This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Kavya Mohan. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

“Article 15 Doesn’t Go Beyond A Savarna Gaze, Where Dalits Are Always Seen As Victims”

More from Kavya Mohan

SPOILER ALERT

What is the one solution to end casteism?

“Let’s not teach it to the future generations, what is the need?”

This is the quick fix that the lead actor of Article 15, Ayushmann Khurrana suggests in the movie.

The symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor is different. Asking us to forget about 5000 years of oppression and violence as a key to annihilate caste reveals the shallow understanding of the entire social complexities and dynamics of India.

Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 may have been successful enough to catch the collective sympathy of the cine-goers about the plight of the Dalit community and to stir questions on caste discrimination, but the movie does not fail to fall into the quintessential cinema sequence where the hero comes into the lives of the downtrodden and at the end emancipates them.

Although the movie has been well received by the audience for rightly addressing the functioning of caste inequalities in India, the entire framework of the film feeds on certain deep-seated stereotypes. Throughout the length of the film, those with a disadvantaged caste background are shown as a voiceless collective until Ayan Ranjan, (played by Khurrana) an upper-caste IPS officer, posted in the village comes and gives voice to them.

What is even more disturbing in the film is the fact that those apparently with a disadvantaged caste background are always portrayed with a shabby appearance, messy hair, catering to the general notion of the Dalit community always being unclean and unhygienic. Maybe the makers of the film felt that if the lower castes wore neat clothes or pinned up their hair straight, they might not make them ‘Pasi’ enough.

The film, however, delivers certain hard-hitting scenes and dialogues with the intense background score. One of the most electric scenes that sent a chill down my spine was where a manual scavenger, holds his breath and enters into an overflowing septic tank.

Gaura, an important character in the film, played by Sayani Gupta is shown strong and assertive in other frames but her eyes are suddenly conquered by fear whenever Ayan enters the frame. Another strong personality in the film is Nishad who seems like an obvious impersonation of Chandrashekhar Azad of the Bhim Army and hence is characterised to lead the Dalit community of the village for the assertion of their dignity.

However, Nishad dies in the middle of the film. In other words, such a strong voice is killed in order to make way for Ayan, a savarna (upper-caste) police officer to become the emancipator. This reflects the underlying Brahminical idea of the oppressor being the ultimate emancipator. Though this narrative has been punctured time and again by growing Dalit resistance and assertion.

The film doesn’t go beyond a savarna gaze, a gaze where the Dalit are always seen as permanent victim bodies, with no ambition and assertion of their own. To understand the complexities of caste and violence one needs to look above this portrayal. Films like Sairat, Masaan, Kaala, Pariyerum Perumal are examples of going beyond such portrayals. They have shattered the narrow narratives and the narrow characterisations.

Nagaraj Manjule’s Sairat and Mari Selvaraj’s Pariyerum Perumal are important films, for they stand apart, for the quest for dignity where it is the marginalised who unapologetically resist and move forward in their struggles. These narratives have drawn a clear line between victimhood and upliftment.

Article 15, while addressing the caste divide in India, intentionally or unintentionally reiterates the same idea of how only someone with an upper-caste identity can become the emancipator. The film at many junctures points out the discernment of the Dalit to attain justice. These are bleak and harrowing stories, and the film rightly points out the negligence and cruelty inflicted upon the marginalized but has also conveniently ignored their side of resistance and dignity.

The actor also in further interviews says that in cities the scenario is not that bad, that the ‘modern’ urban population is “receptive” and “inclusive” and that it is in rural India where caste is more visible.

Maybe Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad to Payal Tadvi in Mumbai or Shahrukh, Ankit and Devendra Sharma, (the three manual scavengers who died in the last week of June 2019, in the national capital while entering a 30 ft drain for the Delhi Jal Board) are not visible enough to count as caste atrocities in the so-called ‘modern’ set up.

The film ends with Ayan solving the case, ‘delivering justice’ with the famous ‘Vaishnava Jana’ playing in the background and all the policemen having food together symbolising the annihilation of caste in that village. Can caste complexities be just reduced to inter-dining?

Inter-dining cannot be adequate enough to kill the deeply rooted caste consciousness, the challenge lies much beyond and deeper. The film does not challenge but rather reinforces the status quo and the same idea of the caste system of the ‘oppressor can only rescue the oppressed.’

We live in a world, one which we have created ourselves, where we can fly to other planets but light years seem to separate us from those who live with and battle with the worst oppression and cruelties. However, the truth is that the distance between human beings is no greater than the elementary recognition of our equal human dignity”

– Harsh Mander, in his book Fatal Accidents of Birth

You must be to comment.
  1. sandeepanb2005

    There could have been a Dalit hero and that would have been wonderful. How would a privileged person like the current protagonist understand the gravity of the situation unless he feels them through their own experience (still second hand).

    Killing of Nishad was also essential signifying both the insecure and brutal nature of the Indian state and the fact that the Dalit movement for equality is incredibly tough and long. The pathos that it generated were incomparable otherwise.

    Full disclosure: I am an urban, upper caste (Brahmin at that) Male and the above is simply from my POV.

More from Kavya Mohan

Similar Posts

By ginju mathew

By Sanjana Acharya

By Jaimine

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below