Anti-caste rapper Sumeet Samos’s memoir explores an alternate politics of solidarity

In the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, author and anti-caste rapper Sumeet Samos discovered himself on an sudden prepare journey to his house in Koraput at his mom’s insistence. Caught up within the frenzy of the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) motion and his different engagements as a pupil activist, the prepare journey again house introduced again recollections of his childhood in Tentulipadar, Odisha and the dense caste networks that outlined his childhood as a Dom, Christian boy.

Now, he was returning to his stomping floor after having fulfilled his communities’ wildest aspiration: he had graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru University, travelled internationally as a rap artist, and likewise secured a cushty job at a multinational company in Delhi. Against the background of those occasions, Samos was reminded of the quite a few hurdles he has needed to overcome in his profession whereas additionally mourning the lack of his closest pals, the Adivasi sociologist Abhay Xaxa, and the Dalit scholar Muthu Krishnan.

Normalisation of caste discrimination

In some ways, Samos’s autobiography, Affairs of Caste, revealed by Panthers Paw Press, is a homecoming from varied phases of his life. Yet, this e book diverts from the extreme interiority that has characterised the type of the Dalit autobiography to pursue a deeper sociological engagement with the networks of caste which have moulded Samos’s journey as public mental and artist.

Most scholarship on Dalits has usually diminished the burden of caste to their abjection and poverty, or it has fetishised their historic struggling for an upper-caste readership. Samos is fascinated about turning away from this anthropological gaze, and refers to himself as a “participant observer”, interlacing moments within the modern political historical past of Odisha with episodes of his life.

Steeped within the historical past and cultural politics of the Desia land, Samos traces the consolidation of native Brahminical identities from the reign of the Suryavanshi dynasty of the fifteenth century, the migration of upper-caste Hindus from coastal Odisha within the twentieth century, and the technology of Komatis who arrived after the Srikakulam insurrection of the ’70s. Samos clarifies {that a} Desia id is primarily linguistic; it’s known as the motherland of a number of communities, however isn’t personified with the identical nationalist figures like Bharat Mata.

Samos’s insistence on outlining the sociological subject of his childhood is integral to his critique of Hindu nationalism, because the Hindu proper usually intervenes and proliferates via a rebranding and appropriation of native histories. Comprehending the complexity of native caste relations, subsequently, is key to growing a grammar of resistance to Hindu majoritarianism, because it calls for taking note of the various methods during which native histories of Dalit and Adivasi communities supply pathways of writing alternate histories.

In Affairs of Caste, Samos investigates the “relational, dynamic, and changing dimensions of caste” that embody elite Indian teachers, progressive organisations, and media shops that function from metropolitan centres. The erasure of caste of their progressive discourse, Samos explains, isn’t solely a gatekeeping measure that systematically excludes Dalits from positions of authority, however is essential in exhibiting a liberal, progressive discourse that secures the politics of caste at its core.

“Untouchability in India”, Samos writes, “gets normalised on the pretext of cleanliness, differential habitations, exclusive socialisations, caste gatherings, occupational differences, food habits, and cultural markers”. While most conversations surrounding caste provincialise the phenomena to rural India, Samos deliberately highlights the obliviousness of city, liberal elites who unconsciously follow rituals of purity and air pollution, and but don’t possess the analytical instruments or political will to call it as such.

Astutely navigating the most important political occasions in Odisha within the first half of the e book, Samos describes his preliminary education in Semiliguda, the monopolisation of assets by Sundi and Komati companies in Koraput, and the Maoist rebellion within the late 2000s. In his detailed account of the battle years, Samos notes that factions of the left had successfully exploited Adivasi and Dalit cadres who had been on the forefront of the wrestle, however had been in the end mistreated and deserted by upper-caste leaderships.

In detailing the dominance of caste over these struggles, Samos factors out that binary studying of resistance to state energy usually overlooks the advanced challenges that Dalit and Adivasi teams face whereas taking part in these actions. In actuality, the thought of a revolution is much much less romantic, and fractured by the localised manifestations of caste and sophistication energy.

Forming a political consciousness

In the second half of the e book, Samos provides a distinctly Ambedkarite contact to describing his foray into training and pupil activism at JNU. There are a number of poignant moments when he recollects his preparation for the doorway exams, and the unintended misreadings of the outcomes. His personal penchant for training was fuelled by the need to transgress the inflexible psychic and social boundaries of caste. Although the tone of Samos arguments are sometimes polemical, he narrates incidents from his pupil life in JNU to critique the discourse of meritocracy, which regularly turns into a platform for higher caste elites to voice their dissatisfaction with reservation insurance policies.

Samos deftly maps the extent of caste supremacy on this state of affairs, as he elucidates on the pipeline of elite Indian teachers who dominate Western academia, accumulating generations of cultural capital. In distinction, most Dalit college students work laborious to grasp the codes of social interactions or networking at establishments of upper studying in India. In such situations, what’s essentially known as a “small world” of influential Indians is most frequently an remoted caste world that leads to the systematic exclusion of Dalit college students.

Folded into the narrative can also be Samos’s personal journey with Dalit Christianity, addressing the debates round conversion amongst Adivasi and Dalit Christians in Odisha. At a time when anti-conversion legal guidelines have been handed in not less than 5 states to observe the actions of minority Muslim and Christian inhabitants, Samos’s temporary historiography illuminates the double discrimination Dalit Christians face from sectors of the Hindu proper and the upper-caste Christians. Advocating for extending reservation insurance policies to Dalit Christians, Samos’s identification with Dalit Christianity is equally a critique of the mainline church’s resolution to stay apolitical in occasions of grave disaster for Dalit Christians.

Samos’ profession as a rapper is merely a fraction on this narrative, however it’s explicitly tied to the formation of his political consciousness and involvement with the Birsa Ambedkar Phule Student Association (BAPSA) at JNU. Although JNU has a fame for being the centre of progressive pupil politics within the nation, Samos underscores the erasure of caste in its political discourse and the differential remedy of the safai karamchaaris on campus till BAPSA grew to become a serious electoral participant. In this social milieu, BAPSA’s anti-caste orientation was instrumental in breaking the institutional silence round caste, and altering the vocabulary and phrases of protest within the college.

In describing the lengthy arc of his journey from Koraput to Oxford, Samos takes varied detours to floor moments of political awakening with concrete sociological knowledge; but, the seams of the story sometimes grasp loosely, as there are a number of temporalities and political geographies that inform his political consciousness, however aren’t adequately synthesised for the reader’s comprehension. In a number of situations, the voice of a budding anthropologist brimming within the textual content, particularly in his point out of Thomas Eriksen and Finn Nielson, clashes with a extra generalised criticism of id politics on-line, shedding sight of its narrative centre.

Drawing from a variety of scholarly works, cultural texts, and lived experiences, Affairs of Caste makes an attempt to depict the multitudinous methods during which caste determines id whereas portraying the enormously tough job of overcoming its structural impositions and fostering an Ambedkarite, anti-caste consciousness. As it’s evident in Samos’s prose, this consciousness doesn’t come simple; in reality it calls for a rigorous studying of central works in Dalit literature and Ambedkarite literature.

Methodologically, the e book provokes one to search for a critique of caste past its consultant politics and performative ideologies, and transfer in the direction of asking powerful questions of structural reform round land redistribution, caste census, and sexual violence in opposition to Dalit girls – institutional measures that exceed the outreach of a single particular person. Although these completely different threads aren’t all the time introduced collectively within the textual content, they essentially trace at an alternate politics of solidarity that may emerge whereas tending to the micro-local imaginations of Dalit communities.

Affairs of Caste: A Young Diary, Sumeet Samos, Panthers Paw.

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