluru


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Bengaluru gives Tribal and Folk artists a great welcome, truly embraces the theme of “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat”

On 5th March 2017, Ministry of Culture, Government of India organised diversified cultural extravaganza – ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav 2017’, at Kalagrama, Bengaluru. The four day festival begins today, an amalgamation of crafts & art- folk forms, epicurean fest, magnificent performances and shopping delights.

The show was inaugurated by  Shri Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, The Hon’ble  Governor of Karnataka. The event was graced by Smt. G. Padmavathi, Worshipful Mayor, Bengaluru, Shri M.L. Srivastava, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Government of India, Shri Munirathna, Member of Legislative Assembly, Rajarajeswari Assembly Constituency Karnataka and Shri D.K. Suresh, MP, Parliament Constituency.

The opening ceremony showcased variety of folk and tribal art forms from 29 states of the country, accompanied by dance, music, drama, entertainment and food. The amphitheatre at Kalagrama came alive with regional food stalls, featuring mammoth Jalebi popularly known as Jaleba prepared in Deshi Ghee, Makki ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag from Punjab, delicious Rajasthani food and much more. For the shopping enthusiasts, the venue also offered opportunities to buy traditional and rare handicrafts from 25 different states. From famous Pashminas from Jammu to rare Beed work from Gujarat, the handicrafts festival added vigour to the cultural show.

Speaking on the occasion, Sh.  Vajubhai Rudabhai Vala, The Hon’ble Governor of Karnataka, said, “Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav organised by the Government of India is truly an effort towards national integration. Our artists from across the country have come together to display their artistic endeavours in Bengaluru. We are glad to receive such an overwhelming and appreciative response.  When we talk about culture, South India has contributed immensely to India’s artistic and cultural landscape.”

Guests experienced an unparalleled shopping experience and witnessed fascinating dance forms such as Warrior dance by Nagaland, Bahurupia dance form by Gujarat, Dappu Nritya by Telangana, energetic dance form Bhangra by Punjab, Kud dance by performers of Jammu, Sirmouri Naati by Himachal Pradesh and many interesting and colourful dance forms by both tribal and folk performances.

The event starts from today and continue to showcase cultural diversities of India till 8th of March. Ministry of Culture has opened this event for public and the entry is free for all.

Dates: 5th – 8th March

Venue: Kalagram, Mallatahalli Road, NGEF Layout, Kengunte, Jnana Bharathi, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560072 (Near Bengaluru University)

Time: 11 AM to 9 PM


Abominable Vestige?


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India as a democratic society has had a rather illustrious past. The security forces have largely kept away from taking over the reins of governance, we have a vibrant civil society, our courts function impartially and without undue influence and we have a free press alongside laws in place to safeguard civil rights for the citizenry. Barring aberrations, all organs of the civil society have functioned in sync with organic developments in the civil space and keeping in mind the needs of a modern democratic state. However, barring exceptions that is.

The British Raj had enacted numerous draconian laws during its rule over India out of sheer convenience and its desire for repressive and absolute dominance over the masses. The OSA (Official Secrets Act) is a good example of opaqueness and vaguely termed exploitative statutes. The AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Acts) ordinance of 1942 was another major such statute. It was enacted during the second world war to suppress the Quit India Movement. However, for AFSPA, we do not have just the colonial imperialists to blame, because it was in fact our own Indian Parliament and our lawmakers who in 1958 adopted and endorsed the ordinance, turning it into a statute for the Indian state.

Initially, AFSPA’s applicability was limited to the strife-ravaged Naga Hills in Assam and it was aimed at containing an armed rebellion by Naga militants. In a 1972 amendment, the AFSPA was extended to each of the seven new states created in the region: Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. Similar laws were also applied to counter militancy in Punjab from 1983, to be withdrawn only in 1997 roughly 14 years after it came to force. The act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since, and it is by far the most controversial of among them all, given the persistent armed conflict between the Indian government security forces and armed militant groups waging a brutal separatist struggle with the backing of the Pakistani government and its intelligence agencies.

The powers that the AFSPA extends to the armed forces come into force once an area subject to the Act has been declared “disturbed” by the central or state government, by virtue of the “Disturbed Areas Act”. This declaration is not subject to judicial review. There are numerous claims that right to life is violated by section 4(a) of the AFSPA, which grants the armed forces power to shoot to kill in law enforcement situations as they deem necessary without regard to international human rights law restrictions on the use of lethal force. Lethal force is broadly permitted under the AFSPA if the target is part of an assembly of five or more persons, holding weapons, or “carrying things capable of being used as weapons.”  The terms “assembly” and “weapon” are not defined at all, and it’s such subjectivity and vagueness which often leads to selective interpretation and misuse by the agencies involved.

Areas declared “disturbed” under the AFSPA over the past 50 years vary significantly according to their conflict history, ethnic constituency, and levels of militancy. However, it’s alleged that all these areas share a common experience of widespread human rights abuses during the imposition of the AFSPA. The AFSPA has also had the opposite effect to that intended by the Indian government, for in each state where the AFSPA has been implemented and soldiers have been deployed, the armed forces have become a symbol of oppression and an object of hate and ridicule. Human rights violations have served to fuel conflicts and act as a recruiting sergeant for militant groups in many parts of the country, especially acts of arbitrary detention, torture and the fact that it’s beyond the scope of any judicial review either. There have been demands of setting up special courts to look after cases of abuse arising out of AFSPA given civil courts can’t do so, but there’s not been much action on the front at all.

The other side of the story has to be told as well. Fact remains India does face serious internal security threats and our stability and growth is constantly at peril. With militancy in the country being fuelled and funded by foreign governments and intelligence agencies, be it China in the northeast or Pakistan in Kashmir, the task of securing certain geographies within the country cannot be left in the hands of the police and paramilitary forces alone without having statutes to back and shield them if extraordinary situations demand actions as such. After all, not every time can you wait for a warrant (that too from the obdurate babus) to be issued to conduct a raid or nab down a terrorist intending to cause carnage in public view.

Human rights groups in India have called for the repeal of AFSPA for decades alongside various committees and panels recommending the same, be it the B.P. Jeevan Reddy Committee (2005), Administrative Reforms Committee headed by Veerappan Moily (2007)  or the Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir headed by Mohammad Hamid Ansari (2007). In face of continued opposition, it’s time the act be put under review, it be reformed, it’s statutes be more definitively defined, clarity be brought in and suggestions by the civil society be incorporated. After all, attenuation of the armed forces and respect for its action is untoward enough, making our fellow countrymen residing in a particular geography within the country feel like second-class citizens of a third-world state even more so.