An Institutional Murder
Students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D) organised a candlelight vigil outside the main gate of the campus in South Delhi on July 16 demanding concrete measures in the alleged suicide case of a 20-year-old B.Tech student Ayush Ashna, who was found dead in his room in institution’s Udaygiri hostel.

The students’ outfits at the institute including the Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle (APPSC), the Ambedkar Students Collective (ASC), and others came together to protest what they called the ‘institutional murder’ of Ashna, a Dalit student.

During the protest, a portrait of Ashna was placed before the candles lit by the students, along with posters of other Dalit, Bahujan, and Adivasi students who had died by suicide at academic institutions in the last few years across India including Rohith Vemula and Darshan Solanki.

The students’ groups demanded that the matter should be highlighted and condemned at all levels and the circumstances around the death of the student should be made clear by the institution and a fair probe should be initiated by the police.

The news about Ashna’s death broke out among the students when they received an email from the institute’s director informing the students of the “sad and untimely demise” of Ashna.

The protesting students alleged that the condolence message from the Dean of Students did not reveal the caste identity of the student and that he is from Scheduled Caste (SC) community. They also maintained that a thorough investigation should be done if he faced caste-based discrimination.

Moreover, Ashna’s family member claimed it to be a murder, “Ashna was asked not to stay in the hostel, and the mess was not providing him with food. Therefore, Didi used to send him food from home. The warden and the Dean of Academics were troubling him. He was not so weak as to commit suicide; he was killed and hanged on a table. His body was sitting with an extension wire wrapped around his throat. The earphones were in his ears but unplugged, and the laptop was open but turned off. He was sitting in a position as if he were watching the laptop”, Bahujan Lives Matter quoted.

EU Resolution on Manipur
Following recent violent clashes in the state of Manipur, India, which since May 2023 have left at least 120 people dead, 50 000 displaced and over 1 700 houses and 250 churches destroyed, European Parliament strongly urges the Indian authorities to put in place all necessary measures to promptly halt the ethnic and religious violence and to protect all religious minorities.

The resolution notes that intolerance towards minority communities has contributed to the current violence and that there have been concerns about politically motivated, divisive policies that promote Hindu majoritarianism in the area. The Manipur state government has also shut down internet connections and severely hindered reporting by the media, while security forces have been implicated in the recent killings, something that has further increased distrust in the authorities.

Members call on the Indian authorities to allow independent investigations to look into the violence, to tackle impunity and to lift the internet ban. They also urge all conflicting sides to cease making inflammatory statements, re-establish trust and play an impartial role to mediate the tensions.

Parliament reiterates its call for human rights to be integrated into all areas of the EU-India partnership, including in trade.

The text was approved by a show of hands.
Faizi S

246 Churches Were Burnt Down
The truth is, somebody strong is playing a game behind the violence in Manipur.

It is a pre-planned attack on churches, Christian organisations and Christians.

By destroying all the structures belonging to one community, somebody wants to wipe out any trace of that community from the history of that place.

Had it been a conflict between two ethnic communities, there would be damage on both sides. But only churches were destroyed.

If it is not a pre-planned attack, how is it that in just two nights, 246 churches were burnt down?

Is the state government turning a blind eye to what is happening to the Christian community?

More than 35,000 army personnel are posted in Manipur. Then there is also the state police and Assam Rifles.

Still, why is it that Christians and churches are being attacked?

It is very cruel. The prime minister's silence is frightening. Why is he silent? Who is forcing him to keep quiet?
Shobha Warrier,

Hollywood Strike
The Businessmen Broke Hollywood. And now they don’t want to pay their employees.

The Hollywood machine—from script writing, to shooting and production, to late-night talk-show PR—has officially ground to a halt.

On July 13, the actors went on strike. The 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA, led by Fran Drescher, stopped working after talks with the studios collapsed. They join the ranks of the Writers Guild of America, whose members (myself included) have been on strike since May.

Two unions have not been on strike together since 1960. The writers’ pickets at shooting locations had already shut down an estimated 80 percent of productions. Now SAG’s strike rules dictate that actors not only can’t shoot or do voice-over work for productions; they also cannot attend red carpets or promote any Motion Picture Association projects—something that was already a challenge, given that the writers’ strike had shut down the nighttime talk shows that were such a staple of the press circuit.

Much like the writers, actors are looking for increases in their residual pay—compensation—once-reliable income that has all but vanished in the pivot to streaming. Actors are also seeking protections against artificial intelligence using their voice and image.
Xochitl Gonzalez,

A Kargil War Warrior
In The husband of one of the two tribal women who were paraded naked and molested in Manipur is a Kargil war veteran. A soldier who fought in Kargil today lamented the incident, saying he protected the country but could not save his wife from humiliation.

The soldier, who served in the Indian Army as a Subedar of the Assam Regiment, added.

‘I fought for the country in the Kargil War and was also in Sri Lanka as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force. I am disappointed that after my retirement, I could not protect my home, my wife and fellow villagers. I am sad and sad’.

The soldier further said, “The police were present but did not take any action. I want severe punishment for all those people who burnt houses and humiliated women.”

The Meitei people account for about 53 percent of Manipur’s population and live mostly in the Imphal Valley, while the tribals, including the Nagas and Kukis, account for 40 percent and live mostly in the hill districts.
Mahen Khanna,

Ambedkar and Phule Return
With the change of regime in Karnataka, the work of overturning the old laws has also started. As soon as the month passes, the Congress government has not only made a complete plan to repeal the conversion law brought by the previous BJP government, but the Karnataka cabinet has also approved it. Soon this proposal will be brought in the assembly. Along with this, the cabinet has also decided to remove chapters on RSS founder KB Hedgewar and Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar from the textbooks of classes 6 to 10 in the state.

Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister HK Patil told reporters after the cabinet meeting that the anti-conversion law brought during the BJP was discussed in the meeting. To cancel it, the government will bring a bill in the upcoming session of the assembly. Significantly, this controversial bill was implemented in 2022 amid opposition from the Congress. Violation of its provisions is a cognizable and non-bailable offence and is punishable with severe punishment.

Explaining the decision related to textbooks, Patil said that apart from removing the text on Hedgewar and Savarkar in Kannada and social science textbooks, other amendments made during the BJP government will also be changed. Social reformer Savitri Bai Phule, Nehru’s letter to Indira and poetry on Ambedkar will again be part of the syllabus. However, it did not answer the question whether there would be a chapter on Tipu Sultan.

At the same time, it will be made mandatory to read the Preamble of the Constitution daily in all government and non-government schools and colleges. Not only this, a picture of the Preamble of the Constitution will be displayed in all government and semi-government offices of the state. Social Welfare Minister HC Mahadevappa said that this will increase the feeling of brotherhood among the youth.
Siddharth Gautam, Delhi

Manual Scavenging
This is the story of a Dalit woman who cleaned dry toilets manually for four decades.

“It felt disgusting when I began cleaning dry toilets. I had no option,” said Santosh, as she remembered the day her mother-in-law took her to a neighbourhood home to clean a dry toilet in Meerut’s Sardhana.

She had been married for barely a week when she was told that this was the work she would be doing. For the next 40 years, Santosh, a member of the Valmiki community, continued to clean dry toilets in Sardhana.

The existence of manual scavengers, who continue to pick human faeces from toilets which have no flush, has been denied by the central government, which claims that “all identified and eligible manual scavengers have been provided assistance for their rehabilitation.”But Santosh’s story tells otherwise. Manual scavenging continues to haunt the Balmiki community people even in Modi’s digital India.

“I have five sons and two daughters. I did this work and raised them… I don’t want them or any other family member to take this up,” she said.

In 1993, India banned dry toilets and their cleaning. And yet, many like Santosh found themselves cleaning toilets manually.

“From each house, I earn a monthly salary of Rs 30-Rs 50 only. If I ask for more, they threaten to fire me. Is it written in the fate of Valmikis that they must do this job? Times have changed; we want to do something different…But we don’t get opportunities”.
Anthony Rozario

Madras Mahajana Sabha
The Madras Mahajana Sabha was instrumental in consolidating the national movement in South India. Men from the professional class like G. Subramania Iyer, Viraraghava Chari, Ananda Charlu, Rangiah Naidu, and Balaji Rao established the Madras Mahajana Sabha on May 16, 1884. Members of the mercantile community also joined it. The Sabha admitted any native above the age of twenty-one who was proposed by two of its members. The Sabha extended its influence by affiliating interested local associations across the Madras Presidency. The local associations were, however, allowed to keep up their character. The Sabha’s objective was to safeguard the public interest. This was carried out through its writings, lectures, public meetings, and memoranda submitted to the government.

The Sabha organised a provincial conference in Madras on December 29, 1884. More than seventy delegates from affiliated associations participated in it. The conference criticised the Indian Councils Act of 1861. It highlighted the inability of the legislature to affect executive decisions. It also pointed out that the nominated nonofficial members had little role in the legislature. The conference instructed the Sabha to prepare a scheme for reforming the legislature. The second provincial conference was held in Madras on 23, 24, and 25 December 1885. Around forty-four delegates attended it. The conference accepted the Sabha’s scheme on legislative reforms. The scheme recommended the election of nonofficial members to the legislative council. The conference also debated the salt and forest laws. Narasimulu Naidu, a delegate who had studied the effects of the forest laws in the Coimbatore district, condemned these laws. He pointed out that the forest administration was a burden on the villagers. The conference demanded an investigation into the operation of the forest and salt laws in South India. Such conferences galvanised the public sphere in the Madras Presidency.

Evaluating the Sabha’s performance, the historian D A Washbrook, in his work The Emergence of Provincial Politics: The Madras Presidency, 1870–1920, writes, "The Mahajana Sabha built up a considerable provincial following and pilloried the government on every possible occasion, ridiculing its inefficiency and demanding elective representation."
Visakh S M, Thiruvananthapuram

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Vol 56, No. 6, Aug 6 - 12, 2023