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

These 7 Excerpts From Anand Teltumbde’s Work Are Crucial Lessons On Social Structures

More from Bijaya Biswal

Seven important lessons that Anand Teltumbde taught me through his writings:

1. Neoliberal Globalization Sucks For The Majority Of India’s Population: The Poor And The Dalits

“Social consequences of the economic miseries associated with these reforms are indeed ominous for the Dalits. On one side they shall be subject to increasing pauperization and on the other stand in competition with the multitude of masses in the job market. The increasing tendency of businesses to downsize, virtual abolition of the reservation system through privatization, the strategies of flexibilization and informalisation of labour; corporatization and depeasantisation of farming, etc. will release vast numbers of people to the job market. The resident caste prejudices in such situations will certainly get activated to the detriment of the Dalits”.

(Teltumbde, ‘Globalization and the Dalits’, 2001)

2. Caste Discrimination Doesn’t Go Away With Dalit Representation In The Bureaucracy If The Superstructure Remains Intact

“Dalits do not often appreciate that Dalit individuals are more prone to zeal in upholding the system than others. Because a Dalit employee, unlike his nondalit counterpart, experiences more pressure from caste prejudice of ancient standing to prove himself, he can do so better by upholding the system, even in its most unjust aspects, vis-à-vis other Dalits. In Khairlanji, many Dalits in the administration reflected precisely this pressure in their insensitivity to their people (let alone to victims of a horrific crime). The system thus transforms the individual into its faithful from a class point of view, the Dalit rising the administrative ladder remains no more a Dalit ally and rather undergoes a class transformation. It is the Dalits’ clinging to this representational logic that has reduced them to political inactivity. They have not yet realized that it is their political participation, their struggle, that can influence the behaviour of institutions and structures, not individuals, howsoever highly placed they may be.”

(Teltumbde, The Persistance of Caste, 2010)

3. Bahujanwad Politics Mobilizes People On Caste Consciousness Which Doesn’t Work On The Ground

“Bahujanwad assumes that all the lower shudra castes and Dalits can come together and create a formidable constituency in their bid for power. Purely from the standpoint of their material status, these groups are similarly placed, and they must indeed come together. But when bahujanwad aspires to unite people based on caste identity, it misses the fact that it essentially mobilizes them with their respective caste consciousness. There may not be much to differentiate the caste consciousness of the vast majority of shudra castes on the one side and of Dalits on the other but to imagine that these two social groups, placed at contradictory positions in the traditional and rural production system, would come together as ‘Bahujan’ is grossly erroneous. It betrays ignorance of the primordial divide between Dalits and nondalits, repeatedly demonstrated through history, which, as corroborated by empirical evidence, has been caste’s dominant existential feature. The caste continuum, classically depicted with brahmins at the upper end and Dalits at the lowest is hopelessly and visibly kinked at the point of division between the two segments: avarna and savarna, Dalits and nondalits, outcastes and castes. It may sound impracticable to many, but it is only the building of true class consciousness that can prevent Khairlanjis in the future. Bahujanwad can be meaningful as a transformative agenda only if it is based on the trans-caste unity of all the lower classes of society.”

(Teltumbde, The Persistence of Caste, 2010)

4. On The Agenda Of The Hindutva Gang

“The deaths of Mohammad Akhlaq and Rohit Vemula stem from the same source, the Brahmanical order that the BJP and its Parivar outfits are at pains to restore. Theirs is an ideology of elitism based on the systematic persecution of the downtrodden. The cynical appropriation of Ambedkar by Hindutva is an attempt to veil this connection…To avert the prospect of Dalits and Muslims joining forces is a priority for the Sangh Parivar. Its intellectuals have been saying that Ambedkar was against Muslims.”

(Teltumbde, Republic of Caste, 2018)

5. On Rapes Of Dalit Women As An Atrocity

“In an incident in 2002 when five Dalits were lynched by a Vishwa Hindu Parishad mob and then set on fire in the compound of the police station in Haryana’s Dulina, much like the Khairlanji Murders, the court did not apply the Atrocity Act stating that the perpetrators did not know the caste of the victims. It implied that the courts expected a rapist of a Dalit girl to shout loud enough to be heard by a witness that he was raping the girl because of her caste”.

(Teltumbde, The Persistence of Caste, 2010)

 6. The Ambiguity Of Reservations

“Article 340 of the Constitution mandated that the government identify “classes” which were “socially and educationally backwards”, and implement measures “to remove such difficulties [so] as to improve their condition”. The catch in this innocuous-seeming article is that backward “classes” means “castes” to all intents and purposes, while carefully sidestepping the word, and provides for reservation measures to improve their condition. The political scientist, Christophe Jaffrelot, in his essay “The politics of OBCs” (Seminar, May 2005), traces the origin and usage of the expression “backward classes” to the early non-brahmin movement of the 1870s in the Madras Presidency, and observes:

“When India achieved independence, Nehru gave them a new name, though hardly more satisfactory: “other backward classes”, implying classes other than the untouchables and the tribes. But the keyword here is “classes”: even if he was not the first to use it, Nehru was intending to distance himself from an approach in terms of caste.”
It is not as if Nehru was so anti-caste or progressive that he shied from the word caste. He was cast in the liberal mould and saw caste as primordial. He sought to wish caste away by not naming it as such. Whatever the reasons, the euphemism of class for caste entered the Constitution and has created confusion, a confusion that has been duly taken advantage of by the political classes with reservations for “class” groups being read into the Constitution mischievously. The point of intersection between these terms caste and class is the term “backward”.

In a country characterized by graded inequality, to use Ambedkar’s phrase, all people could claim social backwardness because even subcastes of brahmins could prove their “social backwardness” concerning some other group. About educational backwardness, even today, seven decades after Independence, almost all castes could meet this criterion. When the lawmakers outlawed untouchability, castes also should have been outlawed. Being an aspect of caste, untouchability would not go away unless castes were destroyed. Instead, our legislative history presents the spectacle of continually reinforced caste identities through the proliferating reservation, accelerating with the introduction of the criterion of backwardness.”

(Teltumbde, Republic of Caste, 2018)

7. Defining Caste And Class As Separate Entities

“A class is a category of persons united by a common role in the production process, whereas a social caste is a group of persons united by their common position in the juristic or legal order of society. For instance, landlords are a class; the nobility is a caste. Economically speaking, this or that noble may be impoverished; he may have only the barest subsistence; he may be a slum-dweller, but his station remains that of a noble. A brahmin might be poor, living in a slum, but he would still command his birth privileges.”

(Teltumbde, Republic of Caste, 2018)

Featured image credit: The Hindu
You must be to comment.

More from Bijaya Biswal

Similar Posts

By Adivasi Lives Matter

By Zain Shahab Usmani

By Shubham Raj Singh

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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