The Dr BR Ambedkar Memorial Lecture Series commences on December 6, the death anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, with the lecture “Ambedkar and Reservations” by Varsha Ayyar. On December 7, 2014 there will be a lecture by noted Dalit activist, Chandrabhan Prasad, on ‘Ambedkar’s India Project’. Both lectures are slated for 1 p.m. and will be held in association with the Goa Art and Literary Festival at the Goa International Centre, Dona Paula. There will also be informal gatherings at 5:30 p.m. at the Institute Piedade, Panjim, on both days, to enable all those interested to have longer discussions with the speakers. The hall at the Institute is being provided by the Council for Social Justice and Peace, a partner of the Memorial Lecture Series 2014.
The ideals of Dr Ambedkar, of justice for all through a constitutional regime, along with his trenchant critique of the caste system and the way it operates in society, are particularly important in contemporary Goa. Here, caste discrimination remains widespread and exploitative despite superficial appearances to the contrary, with reservations not being implemented in many places of work and education, and Christian adivasis yet to find a place in their own community. Large scale literacy and enrolment in education, initiated in the 1960s by Bhausaheb Bandodkar, has not resulted in any significant inclusion of the depressed castes in higher cadres of civil service, not least thanks to the failure to implement reservations. This has exposed these communities to various forms of soft as well as stark violence; not so long ago, in Balli, Quepem, protests for implementation of reservations resulted in the murder of activists from the adivasi communities.
These are some of the issues which the Memorial Lecture Series are intended to focus on.
Varsha Ayyar, who will lecture on the first day, has completed her PhD in Sociology from University of Mumbai. Ayyar’s academic work examines the nature of caste and its reproduction in neo-liberal cities, feminization of labour, practices of untouchability, urban poverty, housing, and informal sector. She has received several national and international fellowships (USA/Germany/Canada) and travelled widely to present her research work on caste, gender, social networks and informal sector, at leading universities and research institutions. Ayyar is an Assistant Professor at Center for Labour Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and is currently working on her book focusing on Dalit women and sustenance of caste in the new emerging polyphonic spaces of Mumbai’s periphery.
Chandra Bhan Prasad was born and schooled in the east Uttar Pradesh countryside, and currently lives in Delhi. Prasad has been cited by a host of thought leaders, including a couple of Nobel Laureates. Prasad is a Member of the Board of Governors, IIM Lucknow, on the Guest Faculty at the IAS Academy, Mussorie, and Mentor of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry [DICCI]. Prasad works with Devesh Kapur of CASI/Upenn on Changes that Dalits Experience, is exploring conflicts between Caste and Capitalism, and aims to set up a Caste Museum.
The Memorial Committee consists of Jason Keith Fernandes, Amita Kanekar, Dadu Mandrekar, Albertina Almeida, Alito Siqueira, Thalmann Pereira, Augusto Pinto, and others.