Vimal Thorat speaks about Dalit Feminism with Teesta Setalvad

Vimal Thorat, Convenor of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) and a former professor of Hindi at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), in this exclusive and detailed interview to Teesta Setalvad speaks of her decades long struggle to ensure that Dalit literature from seven Indian languages (translated into Hindi) is available to MA Part II students at the IGNOU.

The interview is a joint production of Communalism Combat, Newsclick and Hillele TV.

Excerpts from Interview

“There will be no social transformation without the consistent and creative propagation of the fundamental values of equity and non-discrimination.”

“If we want a society where there is camaraderie, fraternity, a sense of justice and equality, then these issues need to be brought in, inculcated and taught from standard 1 onwards; but we don’t have these basic constitutional values in our syllabus. Why?”

“The first all girls school was set up by Savitribai Phule, a radical feminist in Pune in 1848; she challenged gender exclusion and the caste order and yet this narrative is absent from our textbooks.”

“There was a resistance even in the NCERT to ensure the inclusion of Phule, Jyotiba, Savitribai Phule and Ambedkar earlier. The first NDA government removed references to these radical thinkers in 2002; we had to struggle to get them back in 2012 but we are not sure what this government, given its orientation, will do.”

“Due to the strong Dravidian movement in the South, due to  the heritage of rationalism and resistance led by Periyar and Narayan Swamy against Brahmanical hegemony, there was a strong impact in the social sphere and even in the area of education; there is a need for a new awakening in the north.”

“The period in India, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, was also a period wherein atrocities against Dalits in Punjab and Haryana also sharply increased.”

“This reached a terrible climax in 2013, when 42 Dalit girls were raped in Haryana and the organisation that I represent, the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) raised the issue consistently through mass meetings and campaigns. The incidents were shocking; they shook the nation. I recall when we held the Haryana Dalit Mahila Samaan Rally so many other cases came up before us. These should be the issues for the mainstream Indian feminist movement.”

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