Ruth Manorama – a profile

Ruth Manorama (62years in 2014) is born in Chennai to Christian parents.  Her mother is a first generation convert and an admirer of Ministry of Ramabai (1858 – 1922).  Manorama is the name of daughter of Ramabai.

In 1975 Manorama took a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Madras and has trained in both the community organization methods of Saul D’Alinsky and the conscientisation methods of Paolo Freire.  After her masters, she started working in Chennai slums through NGOs. She actively participated in rebuilding a slum submerged due to floods.

She shifted to Bangalore and started her association with Grail International Women’s Movement. Later she registered a trade union for domestic workers.   In 1986, Ruth participated in a cross-cultural study comparing Afro-American Blacks in the US and Dalits in India. Her specific interest was to study the lives of Black women and compare it to the situation of Dalit women. This was part of an agenda of declaring Jati of India as a form of racial discriminatory practice.  In the 1980s and 1990s, Manorama fought several court cases filed on behalf of slum dwellers evicted by slum clearance drive of Karnataka Government and sustained mass agitation of slum dwellers.

She coordinated the South India chapter of the preparations for the Fourth UN World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. After returning to India from the UN Conference, the Advisory Group decided that ten regional members of the task force would come together as the National Alliance of Women (NAWO), with Ruth as president, to take the mobilisation of women forward.  In 2001 Manorama was granted an honorary doctorate “for the distinguished contribution made to church and society” by the Academy of Ecumenical Indian Theology and Church Administration.  In 2006, She was awarded the  2 million kronor Right Livelihood Award  sharing with others two (equivalent to 60Lakh Rs).

 Ruth is married to N P Samy, the trade unionist who has brought together all independent, unorganized-sector trade unions under an apex body, the National Centre for Labor (NCL), of which Ruth is one of the secretaries, helping to build the organization. The couple has two daughters.

Nandan Nilekani – where does he stand?

Where does Nandan Nilekani  stands in social – political – cultural issues? A report based on the contents of his book – Imagining India.

Imagining India, written by Nandan Nilekani  is influenced by Ramachandra Guha, Andre Beteille, Atul Kohli, Kanchan Chandra, Ashutosh Varshney,  Yogendra Yadav, Pratap Bhanu Mehta,  and Chandra Bhan Prasad. Excerpts of the book about RSS, Bajrang Dal, and the caste system  reveals the biased opinions and level of maturity of handling some of the complicated issues of our society.

About RSS

While discussing demographic changes and tensions due to demographic factors, the book ridicules K. S. Sudarshan, former head of RSS. “For instance, K. S. Sudarshan appeals to Hindu families to ‘have a dozen sons’ – a windfall of infants meant to ensure that Hindus remain dominant in India’s demographics and elections’.  Footnote elaborates ‘Sudarshan often celebrates mata in his speeches, the prolific woman who produces large number of children; his blessing for women followers who meet him is the alarming ‘May you have hundred sons’.

About Manusmrithi and Hindu scriptures

For Dalits, English was a language exempt from the restrictive conventions of Indian literature, which was imbued with the traditions of caste and untouchability.  Hindu texts were ambiguous at best on the question of education and literacy for the lower castes.  At worst,  they were outright discriminatory – the Manusmrithi, the authoritative Hindu text on India’s caste system, said that ‘molten lead is to be poured into the ears of the ‘low born’ who dare to hear the recital of the written word.  As a result, like many of the early Indian reformers, Dalit leaders viewed English as emancipatory…

About caste system – mirroring others opinion

The political scientist Ashutosh Varshney has noted that India’s class divides were a ‘ranked ethnic system’ that combined both caste and class., similar to the apartheid systems in South Africa in that bloodlines would be a fair predictor of where you stood in the society in terms of income, respect and authority.  As Ashutosh tells me ‘The poor in India were not just poor, they were overwhelmingly low caste’.  Nandan approves the dominance of certain castes with writer Harish Damodaran, grandson of EMS Namboodaripad.

India never had a revolution. India is in fact a significant exception in that it was a huge and poor country which transitioned into democracy without any dramatic internal upheaval, and with our feudal structures intact.   India’s own reform movements against caste took a backseat in the struggle for independence as Indian leaders preferred to emphasize a unified resistance against the British.

Upward mobility for the backward castes had a significant impact in caste relations.  It also becomes difficult to enforce the silly notions of caste purity and pollution in the forced proximity of city buses and trains.  Some of the inane and repressive caste rules prevalent in parts of rural India  become especially impossible in a city environment. And it is difficult to enforce caste preferences while hiring in thee relatively flexible, high-demand urban labor market.

About first non congress government

The government that followed Indira was a defiant medley of peasant-based parties – the socialists, the Swatantra party and thhe Jan Sangh.  And this government brought the issue of caste based policies and rights to the center of the debate for the first time with the appointment of the 1978 Mandal Commission.

About Bajrang Dal

Broken down urban environments give rise to violence that prowls the narrow streets and by-lanes in overcrowded slums.  India’s urban slums have, for instance, been a breeding ground for parties such as the Bajrang Dal.

About Christian Communalism

Nandan is laments communal policies of St. Stephens like institutions but the ridicule towards K. S. Sudarshan was missing.