Few members of the Critique Ferozepur Chapter, Philosophical Society planned to initiate a dialogue on the nature of social construction, social order of Indian society and its emerging questions in relation to social justice and role of education. They tentatively underlined a theme ‘Samajik Sanrachna, Samajik Nyaya Mai Shiksha Ki Bhumika’ ‘Social Order, Role of Education in Social Justice’. They all collectively thought how to go about. After long discussion with their teacher Ambuj, the students Amandeep, Ramandeep, Amritpal and Sukhdeep suggested that they should go for a complete reading of a book ‘Ambedkar Se Vimukh Safai Kaamgar Samaj Upekshit Karan Aur Mukti’, written by Darshan Ratna Raavan, associated with the Aadhas Bharat, an organization working for rights and reforms within the Valmiki community in particular and society in general, in India.
In solidarity of the group around hundred students comprising undergraduates of science, commerce, arts and few postgraduate students from English and Information Technology, made a point to sit from 5pm to 7pm in the college after classes and collectively read the book and discuss the issues, which comes in course of reading. The first reading began on 12 September, 2012. Previous to reading session all the participants were requested and informed that the reading session would have to be attended in its entirety till the last word of the book.
The first part of the book unfolded the horrendous, humiliating bitter realities of the Safai Kamgar Samaj in the society, Darshan Ratna Raavanji’s narration of the challenging living conditions, contractual ill paid employment in the municipalities, ‘Sulabh’ public-private toilets and social discrimination done to the Safai Kamgar Samaj/ Valmiki community in the society raised a set of questions associated with the social construction of the Indian society in the minds of the participants. Why there has been social stratification in the society? Who had constructed this caste and why only a son of a scavenger is, by large, engaged in the scavenging work and is expected to follow the profession of his father and grandfather by the people in the society. How should we understand and address the discriminations on the basis of caste? What is the way out?
The discussion also brought in various stand points of the students. Few students raised their concern that even the upper caste people face challenging conditions, why only talking about dalits? They said that the dalits are themselves responsible for their conditions. The government is doing enough by providing reservations but they don’t want to rise. Another group supported the position for dalits and asserted that their condition at large is miserable in the urban as well as rural India. They also brought in popular thinking of the so called upper caste towards dalits and said that the dalits have been always made to think that they are lower than the other. The students insisted that the state has to play more vigilant and generous role towards the policies for promotion of education through reservation in higher education and promotions in government and private sector. The dialogue has to be initiated to talk about the notion of caste inequalities in the educational institution, to bring more and more dalit students to schools and aware them the significance of education.
The different position led to a chaos in the entire group as none of them was leaving their arguments but they finally agree to read the text further. As the pages of the book kept rolling there was a silence and suddenly a student in the class, who had never spoken any word for a week in that particular class and in her other classes including philosophy before, raised her hand and said that she wants to read the book loud for other participants, in the class. While she was reading, a sense of dignity, a sense of pride and an expression of voice against the injustices was visible on her face and voice. She also requested to present a paper in the seminar on the same theme. The reading further engaged the participants about the questions on why there is a higher drop out rate of Safai Kamgar Samaj children after seventh or eight classes in the schools. Why the dalit children are not given proper attention in their own families regarding education. What are the causes of their leaving schools at tender age? Darshan Ratna Raavanji narrates in one of his dialogues with the valmiki families in the book, where he questions Pig rearing and said that it does not add to the dalits’s financial conditions but invites more troubles, in the form of complaints and fights among them. The participants during the reading found that the issues which Ravaanji is taking is very fundamental and underlines an effective foundational education for the dalit children. He further question the psyche of the people by adding an example that in Allahabad the Ganga River is flowing with the human wastage and even dead human are immersed in it, yet it is worshipped but a Safai karmi ‘Scavenger’ providing cleanliness to all is still ‘Achut’ ‘Untouchable’. He says that this an ill psyche which needs treatment.
Ravaanji’s ‘Last talk’ in the book regarding Upekshit ‘Untended’ raised several questions in the minds of the participants who have first overlooked the issues of Safai Kamgar Samaj. He questions that the identity of Municipal Corporation is because of the Safai Kamgar Samaj but he is ignored, untended from the budget, appointments, facilities, social and sewerage protection. There is no reward no award, but in many cases death before retirement, is all a Safai Karamchari receives at end. Even sacrifices of great martyr Baba Jivan Singh and Matadin Bhangi, Mother Jhalkari Bai all are too untended. Raavanji provides space for a dialogue within all communities to think, reflect and respond in affirmative actions for the dalits in particular and society in general.
The reading was followed by a seminar on a theme ‘Samajik Sanrachna, Samajik Nyaya Mai Shiksha Ki Bhumika’ ‘Social Order, Role of Education in Social Justice’ on 24.09.2012 coincidently, which was also the Poona Pact Day. The session was chaired by Dr. Madhu Prashar, principal, Dev Samaj College for Women, Ferozepur City, Punjab.
Darshan Ratna Raavan was invited as the key speaker for the deliberation and discussion. Around three hundred students gathered for the seminar in the Auditorium which had the same capacity. From the students section, Ms Nirmaljeet Kaur from B.A. III year, Ms Amandeep Kaur from B.A. II year, Ms Kulwinder Kaur from B.A. I year and Ms Chandan from B.A. I year were the key speakers, who shared Dias with Darshan Ratna Raavanji along with Ms Amandeep Kaur, President Philosophical Society, Dev Samaj College for Women, Ferozepur.
In the first session Dr. Ambuj Sharma, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, extending the welcome address shared the introduction of Mr. Raavan as the philosopher, activist and writer who founded the Aadhas Bharat and is bringing about a revolution in the lives of the Safai Kamgar Samaj in India by spreading awareness and putting personal efforts to eliminate ill practices like drug addiction, illiteracy and superstitions from the Valmekin Samaaj in particular and society in general as the three have been the root cause for backwardness and neglect according to Raavanji. He is widely disseminating the ideas of Ambedkar for a total social transformation bringing the development from below.
Darshan Ratna Raavanji in his address started on a note that it is important to know that who writes history and whose history is written by whom? He further said that largely people who knows how to write, writes history. It is unfortunate that in the past people who had recourses kept a large number of people bereft of resources and dignity. The lust for power made them create caste boundaries and in turn they also controlled the lives of the poor and made them work like slaves. The hegemony created once is still transcending from generations to generations. Raavanji raised many issues of social, economic and political discrimination being done to the dalits in the Indian society with the participants. He asked the participants to come out of the notions of fixed cultural self and try to analyze and re-look at the social order which is biased and full of discrimination, in the past and the contemporary times. A wide rage of issues discussed by him was a collective role and responsibility of understanding humanity, humans and dalits.
The seminar was followed by comments of Dr. Madhu Prashar, who extended her support to Darshan Ratna Raavanji and his cause. She also informed about the scholarships the institution is providing to the poor section and assured to provide more help in future.
The address was followed Nirmal who spoke on the notion of dalit identity and raised questions on dalit rights, justice and equality. Amandeep emphasized the role of the state in providing justice to the dalits and asked the state to start more remedial classes for dalit students at the foundational level. She supported Darshan Ratna Raavan stand on providing reservation to dalits in the private sector. Nirmal asserted that reservation is not largely helping the dalits in employment as there is very less pass percentage in the schools of dalits more over the introduction of expensive coaching centers which are charging hefty sums for UPSC, PMT, IIT’s, AIEEE’s preparations are beyond the reach of the poor dalits and other sections too, How would they fight even the merit recommended by the state. Kulwinder and Chandan also sensitize the participants on the issues discussed above.
The seminar was followed by a series of questions asked by students namely Khushpreet Kaur, Harjinder Kaur from M.SC. IT first year, Anita, Amandeep, from B.A. III year, Swati, Amrit, from B.A. II year, Navdeep from B.A. I year and Aman from B.Com I year. The questions were answered by Raavan ji extensively.
The discussion was further moved to the college canteen where few students further interacted informally with Darshan ratna Raavanji which lasted late 7:30p.m. in the college.
The CFC and Philosophical Society extend their thanks to Mr. Chandan MBA student from Lovely Professional University, Jallandhar and Ms Veerdawinder Kaur B.Sc. I student, from Dev Samaj College for Women for capturing the entire seminar on the camera and video camera respectively.
“Democracy and Higher Education: Issues and Challenges” (10 September 2012)
Critique Ferozepur Chapter and Philosophical Society: A Students’ Discussion Forum of the Dev Samaj College for Women organized a Seminar on the theme ‘Democracy and Higher Education: Issues and Challenges’. As many as three hundred students along with the faculty of the campus debated on the issue. In the seminar chaired by Swati Suri, Amandeep Kaur, Amritpreet Kaur and Deepinder Kaur, discussing an account of JNU Professor, Avijit Pathak’s work, ‘Education and Moral Quest’ and former N.C.E.R.T. Chairman Krishan Kumar’s work ‘Political Agenda of Education’ raised their voice to rethink and redefine the education and education system in the country. Amritpreet, in her presentation said, “With the advent of neo-liberal globalization, the ideals of education have turned from moral to more capital and profit centric”. She cautioned against the contemporary state of education and urged the teachers and policy makers to make Higher Education inclusive for all, which at the moment is exclusive, only for those who can afford high fees”. Deepinder said that “the annual examination system of the University, to judge the over all performance of students is not just”. She further added that “there should be change in the evaluation pattern of the students. Courses engaging critical and creative responses of students, consisting of the socio-cultural environment they live in should be introduced rather leaving them mugging and running for higher merit and marks”. Amandeep said that “the current examination system only focuses on merit and numbers which in the processes alienates the students and the educators from the larger aims of education that is social transformation and solidarity within society”. The seminar was followed by a hot discussion among the speakers, faculty and student participants in which issues of reservation in higher education, education system, and privatization of education was debated at length. The students also suggested organizing a separate seminar on the issue of caste inequalities and education in the college, in near future.
Critique Ferozepur Chapter, Philosophical Society, Department of Philosophy, Dev Samaj College for Women, Ferozepur City in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy Panjab University, Chandigarh organized a National Seminar on the theme “Social Justice: Issues and Challenges’’ on 27 -28 February, 2012 at Department of Philosophy, Arts Block IV, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
In the seminar issues associated with Social Justice and its practical realities in democratic India were discussed. The seminar reflected on how should we understand Social Justice? What are the areas, boundaries where we can locate the idea of social justice? Is social justice is seen as a mere utopia? Where can we locate the history of social justice? We live in a country where there is a Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. How do we understand the state, its role and responsibility in ensuring social justice? How do we see civil liberty movements in context to social justice?
Dr. Manindra Nath Thakur, Associate Professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, Dr. Renu Addlakha, Centre for Women’s Development Studies (CWDS), New Delhi, Dr. Ajit Jha, Department of History, Satyawati College, University of Delhi, Dr. Harjinder Singh Laltu, Professor, Center for Computational Natural Sciences & Bio Informatics, International Institute of Information Technology, (IIIT), Hyderabad and Dr. Yogesh Snehi, Assistant Professor in History, School of Liberal/Undergraduate Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi put together their heads and discussed themes like Gandhi, Ambedkar and Marx: In search of a dialogue, Social justice in the context of marginality with Particular reference to disability in India, Social Justice: Sectarian Identity Vs Emancipatory Politics and 'A few questions on the reinterpretation of events in India in the modern period’.