Monday, January 11, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Need for feminists to reclaim Ambedkar seen

Need for feminists to reclaim Ambedkar seen
Rahi Gaikwad

A thriving corpus of literature and music pertaining to Babasaheb
Ambedkar's thought has been integral to the Ambedkarite or Dalit
movement in Maharashtra. "Dalit feminism" has drawn copiously from
this pool. However, feminist discourse at large has remained ignorant
of the rich and complex interpretations of caste and gender as
conceptualised by the architect of the Constitution, Sharmila Rege,
director, Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women's Studies Centre at Pune
University and a leading feminist sociologist, said during the 6th
Ambedkar Memorial Lecture she delivered at the Tata Institute of
Social Science (TISS) here on Saturday.

"There is an urgency for feminist discourse to turn to Ambedkar. A
category of women undifferentiated by caste does not exist for
feminists to mobilise. Now the pressure is not to talk about gender in
isolation, but to include class, caste and other factors. Therefore,
there is a need to reclaim Dr. Ambedkar's writings as feminist
classics," she said.

Ms. Rege said though feminist academics had been late in turning to
Ambedkar, a culture of booklets and music of Dalit movement has had a
much longer history.

The inseparability of caste and gender in Dr. Ambedkar's
conceptualisation and his interpretations of history and the place and
role of marriage in social construction of graded inequality, provided
an important understanding of the issue of women's emancipation in the
Indian context. "As Ambedkar said, Caste is endogamy and endogamy is
caste. He also brought out how the origin and reproduction of caste
rested on gendered violence."

Giving a real-life example in recent times, Dr. Rege referred to a
Brahmin Parishad held in Pune last year. It passed a resolution to
marry within the caste in "nation interest."

The Hindu Code Bill, as conceived by Dr. Ambedkar, and the intense
opposition to it also offered a great deal of insight into the
governing forces and ideas at play in the wake of struggles for
women's emancipation.

Dr. Rege pointed to a political design of belittling Dr. Ambedkar's
scholarship as a historian, by terming him a political leader and
avoiding any reference to his theories in academics, even though later
sociologists had arrived at similar conclusions. "I have learnt about
Ambedkar not through academics, but by my interactions with the
Phule-Ambedkarites," she said.


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