Monday, November 30, 2015


Lenin Raghuvanshi at Panel discussion titled Loktantra at APN TV. He discussed about Neo Dalit Movement against caste system and intolerance. Thanks to Rajesh Gupta and APN TV opportunity. Congratulation to anchor Ananat for wonderful anchoring.
Thanks to Shirin Shabana khan for photograph.
Please read follows link for Neo Dalit concept:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dalits Walk Tall

A decade long movement leads to Dalit empowerment in Varanasi. Two authors, Dr. Archana Kaushik, a social work educator, teaching Social Work at the University of Delhi and Shruti Nagvanshi, a field practitioner and co-founder of PVCHR, work together to document the strife and struggle of Dalits and their empowerment. This is just a beginning, says, Shruti, one of the authors, in this discourse.
The book, Margins to Centre Stage: Empowering Dalits in India by Prof Archana Kaushik and Shruti Nagvanshi, is published by Frontpage Publication, London, UK. It was inaugurated by the guests at South Asian Conference on Ending Torture: Collective, at Mahatama Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, recently.
The former HoD, dean and director at the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeet University, Prof. Ahmad Saghir Inam Shastri, writes in his forward, “Both Professor Archana Kaushik and eminent social work educator Shruti Nagvanshi provide security and support to the Dalits and needy persons of the weaker section of the society, felt the need for documenting the process of empowerment of the marginalised and oppressed communities in the grassroots of India. As a result, the book entitled, Margins to Centre stage: Empowering Dalits in India is now at the desk of readers who dream of a torture and exploitation free society.”
In India, life of millions of Dalits is characterised by long, consistent struggle form the cradle to the grave. Their life is defined by caste-discrimination, exploitation, abuse and denial of basic right to life with resources for survival- food, shelter, clothing, livelihood and education. Sufferings and pains, associated with vicious cycle of poverty, continue for generations together.
Expowering Dalits in India chronicles the process of empowerment of many powerless and marginalised Dalits, located in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh. It portrays the triumph of hope, courage and social action over despair, poverty oppression and vulnerability. It narrates the struggle of Dalits, who paved their way to a life of dignity, rightful share in the resources and decision making. The critique records how the innocent victim of custodial-torture become active human rights defenders of freedom of bonded-labourers is snatched from the confinement of feudal and capitalist oppressors, and the change of weavers nightmares transformed into dreams, optimism and motivation.
Injustice and exploitation have been a part of the social life of humans, since the time immemorial. Equally old are the efforts for ensuring justice, equality and fair-play. Human civilisations have come a long way in struggling for emancipation from all forms of exploitation, abuse, oppression, exclusion and marginalisation of individuals, groups and communities. In the evolution of human civilisations, with time, social factors such as gender, caste, class, race, started breading inequality, oppression and exploitation; with select few controlling resources and grabbing decision-making power. This restricted and blocked the opportunities of growth and development for all the members of the society equally. Gradually certain social groups, characterised by their caste, class, gender, race affiliations, became more and more powerless, disadvantaged and marginalised.
Historically and temporally, there have been socially enlightened people in every society, who have raised their voice against the instances of exploitation of humans by humans. Such efforts to ameliorate the plight and sufferings of fellow beings have been umbrella termed as ‘social work’. From charity, giving doles, voluntary work, to a profession – social work has travelled a long way.
Social Work
Social work, as an academic discipline and a human service profession has emerged, though recently, to 
scientifically study human problems and sufferings. It has evolved modalities and strategies to intervene effectively. The scope of social work is vast, almost encompassing all the manifestations of human sufferings and pains. Likewise, much varied are the approaches, methods and strategies for interventions.

Social work is helping people to help themselves towards enhancing their social functioning. Social workers aim to help distressed people overcome their problems and resolve conflicts. Whatever method is opted in a social situation, social workers seek to reduce and remove the barriers and divisions between people, promote the bonds that cement healthy and amicable social relationships and ensure well-being. Social workers work with individuals, groups, communities and institutions, are engaged in counselling. They facilitate problem solving, create awareness, network for resources and information, and at times, fight for the justice of oppressed and downtrodden. This approach to raise voice on behalf of the marginalised and/or mobilise the aggrieved community to fight for their rightful share is called ‘social action’. It is used in situations, when skewed power equations and resource accumulation in the hands of few, create hurdles in the way of ensuring well-being of the disadvantaged clients. And no option is left for social workers but to come in conflict with the current configuration of inequality and dis-welfare. Through social action, social workers address the basic issues causing inequalities and injustice within the social system and structure that push a particular population group on marginalisation.
Social action is one of the most controversial methods of social work practice that has brought about a lot of debate among the social work practitioners. It addresses and uses the conflict, present in the social system to realise the goal of social justice and empowerment. Social workers advocate for the rights of the marginalised sections of the society. They may have to employ strategies like hunger strike, sit-ins, protests and such other ways to demonstrate their discontent. It is the usage of such strategies that has made social action a debatable issue and a controversial method of social work.
There are situations that precipitate inequality and injustice, adding to vulnerabilities and  impoverishments. The hardships and miseries of certain sections of the society, which, even after much of efforts, are not resolved amicably, call for social action. It is a method of social work by which rights and interests of the marginalised people are protected by coming in conflict with systems and structures that perpetuate accumulation of resources and power in the hands of a few. Through social action, skewed resources and power are redistributed to uplift the disadvantaged groups in the society. Added to this, scope of social action is also to build a democratic and just, transparent and harmonious social structure. Efforts are directed towards achieving these objectives.
Thus, social action has been one of the most contentious methods of social work practice. Social worker has been idealised to be a calm, composed, patient, compassionate service provider but when it comes to social action he/she needs to come in conflict with the authority figure. In the postmodern era, social action is a method or modality of social work. It has become an approach to fight for the rights and justice of the marginalised and the deprived individuals, groups and communities.
Gandhi’s Social Justice
In the most simplified way, social action is confronting the decision-makers in a concerted manner to bring about social justice. It ensures rights of the deprived people. Any discussion on social action is far from completion, without awing to the contribution of one of the last century’s greatest revolutionaries – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – we lovingly call him Bapuji, the Father of our Nation.
Gandhiji has changed the rules of the game, as his weapons of Satyagrah and non-violence proved more powerful than guns. His work and his spirit awakened a moral beacon for all times. His simplicity and humility, his frail looking body yet enormous courage that could move mountains, his principles and philosophy of life swayed millions with his hypnotic spell.
Gandhi and Ambedkar
There have been many movements, efforts and initiatives that proclaimed their base to Gandhian
philosophy. Yet, some succeed and many failed. Perhaps, truly understanding Gandhiji and Gandhian values and philosophy and pretending to value it makes the entire difference. However, unflinching compassion along with ever mounting commitment to fight for the justice and rights of unprivileged and marginalised groups, a lot of perseverance and tolerance, consistency and concerted efforts are required for success in mobilisation and social action. In the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, “for a successful revolution, it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction for the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights”. Both the legends, Mahatma Gandhi and Baba Saheb Ambedkar have, adhering to their own philosophies, principles and approaches have, untiringly, worked for the marginalised communities at the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy – the untouchables/Harijans/Dalits. Both of them have envisioned an Indian society resting on the pillars of equality, social justice, care and compassion for the fellow-beings.

The present work is a humble attempt to document the process of intervention that led to empowerment of the Dalits in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh. Under the aegis of PVCHR, a civil society initiative, a few committed and motivated workers mobilised the downtrodden and oppressed Dalits. It gradually ‘empowered’ them to take charge of their lives. It is the process towards developing model villages, while addressing the social inequalities that had shackled the lives of most underprivileged and marginalised people in the community.
Empowering people, who have been socialised and conditioned for ages to be resource-less, powerless and voiceless victims to the dominant upper caste; who have accepted that poverty, chronic malnutrition, abuse, exploitation and injustice are their fate; who struggle, almost unendingly, throughout their life to somehow gather two square meals to keep their body and soul together, is indeed, an arduous task. It required more than a decade’s unflinching hard work, consistency and commitment to see some positive changes in the lives of Dalits in the area of intervention. The present work has tried to sketch that process of social action, which challenged the elitism, thereby changing the social order to be more egalitarian. This work records the changing identity among Dalits through the process of empowerment in the Varanasi district.
The Authors
Meet the authors of the book. Dr. Archana Kaushik, is a social work educator, teaching at department of Social Work, University of Delhi. Shruti Nagvanshi has been a field practitioner, the managing trustee and co-founder of PVCHR.
I, Shruti, have been a part of the team that led the intervention that is being talked about in the book. I have witnessed the entire journey of empowerment of Dalits – the oppressed and downtrodden. The experiential reality shared by me is amalgamated with conceptual and theoretical perspectives and presented in this book by Archana, using her knowledge as social work educator.
The literature, in general, and social work literature, in particular, is full of manuals and books on community organisation and empowerment, Dalit empowerment and related topics. However, there has always been dearth of materials emerging out of field practice that facilitate testing, verifying, accepting or rejecting theories in the light of experiences from the field. In this manner, this is a unique and enriching joint venture of an academician and practitioner in social work discipline. Human service professions, such as social work, can grow only if academics and field practice are strongly interconnected, complement, contribute and give insight and foresight to each other to rectify, improve and make itself suitable to meet the demands of fast changing socio-cultural milieu. While, the divorce or disconnect between the two would engulf both theory and practice, making them redundant and eventually extinct. It is in this backdrop that the present work bears its significance. It depicts the interventions and strategies that have worked well in the field and hence have critical importance for academia.
Community Empowerment
The book highlights the process of community empowerment. To most of us, community implies people 
living in the particular geographical area sharing ‘same levels’ of life situations, pains and vulnerabilities, aspirations and capabilities, and more so, have a common ‘identity’. The notion of such a community having many commonalities in terms of identity, perspectives, attitudes, capabilities, etc., poses few challenges in organizing and empowerment. However, more often than not, such homogeneous communities exist only theoretically and not in reality.

Divisions and sub-divisions, based on religion, race, caste, ethnicity, gender, etc., are the makers of ‘real’ communities, which are heterogeneous in multiple ways with inhabitants carrying different ‘identities’. So, there can be many ‘communities of identities’ within a geographical community, say a village. Similar situation one encounters at the site of intervention – Varanasi.
A typical village has many social groups primarily based on castes, sub-castes and, at times, religion. Though elaborated upon later in the chapters, the Hindu society is divided into four layers of caste system, which determines social interactions. The people belonging to the lowest caste have traditionally been considered as ‘untouchables’. Though in common parlance, all the marginalised groups have been included in the umbrella term ‘Dalits’ – there exists a high variability within this group.
Nat, Musahars, Rajbhars, Bunkars, Chamar, Dharkar, Mahar, Patel, Nishad and Muslims – all these social groups have been included in the term ‘Dalit’ and they form the main target groups. The interventions have been carried out for them. Despite sharing many common aspects in their life situations and vulnerabilities, they exhibited rigid differences in their identities and, consequently, were failing in collaborating and uniting against the unjust practices and behaviours of perpetrators. Even the marginalised and disadvantaged community have several ‘communities of identities’, thereby making the process of empowerment tougher.
Dignity and Equality
The philosophical position taken by the change agents is for ensuring human rights, social justice and equality. Human rights give us dignity and equality and are necessary for us to live as humans. It strongly advocates for realising a culture based on democratic values, where all human beings, irrespective of their religious affiliation, caste, gender, ethnicity, are guaranteed access to basic and developmental needs. From this perspective, instances of poverty, malnutrition, hunger deaths, illegal detention and torture by police, slavery and bondage, lack of opportunities for decent livelihood, denial of education to children, stigma and discrimination based on religion and caste, all are examples of gross violations of human rights, against which voice was raised. We also believe that though ensuring human rights of fellow being is the duty of all the citizens, the role of State is most crucial. And, especially the Indian government is bound by its constitutional commitments to guarantee rights to all its citizens.

The agents of social change adhered to certain value system and principle base. The first principle is unshakable commitment to social justice and human rights. They strive to challenge inequality and oppression in relation to race, gender, sexuality, age, religion, class, disability or any other form of social differentiation. They always take sides of the victims and vulnerable and automatically position themselves against the perpetrators. It is important to note here that Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, one of the torch bearers and leaders of the entire movement of Dalit empowerment and emancipation has fought against the inhuman implications of caste system against his own kith and kin and has borne much sufferings and pains at the personal and familial levels but never compromised on his commitment to work for equality, social justice and human rights.
The notion of human rights rests on the belief that all humans have inherent worth, dignity and capability to bring positive change in their situations. Social workers understand that people are experts in their own lives and facilitate them to use the insight and knowledge they have for the desired social change. This means that social workers always respect the decisions of clients for action or in-action and type of interventions to deal with challenges at hand. In the same wavelength, social workers are not leaders, but facilitators. They enable people to take decisions and ownership for their actions.
Another assumption in this regard is that all people have rights, including the right to be heard, the right to define the issues facing them and the right to take action on their own behalf through constitutional and non-violent means. People also have the right to define themselves and not have negative labels imposed upon them. And our experience of working with marginalised and Dalits has validated that with conscientisation. They break the shackles of internalised inferiority and worthlessness. Even the most powerless and poorest bear the right to be involved in the changes that affect them and to have a voice and stake in the society they live in. As a principle base, social workers encourage the disadvantaged people to exercise their right to ‘name their world’ and to define themselves and the world around them.
Further, the oppressors know that oppression and exploitation are maintained through isolation and division and that is why they almost always ensure that there is no unity among marginalised people. The role of social workers is to show the oppressed, marginalised groups that unity is power. Despite heterogeneity, finding common cause may give individuals the will and power to fight unjust social practices collectively they might have dared on their own. Community is organised to bring people together so that they can share their experiences and pool their resources and skills to fight injustice.
Janmitra Gaon
Let us now pay attention to the beginning of the movement of 
Dalit empowerment. Several years of work of
fighting for the justice and freedom of bonded labour and child labour, it is
realised that for reinstituting the civil rights of the most downtrodden section of society (Dalits, backward class and tribals), in rural as well as urban locale, a movement is needed to ensure equal opportunities. For this, attack is necessary on the feudal, Brahminical and patriarchal social structure. In India, caste system is not only a structure of cultural values but also it is an indicator of caste based hierarchical system reflected in ruling power equation and unequal distribution of resources and property. Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar had said, “You move in any direction, the monster of caste system would be there to hinder your way. Without killing this monster, neither political nor economic upliftment is possible”. That is why PVCHR tried to integrate Gandhian ideology on rural India with Ambedkarian critical perspective, which is manifested in its concept of Janmitra Gaon (people-friendly village). It aims to establish the identity of Dalits and marginalised in the social, economic and political domains. Thus, we are organizing and mobilising disadvantaged people to create a Janmitra society, where people stand for their own civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights. The spirit of our initiatives is to facilitate the marginalised community to take initiative to organise itself to address the challenges and problems. It means that there should be shared understanding, shared decision-making, shared leadership and shared initiative from the community side. It adheres to participatory and democratic approach in the process of making of Janmitra village.

In order to provide basic rights to all and to eliminate situations, which give rise to exploitation of vulnerable and marginalised groups, we worked at different levels, say, individual, familial and community levels. The range of interventions covered support to victims of torture through testimonial therapy, organizing weavers and advocating against insensitive policies, working for curbing starvation deaths, organising Dalits to fight for their voting rights, preparing children to become active and conscious citizens through Bal-Panchayats (children groups) and Bal Sansad (children’s parliaments), freedom and rehabilitation of bonded labourers, etc. We supported individual cases of violation of human rights and aided in filing complaints against the perpetrator or fighting with the unresponsive administration. For organising the community against inequality and injustice in access to services and opportunities for progress and development, we held community meetings where matters of collective concern were discussed, socio-political situation analysed, reasons for marginalisation were explored and strategies for advocating for the cause were decided. Community dwellers then collectively took action and in that process gained self-confidence, trust on fellow-beings and learnt the significance of people’s participation.
As mentioned earlier, we worked through a trust, an initiative, a movement and a civil society initiative – PVCHR, which was established, in 1996, with the aim of creating equality based, secular and democratic India. Its motto is to fight against the caste based feudal system, patriarchal social structure, consumerism where injustice, discrimination and torture deprives people of their basic human rights and dignity.
Outline of the Book
A brief outline of the book is delineated here. It is important to note here that the names mentioned in the book, in various case studies, excerpts of interviews and interactions with Dalit and marginalised people have been camouflaged to protect their identities.
What it means to be born as Dalit in rural India? How taking birth in a particular family has almost complete bearing on access to resources and power? How rural people respond to authority, whether administrative, legal or charismatic? How caste system perpetuates domination and subjugation in myriad of ways? What is the psyche of the Dalit and how caste-based interiority is internalised? What is the relationship dynamics between Dalits – the oppressed and marginalised and upper caste – the oppressors? And how this relationship is defining and confining access to resources, decision-making power and opportunities to development and empowerment? The chapter one titled, ‘the context’ tries to answer these questions and pictures the backdrop of rural socio-cultural milieu where intervention efforts for empowerment of Dalits have been made.
Chapter two, ‘From praxis to practice’ lays out the theoretical framework that has guided our action. It conceptualises the term empowerment, its salient features and components. It provides sociological and psychological perspectives to the process of empowerment from powerlessness and vulnerability. It presents the modalities and models we followed in making the marginalised groups and communities aware, conscientised and ready to act for their rightful dues.
India enjoys its status of being the largest democracy as every Indian citizen, 18 years and above, has the right to vote to elect their representatives. However, in Belwa village, certain Dalit communities could never participate in the political process of electing their leaders, thereby denied their basic constitutional right to vote. For years together, the upper caste leaders forged their votes and continued their unquestioned authority and control in grassroots governance. It was not the question of only voting rights, rather, was invariably linked to their accessibility to basic amenities like food security, right to livelihood, education for their children, right to health, and many more. Denial of voting right was the root to denial of all other rights. A few years back nobody could ever imagine that the Dalits of Belwa, who have been oppressed and suppressed, marginalised and excluded, could even voice their concerns. The social action carried out in the village ensured mobilisation of Dalit community and their first victory as they marked their impressions on the ballot papers. It is the process of Dalit-empowerment from being led passively to becoming change makers. They not only acquired their right to vote but also nominated their own candidate in elections, who became the new village head. This process is highlighted in chapter three – From being led to lead.
Chapter four, ‘From hunger deaths to healthy living’ describes another process of social action in Belwa village of Badagaon block in Pindra Tehsil (sub-division), where there were many reported and unreported cases of starvation deaths of Dalit children and the government machinery was totally indifferent and apathetic. Caste system contoured the health service delivery, as the health workers belonging to upper caste would not ‘perform their duties’ for lower caste clients. It highlights how consistent and long struggle changed the system and now Belwa is a model village in terms of ensuring Right to Health to all including Dalits. Children of Dalits like Musahars were saved from hunger deaths and anganwadis were opened in Dalit ghettos. Healthcare system became more responsive. Similar interventions were carried out in many other villages and many lives could be saved with timely intervention.
One of the worst forms of human exploitation and discrimination is seen in cases of police torture as they arbitrarily catch hold of Dalits, primarily, poor Musahars and Muslims, and mercilessly and brutally torture the victims to confess the crime, about which they do know anything. Custodial torture often results in permanent disability or even death. Victims have spent decades of their productive life in prisons for no fault of their own. Chapter five ‘Surviving torture and defending human rights’, projects instances and implications of such cases of custodial torture on innocent Dalits. It documents their fight against victimisation. The role of testimonial therapy and the process of uniting village fellow-men to collectively fight against perpetrators of torture have been demonstrated in this chapter.

Chapter six, ‘Weaving hope with yarns of hardship’, captures the plight and struggle of Banarasi sari weavers, their poverty, pain and grief. The life of weavers is mainly defined by abject poverty, chronic malnutrition, varied health hazards and even hunger deaths and suicides. Input cost of sari weaving is insupportable for majority of weavers while middlemen take away profit. Globalisation has severely affected economically vulnerable small weavers pushing them below poverty line. The State machinery is apathetic and whatever schemes and programmes exist, fail to do any good to weavers who are battling hard to keep this one of the finest legacies of Indian culture alive. Situation of women and children is worse. The chapter presents the process of winning over the hardship and weaving hope by the weaving community.
Though labour bondage is centuries-old practice, in its newer forms, it still governs the lives of about 10 per cent of India’s workforce. Caste system and poverty perpetuate bonded labour system. Even the strong 
legislation against labour bondage has largely proved to be mere paper tiger. Mostly observed in agriculture and brick kiln industry, bonded labour system has engulfed several generations from old to children. Ample instances of abuse and exploitation, physical, sexual, financial, inaccessibility to basic civic amenities, sense of utter helplessness, that characterize bonded labourers, not only shiver any sensitive human being but also puts shameful blot to India’s pride and prestige. Chapter seven, ‘From bondage to liberation’ is the demonstration of the movement that freed many bonded labourers who had been surviving in inhuman conditions as they are able to break the shackles of oppressive feudal and capitalist system.

Chapter eight, ‘Nurturing little change agents and leaders’, reflects the immortal courage of Dalit children, who fought their battle against caste and gender based discrimination. While the monsters of illiteracy, ignorance, hopelessness and apathetic attitudes towards change, had captivated their adult guardians, these young change agents became the role models teaching us how to chase the dream of creating an egalitarian society. The children raised social conscience against issues of child labour, education of girl children, and ensuring child rights including right to education and right to participation through their Bal Panchayats.
The last chapter, ‘Seeing the change and being the change’, gives an overview of the approaches and strategies that worked well in ensuring empowerment of Dalits in our area of intervention. It also appraises the challenges encountered and the lessons learnt in this process of empowerment and chalks out the road map for further interventions. It opens up the issue of Neo-Dalit Movement that attacks caste system in a dynamic way. This chapter aims to give hindsight and foresight to social work practitioners and change agents in the direction of empowerment of the powerless individuals, groups, and communities.
Hopefully, the readers, as they go through the book, are not only intellectually, but also emotionally, able to connect with the sufferings of the Dalits, get charged up with their struggle as they rise from ashes and cheer as they win against all odds. ‘We’, humbly and earnestly, welcome you to be the part of this journey of unwavering human spirit towards emancipation. 

Pix by Rohit Kumar

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A talk on Intolerance by Lenin Raghuvanshi

Where the clear stream of reason ?

Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been
broken up into fragments
by narrow domestic walls; ...
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit; ...
Into that heaven of freedom,
my Father, let my country awake.
                                    ---Rabindranath Tagore

I used this poem on my speech on extremism at Universal Tolerance Forum at Drammen,Norway on 17 September,2015. Please listen my speech as follows:

I used same poem in my follows paper   titled ‘Crisis of democracy and the Caste System in India’ presented in International symposium on ‘Globalisation and the Crisis of Democracy’ at Gwangju Biennale,South Korea in 2014:

I am happy that Janab Aamir Khan also used same poem in his recent letter.Kudos Aamir.Please read link:

#amirkhan #aamirkhan #india #intolerence

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Can the Neo-Dalit Movement Eradicate Emerging Fascism in India?

The vast poor majority remains oppressed to the emerging fascist forces. They are brutalised by the caste system, the ‘culture of impunity’ and the hydra-headed tortures. Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi shows how the Neo-Dalit Movement needs to emerge and eradicate the age-old problem, following the Mandela model.
 India is one of the world’s oldest living civilisations with a vibrant culture and diversity of its people and languages. Paradoxically, this enormous diversity also hides a dark and sinister side in the shadows of its culture, the caste system. Embedded in the feudal culture, based on the mind of the caste for several centuries, the Hindu caste system is one of the world’s longest surviving forms of social stratification. It divides the society into social classes or castes. This graded inequality has the sanction of classical Indian religious scriptures.

Piquantly, the caste hierarchy dictates the lives of its citizens even today. The tribal, Muslims and the lower castes or untouchable communities face discrimination and severe oppression due to their social status. As a result, they have been further marginalised in the society and denied their basic rights.
Despite the fact that untouchability was officially banned, when India adopted its constitution in 1950, discrimination against the lower castes and Musahar is all pervasive.  In order to prevent discrimination based on caste and religion, the government passed legislation, in 1989, known as, ‘The Prevention of Atrocities Act’. The act specifically made it illegal to parade people naked through the streets, force them to eat faeces, take away their land, foul their water, interfere with their right to vote, and burn down their homes. Many of the youngest in the community are not allowed admissions in the schools since the upper castes do not want their children to study along with the Musahar children. Since then, the violence has escalated largely as a result of the emergence of a grassroots human rights movement among Musahar to demand their rights and resist the dictates of untouchability.
The severest human rights violations in India, the widespread use of custodial torture, are closely linked to caste-based discrimination. In the context of crime investigation, suspects are tortured to enforce confessions. Due to the absence of an independent agency to investigate cases, complaints are often not properly proofed and perpetrators are never prosecuted and punished. The discrimination of women and gender based violence, which includes domestic violence, dowry linked violence, acid attacks, sexual assault, sexual harassment and sex-selective abortion, are the most relevant human rights issues in India.
Culture of Impunity 
The main problems facing the country emerge from two things: the implementation of a ‘culture of impunity’, which is a shared belief that few can act without be accountable for their actions, at the social, economic and political level and the cognitive problem in the context of market democracy and economic globalisation. This explanation reveals how the combination of those two factors – cognitive and contextual – allow the rise of a Neo-Fascism state – an authoritarian state, which wants to make one country with one nation – and the implementation of an aggressive Neo-Liberal capitalism – which perpetuate social and economic injustice.  In this way, we would see how the Neo-fascist Hindutva project is used to perpetuate caste domination and allow the Indian leaders to realise profit by selling the country to national and international companies. Furthermore, we understand how this economic deregulation marginalised lower castes, and therefore, strengthened social division based on castes.
Thereafter, we propose a way to correct and change this situation by calling for the creation of a ‘Neo-Dalit’ movement– combining Shudras and ati-Shudras from all regions, which would formulate popular movement against the ‘culture of impunity’ through mobilisation of opinion among leaders from all communities.
The multifaceted problems of our country are interconnected. In order to understand and solve these, we must view the dire problem in totality, not in isolation. We need a comprehensive multi-layer and multi-dimensional approach that takes into account economic, cultural, political and social factors. The People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) and its partners are actively attempting to fill this opportunity space by courting constructive dialogue with others, all stripes, spots and ideological leanings. Focusing on the diversity of caste experience, rather than being counter-intuitive to movement goals of creating Dalit self-esteem represents a primary step toward creating lasting structural change in the process of strengthening Dalit self-esteem.

Multidisciplinary Approach: for Actors and Factors 
India has one of the highest GDP rates of the world. As a ’developing economy’ in a global world-wide economy, the country tries more and more to immerse itself in the international market for goods and capital. This amazing economic growth is beautifully accompanied by the establishment of democracy, and seems to make India a paradise-under-construction. But this lovely facade hides many inappropriate practices such as poverty, brutality and destruction of nature. Let’s review these practices in the context of economic policies.
We may describe Indian economic policy as a conversion to the Neo-Liberalism religion with a brutal ’shut up’, steeped in ritualisation. On one hand, politicians use India as a reservoir of raw materials. They allow big corporation to exploit nature, and destroy the fragile ecosystem, which allows rural people to live, as they have been doing since ages. They sell the entire national key infrastructure – such as water, electricity, health, telecommunication, transport, education, natural resources to private companies to make money through corrupt practices. This privatisation process of state and land is strongly encouraged by Neo-Liberalist global institutions – as the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), etc.
On the other hand, such practices of piracy against people – who are dispossessed of the wealth of their country by political and economic leaders – are perpetrated through by authoritarian and violent measures that government takes against people, who resist, and in the power-that-be’s lingo, try to mutiny against this spoliation. Police uses torture, army is called to crush the innocent citizens, who dare to speak the truth. The state machinery that is supposed to defend people and the hazardous legislation  make  them safe from any penalty for the violation of human rights are enacted – as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Armed Forces Special Power Act, which are used more against people, who dare to criticise these policies than  against dreaded terrorists. During that time, other legal texts are enacted to protect and attract multinational companies to provide  them fiscal and legal advantages on a very broad definition of what we call the ’free market’– as the Nuclear Civil Liability Bill, which limits liabilities of Transnational Companies (TNC) from nuclear industrial disasters.
Thus, Indian leaders create a good ‘investment climate’ for big corporations. They allow these companies to play their dangerous economic game with all the rights and no duties and with a few and controlled popular contestations. This transforms India into a beautiful dream for TNCs, though they pose and remain a daily nightmare for rural and urban workers. Furthermore, we should understand that this situation is dangerous, not only because this seems to foreshadow the establishment of an authoritarian regime, which allows brutal political repression with impunity, but also because this political impunity is put in place  alongside with the implementation of an economic policy of corporate impunity.
But this political and economical culture of impunity cannot only be fully understood by the opening of the Indian market to the international one or by the corruptive practices that plague public and private institutions. Behind those external factors, there is a cognitive reason, which is also very important to understand such behaviours among the actors: the caste system and the mind of the caste.
Indian society has lived for hundreds of years on a strict and rigid social hierarchy based on the Brahmanism stream within Hinduism. The caste system, which so many people see wrongly as concomitant to Hinduism, is a social organisation, which allows upper castes to do whatever they want, including inflicting psychological and physical tortures, to lower castes and women, who are considered inferior because of their birth in low castes. The low castes are forced to accept this supremacy theologically, founded by the gods but actually righting by select human beings to implement an unequal socio-political regime. This belief creates a cognitive complex of inferiority and superiority respectively for the lower and the upper castes. Sadly, it allowed the implementation of a national culture of caste and social impunity, perpetuated by a culture of silence created by fear, pain and lack of self-esteem of the lower castes.
But the story doesn’t stop here, because all these ’cultures of impunity’, which allows a minority group to govern and exploit the majority  can be partly questioned by civil society organisations and protest movements that wish to reverse this cognitive and social pyramid or  flatten it. For those reasons, power holders use many means to divide the lowers caste majority and divert them from the key issues that face India – through communitarian hatred. They thus ensure their freedom of act as leaders – by enacting draconian laws to ‘protect’ people from communitarian and acts of terrorism that they create to further their diabolical plans.
Brahminical Power Structure 
So, political impunity and economical impunity are two sides of the same coin called social impunity  

Social activists and lower castes, who want to defend the rights of Dalits, tribal and the critics of the system are beaten up by the police and the army, with scant regard for humanity. However, Neo-Liberalism allows upper castes and big corporations to rake profits, because people fight each other on religious issues or because they do not dare to attack the Brahmanical power structure.

This stratified and divisive process of the poor majority, help those who try to keep their power. They use classical methods to conserve their social position. They know that hate begets hate. This is a universal law. And when the government and its leaders begin to feed communal hatred among their own citizens and practice authoritarian political repression,  it qualifies as a ’Neo-fascist’ state because they implement a national culture of hatred against differences, and love – or at least blind respect – for  authority.
There are deeper questions and analysis. Do some political leaders have an interest in creating social divisions to conserve their power? Or is it the true aim of the Hindutva forces  to divide people to allow the traditional power structure – the upper castes – to keep ruling the country and continue running their businesses with economic leaders?  Or that those who promote genocide and mass killings may do so with impunity and that they are actually rewarded for this?
The example of Gujarat Genocide and the verdict of the 16th parliamentary election in India highlights, loud and clear, that Neo-Fascism and authoritarian Hindutva project, which feeds communal hatred and divides the poor majority are also promoted by the economic leaders to hide the implementation of an economic policy of impunity, which is supposed to make India as an attractive country for foreign investments and enrich (read gratify) both political and economic leaders.
In the final analysis, we may say that all political repressions, police torture, bureaucratic corruption, economic exploitation of human and nature, and rigid hierarchy of social domination are allowed as much by the implantation of those social, political and economic cognitive cultures of impunity, rather than by external factors. This may be termed as the dangerous cross-currents of Neo-Liberal capitalism and communal Neo-Fascism.
Reformulation of Political Identity 
We have seen that all problems, which look apparently different, are actually linked. We will examine how this multiplicity of causes might be overcome by creating a unity process: a people’s one.
What is the best way to fight against a Neo-fascist politics of castes and communities divide?  The answer is unity. What kind of unity may we create to fight against the deep rooted caste system – which is the origin of social division and cultures of impunity – and Neo-Liberalism that increase the gap between the haves and have-nots and deprives many people of the benefit of natural resources?
First, a union of lower’s castes. I mean a union of lower caste from all religions, because misery is beyond theologies. A union between Shudras and ati[1]-Shudras or between Dalits and ati-Dalits, and a union with Muslim lower castes and other marginalised people. A movement of the poor and the abused people for breaking the economic exploitation and the culture of silence  of caste torture is another unity.The movement is against Brahmanism and caste system, but not against Hinduism and upper-caste people. The movement is against Neo-Liberalism capitalism, not against democratic capitalism, based on the rule of law, peoples’ welfare and pluralism.

Unity of all ‘broken people’ and progressive people is the best way to fight against this culture of impunity with the norm of exclusion. Because we don’t think that change will come from people, who benefit from this system. So, structural change must only come from the bottom of the social pyramid. I propose to call this movement, ‘Neo-Dalit’, because this is the Dalit community that has been suffering the most.  Moreover, this name is already synonym of the political struggle envisaged by Baba Saheb Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar.
Of course, to create a sense of belonging to an imagined political inter-caste community seems both daunting and impossible. The caste structure of the society is old and perfectly integrated into the everyday life. This change of identity requires sacrifices from both, the castes and communities. The Shudras must learn to deny their right to lord on the ati-Shudras, if they want to break free from their upper castes masters. On the other hand, the extended reformulation of the term  ‘Dalit’ also requires an ati-Shudra sacrifice, as these take away the monopoly of the first identity that they recognize as legitimate, from the first name that they accept to name themselves. It is a synonym of their political fight.  They use first name with a bit of pride.
This integration problem is even greater when we try to include in this movement the ‘old’ – but actually still – lower castes, who converted to Islam or Christianity.
Sameness of Social Groups 
Because of all these difficulties, we have to understand and emphasise the sameness among those different social groups. First, we should make them understand that they are both the castes enslaved and alienated by the upper castes through the caste system. They are a majority that is ruled by a minority, in a country that theoretically became a democracy in 1947.   Secondly, we should show them that main economic resources and power is held by the upper castes. There is no sense to fight amongst them but to give a positive answer to communitarian hatred.  Such behaviours will not help implement Neo-Dalit conditions.
The classical example of the mind of the caste and its implication that the landless Dalit was fighting with a poor Shudra, owner of small tract of land, because cows of the Dalit were grazing on the fields of the Shudra, destroying the crops, in Belwa village of Varanasi. During that time, the rich upper caste, big landlord often exploited Shudras and ati-Shudras. Hitherto, he never had to deal with this kind of problem, because the caste mentality allowed him to beat the lower castes brutally with impunity. The lower castes, over a period of time, have internalised this brutal domination. They regard it as normal and because the upper castes have police in their pocket. Here, we should explain to the Dalit and the Shudra that this conflict results from their marginalisation that they share together due to the mind of the caste. We should convince them that they share a common problem, which requires a united response.
In this way, a united movement of protest of the poor majority would emerge. They would be empowered 
and would have enough power to fight, in a non-violent way, the atrocities of the rich minority. They perceive themselves as invincible for they have not seen any resistance. They thus feel that they are un-attackable. Similarly, fanatic religious leaders, who feed hatred between communities or divide the lower castes, too have not faced any resistance. The story of corrupt officials, who believe that they might usurp and abuse of the rights of poor are much the same. They together form the power structure and create hegemony because they feel that the fragmented communities and castes are powerless. They have no money. The poor would languish lifelong in jails as under trials in false cases. The poor neither have the money nor the unity to fight the corrupt political regime.

The ‘divide for better rule’ politics has become an institution in the country. A unification process of the lower castes from all religions and further unity with progressive people, born in upper castes, who are against the caste system, is the apt answer. We must create a unified social movement against the decadent Brahmanical caste system and communitarian, based on Neo-Fascism and Neo-Liberal Capitalism.
Three Fights of Neo-Dalits 
A union of lower castes against the castes alienation, a union of religions against communitarian, a union of the poor against Neo-Liberalism are the three fights that need to be led by one community, the Neo-Dalits.
But what   means of fight should be adopted? How can such social movement of unity emerge? On which kind of struggle should it lead? These questions need to be asked.
The creation of a Neo-Dalit political party doesn’t seem to be the right choice. A political party that wants to defend the poor would not be able to raise enough money to play the election games. Leaders who are involved in the institutional game have a better chance to  play as per the corruptive rules of those institutions. Though they are supposed to defend the interests of the Dalits, they end up playing the murky game of so-called democracy only for their own profit – as Mayawati  (the BSP Dalit leader) who had a hidden alliance with the RSS. It was aDalit – Brahmin social engineering that did not attack the evils of te caste system. The reason for this alliance stemmed from her desire to contest for prime minister’s office.  Many Dalit political leaders joined the BJP and its alliance in the recent parliamentary election, which was backed by the RSS.
It is better to promote a reconciliation movement among different castes and religious communities at the grassroots to create contact among those who have suffered the menace of communitarian and Brahmanism for a long time. Connection and meetings are the best way to fight again dangerous prejudices that lead to community’s hatred.  It reverses the process of division between lower castes. But it is clear that this unification is no cakewalk. Firstly, we need to create a huge and strong network among all the civil society organisations, who fight separately for the Shudras, ati-Shudras, Muslim, Christian, working classes, farmers, etc. The best way is to achieve this union and create a Neo-Dalit social movement of protest through coordinated actions lead by a shared interpretation of our common problems.
For this reason, this present call is for all Shudras and ati-Shudras; to all the organisations that are struggling for human rights and dignity; to all progressive peoples – whatever her/his caste, religion, sex or social class – who want to reverse this process of state-privatisation, abuse of natural resources and division of society through hatred fed by communitarian, feudalism and the patriarchal system implemented by the the Brahmanical caste system and its Hindutva project.
Gandhiji’s Conflict Resolution 
But the question remains: what is the best way to bring together different social groups? I think that this process should begin by a closer link between opinion leaders and others representative of those groups. This idea has nothing new. Little after India’s independence, Gandhiji showed us the way. He demonstrated that it is possible to stop communalism in a non-violent way. I talk about what people called ’the miracle of Calcutta’. Gandhiji was able to disarm the communal gangs of the city, but he was not satisfied by this victory. He demanded more. He asked the leaders of the Muslim and the Hindu communities to promise that they would maintain peace amongst them. And the ‘miracle’ happened. Calcutta and its adjoining areas had never had any communal riots. Gandhiji had resolved the conflict, permanently.
This historical incident shows that it is possible to create peace between communities. Opinion leaders have a great role to play. For that reason, the creation of a Neo-Dalit movement can’t only begin with an approximation of the elites. We should organise intensive and repeated meetings with all the communities’ representatives to make them work together, symbiotically. All the actors need to be awakened to better each other’s plight. In this way, they would probably learn that they protect different communities. Also, though the problems seem different but they all suffer because of the culture of impunity and Neo-Liberal alienation. Despite differing perceptions of suffering, their enemy is much the same.

At the grassroots, we must break the wall of silence and enhance the self-esteem of the lower castes to give them back their dignity. We need to make them actors of their own change. Moreover, we should work to bring the communities together by creating some ‘shared public space’ for Shudras and Dalits, for Hindus and Muslims. This last point is important. Most of the socialisation processes seem to happen on the streets – where various communities and castes are together but remain speared in different district or sidewalks – and place of worship – where ati-Shudras are merely tolerated, not accepted, by the others castes.
In the final analysis, we wish to emphasise three ways that the Neo-Dalit movement must take to improve their political, economic and social conditions. . First, we may fight against political repression and impunity by legal process. Many human rights organisations are already fighting the system to transform the Brahmanical ‘rule of the lord’ by coercing them respect the imperfect ‘rule of the law’. Secondly, the social impunity should be defeated by changing cognitive weakness. It made some people victim of their inferiority complex and other tormentors due to their superiority complex. We need to create commons forums for Neo-Dalit, in order to break the wall of silence, which leads to the acceptation of this situation. We need to launch a speech (read dialogue) process, which will teach them that they are equal and that they share common interest. PVCHR is developing nearly two hundred model villages based on concept of Neo-Dalit movement.
The Neo-Dalit movement is a sign of hope, honour and human dignity for the most marginalised people facing discrimination based on race, caste, religion and gender. The Nelson Mandela model is the path for PVCHR’s Neo- Dalit movement to bring unity of different communities against the caste system, feudalism, communal-Fascism and Neo-Liberalism, through reconciliation for justice and human dignity against the culture of impunity based on silence. It promises to contribute, in posterity, to the pluralistic democracy in the world.
[1] The word ati means extreme. But, in this context, it means the people living in the margins of the marginalised. These people live in extreme deprivation. ~ Editor.
Photo Credit: Rohit Kumar