The last month of 2016

I’ve had a great 2016 so far. So since it is the last month of the year, I thought I’d say my thanks to a great year that’s going to end in about four weeks, and also resolve to make the next year just as great (to use a Donald Trump exclamation), if not better.

Where does one begin?

The year has been quite the success story for me, both personally and professionally. I managed to get on a good exercise regimen that has resulted in me losing weight to the tune of 20 kilograms since January, and this fitness phase won’t stop anytime soon.

I have managed to discover myself too and this has helped me overcome many personal challenges –including the age-old one about motivation during an intense fitness regimen. I travelled quite extensively, and during my travels, learned to weave silk, make salt out of sea water and to dry and cure fish for preservation, apart from learning a lot about the diversity among the people of South India.

Staying on the theme of personal discovery, 2016 has given me many insights into myself that I was able to use everyday at office and in relationships with friends and family. The books I read, the films I watched, the blogs and YouTube accounts I followed, have all played a role in my year, and I’d like to say a word of thanks to them all — though some of those authors and directors are dead and some of the bloggers and YouTubers are anonymous. My thanks goes out to you all.

In my career, suffice to say I have made great strides and continue to do so. I want to thank everyone that made this growth possible.

Looking ahead, I hope I can make the next year even better. It’s time to be positive and get things done, rather than be pessimistic and procrastinate. The next year, for me, is about maintaining the momentum of 2016 and learning new things, visiting new places and meeting new people.

I thought I’d share some pictures from my 2016 too, as a document recording some events from this fabulous year

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What Ambedkar means to me

April 14, 2016: Today marks the 125th birth anniversary of one of India’s greatest revolutionaries and thinkers, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar. He is a great influence to my thinking and he has shaped my worldview ever since I read a copy of his seminal work ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ almost eight years ago as a high school student. My admiration for him is only increasing, and I dedicate this blog post to his memory.

Dr Ambedkar was born a Dalit, a class of people outside the Hindu caste hierarchy. Considered untouchable and allowed to perform only the most menial jobs, they lived outside the boundaries of India’s villages often in abject poverty. They were not allowed to attend regular schooling and could only do jobs like cleaning the waste of people and animals in the village or clearing the corpses of dead animals from the streets. In some cases, the untouchables had to tie a broom around their waist to sweep the path as they walked and a pot around their neck to collect their spittle, lest any upper-caste Hindu walking on the same path got polluted. Even their shadow mingling with the shadow of the upper castes was considered polluting.

Ambedkar was from the Mahar community, which sided with the British against the oppressive Peshwa in the Battle of Koregaon (1818), an event considered as a heroic episode among Dalit activists even today. Ambedkarhad to face his share of oppression in school. He had to sit on a piece of gunny sack and away from the rest of the class, no barber would cut his hair and once Ambedkar was thrown out of a cart when the driver found out that he was untouchable and he was cursed for ‘polluting’ the cart. In his university days, he had to struggle on the little scholarship given to him by the progressive maharaja of Baroda, with which he also had to support his family. Ambedkar, with grit and determination, spent hours at libraries and finally finished a Ph.D in Economics in Columbia University, New York. He would also go on to complete a D.Sc. in Economics from the London School of Economics and would also qualify as a barrister. These are no small achievements for anyone, but it shows Ambedkar’s will and his intelligence, that he after overcoming discrimination and poverty, was able to achieve such high academic credentials.


In India, Ambedkar firmly immersed himself in national politics but one issue was his primary focus: the upliftment of the Dalits or the Depressed Classes as they were known. Ambedkar also wanted to reform the Hindu society into a more egalitarian one, and wanted  Indian society to be based on the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. He attacked the Hindu caste system and vehemently criticised its apologists, which included the so called ‘nationalist’ leaders like Mahatma Gandhi. Ambedkar was also wary of the kind of nationalism itself propagated by the Congress nationalists, in collusion with the capitalists of that time. In his seminal work ‘The Annihilation of Caste,’ he criticised both the socialists, who saw caste as only an extension of class and were of the opinion that economic equality had to precede social equality, and the Arya Samajists, who sought to reform the caste system only by changing its form but keeping the hierarchies intact. It was in that essay that Ambedkar unleashed a scathing attack on Hinduism itself and finally declared, ‘I will not die a Hindu.’ Ambedkar was also very critical of the capitalists of the time, who used nationalism as a tool to further their interests. He was particularly critical of the middle class, which even today, is swayed by the argument of the capitalists and the ‘nationalists’ and mesmerised by their advertisements. The middle class, he said, was the class that destroyed all social movements. He believed that creating wealth was not the problem, but the unfair distribution of it, was.

In today’s times, when nationalism is peddled as a commodity using materialistic concepts like the flag or the land, Ambedkar’s words are a prophecy. It was he who said India should not be considered a nation because of the divisions of caste and that a nation needs to be based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This can be observed even today, when anyone who even ventures to utter something against the upper caste Hindus is branded anti-national. It can be observed in all its gory detail in the suicide of Rohith Vemula, who like Ambedkar himself, was thrown out of his living quarters because he was Dalit and chose to go against the conventions laid down by the upper-caste elite in India. It can be seen in the shameful protests by those against reservation, who polished shoes, swept roads and sold vegetables mockingly, to show the kind of jobs Dalits and Bahujans ought to do instead of seeking to improve themselves with education. It can be observed in the writings of Hindutva fascists like Savarkar and Golwalkar, who said anyone who does not subscribe to their version of Hinduism ought to be considered second-class citizens. It can also be observed in the advertisements by the capitalist gurus on television, who peddle their commodities using the notion of ‘Indian culture’ as a smoke screen to cover what is essentially a profit-making venture.

In conclusion, Ambedkar is relevant today as ever. His writings are not only inspiring, they are prophetic. The ideas he propagated for the shape of Indian society are practical and can be applied even today, if the political class has the will and are not swayed by the upper-caste notion of society, which is divisive at its heart. Ambedkar is a role model, not only for the Dalits but for every enlightened and progressive person who have courage to challenge the oppressive status quo of their day and usher in an egalitarian, liberal society, where citizens share a common brotherhood for each other. In this we can all take inspiration from Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

Jai Bhim!

So Was it an ABVP/ RSS Game – Who Shouted ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in JNU?

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

While some television channels, through a combination of unethical playing to the gallery (and to the Modi regime), have portrayed ‘JNU students’ as antinational Leftists, Pakistani agents etc, a video has surfaced that has gone viral over social media that allegedly shows identifiable ABVP students shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans.

The four students who are seen in the video shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans, have been identified as ABVP activists (one of them has even been identified by name as Shruti Agnihotri), seen leading protests elsewhere in ABVP  demonstrations.

It is of course, a question that no one in the electronic media (print was different this time) sought to even ask themselves – as to who would be interested in shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ slogans? This is a purely RSS/ABVP/Hindutva obsession. No Leftist that I know of (and I think I know almost all shades by now) would have any reason to shout…

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Statement by Academics Against Intolerance

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey

In light of the recent spate of killings of noted writers and intellectuals M M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare, and Narendra Dabholkar, and the Dadri lynching incident followed by forced nation-wide attempts at cultural policing, we feel that the current political dispensation headed by the Prime Minister is mandating an atmosphere of violence and fear.

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Hindutva Media – An Online Upheaval: Saif Ahmad Khan

A small history of the “Internet Hindu” by Saif Ahmad Khan.

KAFILA - 10 years of a common journey


The year 2004 saw the Indian electorate defying the verdict of psephologists by voting out the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre. The fundamental reason behind the defeat of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government was the slogan of “India Shining” which was perceived by the voters to be nothing more than a poll gimmick as millions of ordinary Indians were trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty and struggling due to high inflation.

However, a decade after 2004, one has reason to believe that “India Shining” was a blessing in disguise for the BJP. Traditionally, BJP was an anti-technology party owing to its Swadeshi leanings. When computer technology was being introduced by the Rajiv Gandhi government during the 1980s, the socialist parties opposed the move and argued that mechanization would lead to unemployment. The Sang Parivar echoed similar sentiments.

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The student wasn’t bad… The teacher was hopeless

In-spite of her disability, this young dalit girl wanted to study. She promised she would cope. She even pleaded her teacher to let her stay. This teacher wouldn’t!

I’m sure the teacher have no sympathy, he/she is an upper-caste Hindu after all. Why would they have to worry? For thousands of years their ancestors have denied dalits basic human rights. But this is the information age, not ancient India where you could get away with widow burning and child marriage.

All these events make me question if we have really progressed. We may be the fastest growing economy, but if we deny the poor their basic rights, we are a regressive society unworthy of all this progress.

Dalits must be educated. They must receive a progressive English education. This will put the attitudes of the Brahminical ideologues in their rightful place.

But again, the ‘Hindus’ don’t want this. They want to impose Sanskrit. When the language was alive, they would not let the dalits learn it. Now after it is long since dead, they want to shove it down everyone’s throat.

These attitudes must be challenged. Without opposing them, the country will not progress.


Teacher’s dumb act ends Dalit girl’s education – The Hindu

Children drop out of school for various reasons. For 15-year-old A. Muthulakshmi, a Dalit girl suffering from partial hearing loss, a malfunctioning hearing aid effectively ended her schooling.

The teenager, hailing from a poor family in Peravoor, was in tears at the Collectorate here on Monday as she could not pursue her education after her teacher asked her to leave the school for the simple reason that she could not hear properly in the classroom. As her education came to an abrupt end, Muthulakshmi visited the Collectorate with her parents to request Collector K. Nanthakumar to provide her a sewing machine to supplement family income. However, officials turned her away saying she was still a child.

Muthulakshmi was a normal child till the age of 11 when she suffered partial hearing loss. She was studying at Peravoorani Government High School and continued her studies with the help of hearing aid.

In 2014-15, when she was in Class X, water seeped into her hearing aid and stopped working. Her class teacher pulled her up for not being attentive and sharp like other students. When she explained her difficulty, the teacher, instead of helping her to buy a new hearing aid, asked her to leave the school.

“I cried before the teacher asking her not to send me out of school. But, she stood firm and I was soon given a transfer certificate,” Muthulakshmi told reporters. Her father K. Azhagan, a sanitary worker at the Peravoor Panchayat Union, said that he had also pleaded with the teacher to allow his daughter complete at least Class X, but in vain.

With no other option, Muthulakshmi joined ‘Sigaram Vattara Kalainjiam’ and underwent a three-month cutting and stitching course in tailoring. “I am scared of being humiliated,” said Muthulakshmi when asked whether she would go back to school if she gets a new hearing aid.

Dalit girl had to leave school as her hearing aid started failing