On the 144th historical day of Farmers protest over included Bahujan, and the struggle equally lead by women farmers Centre for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) and IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized on 22nd April 2021 a Special Lecture on Gender Discrimination & Patriarchy.
The lecture started with the welcome notes of the team members of IMPRI, by Ritika Gupta and Dr Simi Mehta (Moderator). The moderator gave a brief introduction of the chair, speaker, and the discussant (Dr B. Rajeshwari) of this special lecture.
Setting the tone for the lecture Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor of TATA Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, and chair of the special lecture spoke about the Caste Discrimination Strengthens Gender and Patriarchy in India. She very briefly touched upon Gender discrimination & Patriarchy issues since our independence day. In which she elaborated the issues of institutionalization labor, mainly gender discrimination of women based on their sex, labor, birth productivity, etc.
She also explained the impact of politics on caste exploitation and how it is very common in our country for thousands of years. Especially in the context of women from the backward castes or classes, they always face two types of discrimination, such as in the form of Public Patriarchy and Internal Patriarchy. In these types of discrimination, Dalit women always got exploited in various ways by the upper castes of the society. Sometimes in the name of the distribution of the resources, class, organized or unorganized sector of the labor, etc. Caste discrimination can be seen clearly in every religion of our country.
Similarly, the moderator very eloquently explained that the intellectual class of the society makes the policies without acknowledging the concerns of the labor class. Likewise, in the structure of the economic pyramid, the upper class always comes first place and ignores the marginalized class with the last place. This is considered as the stratification of disparity. At last, she emphasized that there is no doubt the heinous nature of Casteism, as it hits badly on the constitutional values of our nation, in that sense it could be considered as an enemy of inclusive development.
The speaker Dr Lata Pratibha Madhukar is an Independent Researcher, Social activist, Writer, and Convener of Bahujan Sanvad Social Network. She started her lecture along with the contemporary issues of Casteism along with some personal experiences.
In this lecture, the speaker has mainly focused on women’s leadership and contribution, and how it brings them to come forward in the realization of knowledge, resistance, and communal harmony. She also emphasized that in caste politics, how they push back in the unorganized labor, farming and deprived of the education system, etc.
Annihilation of the Caste
Dr Lata Pratibha Madhukar pointed out that caste discrimination strengthened gender and patriarchy in our country and the annihilation of the caste is only the solution. She referred to the unpublished paper of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar and expressed her concern that how the Indian Social theorists ignored the idea given by him, which denotes only a failure of our diverse society in delivering justice on the same.
She spoke about the need for a homogeneous form of Feminism and shared the latest example of Shaheen Bagh and how it flourished like a sunflower, which also has broken the gender stereo of the socio-political movement. She also explained that every religion has issues of Gender and Patriarchy since the birth of the child. In that sense, the conditions of sex workers are miserable, as they bear the pain of discrimination in various ways, which diminishes their human dignity every time.
Speaker also explained how the women of our country are mainly treated on the four bases of caste, religion, gender, class. The fifth basis is discrimination on power. How the upper class decides the destiny of an educated girl from the lower class with the brutal atrocities, which presents the grievous inequality.
In that sense, it is comprehended that through inclusion, reservations, and respecting the marginalized Bahujan women and men’s epistemology, traditional wisdom, artistic and aesthetic knowledge as being artisans can shape Bahujan feminism distinctively.
The speaker emphasized while addressing this part and said that in our country the caste discrimination is visible, but we do not want not to consider it. Every day we hear the news of caste discrimination but we do not present our concern on such issues, because of the Brahmanical force obstacles knowingly or unknowingly.
Ambedkar – Sovereignty, Fraternity, and Secularism
Similarly, the idea of Sovereignty, Fraternity, and Secularism introduced by Baba Ambedkar needs to be recognized as true manners. As our country is very diverse and disparate in various aspects, it could be relevant to also follow the ideas of Buddhism along with the constitutional values.
Henceforth, we comprehend how caste, gender, patriarchy are interlinked, and this intersectionality with culture and religion makes the most marginalized sections more vulnerable like Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim, transgender women, etc. In that sense, it can be understood that how the black’s lives matter- movement also compels us to think about the lives of the Dalit, Bahujan, Adivasi, and minority, etc.
The speaker also explained through Bahujan Feminist theory and practice while introducing this intersectionality. How the recognition of identity plays a vital role in determining the gender at the birth and the celebration of the child? Ironically, gender discrimination decides sweetness also.
We saw that Casteism or class brings a huge social and economic disparity in the society while the distribution of resources. So, there is a need for the redistribution of resources feasibly. Similarly, on the aspect of representation, it needs to ensure that how can a true representation of women of all classes in any movement.
Bahujan feminist theory also hits the aspects of belonging to Indian Casteism. In that sense, the economic-political status of the person also is denied in India, because your caste is only considered as your ultimate identity. Indigenous roots are also hit by Casteism because it brings uncertainty before the marginalized class of the society. It is related to their identity as original people and property rights (Jal, Jungle & Zameen, etc).
Similarly, the role and status in power also determine the decision-making in Indian Casteism. As it has been seen that in every religion the person from the upper caste only holds the superior authority and he can take the decision according to their vested interest. He does not care about the interest of others in gaining his profits at all.
In this context, we can say that identity and self-respect, recognition and redistribution, the Right to livelihood, and the right to live with dignity are major strings in the discourse of intersectionality, identity and standpoint theories, etc.
Revisiting her Story and History through Bahujan Feminists Lenses.
In this context, the speaker spoke about the history of the Feminist movement in our past. How it is discussed by Mahatma Jyotiba Phule in his book ‘Gulamgiri’. She also said that the Bahujan feminist movement faced many struggles in the view of patriarchy and Brahmanism. Also, Manusmriti itself presents how patriarchy plays a vital role in deciding the gender and sexuality of women in their caste and suppressing them.
On the aspects of Bahujan Feminism, the speaker discussed the detailed chronology of the Feminist movement in India. She shared the struggles of Savitri Phule, Fatima Sheikh, Tarabai Shinde, Pandita Ramabai, and Dr Rukhmabai Save, etc. How these women represented a new example in the 19th century in the field of Bahujan Feminism and hit against gender discrimination and Brahmanical Patriarchy by their endeavors, and they also have broken the trend of Brahmanical Feminism in true sense.
The speaker elaborated on the various types and nature of Feminism, such as Liberal, Marxist, Socialist, Radical, and Black Feminism. Dalit Feminism and Bahujan Feminism etc.
Bahujan Feminism: Extension of Dalit Feminism or the other side of the coin
In this part, the speaker gave her arguments about how Dalit and Bahujan Feminism is different or the same? As both have been inspired by Phule, Shahu, Iyothee Thas, Narayan Guru, Ayankali, Periyar and Ambedkar, etc.
Where Dalit Feminism believes in the Navayana Buddhism revolution, the Bahujan concept is originated from Buddhism itself. Similarly, Dalit Feminism is against Manusmriti, Veda, Virat Purush and opposing graded inequality, whereas Bahujan Feminism is against Manusmriti and believes in Phule’s Satyshodhka Dharma.
Likewise, the legacy of Phule- Ambedkar was followed by the Dalit community, Dalit women. Also, the renaissance because of leaving Hinduism made Dalit women self-reliant. In this context, the urge of learning, taking education, and entering into each sphere of education became more relevant. But in Bahujan Feminism, as Bahujan women are scattered into several castes, also despite the Satyashodhak movement and Non- Brahmin movement in India Bahujan from all religions did not come into the renaissance.
Also, Dalit Feminism stands on Bahujan women’s contribution claim it, and take legacy ahead. But Bahujan men and women boycotted mostly and kept women away from gaining knowledge. As result, Bahujan feminists’ struggles in the contemporary era are different from Dalit women. Lastly, Dalit Feminism is established today as a strong distinct stream of feminism, but Bahujan Feminism is still immature, defining itself, but its foundation gives a very isolated feature than general feminism and Dalit feminism.
In this part, Dr Lata advocated some other narratives related to the caste discrimination and Patriarchy of Indian Society. The Dalit Women Bahujan Feminism is two different sides of the coin of Phule- Ambedkarite Feminism. Both Feminisms claim the same ideology, but their standpoints, locations are different. Also, both are against Brahmanical patriarchy, graded inequality, and Manusmriti, etc.
The speaker also presented that the debate about Dalit Feminism and standpoint theory, Subaltern Studies and Dalit Women’s Narratives, etc. Dalit Feminism itself separating Bahujan (Shudras/OBC) women, on the level of their backwardness in the Renaissance. In this sense, among many elite and Dalit feminists have common- uncommon views, conceptions, misconceptions about Bahujan (OBC).
Similarly, the Heroes and sheroes both were among Shudra Varanas in the 19th Century, who did not only come for reforms but brought a total change in the pattern of slavery Bahujan of Feminist Movement in the pioneering period. In this context, they were not recognized because the history was written from a Brahmanical perspective.
Bahujan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhay
Throughout her lecture, the Speaker talked about the concept of Bahujan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhay in society. In this context, it can be understood how the foundation of Buddhism and Jainism by Tathagata Gautam Buddha and Vardhman Mahaveer Jain (Tirthankara) opposed the Vedas and Brahaman Varnashrama in ancient India. Before 3500 years itself, Buddhism had declared the concept of Bahujan Hitay, Bahujan Sukhay which presents the idea of welfare of masses and not for the interest of elite classes. No doubt, it is a need of the hour for us to follow this idea to tackle the class conflicts in society.
The discussant Dr B. Rajeshwari asked the speaker, how do the castes strengthen or reinforce the other identities.
Adding to the discussion Dr Vibhuti Patel also stated that there should be a solidarity angle in any Dalit movement, and then it can only reach its objective of universalism. So, it is necessary to enlarge the sensitivity towards everyone in society.
Also, Dr Simi Mehta shared some questions of the auditions were- Was there any equality between men and women in ancient Indian society? Another question was – Is there any society which not only gives equality but also exercises it in the true sense?
At last, the speaker concluded her lecture with the urge of homogeneous and collective leadership for the Feminist movement.
Acknowledgment: Priyanka Walter is a research intern at IMPRI.