India in the Margins

Pluralism is a core tenet of the Indian civilizational identity.  Long before any of the countries of South Asia existed as modern states, a stunning array of ethnic, linguistic, social and cultural diversity shaped the region’s politics, economics and society. Traditionally, the production of knowledge reflected this kaleidoscope — a variety of schools of thought, indigenous cultures of deliberation and thick (predominantly oral) networks of interconnected people and ideas characterized the intellectual landscape of this region.

In the colonial and post-colonial era however, the forces of nationalism have smoothed these differences in the name of national unity.  Modern India has committed itself to minority protections, elimination of discrimination and inclusion, yet many important voices remain confined to the margins.

In this very small effort on my personal webpage, I am seeking to play a small role in reviving the traditions of pluralism and create a spirit of open and respectful debate around the most important questions that this region faces today. I want to re-center voices that have been relegated to the peripheries by dominant political entities throughout history through to the modern day.

I plan to add video, audio, and/or articles on issues in the days ahead. 

Selected Quotes from Episode 2: A Conversation with Prakash Kumar: 

“When you grow up in India, [the caste system] is always there in your unconscious mind.” -Prakash Kumar

“Our constitution gives equal rights to every citizen, but after 75 years, there are a large number of people who are still excluded from the benefits of government programs….and there are lots of people who are fighting, but still, they don’t get the desired results.” -Prakash Kumar

“In India we don’t have value for humans and particularly for [wastepickers] who are on the last rung….this is a social problem” -Prakash Kumar

“The main issue is that in India the major section of workers fall under the unorganized sector. As the term suggests, unorganized means they are scattered, they are divided. The primary task of activists like me is to organize them. So we organize them, we form groups, community-based organizations, we give them formal membership [and] membership cards.” -Prakash Kumar

“There are many people in Delhi who cannot exercise their voting rights because they are not enrolled in the electoral rolls of Delhi. So if you have not enrolled [through] the government agencies, you can’t franchise your vote. So you can’t take part in the democratic exercise [and] you remain excluded. So first thing, I told you that we organize the unorganized people. Second, we provide them [with] awareness. Third, we always extend our cooperation to them so they can get the benefits of government schemes and get easily enrolled in the government system. In 2014, we had an extensive enrollment drive in association with the election department of Delhi, the Chief Electoral Office of Delhi.” -Prakash Kumar

“The central government is more aggressive, while the Delhi government is more diplomatic. But I can say that no one is for the people…Lots of limitations and lots of drawbacks with both the governments” -Prakash Kumar

“The language of representing those who are excluded is so similar in different parts of the world.” -Shareen Joshi

Watch Episode 2: A Conversation with Prakash Kumar below!

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