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Dossier on Khairlanji
A half century after B. R. Ambedkar's death, his home state of Maharashtra
has burst into flames, with rioting following the desecration of a
statue in far-away Kanpur and the rape, mutilation and murder of four
people at Khairlanji near Nagpur. There are serious issues underlying
the recent Dalit upsurge, issues which cut to the heart of the Dalit
condition in India today. These have to do not only with Dalits themselves,
but also with today's politics, today's economy -- especially its neglected
agrarian side - and with the economic condition and psychology of the
As the Dalit voice in organized politics has declined, the number
of caste attacks on Dalits in Maharashtra has increased. Earlier, their
political strength was their best defence. For decades, they had repelled
the worst excesses of landlord cruelty. Untouchability did not vanish.
But they did fight it stoutly. These cultures of resistance rested
on strong political movements which are today on the decline. The Dalit
Panthers, once a key source of inspiration and strength is almost extinct.
Electoral opportunism saw split of RPI into splinter groups and many
of its leaders co-opted.
Much of India 's Dalit castes - save a tiny elite - continue to be
trapped in dehumanising circumstances. That is not surprising, considering
that most of them are engaged in unproductive, pre-modern economic
activities. Such grossly devalued people would, clearly, have no political
The Dalits who form around 15 per cent of the population of Maharashtra
have been on the edge of angry frustration ever since four members
of a Dalit family were raped and killed over a land dispute in Khairlanji
in Bhandara district of the state. The government did nothing though
the incident took place two months ago. Thereafter, there were two
more incidents, where in one case in Beed district a Dalit man was
allegedly chopped to death by an upper caste family. The culprits in
this instance too have not been booked and this has justifiably inflamed
Dalit sensitivities even more.
The investigation into Bhotmanges murder has been marred by deep-rooted
caste prejudices. Evidence has been destroyed, the post-mortem report
fudged, the accused given time to build their alibis and witnesses
threatened. Even a month later, the State government has not intervened
to prevent this grave assault on justice and the constitutional provisions
for Scheduled Castes."
Most of the protestors were between 13 and 25 years old. They were
waiting for a catalyst and this was provided by the beheading of Dr.
Babasaheb Ambedkar's statue in Kanpur . They were joined by their mothers
(able to understand their children's anguish well) in protests and
most of them importantly, were leaderless. Leaderless, in a nut-shell,
has been the biggest failure of the Dalit movement.
These protesting youths are well aware that globalization means that
only the fittest will survive and that their leaders have left them
with little role to play in such an arena - except to use them to make
up the numbers at rallies such as the morcha in Nagpur on 4th December.
Real frustration sets in when the Dalit youth realizes, through self-awareness,
that they are just not fit enough to survive despite the education
that makes them self-aware. The protests were really not about Ambedkar's
statue being desecrated, but about the rich versus the poor with the
former getting richer and the latter getting poorer.
Selected Readings on
Religion, Politics and Culture - 24 th August 2006
Contemporary capitalism meaning corporate driven and controlled globalisation
under the economic domination of the developed industrialised capitalist
countries and under the imperialist hegemony of United States of America
has changed the world to almost unrecognisable dimensions. The alterations
were the results of varied and combined process, economic necessities
of capital as well as technological innovations.
The economic aspects and the policy packages prompted by the ideology
of this corporate globalisation - neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism - have
received fair amount of attention in contemporary voluminous literature
on the subject. The political, social, and cultural aspects are perhaps
less adequately covered. No one can ignore the significant and startling
occurrences but they have not been related to or analysed in the context
One major feature of the political and cultural complexities of this
age is the revival of religion and religiosity in different parts of
the world. The religious revival of the contemporary period is remarkable
for a few notable characteristics. The 'revived' religion of today
is marked by externalities, symbolic separateness, and public demonstrative
ritualism. This religion also attempts to revive and recapture the
most orthodox, strongly and narrowly delimited, ritualistic, nearly
isolationist interpretations and traditions. It is as critical, contemptuous,
and intolerant of internal traditions of liberal interpretation and
reform as it is suspicious of and almost hostile to other religious
beliefs. The revived religions of today are also strongly political
and thereby anti-secular in their orientations. Though in practice
all the religions compromise with and utilise contemporary technology,
they are all strongly antithetical to scientific attitudes. The other
notable feature is the state patronage, direct or indirect, overt or
covert the religious revival receives. It is at times naked and openly
partisan and at others opportunist, deniable, and underhand.
The phenomenon is global - and interestingly embraces the younger
generations perhaps far more than it does the older ones. A very well
known and media touted form of the phenomenon is Islamic militancy
and fundamentalism. Despite propaganda led by the USA , this is not
the only form of religious militant revival in the world today though
perhaps it affects 'news' the most worldwide, particularly after 9/11.
One can site various examples across the world affecting different
religious traditions. In India the rise of Hindutva - revival of a
particular interpretation of Hindu traditions for militant political
motives - has threatened the secular pluralist syncretic democratic
culture and civilisation of the country. Religious revival also plays
a part in the rise of neo-conservatism and the strong imperial stances
in the bible belt of the USA . The genocidal civil wars in the former
republic of Yugoslavia are an indication of the multiplicity of forms
of violent religious revival. There are increased instances of violence
between the Shias and Sunnis within the Muslim fold as well as of increased
violent repression of other sects within Islam. Japan also shows a
revival of the militant tradition of the Shinto religion - sanitising
the factors that led to the Japanese actions in the World War and varied
crimes against humanity. There are also instances of non-militant religious
revival - the proliferation of various sects, god-men and god-women,
rituals, obscurantist beliefs and practices all indicate the extent
and depth of the phenomenon. The popularity of a non-political, non-militant
Islamic organisation like the Tablig is another instance. Numerous
evangelical - almost fundamentalist - sects also rise within the Christian
The religious revival - with its political and cultural emphasis - poses
numerous questions as it shows distinct characteristics that probably
are common to the various instances observed within different religious
traditions. There is a strong return to the politics of identity - of
essentially primordial non-modern identity. There is a strong attack
on secular democratic principles, sometimes even on republican basics - at
least at a conceptual level. The revival also seeks to redefine the
status and rights of the minorities and of women. It seems in a way
that it almost seeks to annul the acquisitions of the age of enlightenment
and modernity, save its technology.
Some features are very visible worldwide and possibly relate to this
phenomenon. The expansion of global markets and global capitalism creates
unprecedented inequalities - leaving vast number of people totally
out of the 'triumphant' march of the economy. The masses left out often
share ethnic characteristics. This leads to a politics of identity.
There is the very startling phenomenon of the almost permanent insecurity
of even those who are included. There is also a cultural revolt against
contemporary capitalism and the alienation it introduces. Market fundamentalism
also plays a role in this occurrence - in fact it is a prevalent fundamentalism
that almost acquires religious zeal.
The broad questions the reader addresses are:
Is there a religious revival across countries and across
What causes this revival?
Is it in some ways related to globalisation? What is
the relationship if any?
What are the cultural dimensions of this revival?
Why and how does it acquire a political facet?
How does this facet get linked to violence, either Jihadi
or Hindu communalist?
Are all religions equally open to revivalist interpretations?
Is there a fundamentalism in non-scriptural or non-prophetic
Have secular alternatives lost out - including the idea
of territorial nationalism?
We hope that the Selected Readings on "Religion, Politics and Culture" broadens
our understanding and perspective and takes the debate on the subject
further and makes it more specific and real for the reader. It is our
wish that it should generate further informed discussion among activists
as well as others concerned with the link between religion politics
Media and the Changing Socio - Political Reality - 2
nd April 2006
Source Handbook on Organic Farming
Peace Mumbai - International Conference on Peace
and Justice in South Asia- Selected Readings - 26
th February 2006
Organizations in Mumbai have taken the initiative
to organize an International Conference on "Peace and Justice in South
Asia ". This is timely proposed
in the background of the aftermath of the 5th Ministerial of the World
Trade Organization in December in Hong Kong , the ongoing peace processes
in the region and the US role and importantly enough the marked shift
in the foreign policy of India . The Indian Prime Minister's visit
to Britain and USA marked a perceptible shift in India 's foreign policy
towards a uni-polar world dominated by US imperialism. The Indo-US
nuclear deal is a valuable instrument in the hands of the US to influence
Indian foreign policy. But the Indian Government seems all set to trade
away even the pretence of non-alignment. India even raised doubts regarding
the Iran-Pakistan-India oil pipeline, just in order to please the Bush
administration. The recent stand taken by the government of India on
the Iran issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency, is a clear
departure from an independent foreign policy.
The entire region of South Asia is scarred by poverty and deprivation
on one hand, and on the other, by conflict and war. Both India and
Pakistan have developed nuclear weapons, and despite all talk of nuclear
deterrence, this makes the region extremely volatile and dangerous.
India is one of the biggest defense spenders in the world. It ordered
$5.7 billion in weapons last year, overtaking Saudi Arabia and China
to become the developing world's leading buyer. The huge amounts of
money that India is wasting on the F-16s and F-18s being peddled by
the US, can be more fruitfully spent on critical developmental needs
like health, education, housing, public services and social welfare.
And this is what constitutes the real human security. The rejection
of this offer would go a long way towards bringing about peace in the
region, with Pakistan . It's important to mention here that both have
dismal ranking on the Human Development Index: India being 127 and
Similarly border skirmishes and migration issues divide India and
Bangladesh . Sri Lanka , still staggering under the impact of the Tsunami
and then the politics of Tsunami aid, relief and reconstruction, is
being systematically plundered by multinationals, while it is still
in the throes of conflict surrounding the statehood of the Tamils.
Nepal 's economy is in deep crises and the monarchy has thrown out
all democratic institutions and established a dictatorship in the name
of fighting communism. India 's foreign policy has been extremely short
sighted, centering on achieving economic and geopolitical domination
in South Asia and even the rest of Asia , rather than developing friendly
ties and strengthening equal regional cooperation. It is important
to mention here that the Indian government is also taking about defence
liberalization and opening of this sector to private and foreign investments
as they feel that the threat India faces from the region is much more
than the rate at which the public sector is able to manufacture arsenals.
Thus it is imperative to open the defence sector.
India wants to curry favour with the US-UK-Israeli axis and become
part of the so-called 'war against terror' peddled by the US , which
is nothing but a vicious war against ordinary people, only to promote
US military and economic interests. It is an illegitimate war against
the people of Iraq , Palestine , Afghanistan and all the nations of
Trade: War by other means
The US Empire, the corporations and those who control global finance
try to maintain their supremacy through their trade and financial institutions,
through the neo-liberal market philosophy and by physical force, by
war. Trade is considered war by other means and deeply affects human
security at all levels. In Iraq , for example, the bombing campaign
was followed shortly by the Iraqi reconstruction and imposition of
extreme neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation and free
trade and before its people could elect a sovereign regime, at the
behest of the US government they had applied for the WTO membership.
The 5th ministerial of the WTO will discuss policies affecting the
lives of the ordinary people. The powerful governments of the North
will drive hardest bargains possible to gain further access to the
resources and markets of the South, without regard for the terrible
impact that their neo liberal policies may have on the people of these
countries, including South Asia . The main issues to be discussed at
the Hong Kong Ministerial are agriculture and basic services, provision
and access to which entails real human security and it is possible
that at the ministerial the developing countries might have to compromise
to the market access negotiations. This could be a denial of services
to poorer people in the developing countries. People across the world
are actively engaged campaigning against the WTO, and have raised the
war cry: "No deal is better than a bad deal". And consequently, working
out a strategy for combating the WTO regime remains on top of the South
Considering all of the above, for lasting peace in South, regional
cooperation is crucial at all levels: political, diplomatic and economic.
If the resource region stays divided, it provides a profitable opportunity
for the global arms dealers, for the international financial institutions,
the multinational co-operations, global capitalism, for the US Empire.
The people of South Asia must see through the veil of illusion that
has been created by the free market neo-liberal profit mongers, they
have to reject the nihilist nationalism that is being used by rightist
forces to divide and destroy, and they have to come together on the
common aspiration for peace and justice for all.
A three-day conference in Mumbai on February 24-26, 2006 at Keshav
Gore Smarak Trust, Goregaon will consist of plenaries and workshops.
The main themes of the conference are:
US Empire building in S Asia, War and trade, India Pakistan Peace
process and the nuclear threat, gender perspectives on peace and violence,
nationalism and sovereignty, religious sectarian violence and masculinity
and militarisation. There will be a plenary devoted to discuss impact
of neo liberal globalisation on each country in the region giving rise
to conflicts and strife thus threatening the peace and justice.
Mumbai organizations and networks have initiated the process as Peace
Mumbai while some organizations and networks both at national and regional
level have joined as partner organizations.
Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), National Alliance
of Peoples Movements (NAPM), India Center for Human Rights and Law
(ICHRL), Asia South Pacific Bureau for Adult Education (ASPBAE), Youth
for Unity and Voluntary Action (YUVA), National Youth Federation (NYF),
Pakistan-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD), Bombay
Urban Industrial League for Development (BUILD), Focus on the Global
South, India, Indo-Pak Youth Forum for Peace, Media for People, Vikas
Adhyayan Kendra (VAK), Akshara, Documentation Research and Training
Center (DRTC), Explorations, Initiative, Institute For Community Organization
and Research (ICOR), Movement for Peace and Justice (MPJ)
AIPSO, SAAPE, SANGAT, PILER
Background Material for Workshop on "Culture
and Everyday Life" - 19 th February 2005
Culture has become a central arena of contestation in the social and
political life of India . The collection of articles reproduced is
significant as they deal with various debates taking place in the field
of culture in India . T.N. Madan deals with the essential characteristics
of Indian Religions. Romila Thapar questions the modern day construct
of monolithic Hinduism and critiques the Aryan theory of Race and similar
rhetoric of the colonial period. She has also emphasised the role of
dissent and protest in ancient India which is imperative to the civilizational
aspect of Indian tradition.
David N Lorenzen analyses the spiritual depth of the medieval bhakti
literature manifested in the persona of Kabir. Martin Fuchs analysis
of Ambedkar's perception of Gautama the Buddha as a margadata there
by the one who showed the way to liberation and not salvation is very
instructive. Rowena Robinson's study of charismatic movement within
the established Church in Goa concludes that it has led to democratisation
of the community.
Rustum Bharucha, in his two essays traces both the construction of
communalism and challenges to the same false consciousness within the
normative forces of everyday life. Kumkum Sangari analyses the oppression
of women by multiple patriarchies of various religious communities.
The research articles reproduced here are intended as background material
for the participants in the Workshop on Culture and Everyday Life organized
by Vikas Adhyayan Kendra to be held in February 13 to 20 at Vagamon
Compendium of Articles on "The National Rural
Employment Guarantee Act" - April 2004 - December 2005
National Consultation on Water for All - 16 th