Sangh Samachar

Tsundur massacre: 21 get life sentence

Posted in caste by ravi on August 2, 2007

This from The Hindu:

Twenty one persons have been sentenced to life imprisonment and 35 others one year’s rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs. 2,000 each in the sensational Tsundur massacre case that rattled the nation. Eight Dalit persons were hacked to death in broad daylight on August 6, 1991, with over 400 persons chasing them on the road and along the bund of an irrigation canal, in Tsundur village of Guntur district … the judge acquitted 123 out of the 179 accused persons.

More from The Hindu:

It was for the final judgment that Mandu Tulasamma, a widow at Ambedkar Colony here, has been waiting with bated breath. Ever since she lost her two sons in the brutal carnage against Dalits unleashed by persons belonging to upper castes on August 6, 1991 in the village, she has been waiting for justice to be meted out to her.

And when Special Judge Anis pronounced the verdict, Tulasamma broke down. Quickly gaining her composure, she angrily said: I was denied justice, as the guilty have been let off. The perpetrators of the heinous crime would still roam freely in the village. Recalling the events on the fateful day, she said: There was no trace of my younger son the whole day. The next day, someone said that they had seen his body in a canal. My elder son Narayana broke down on hearing the news and he died of heart attack.

Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi district secretary K. Krishna said at least 100 of the accused were let off and his organisation would appeal in the High Court seeking justice.

Here’s something from the PUCL on the tardy progress made in this case. VB Rawat sets the massacre in context in this Sabrang article:

Just a year before the Tsundur massacre, the then Prime Minister VP Singh had announced the implementation of the Mandal Commission report on August 7, 1990, which the Hindu upper castes vociferously opposed. They took to the streets. The myth of Hindu tolerance stood exposed. Mandal may not have helped the Dalits but they were in fact the first to support it. During this process, as in other parts of the country, Andhra saw many Dalit groups joining hands with the OBCs. There were talks of a grand Bahujan alliance even in the villages.

Outraged by the growing self-assertiveness of Dalits, the upper castes were itching for an opportunity to teach the downtrodden a lesson. And the Tsundur massacre, among many other mass killings of Dalits, was an expression of this pent-up fury. Today, 13 years after the ghastly massacre, the Tsunduru Dalits face a challenge not only from the powerful Reddys locally but also their masters occupying powerful positions in the state. Andhra Pradesh politics has long been dominated by two powerful castes. The Reddys, who have ruled for the most part since Andhra came into being, and the Kammas, who formed the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to counter Reddy domination. Reddys are the dominant landowning community in Andhra Pradesh and Dalits have been the biggest victims of their feudal fantasies.

Here’s an account of the massacre, excerpted from Rawat’s article:

The government of Andhra Pradesh was under Reddy rule when the Tsundur massacre took place. Though the then chief minister, Janardhan Reddy happened to be Christian, a different faith makes no difference. Indians take their caste along with them when they shift their loyalties to other holy books and seers. Reddy’s government tried to quietly bury the gory incident but this did not work.

In all, nine people died in the August 6, 1991 attack. Their bodies were cut into pieces, put in gunny bags and thrown into Tungbhadra drainage as well as adjacent canals. Those who died were: Jaladi Mathaiah (40), Jaladi Imaneul (38), Jaladi Isaac (25), Mallela Subba Rao (35), A. Rajamohan (25), Sunkuru Samson (28), D. Jayaraj (30), Mundru Ramesh (21) and Mundru Parisudha Rao (35). Among the injured were Sambaiah (50), P. Jakraiah (52) and D. Dhanraj (25).

All the Dalits fled from the village following the killings. The murders were so brutal that Mundru Parisudha Rao, elder brother of Mundru Ramesh, who went to see the bodies at the hospital in Tenali, was so shocked that he died of a heart attack. A Dalit doctor who performed the post-mortem examination on the bodies in Tenali was said to have been so traumatised by the condition of the bodies that he later committed suicide. Many relatives became psychologically disturbed.

A survivor, P. Jakraiah, who is now around 75 years of age, is paralysed and has a memory problem. It is difficult for him to narrate the incidents that took place in 1991. When a badly injured Jakraiah had asked for water, they (Reddys) urinated in his hand. Even today, 13 years later, he gets agitated as he recalls that time.

Another Dalit who survived the lynching mob is D. Dhanraj. His story of survival is that of a brave and valiant man. A witness to the murder of five others, Dhanraj himself was beaten mercilessly. His legs and hands were broken and he was brought to a banana orchard owned by Munanaga Reddy, a physically disabled person. Dhanraj alleges that since Munanaga was incapable of running he could not participate in the mass lynching. Hence, to facilitate his participation in the carnage, Dhanraj was brought to Munanaga’s orchard near the canal. When a semi-conscious Dhanraj pleaded for water, those guarding him urinated in his hand. Shortly, his captors went to the nearby bridge across the canal, leaving Dhanraj in the field. A parched Dhanraj crawled towards the canal. Jumping into the canal, he was carried away with the current. About a kilometre downstream he heard the voices of his neighbours and some Dalit women who had come in search of their men and he cried out for help. They brought Dhanraj home and then took him to Tenali draped in a saree because the Reddys refused to allow any men to leave Tsundur even for medical treatment.

Also see: Hidden Apartheid: Caste Discrimination against India’s Untouchables

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Intro to the Hindu(tva) American Foundation

[Excerpts from an amicus curiae brief filed in the Superior Court of the state of California (Sacramento county) opposing Hindutva attempts to saffronise school textbooks in California]

  1. The United States of America is home to one of the strongest overseas networks of the Sangh Parivar, with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) being the main affiliates. The VHPA’s projects include the creation of the Hindu Students Council which since its founding spawned several committed Hindutva activists like Mihir Meghani, the founder and President of the Hindu American Foundation. The efforts to rewrite textbooks in California by the HAF, and its allies the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF, an educational project of HSS) and Vedic Foundation (VF, an Austin, Texas based organization with close ties to the VHPA) are related directly to efforts by the broader network of Hindutva organizations based in the U.S. coordinating with the India-based RSS. Specifically, the textbook campaign of the Hindutva organizations in the U.S. is linked to largely unsuccessful efforts by the RSS to do the same in India. Several key players involved in the textbook effort are also leaders and officials of various Hindutva organizations. Ved Nanda, advisor to the HEF is the founder and supreme leader of the HSS, which created the HEF. (See Charts detailing key organizations and individual ties between the HAF, HEF, and VF and Hindutva Groups, attached as Exhibits A and B, respectively).
  2. It is important to point out that the current textbook efforts of Hindutva organizations in the U.S. bear more than a coincidental relationship to similar efforts in India. Starting in 2002, when the Sangh Parivar’s political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was in power in India, the Sangh Parivar made an abortive attempt to doctor school textbooks in India. This effort was defeated by a coalition of scholars, intellectuals and secular activists in India and elsewhere. The interventions in California are a continuation of the Sangh Parivar’s failed attempts in India; as a HEF volunteer proudly proclaimed in a recent gathering of Sangh Parivar activists from all over the world: Through the Hindu Education Foundation run by the RSS in California, we have succeeded in correcting the misleading information in text books for primary and secondary classes.
  3. The seeds for the current controversy were sown in 2003, when the Hindu Students Council (HSC) — a project of the VHPA — organized the Dharma Conference. A large number of U.S. based Hindutva luminaries participated along with the BJP’s Human Resources and Development Minister, Murli Manohar Joshi. Mr. Joshi led the efforts by the RSS to write new school textbooks, produced by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), with highly offensive anti-minority propaganda. These social studies texts produced by the NCERT, under the direction of Mr. Joshi and the RSS, badly distorted Indian history with arguments and omissions shaped by the RSS’s Hindu supremacist ideology. The Dharma Conference of 2003 led to the creation of a new organization called Educators Society for the Heritage of India (ESHI), which itself held a conference in 2004 to mobilize supporters from the VHPA’s Hindu University.
  4. A parallel initiative,, launched an unsuccessful textbook rewrite campaign in Virginia. This organization headed by S. Kalyanaraman and Abhinav Dwivedi, both advisors to the HEF, used the above-mentioned NCERT textbooks as its resource, with a publication prepared by the VHP’s UK branch titled Explaining Hindu Dharma – A guide for Teachers Hindu-International’s website also includes images of the cover page of the textbook and the VHP publication.
  5. The HSC/VHPA co-sponsored a Dharma Summit with the Hindu International Council Against Defamation (HICAD) in August 2005. This event served as the immediate impetus behind the launch of the HEF and VF’s campaign in September 2005. At this conference, Hindutva luminaries, including RSS Chief K. Sudarshan participated and launched the Hindu Council Initiative. This initiative explicitly ties the India efforts of the Hindutva movement to efforts in the U.S. – as evidenced in this excerpt from a report prepared by the Hindu Press International, the media wing of a publication entitled Hinduism Today which supports the VF’s textbook efforts:
    • Youth education and guidance were foremost on most speakers’ minds, with a secondary issue being the treatment Hinduism receives in the dozens of textbooks used in American schools and colleges…. Textbooks were rapidly prepared to cover these new courses, which have been incorporated in most schools. However, the books have given shabby treatment to Hinduism. Different speakers explained how to approach the local school board at the time the books were up for adoption, how to influence the selection and even future editions of the books. There was, many noted, a lot of room for improvement! Rajiv Malhotra explained at length the way in which the American and European academics had thoroughly distorted the understanding of Hinduism and ways Hindu communities and leaders can correct this situation.” Hindu Press International, August 16, 2005.
  6. In support of the HEF/VF efforts in California, ESHI also contacted Prof. J.S. Rajput, former President of the National Council for Educational Research (NCERT), India, to write about the efforts of textbook corrections in India. Rajput’s central role in the NCERT textbook rewrite campaign led by the RSS was widely condemned not only for the crude insertion of RSS propaganda into textbooks, but also for harassment of NCERT scholars unwilling to toe the RSS line.
  7. The above evidence clearly gives the lie to the plaintiffs’ denials on the Hindutva links of the HEF, VF and HAF, and establishes the motives behind their involvement in the California textbook adoption process.
  8. We now address in detail the plaintiffs claims on the nature of the HAF. The HAF’s founder and president Mihir Meghani began his career in sectarian politics as an early leader of the Hindu Students Council (HSC). He has been a member of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), and served the VHP-America as a governing council member and volunteer coordinator. His views on Hindutva are expressed most eloquently in his essay, Hindutva: The Great Nationalist Ideology hosted on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s website. In the essay, Meghani writes: The future of Bharat is set. Hindutva is here to stay. It is up to the Muslims whether they will be included in the new nationalistic spirit of Bharat.
  9. The above evidence, drawn from Hindutva websites, clearly establishes Meghani’s association with the Sangh Parivar and the Hindutva cause. Evidently, the plaintiffs’ claims that the HAF headed by Mihir Meghani has no political agenda and is not affiliated with Hindutva groups in India are patently false. Occasionally, the HAF has also come out openly in support of Hindutva ideologues; the denouncing of a congressional resolution against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi (for his role in the killing of nearly 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat in March 2002) as Hinduphobic is a case in point. Given the HAF’s links with the Sangh Parivar (which has repeatedly been condemned by human rights organizations for violence against religious minorities, its forceful condemnation of religiously-based violence is utterly hypocritical and is no more than an attempt to pass off as a human rights organization amongst well-meaning but gullible Hindus and non-Hindus in the US.
  10. The plaintiffs further claim that the HAF has forcefully condemned caste violence, but the timing of this is nakedly cynical. For instance, the HAF’s first report on Hindu human rights, and its numerous press releases until December 2005 avoided any mention of caste violence caste violence. It was only after the HAF’s active involvement in the California textbook controversy and after it was called out in public for its links with the Sangh Parivar that it suddenly woke up to the plight of Dalits and issued a few token declarations. In the context of the California textbooks, the HAF has sought to replace Dalit with the condescending Harijan, and elide mentions of caste (or downplay its severity) in the textbooks. For instance, the plaintiffs claim that for the most part, people could eat with anyone from a different class. Given the context, we presume they meant caste rather than class, in which case they seem to be blissfully divorced from reality. During mid-day meals (a government scheme to provide free lunch to poor children), there have been instances of Dalit school children being segregated from upper-caste children, Dalit children drinking from separate pitchers, and Dalit cooks facing resistance from upper-caste parents [one of whom threw sand in a meal cooked by a Dalit woman]. Dalit children who tried to inter dine with their upper caste classmates have also been denied food and chased out of school.
  11. Such practices aptly demonstrate upper caste aversion to the polluting presence of Dalits, one of the fundamental beliefs undergirding caste prejudice. As one upper caste parent observed: Today the government says that you must eat food cooked by a Dalit. Tomorrow they will ask what is wrong with a Dalit marrying an upper-caste person. We must curb this at the initial stage … We have preserved our caste traditions for hundreds of years. Why should we break it now?
  12. Far from being a human rights organization concerned with the rights violation of Hindus, the HAF has functioned more as a human rights front for the Sangh Parivar with its discourse of Hindu victimhood, obfuscation of the centrality of caste in Indian society and its comical attempts at denying the Dalits their chosen Dalit identity.


[1] The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is the religious wing of the RSS. Several VHP units were established in countries outside India to facilitate coordination and unity of purpose between themselves and with the VHP unit in India. The VHP website lists VHP of America as one of the VHP units outside India.

[2] According to one Hindutva website, HSS is started in the USA and other parts of the world to continue what RSS is doing in India. The RSS website says: The Sangh’s full name is Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (H.S.S.); only in Kenya, it is Bharatiya Swayamsevak Sangh and in Myanmar, it is Sanatan Dharma Swayamsevak Sangh.

[3] Hindu Students Council was started by the VHPA in 1987 as documented on the VHPA’s webpage here and here. Hindu Students Council was the primary organiser for the Dharma Conference 2003 as quoted in Tanmaya Kumar Nanda, Dharma for the new generation. Meghani’s role as founder of the University of Michigan chapter of the HSC in 1991, is documented here: Searching for Our Roots.

[4] According to Nandini Sundar: “The NCERT social science/history textbooks are not only shockingly low on both grammar and fact, but also reflect many of the RSS’s pet themes – e g, the urge to prove that Indian civilisation is synonymous with Hinduism, which in turn is synonymous with the ‘Vedic civilization.’ This Vedic civilisation is portrayed as the fount of all things great in the world, while all the evils that beset India are traced to foreigners – Muslim invaders and Christian missionaries.”

[5] “Rakeshji and KalyanRamanji did a lot of research in finding the many references to support comments made on the contents of text book. Initially ‘A teachers guide on Hinduism’ a UK approved text book prepared by a committee headed by VHPA, UK and the NCERT social studies books of India, released in India during year 2003 were used to prepare the comments.”

[6] HICAD is an entity founded and led by Ved Chaudhary, who is also a founding member of ESHI, which he leads along with Kanchan Bannerjee, co-founder of HSC and the VHPA’s “Vice President for Youth.”

[7] Lakshmi Ravu, Report on the Dharma Summit 2005: “Some of the most important Hindu leaders in the world were present for this event. Including: Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji (the inspiration behind the Dharma Summit, and convener of the event), Sri Chidananda Muniji (the creator of the Hindu Encyclopedia project), Sri Bodhinatha Veylanswami (Publisher of Hinduism Today Magazine) and several of his sannyasis, Sri K. S. Sudarshan (leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the largest Hindu service organization on earth), Dr. Pranav Pandya (leader of the several million members of the Gayatri Pariwar), Sri Swami Jyotirmayananda (Ramakrishna Order), Dr. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastriji), Dr. Frank Gaetano Morales (the well-respected American Hindu intellectual and philosopher), Sri Steven Knapp (a prolific American Hindu author), and many others. These Hindu lights and dignitaries all filled the first row of the auditorium. Several Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh leaders were also present.”

[8] Rajput ran a reign of terror, stated Anil Sadgopal, BJVJ (Bharat Jan Vidyan Jatha – an all-India peoples’ science network) vice-president and education professor at Delhi University. Nobody dared speak his mind at his meetings. People at NCERT refer to that period as a bawander (whirlpool), a toofan (cyclone) that has now hopefully passed. So many who asserted themselves were abruptly transferred. See also Communalization of Education, The History Textbook Controversy: An Overview, Mridula Mukherjee and Aditya Mukherjee, Professors of History, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, 22 December, 2001 (If this is not bad enough the NCERT has appointed to its Executive Committee and Departmental Committee … a self proclaimed RSS activist whose only claim to fame is his confession that he killed a Muslim woman during a riot); Hindutva Ire, Praful Bidwai.

[9] According to the Human Rights Watch: The Hindu organizations most responsible for violence against Christians are the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal,and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS). According to a former RSS member, these groups cannot be divorced from the ruling BJP party: “There is no difference between the BJP and RSS. BJP is the body. RSS is the soul, and the Bajrang Dal is the hands for beating. The groups most directly involved in the violence against Muslims include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that heads the Gujarat state government. Collectively, they are known as the sangh parivar, or family of Hindu nationalist organizations.

[10] The HAF’s first annual survey of human rights, released on Jul 13, 2005, makes no mention of the violation of Dalits’ rights. Its second report, released on Jun 27, 2006, admits that it “does not cover the important human rights issues that Hindus face within other parts of India including caste discrimination, women’s issues, terrorism, and discriminatory laws.” The HAF’s indifference to the daily violations of the human rights of 160 millions Dalits in India is hardly surprising, given the Sangh Parivar’s celebration of caste as a precious gift.

[11] See The future of mid-day meals. By and large, Dalits still continue to be served beverages in separate glasses (reserved exclusively for them) to assuage upper caste sentiments. This practice is commonly referred to as the two-tumbler system.

[12] Vile as these practices sound, in the nineteenth century “Dalits had to beat a drum to signal their arrival so the brahmin knew where to hide or how to protect his food. The brahmin is most vulnerable to pollution when he is eating, so if a shadow of a dalit fell on his food, the food too became Untouchable.” On occasion Dalits had to wear a spittoon so that his spittle did not fall on his surroundings and he could never stand in the way of a wind that might carry his smell or breath to a brahmin. In a Jataka story (377. III. 154), a Brahmin cries, “Curse you, ill omened candala [dalit], get to leeward” (Sagarika Ghose, “The dalit in India – caste and social class,” Social Research, Spring 2003.)

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US Congressional resolution on untouchability

Posted in caste by ravi on July 25, 2007

[The resolution passed the House of Representatives on July 23, 2007. Source: Dalit Freedom Network]

Whereas the Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law released a report in February 2007 that describes caste discrimination against India’s Untouchables based on in-depth investigations and the findings of Indian governmental and non-governmental organizations on caste-based abuses;

Whereas the United States and the Republic of India have entered into an unprecedented partnership;

Whereas the July 18, 2005, Joint Statement between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that, [a]s leaders of nations committed to the values of human freedom, democracy, and rule of law, the new relationship between India and the United States will promote stability, democracy, prosperity, and peace throughout the world [. . . and] it will enhance our ability to work together to provide global leadership in areas of mutual concern and interest;

Whereas caste is the socioeconomic stratification of people in South Asia based on a combination of work and heredity;

Whereas the Untouchables, now known as the Dalits, and the people of the forest tribes of India, called Tribals, who together number approximately 200,000,000 people, are the primary victims of caste discrimination in India;

Whereas discrimination against the Dalits and Tribals has existed for more than 2,000 years and has included educational discrimination, economic disenfranchisement, physical abuse, discrimination in medical care, religious discrimination, and violence targeting Dalit and Tribal women;

Whereas Article 17 of the Constitution of India outlaws untouchability;

Whereas despite numerous laws enacted for the protection and betterment of the Dalits and Tribals, they are still considered outcasts in Indian society and are treated as such; moreover, in practice, Dalits and Tribals are frequently denied equal treatment under the law;

Whereas Dalit women suffer both caste and gender discrimination as a result of the deficient administration of justice and are often raped and attacked with impunity;

Whereas the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has declared that many of the reported cases of atrocities against Dalits and Tribals end in acquittals;

Whereas, despite the fact that many Dalits do not report crimes for fear of reprisals by the dominant castes, national police statistics averaged over the past five years by the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes show that 13 Dalits are murdered every week, five Dalits’ homes or possessions are burnt every week, six Dalits are kidnapped or abducted every week, three Dalit women are raped every day, 11 Dalits are beaten every day and a crime is committed against a Dalit every 18 minutes;

Whereas many Dalit girls are forced to become temple prostitutes who are then unable to marry and may be auctioned to urban brothels, and many women trafficked in India are Dalit women;

Whereas low-caste unborn females are targeted for abortions;

Whereas according to Human Rights Watch and India’s official National Family Health Survey, most Dalits and Tribals are among those poorest of the poor living on less than $1 per day; most of India’s bonded laborers are Dalits; and half of India’s Dalit children are undernourished, 21 percent are severely underweight, and 12 percent die before their 5th birthday;

Whereas Dalits and other low-caste individuals often suffer from discrimination and segregation in government primary schools leading to low enrollment, high drop-out, and low literacy rates, perhaps linked to a perception that Dalits are not meant to be educated, are incapable of being educated, or if educated, would pose a threat to village hierarchies and power relations;

Whereas the Dalits and Tribals maintain higher illiteracy rates than non-Dalit populations; and

Whereas the HIV/AIDS epidemic is India is massive and Dalits and Tribals are significantly affected by HIV/AIDS: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that, as the leaders of the United States and the Republic of India have expressed commitment to the values of human freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, it is in the interests of the United States to address the problem of the treatment of the Dalits and Tribals in India in order to better meet mutual social development and human rights goals by–

(1) raising the issues of caste discrimination, violence against women, and untouchability through diplomatic channels both directly with the Government of India and within the context of international bodies;

(2) encouraging the United States Agency for International Development to ensure that the needs of Dalit organizations are incorporated in the planning and implementation of development projects;

(3) ensuring that projects that positively impact Dalit and Tribal communities, especially Dalit women, are developed and implemented;

(4) ensuring that cooperative research programs targeting rural health care, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and rural technology contain proper focus on the Dalits and Tribals;

(5) ensuring that anyone receiving funding in India from the United States Government–

(A) is aware that it is United States Government policy that caste discrimination is unacceptable, and that the United States is committed to eliminating it; and

(B) treat all people equally without engaging in caste discrimination;

(6) ensuring that–

(A) qualified Dalits are in no way discouraged from working with organizations receiving funding in India from the United States Government, and that transparent and fair recruitment, selection, and career development processes are implemented, with clear objective criteria; and

(B) procedures exist to detect and remedy any caste discrimination in employment conditions, wages, benefits or job security for anyone working with organizations receiving funding in India from the United States Government;

(7) encouraging United States citizens working in India to avoid discrimination toward the Dalits in all business interactions; and

(8) discussing the issue of caste during bilateral and multilateral meetings, including congressional delegations.

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The one-eyed twice-borns

Posted in caste, Hindu American Foundation, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on June 19, 2007

S Anand makes a very pertinent point in his recent Tehelka article.

Confronting the extremist fringe of the Right comes easy to the liberal-secular set but it ignores the more widespread casteist slurs by other sections of society.

This has been one of my pet peeves for some time now. It is true not just in India, but also in the United States. Academic conferences on secularism are relatively frequent, but caste continues to be relatively invisible. While this is particularly shameful of desi academics (who ought to know better), their white counterparts don’t fare much better either. For instance, in a lengthy article expressing her Fears for Democracy in India, Martha Nussbaum only makes three cursory references to caste and none at all to Ambedkar. As if caste and Ambedkar had/have little to do with democracy in India!

In the wake of the California textbook controversy, where the Sanghis insisted on referring to Dalits as Harijans (a moniker hated by the Dalits), I couldn’t help wondering how much of this brazen arrogance had to do with the lack of discussion on caste in the diaspora. I did a cursory search on the websites of several South Asia programs (a partial list of programs is available here), and found that caste wasn’t on their agenda. An occasional event here and there on caste (for instance, a talk by Sainath when he is on a US tour), but no prolonged, substantive engagement with caste.

In recent years, Title-VI funded programs in Middle Eastern Studies that don’t toe the official Zionist line have come under fire (see articles in The Nation and Counterpunch), and Palestinian advocacy has become increasingly risky even within the academia (see articles by Madiha Tahir and David Green) — the recent denial of tenure to Norman Filkelstein is a case in point. Are the Title-VI programs on South Asia similarly vulnerable to ideological pressures from their funders? Unlikely, since the neoconservative hawks that control American foreign policy are most likely indifferent to caste; the Christian fundamentalists amongst them might even be perversely interested for they see in the vicious system of caste an opportunity to salvage some souls.

How then does one explain the paucity of research on caste in the South Asia programs in the US academia? I don’t have a definite answer, but the caste composition of faculty in such programs might be a factor. The silence of Hindutva groups like the Hindu American Foundation (whose annual reports on Hindu Human Rights are notoriously silent on caste) is understandable, but that of liberal academia is not. As Martin Luther King rightly observed:

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

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