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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fwd: [PMARC] Dalit, Feminist and Gay ?

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: koolkamayani <>
Date: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 7:47 AM
Subject: [PMARC] Dalit, Feminist and Gay ?
To: Dalits Media Watch <>

Dear All

In an AMU redux south of the Vindhyas, Indian Institute of Technology (Hyderabad) management sacked gay rights activist and faculty member Ashley Tellis, apparently discomfited by his sexual orientation. The academic, with around 20 years of experience, was shown the door last fortnight less than a year after joining IIT-H. This Article he wrote 2 years back in indian express

Dalit, feminist and gay?

First Published : 13 Dec 2008 11:38:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 13 Dec 2008 12:42:13 PM IST

My father was a Dalit from Amravati in Maharashtra, a bonded slave on the streets of Bombay who was adopted by my maternal grandparents, Roman Catholic once-upon-a-time Brahmins. My mother was a schizophrenic who not supposed to marry at all and was technically his sister but went on to marry him. I am a gay activist. All my life, these three markers — my 'untouchable' father, my 'mad' mother and my 'sick' gayness have haunted me, hindered me, marked me.

My father's caste, his skin colour (he was pitch black; my mother snow white, and I am pitch black and have been racially abused by upper-caste ndians from all religious backgrounds all my life), his dubious origins followed me through the implicitly caste-ridden, racist, prejudiced world of Goan Catholics in which I grew up in Bombay; my mother's mental illness has been used to pity me, pathologise me, explain me, contain me; I am gay and have been harassed as a gay man, by Brahmin and Dalit alike, all my life.Over the years, through a painful processes of recognition, questioning and processing, I brought my gayness, my Dalitness and what became my feminism to speak to one another and my politics is built from a conversation between these three axes of my formation. This has made all three constituencies — gay politics, dalit politics, feminism — deeply uncomfortable with me.Gay politics in India has not even begun to grapple with caste; Dalit politics remains as homophobic as any other politics; feminism in India is lesbophobic and homophobic and implicitly upper caste. I have sought and continue to seek to build bridges between these three kinds of politics, to show the connections between the forms of oppression they are against and to put pretentious NGO terms like 'intersectionality' and 'lateral linkages' in action.As a Delhi University teacher, for example, I surprised Dalit student organisers and Dalit students in general both by my 'colourful' presence at all their struggles against the feudal and casteism-ridden university, students and institutions, as I was a publicly known homosexual and dressed unconventionally.The surprise was not pleasant for them; they did not want me around. Dalits share the general homophobia of the Indian populace — lower and upper caste — with not much difficulty. How are Dalits not able to see the obvious connections in the oppression of gays at the hands of heteropatriarchy and their own suffering of at the hands of Brahminical patriarchy? How is my host at a dinner party being upbraided by his roommate for offering me food in the house and polluting the dishes because I, as a homosexual, had eaten from them different from and similar to alower-caste person polluting an upper-casteperson by his shadow?How do I change this unwillingness to see and learn from each other? How do I fit in? How do I find a place in Dalit politics which is as close to me as my gay politics or my feminist politics and how to make each of these politics learn from each other? What does a same-sex, feminist Dalit critique look like? How do we put into practice a politics based on all the complex histories of the marginalised that form us?Even as I speak from a position of "experience-based authenticity" (as the son of a Dalit, the son of a 'mad' woman, a gay man), that great weapon with which to stop all introspection and debate, I want to build a politics from a recognition of the multiple marginalised histories that form me without the arrogance of the authenticity claim.Each of these marginalised identities teaches me the importance of self-reflexivity, change, the need to listen to other kinds of oppression and learn from them, work with them.I think all of us should reflect on the multi plicity of oppressions and work together rather than become gatekeepers of Dalit or gay or this or that form of politics.

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

The world does not need a war against 'terrorism', it needs a culture of peace based on human rights for all.
-- Irene Khan

I carry a torch in one hand
And a bucket of water in the other:
With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
And put out the flames of Hell
So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
And see the real goal.......
Rabia (Rabi'a Al-'Adawiyya)

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