• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Jatindia: a Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

P1010082

Rohith Vemula, acrylic on paper

We are so cut off from those targeted by our governments and their corporate bedfellows, and our histories are so saturated with unspoken atrocities, that there are not enough elite hands in this world to participate in this vision I describe below. And it would also mean discarding monocrop patriotism with a more diverse one because there is no one symbolic flag in which to pack it in.

But nevertheless, imagine a scene with thousands of protestors in today’s caste-and-capitalist India, taking to the street and chanting slogans of accountability, both from their own government—past and present—and more importantly their own citizen hearts, waving not one symbolic, patriotic flag, but many, each with a different face of exclusion at the heart of it.

A citizen-sea of twice-born faces waving faces of citizen-exclusion. Faces of those who have paid and are continuing to pay the ultimate price for confronting power with truth at various times in the country’s history. Resisting religious and economic fundamentalism and asserting their human right to dignity, inclusion, equality and justice—the stuff we take so much for granted. The only difference between them is that the hand that waves the flag is a beneficiary of the world’s largest democracy….I mean, the world’s largest hypocrisy (i.e., Jatindia, my name for our nation of jatis/castes.)

The faces on the flags waving in this hypocritical Delhi breeze would belong to the oppressed, the excluded, the other—Dalits, Adivasis, occupied Kashmiris, india’s northeasterners, and others. Their exclusion is squeezed between the old and the new, between the dogmas of religious scriptures and state sponsored terrorism. Anyone who questions and resists these dogmas is speedily labeled with a T word, as a “terrorist” or a “traitor.” Despite that, today people are taking to the streets and questioning the irrational hand of authority.

“My birth is my fatal accident,” wrote Rohith Vemula. He was the 26-year-old son of a landless Dalit mother, who hanged himself in a student hostel room on January 17th, 2016. A research scholar at the University of Hyderabad (HCU) and a student activist of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA), he dreamed of one day becoming “a writer of science, like Carl Sagan.” That dream is gone now, but the suicide letter he wrote and left behind for us will not only send chills up your spine and make you weep; it might well change the course of Indian caste history, because it exposes the plight of those born Dalits in India like nothing that came before it.

Suicides among bright Dalit scholars are not a new phenomenon. National Crime Research Bureau surveys from the 1950s up until last year reveal that caste atrocities that drive these suicides have risen from 33,507 in 2001 to 47,064 in 2014. According to writer and democratic rights activist Anand Teltumbde, “The reason can be traced to the social Darwinist ethos of neoliberalism which reversed the welfarist paradigm created by Keynesian economics. Its social implications contra-intuitively resonate with the upsurge of Hindutva forces in the country, evidenced by the BJP’s rise from a marginal position in the 1980s to be the contender for political power at the center….The strategy of the hindutva camp is to brahmanize common folks of the dalits and to demonize the radical dalits. As dissenting Muslim youth are branded terrorist, dalit-adivasi youth are being stamped as extremists, casteist and anti-nationals.” To read more about the background of Rohit’s suicide please read Teltumbde’s article.

Now below is the full text of Rohit’s suicide letter:

Good morning,

I would not be around when you read this letter. Dont get angry on me. I know some of you truly cared for me, loved me and treated me very well. I have no complaints on anyone. It was always with myself I had problems. I feel a growing gap between my soul and my body. And I have become a monster. I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.

I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt.

The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.

May be I was wrong, all the while, in understanding world. In understanding love, pain, life, death. There was no urgency. But I always was rushing. Desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.

I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty. Unconcerned about myself. Thats pathetic. And thats why I am doing this.

People may dub me as a coward. And selfish, or stupid once I am gone. I am not bothered about what I am called. I dont believe in after-death stories, ghosts, or spirits. If there is anything at all I believe, I believe that I can travel to the stars. And know about the other worlds.

If you, who is reading this letter can do anything for me, I have to get 7 months of my fellowship, one lakh and seventy five thousand rupees. Please see to it that my family is paid that. I have to give some 40 thousand to Ramji. He never asked them back. But please pay that to him from that.

Let my funeral be silent and smooth. Behave like I just appeared and gone. Do not shed tears for me. Know that I am happy dead than being alive.

From shadows to the stars.

Uma anna, sorry for using your room for this thing.

To ASA family, sorry for disappointing all of you. You loved me very much. I wish all the very best for the future.

For one last time,

Jai Bheem

I forgot to write the formalities. No one is responsible for my this act of killing myself.

No one has instigated me, whether by their acts or by their words to this act.

This is my decision and I am the only one responsible for this. 

Do not trouble my friends and enemies on this after I am gone.

I have chosen Rohit’s story as the first of this series of painted flags, Jatindia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. And for all of them, I have chosen saffron as the color of the top bar, to symbolize long-existing casteism, now more open and feverish with resurgent hindutva politics. I have chosen blue for the middle bar, because it is the color historically adopted by the Dalit movement; however, in my flags it will signify all of India’s oppressed people. I have chosen green for the bottom bar, to symbolize India’s ecological foundations, which are endangered by the ideology of neoliberalism and defended by our Adivasis and other oppressed people.

The circular image in the center of each flag will signify a target viewed through a weapon’s saffron (indicating right-wing nationalism) crosshairs. Between the past and present this series will go back and forth in no particular order bringing forward some of the targeted faces of resistance that have challenged the stagnant ideology of exclusion of the world’s largest hypocrisy.

Meanwhile, the next in this series is the story of Soni Sori, an Adivasi school teacher….

 

 

More articles by:

Priti Gulati Cox is an interdisciplinary artist, and a local coordinator for the peace and justice organization CODEPINK. She lives in Salina, Kansas, and can be reached at p.g@cox.net. Please click here to see more of her work.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
October 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Anthony DiMaggio
Trump as the “Anti-War” President: on Misinformation in American Political Discourse
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Where’s the Beef With Billionaires?
Rob Urie
Capitalism and the Violence of Environmental Decline
Paul Street
Bernie in the Deep Shit: Dismal Dem Debate Reflections
Andrew Levine
What’s So Awful About Foreign Interference?
T.J. Coles
Boris Johnson’s Brexit “Betrayal”: Elect a Clown, Expect a Pie in Your Face
Joseph Natoli
Trump on the March
Ashley Smith
Stop the Normalization of Concentration Camps
Pete Dolack
The Fight to Overturn the Latest Corporate Coup at Pacifica Has Only Begun
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Russophobia at Democratic Party Debate
Chris Gilbert
Forward! A Week of Protest in Catalonia
Daniel Beaumont
Pressing Done Here: Syria, Iraq and “Informed Discussion”
Daniel Warner
Greta the Disturber
M. G. Piety
“Grim Positivism” vs. Truthiness in Biography
John Kendall Hawkins
Journey to the Unknown Interior of (You)
Christopher Fons – Conor McMullen
The Centrism of Elizabeth Warren
Nino Pagliccia
Peace Restored in Ecuador, But is trust?
Rebecca Gordon
Extorting Ukraine is Bad Enough But Trump Has Done Much Worse
Kathleen Wallace
Trump Can’t Survive Where the Bats and Moonlight Laugh
Clark T. Scott
Cross-eyed, Fanged and Horned
Eileen Appelbaum
The PR Campaign to Hide the Real Cause of those Sky-High Surprise Medical Bills
Olivia Alperstein
Nuclear Weapons are an Existential Threat
Colin Todhunter
Asia-Pacific Trade Deal: Trading Away Indian Agriculture?
Sarah Anderson
Where is “Line Worker Barbie”?
Brian Cloughley
Yearning to Breathe Free
Jill Richardson
Why are LGBTQ Rights Even a Debate?
Jesse Jackson
What I Learn While Having Lunch at Cook County Jail
Kathy Kelly
Death, Misery and Bloodshed in Yemen
Maximilian Werner
Leadership Lacking for Wolf Protection
Arshad Khan
The Turkish Gambit
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Rare Wildflower vs. Mining Company
Dianne Woodward
Race Against Time (and For Palestinians)
Norman Ball
Wall Street Sees the Light of Domestic Reindustrialization
Ramzy Baroud
The Last Lifeline: The Real Reason Behind Abbas’ Call for Elections
Binoy Kampmark
African Swine Fever Does Its Worst
Nicky Reid
Screwing Over the Kurds: An All-American Pastime
Louis Proyect
“Our Boys”: a Brutally Honest Film About the Consequences of the Occupation
Coco Das
#OUTNOW
Cesar Chelala
Donald Trump vs. William Shakespeare
Ron Jacobs
Calling the Kettle White: Ishmael Reed Unbound
Stephen Cooper
Scientist vs. Cooper: The Interview, Round 3 
Susan Block
How “Hustlers” Hustles Us
Charles R. Larson
Review: Elif Shafak’s “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World”
David Yearsley
Sunset Songs
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail