January 12, 2024


The Holy Casteless City: Dr. Obed Manwatkar

Hosted by

Pieter Friedrich
The Holy Casteless City: Dr. Obed Manwatkar
Dialoguing on South Asia (DOSA)
The Holy Casteless City: Dr. Obed Manwatkar

Jan 12 2024 | 01:46:23


Show Notes

With Dr. Obed Manwatkar of North Park Theological Seminary. Discussing his identity as a Christian from a Dalit background, his family’s origins in an Indian village nicknamed “Mini Pandharpur” ("Pandharpur" means “Holy Casteless City”), reclaiming the reputation of Nagpur as a city of interfaith legacy rather than the headquarters of the Hindu nationalist RSS paramilitary, the struggle to secure indigenous control of the Indian Christian Church, why Dalits and so-called “lower castes” convert, the emancipatory power of learning English in India, and much more.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: Dialoguing on South Asia, we explore the lives of its people, hear their stories and the histories of the land, discover its beauty and encounter its conflicts, complexities, and harmonies in a search for liberty, peace and prosperity. Interacting with leaders, activists, academics, and common folk from the south asian sphere about their work and their passions, their dreams and their life journeys, their immigrant experiences, advocacy efforts, religion, politics, and so much more. With this, your host, journalist and author, Peter Friedrich. Hand in hand, we meet and stand with South Asia. This is Dosa. Welcome to the show. And today we are privileged to be able to speak with Dr. Obed Manwatkar. Dr. Obed, he is a professor for religions and cultures at North Park University in Chicago area. And Dr. Obed, you and I, actually, we first met at this 2018 protest, if I recall correctly, in Chicago area, which was a protest against the World Hindu Congress, the very gloriously, perhaps boastfully named World Hindu Congress, which was an event hosted in America on american soil by this organization known as the VHP, which is the religious or the cultural wing of this larger group called the RSS, which is the paramilitary back in India, which spearheads currently the hindu nationalist movement, which has kind of taken over that country at the moment. And since then, I've been privileged to meet you once or twice after that in person, stay in touch with you. And our conversation here today on the Dosa podcast has been a long time coming, and I've been really looking forward to this. And I want to delve into a lot of questions about your background. You're from India. You're an immigrant to America. And basically, I want to throw out there the question to launch this conversation. Obed, what is your deal? You're a professor. You're an immigrant. You're a Christian from a dalit background. You're also even a little bit of a musician. And I want to ask if you can unpack all of that for our listeners. And maybe before we get back to touching on some of those questions and you unpacking it, you are a musician. I was wondering. Your mother tongue is Marathi. I was wondering if you would be willing to share with us a little bit of marathi singing as you're a singer and a guitar player. [00:03:04] Speaker B: Right? First of all, thank you so much, brother Peter, for having me on this podcast. And I'm grateful for you and what you do for my people, and I appreciate your heart for my people and impassion for my people. And of course, yeah, I am obeyed. And what brother Peter introduced me is correct, and whatever information is said. But, yeah, I am not a professional musician, but I come from a music family and a musical background and my whole family sings. We are gifted. One of the ancient marathi hymn which was a poetry of Guru Tukaram and that it is composed by late Surmani Prabhakar Thakura Guruji, who just passed away last year. Thakura Guruji was a karate musician and he composed this music. So here are a few lines in Marathi where Kunti Sade Arnila Bhutara Waikunti Sade Arnila Danyato Agira Pundalika Danyata Chishati bhakti Chikti Chati Danyati shati bhakti chikti chati Tukamane. Yeah. So the meaning of this song is Gurtukaram is Tukaram's prayer. And he said, like, I have seen that great. I have seen the heavens wide open. I have seen the heavens wide open. And the lord of the heaven came down to this very earth and blessed is that Pundalik, he called him Pundalik. So that great human, he called him Pundalik. And great is this power, great is this devotion for the humanity. And he said, Tukaram says, the liberation is at my door, near my feet. So liberation has arrived very near to me by itself. So that's the experience he's telling. And he dreamed about Pandarpur, Pandarpur, Pandarpur. So all the saints who are in radical Bhakti movement, they had a dream. So every dream, like Guru Nanak dreamed about Sachkhand, a place where all humans exist equally. Guru Ravidas dreamed about Begam pura, a city without sorrow and pain. So same with Tukaram dreamed about Pandharpur, holy city without caste, without race, without gent, like everyone would be treated equal. So that's a similar kind of vision is there in the Bible, New Jerusalem, new thing in the New Testament. So that's the vision. What saints? So that's the vision. Tukaram has said, like, I have seen, I have seen my beloved, I have seen the beloved. Heavens are torn apart and he has come down. So Tukamana Mukti Paiyadori. Liberation has arrived at my feet. [00:07:11] Speaker A: Liberation has arrived at my feet and I've seen my beloved. And that is why liberation, I've seen. [00:07:16] Speaker B: That beloved heavens wide open, and the Lord of heaven has came down to this very earth. [00:07:23] Speaker A: That's lovely, oped, and thank you for sharing that with us and some of your musical talents and we're going to dig into some of that as our conversation unfolds. But before we do that, I wanted to ask, actually, as I'm looking at your background right now, you're an immigrant to America, and if I'm not mistaken, don't want to dwell on this too long, but I believe you came in 2017, is that correct? [00:07:55] Speaker B: Yes, I came in 2017. Yes, sir. [00:08:00] Speaker A: So you came just about six, seven years ago. But on the wall behind you, I see a football helmet for an american football helmet. And I myself, not a big fan of sports, but I do tend to enjoy watching when it's on world football. Not a big american football fan myself, but can you tell us about that for just a moment? [00:08:26] Speaker B: No, I'm not an american football fan. I am not an american football fan. That's just showpiece. Okay, so that's like a toy for the kid. [00:08:41] Speaker A: Well, that's a lovely showpiece. And I see all the books behind you and quite a large display there of volumes. And we're going to dig into that, or dig into maybe not that so much, but what maybe those which I mentioned are connected to your current situation have had as far as an influence on you and what you think today and what you're doing now. You are a Christian from a dalit background. Now, you and I know each other. You know what I know. But many of the people that are listening Today may not know everything that you and I both know. Question is then, from that perspective, for a layperson, for the person that may not be already in the know, what is a dalit? What is a Dalit? And then beyond that, do you identify today as a dollar Christian or as a Christian from a Dalit background? And how does all that influence your overall worldview and life? [00:10:00] Speaker B: Yeah, that's really good question. To begin with, the answer to this question is not much complex. The word Dalit literally means oppressed and broken person. Oppression are of different kinds. So oppression means not just physically harming, physical violence, or physically chained person who is oppressed, but there are different forms of oppression. And as far as India, the land of India is concerned, and there has been a system called caste, and it's continuing, it continues in different various forms to define dalitism means oppressed, and the caste exists beyond. In every religion right now. So every religion has been infected with this idea of caste, even Christianity, even Islam, even Sikhism, even Buddhism UK, you can see even Jainism. So caste has infected every religion. And so today, the identity of being Dalit is beyond religious settings, something. So there is a group called Dalit Christians, they call themselves. So converting to religions doesn't change your caste behavior or caste status. I could say, indeed, converting to religion is something. It gives you new identity. Fine. I was this, but now I am this. So this is my new identity. That is fine. But social status, economical status and all that remains as it is. So being a Christian from a third generation Dalit background, my grandfather, my grandfather was Dalit and he grew up in Dalit family and basically Mahar, the Mahars of Maharashtra, the great Mahars. And so we have Mahar battalion as well in indian army. [00:12:46] Speaker A: Mahar is a specific subset or caste of the Dalits, which is considered within that paradigm. It's one of the lower ones. [00:12:59] Speaker B: And Mahars, the Mahatma Jyotiba Fulh, he defines Maha Ari. He defines Mahars. In his famous book, Gulam Giri, you call slavery. He defines Mahars. At Maha and Ari, he divides this one word into two. And he said, maha means great. Ari means enemies. So Maha Ari, the great enemy of brahminism or Hinduism or caste system, great enemy of Hindutva or Brahminism is Mahar. And so Mahatma Jyoti Bhapule defined them in this. So my grandfather was from Mahar community and he came from Mahar community. And my village, which is called a dhapevada and that village is known as Mini Pandharpur. That's why I sang Tukaram songs and Tukaram songs, because the songs of Tukaram has been a legacy and heritage for the village and there. So it's called as Mini Pandrapur, Mini Pandarpur and Mini Pandarpur. There is one city called Pandarpur in Maharashtra. But my village is known as Mini Pandharpur in outskirts of Nagpur. Minipandarpur, why? It is one of the, what you say, pilgrimage site for the pilgrims. So every year, the followers of Tukaram and Naneshwar and all these saints, they walk miles and miles of it to wonderful for a month, barefoot to singing hymns and all to impress their deity means, like in their town, there's a deity called Vitala. Now it has become a deity and caste to go to Pandarpur and to worship. That is like a pilgrimage for them. So Minipandarpur. Why it is called Minipandar because the river in which Tukaram, there are two stories of Tukaram. Some say that he was just resurrected to heaven directly and there is another storyline of Tukaram that he. [00:15:16] Speaker A: So we're jumping into this very fast, Obed. [00:15:20] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm talking about Minipandra Tukaram. [00:15:24] Speaker A: So Tukram was very influential to Minipandapur. When was Tukuram alive? [00:15:31] Speaker B: When did he. It was synonym to basically like Kabir, Tukaram, Ravidas. They are all from the same contemporary period. [00:15:46] Speaker A: When was that, 1400? [00:15:49] Speaker B: Yeah. Before Guru Nanak era. Before Sikh era. Before Sikh era, these saints existed. [00:15:55] Speaker A: Sikh era began about 1469, I believe. [00:15:58] Speaker B: Yes, like 1314 hundreds, 15 hundreds. These saints evolved in those era. So the story of the Minipandapur is like Tukaram. The second story that Tukaram was assassinated and his book Tukaram Gatha in which he wrote poetries, it was thrown away in the Chandra Bhaga river. In the river Chandra Bhaga, name of the. So the belief in my village is that those poetries floated in my village. There is a small river called Chandra Bhaga which flows from Pandapur to on that direction. So like whole Chandra Bhaga river is filled with Tukaram's poetry about hymns and all. So that's why it's a holy river, they say. So that's why Chandra Bhaga river is one part of Chandra Bhaga river is in my village. So that's why it's called as Minipandrapur. So there is a huge temple of Itala there and so that's why it's known as Minipandrapur. So those are the reasons small town means like if you cannot afford to go to Pandrapur, come to Minipandrapur, Thapiwala and do your pilgrimage here, all the rituals. So that's one of the things. So yeah, my grandfather was in that. Yeah, yeah. [00:17:20] Speaker A: I want to touch, not just touch on, but really dig into the story of your grandfather a little bit later on as we progress. That's a really lovely story about that idea that this saint Docran, that his writings thrown in the river and they've mingled with the waters of the river and now they're flowing down the waters, are intermingled with those verses, those verses which have led to this place being known as we're going to touch on, as I believe you called it, the holy castless city, which is comparable to some other ideas in this era of India that were introduced elsewhere about Begampura, the city without sorrow, et cetera, et cetera. Before we move on though, I just wanted to re touch on this idea again. Obed, when I was talking with you, you specifically referred yourself as not as a Dalit Christian, but as a Christian from a dalit background. Briefly, can I ask you to explain from your perspective, why would you make that distinction. [00:18:48] Speaker B: Well, I said, like I did say that I am a Christian because in my opinion, Christ gave me a new identity and I have a new identity in Christ. But being a mahar, I boast on it. I'm proud to be a mahar of Ambedkar and Baba sahib. And so I am proud to be a mahar. Because that connects me with my roots. So, Christianity being my religion, I have not forgotten my roots. So that's why I said that I'm a Christian by faith, but a dalit by my background. So that because Baba sahib himself said, like, wherever I go, I will not forget my community. I will continue to share their miseries and happiness wherever I go. So that is literally inspired me to connect with this. Many people don't like that using mahar. No, we should not use this because it's a caste identity and all that. But that's okay. But many saints. One of the varkary saints follow with Tukaram, who was Chokhamira saint, Chokha Mela. He was also varkary saint. In that saint tradition he called himself. I am mahar of mahaps in his poetry. So the way Guru Ravida says, no, I class chamara, I'm a chamar of chamara. So Chokhamira says, I am a mahara of maharaj. So that is like relating with your roots. So I have my roots, I know my roots. I am well connected with my roots. And I follow my faith, which is my freedom of expression of my faith enshrined in the constitution of India, article 19. So that's why I said I'm a Christian by faith and Dalit by my background. [00:20:55] Speaker A: And I love that. A new identity. But not forgetting and even being proud of your roots. Now, you grew up in Nankpur, Maharashtra. Quickly, before I ask you some questions about that for our listeners. Where is Maharashtra exactly? In India, most people have no geographical sense of the nation of India. [00:21:17] Speaker B: Yeah, Maharashtra is like in central India, we can say. Not exactly central, but my hometown, Nagpur is in centre of the. So zero mile begins from my hometown, Nakpur. [00:21:34] Speaker A: It's mostly flatlands, isn't it? [00:21:37] Speaker B: Yes, it's a flatland. [00:21:38] Speaker A: Okay. [00:21:39] Speaker B: So we don't have any threats of earthquakes, floods, storms. We are safe. [00:21:46] Speaker A: That must be a beautiful thing to live in a geographical location where there are no natural calamities which tend to threaten you. I know I grew up in California and for us it was earthquakes and wildfires. But I want to ask you about Nagpur. Nagpur is an interesting city because among other things, it is the headquarters of this organization which I mentioned a few minutes ago. The RSS. This paramilitary hindu nationalist group which is pushing this hindu nationalist agenda across all of India. But you've talked about the city's interfaith legacy. Now actually putting a pin in that for a second. I want to come back to the interfaith legacy before I do that. I don't want to dwell on this in our conversation too much about the hindu nationalist elements in India. That's a conversation for another time. But I just have to know since you did grow up in what is kind of today unfortunately the heartland of the RSS. What was that mean? Did you notice the RSS perhaps on the streets as you were growing up? Did you think about it then as a child of Nagpur? What do you think about it now today, all grown up? And what is your perspective on the RSS? Especially your perspective on the RSS as you are a Christian from a dalit background. [00:23:20] Speaker B: That's a great question. What's my perspective on RSS? How do I see RSS and all? See, as far as growing. Born and brought up in Nagpur and we used to in our childhood days. My RSS headquarter is like two and a half kilometers away. Like a mile away from one and a half mile away from my house. And so we used to go near the RSS headquarters. There is a huge playground called Bach playground. And we used to go and play cricket there. And the funniest. And it doesn't matter. It goes in public. But I'm telling you, this is a childhood fun story. I'm telling you, after playing cricket there are no toilet systems in India. There were no public toilet systems. It is just a new thing in India. Public. So we kids had a habit. Piss on the walls or peace on the roads. Pee. So after playing. After we are done playing cricket we'll drive our cycles, go play cricket. And we are done after playing cricket match and all. We would come back and we will piece on the headquarters wall. RSS headquarters wall. And then of course that rushing background of the RSS things. They do their parades and all in the morning. And what happens there. And so about the things about Savarkar and those stories. Savarkar the great and Savarkar was a great man. And one day matram song and Sanskrit. Some chants and all. We never participated in that. But we used to see them, observe them piss on the wall and then go back home. [00:25:27] Speaker A: In between pissing on the walls of the RSS headquarters you would see them because for the listeners who may not understand as a paramilitary, the RSS uniformed. And they do parades throughout the marches, in the streets. So you would see that as you were growing up. [00:25:47] Speaker B: I have seen that marches means like, see, RSS headquarters is like located in one area and one small area. That is very small area. Mahal we call it. And it's all marketplace. It's a huge market, the wholesale market. You can get any kinds of designer clothes and whatever. Wholesale market area. And there is a palace, ancient palace of Raja Bhosley there. One of the kings in Nagpur. And that palace doesn't exist. That has become another court or something. That is something government office now. So that's like a very public place. And in such a market area, crowded area. You know, like the Times Square of New York. You see. So in a Times Square there is small office kind of thing. That kind of thing is RSS building there right now. So it's a whole marketplace. People literally don't care what is happening there. But there is a tight security out there. And right now it's that security and all that. But at our times in a childhood there was not much that security and all that. So we could roam around and all. So RSS. But I see literally when people shame Nagpur, my hometown. Because right now calling a Nakpurian is like something. No, Nagpur is not famous for RSS. And that's what my narrative is. Nagpur is not famous for RSS. Nagpur is famous for Ambedkar's Amakranti. What it did. The world's largest ever conversion ever happened in the history of humankind. 6 million followers converted to Buddhism on 14th October 1956. That was my hometown. That Dr. Ambedkar did. That under his leadership. That was the world's largest conversion happened. There is national council for churches in India. The central office. The head office of National Council for churches in India. There are zorastrian. There are zoroastrian people there. There were four jewish families there living there now. They migrated. Some migrated to Mumbai and some migrated back to the Palestine area. So whatever. And then there is Gurudwara Singh Sabha. So there is Guru Singh Sabha. There means Guru. The huge guru dwara is there. There are jain temples. Both of the denominations. Shwetambar and Digambar. You can find it. There is Buddhism's headquarters. There is. Is. There are shrines. Sufi shrines of Tajuddin Baba. The Aliyah moment, the alias. The shrines of Aliyah. And there are like Varkari tradition is there. Tukaram's tradition means Gurtukaram's tradition. So there was St. Jagannade who compiled all his poems. And all the St. Jagannade square is there. There is Rasha Santukuraji Maharaj. One of the contemporary saints with Gadga Baba Nambedkar. So he worked in Nagpur area as well. Nagpur University is named behind on his name. Rasha Santukuraji Maharaj. Nagpur University. That is also monotheistic. Same Bhakti movement he ran. So there is lot of varieties in Nagpur. So Nagpur is not just RSS. And no one cares about RSS. And how do we define rss? To be very honest, as far as I have observed from childhood. RSS calls them Sangha Parivar. And Parivar means family. And what do you mean by family? Woman, man. In the general perception, man, woman, husband, wife and kids. That is family. Correct. [00:29:38] Speaker A: Correct. [00:29:39] Speaker B: But this parivar. This parivar is unmarried. They never marry. [00:29:47] Speaker A: That's quite a tradition within the r. [00:29:49] Speaker B: And they call themselves a family. [00:29:50] Speaker A: Main celibate. [00:29:51] Speaker B: They never marry. And they never marry. So what I define RSS. RSS is a bunch of old dudes who are frustrated because they are not married. So that's why they are frustrated. And in this old age they want to take out that frustration on the society. That's why they manipulate the people. Don't do this and don't do that. They just want to give the gyan of religion. They call themselves Gyani. They are the most masterpiece. And Vishwaguru or blah blah blah. So these are a bunch of old dudes who have nothing to do. Who are frustrated from life. So they take out their frustration on them. So that's how I say what RSS is. And it's okay. It goes in. Because literally everyone in Nagpur, all of the. Even my other faith friends. They will say that. They will say this. What I said. Any local advice? [00:31:03] Speaker A: You just mentioned that they do call themselves or refer to themselves as the Vishwaguru. Which means like teacher of the world. Which is how they want to project themselves. But that's a very interesting summary or definition of the RSS is basically, I suppose from what you've just said. A bunch of old sexually frustrated unmarried men. Who have no better thing to do than to attempt to impose their frustrations. Work out their frustrations on the rest of the world and bother everybody else. Now as you just touched upon. I think that's fantastic what you just said about Nampur. That Nagpur really needs to become known for what it really is. Which is well beyond the RSS. It's this city that, as you've referred to in our prior conversations. A city with really quite an interfaith legacy you've called it. I believe in conversation with me. A central hub of the majority of the world's religions. I think we've already just touched upon that. With everything you just went into. With all of this background of the godwaras, the Vaharas, the masjids. So much of this other diversity of faith. Zoroastrianism, et cetera. Before we move on, was there anything you wanted to say about Nagpur as far as that idea about being an interfaith city? [00:32:29] Speaker B: Yeah, interfaith city. Of course, crop wise we are famous for oranges. So we produce oranges. So we produce cotton as well. Cotton. So I have a cotton farm there. So I'm a cotton farmer. So Nagpur famous for interfaith legacy. It became famous. And I just want to share this story about my city, my hometown. Please. The safest area in Nagpur today is called Mominpura. Means Muslims area. Pasmanda Muslims, julhas and other communities. They live there. And this moment pura place is the safest place. I never seen such a safest place. Why I call it safest because even in the midnight. 02:30 a.m. You can see women walking on the streets chatting with people. And no one will dare to eve tease her. If someone tries to do that, the other shop owners will come. And just to interject. [00:33:48] Speaker A: Eve tease is kind of a south asian term. Basically it means like sexually harassed on the streets. [00:33:53] Speaker B: Yeah, that's what I'm saying. No one can dare to eve tease a girl even in the night. 02:30 a.m. And that place is always open till 04:00 a.m. 05:00 a.m. You go have your biryani or whatever food you want. And if you're a foodie, if you need some other snacks like ice creams or whatever. So it's a huge hub. So Nakpur. I'm talking about interfaith legacy. What happened in Nakpur in 1960s. This story of Nakpur is famous in 1960s after Ambedkar passed away. So 1960s era there was a conflict. A communal strife between Buddhists and Muslims. Means Mahars who became Buddhists and Muslims. The Pasmanda Muslims. So there was a conflict between Buddhists and Muslims. And they tore each other apart. Many people died in that strife. Communal violence. And Rasta Santuroji Maharaj on his name Nagpur university is mentioned Rashtrasan Turkulaji Maharaj, he was alive and he was diagnosed with cancer at that time. And he was in the hospital and all his mouth, like there was enema. They were giving food from all the saline bottles and all. He was surrounded. And he came to know this news that this has happened in Nappur. What he did is he asked his assistant, I need to go to my ashram which is located in outskirts in a village called Mosuri. He has his ashram, Gurdev Ashram. He said, I need to call a meeting in ashram right now. So take me to the ashram. Doctors permitted him, okay, but they said, like, we will have our assistance with youth. Nothing should happen to you. Because he was a saint kind of figure. So he had a lot of privilege. So that kind of saint privilege. He came to ashram, called a meeting of all the faith leaders, religious leaders. So in that meeting, Archbishop Disusa of the church, then there was Gani Guruinder Singh, I think JL Singh or Guruvinder Singh, I don't know. But one granthi was there from Gurudwara. And then there was Badanta Ananda Kausalyan from buddhist buddhist leader and Vadanta. Ananda Kausalya is famous in Ambedkarait Buddhism. He translated most of the works of Babasaheb in Hindi. So he founded Buddha, Bhumi in Nakpur, Archbishop Dusuja Ganising, then Padma Bhushan, Molana, Abdul Karim Parak, he's also from Nakpur, but Padma Bushana, what he. [00:37:10] Speaker A: So this Hindu Swami, he brought together, he brought together Christians, he brought together all Sikh, Buddhists, muslim leaders. [00:37:18] Speaker B: Yes. And he gave a 20 minutes sermon on power of praying together. And that sermon is still in the All India Radio archives. 20 minutes sermon, no sermon. He explained the power of prayer to praying together. If our all religions talks about humanity, where the heck is our humanity? Gone? Why people are tearing each other apart. If Quran talks about humanity, if your buddhist scripture talks about humanity, where is your humanity? Can we at least, if all of you, if all of your religions, if all of our religions are very good for sake of humanity, can we come together and pray for our country, for the welfare of our country? Can this be possible? Because then he explained the power of prayer and huge sermon, 20 minutes sermon. That was the day. That was the day of the foundation of the peace and Reconciliation Commission in India. So even before Archbishop Desmond Tutu had an idea of forming a peace and reconciliation commission in South Africa, I believe that my God was working in India through Maharaj. And he called that meeting and that meeting, that formation of peace. And this peace and reconciliation committee. This model is now copied by every police department and government department. Have Amanchanti Samiti. Now I was the part of Aman Shanti Samiti. When I was in Nakpur, active in Nagpur. So our job is. Whenever we see something happening. Whenever we get a hint that okay, this mob is coming from here. That mob is coming from here. So our job is to call the collector police. Please come soon and diffuse the violence and take control. So that was our job. To resolve the conflicts and all. So Rasa Santukuraji Maharaj did that. And since then, I'm telling you. Nagpur has been peaceful. Even in the tsunami of hit. You see, all over North India. You won't find any news of communal clashes in Nakpur. Right now, even today you must be hearing news since 2014. This is happening. That is happening. This person is lynched here, there, whatever. Nagpur is still peaceful even today. I'm telling you, the impact of that interfaith legacy is so huge. Even today if I go to a tea shop. Having chai chai shop. And if I try to have this communication. These Muslims. We have to teach them a lesson or something. Like if I talk this kind of language. Or these Christians know we need to. Suddenly if any elder is standing there listening to this corner. He will come. He will pull my ear. He'll say get the hell back to work. That is like culture. Now that even our elders in Nagpur, they won't. That is the impact of that interfaith legacy. I'm talking about that peaceful peace and progress and reconciliation. So Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains, Buddhists. They all live together in one city. [00:40:55] Speaker A: Well, thank you for sharing that. I have to confess for myself. One. I did not know that Nagpur is known for its oranges. That is new information to me. I look forward to trying one of them. Also, I did not know that about the interfaith legacy of Nagpur. And that is revelatory eye opening to me. And it just strikes me that maybe with more conversations. Hearing from you as a nogpur native. That maybe the city's reputation can be properly and justifiably rehabilitated. As I think it's beginning to sound like it deserves to be rehabilitated reputation. But I wanted to ask you about your own background in Nagpur. Growing up. Now you came from Nagpur. Now you're in Chicago. Very different environments. But from my conversations with you. I wasn't quite clear do you have a slum dog millionaire story to share with us? You've told me that you grew up in a slum. [00:42:12] Speaker B: Yeah, go ahead. I have a slum dog, but every slum dog has his own. So I'll start from my grandfather village. Okay, I'll come to. My grandfather grew up as a mahar. So we were all ancient Varkaris, followers of Karam and all. So what happened is there was a woman, her name was Peggy Martin and she was a doctor. She was a white woman, white missionary, not missionary. She was a doctor, medical doctor. She opened a dispensary in my village and she. [00:42:55] Speaker A: You're not talking about a cannabis dispensary, right? [00:42:58] Speaker B: No, just basically a room, medical with four beds. With four beds. Three to four beds. That's a small, like nursing home for people who are sick. And she would treat the sick. There was no modern transportation in that time. So she used to write bullock cards and on bullock cards she would carry the pregnant women or sick. That was her ambulance, basically. And so what happened is there was a huge rumor in the village, there was a huge rumor in the village that this white lady, whatever, she gives us some kind of jelly booty. They call it jelly booty means some kind of thing to eat. And before that she does something magic, does some magic, black magic or something. After that we eat that and within a day we get healed. So there is some power in this lady. That's what the tendency nearby four or five villages, they would come to her dispensary to get treated whenever they are sick with fever or any kind of common cold or whatever the magic was, what she would do. She would give modern medicine and she would pray over the medicine, okay, she will pray over the people give medicine and people would take that medicine and they would get healed. So seeing that compassionate heart and which was happening in my village itself, a student of teenager, 13 year old teenager, my grandfather saw that. And then he kept asking her questions, what makes you do this? And what is this? So she tell Jesus, and this is the book I follow, and this is the thing. So in the conversation, he became Christian. Not just instantly, but it was a long conversation. It took many days and all. So then he got baptized. And then later she moved her. This dispensary moved to city. And that dispensary now is known as Muir Memorial Hospital in city of Nagpur in the place called Sitabardi. Muir Memorial Hospital. So. But now that dispensary place, there was nothing. So what happened is my grandfather was very evangelistic or very passionate Christian. And they saw his passion and all his desire to read the Bible more, to know God more, and that kind of thing. So what this doctor, team of doctors said, like, why don't you open a church here? So they planted that dispensary, turned into a church, and my grandfather was appointed as a deacon of the church. And then later on, my grandfather and all, everyone moved to the cities, and they moved to the pachpali slums. And so they started going to the city church. The same church, but same branch, but big church in the city, the same denominations, branch, which was in the city. And there he sees the horrors of colonialism and experiences the racist attitude of the white christians. So I'm coming to my story. I'm coming to my story. So then he said, like, okay, we will plant our own. Few people rebel. We'll plant our own church. He plants a church. That church is still standing, Nakpur union church and crowdfunded and all that. It relies on people's donations, and local people donate. Local people give offering, and it relies on the offerings. And I grew up in Pashpali I grew up in Pashpali slums, and it was a hub of panthers. Dalit panthers. You have heard about this moment, Dalit panthers. [00:47:19] Speaker A: So it was one of the couple of quick things. Can I ask you from the indian perspective, in context of those of us here in America, most of us have never even experienced or seen anything like this. What is a slum in indian context? And then on that issue of the Dalit panthers, you said this was a hub of the Dalit panthers. We talked about what Dalits are. What were the Dalaponthers. So what is a slum in indian context? And what are the dollar punters. [00:47:54] Speaker B: Slums, where people who are poor financially, they live. But we, as a community, we are being segregated by the system of caste. So the caste segregation, this system enables to keep entire community into poverty and to live a life without dignity. And not good houses, no good homes, and caste privileged people. They live in. They have big houses and that townhouses, houses like that, big bungalows and all. [00:48:44] Speaker A: In this area, do you have running water? Do you have indoor plumbing? Do you have electricity? Do you have. [00:48:50] Speaker B: No. At our times, we used to steal the electricity from the pole. So, like, we used to illegal electricity. But right now, when I saw in 2019, when I went to, now things have improvised. We have water, we have electricity. People have made good houses. People have empowered themselves, basically. So, like rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, these kind of work people so the farm laborers. So these kind of background people, my neighbors had labor background. [00:49:27] Speaker A: Laborers. Laborers. [00:49:28] Speaker B: Those were cheap laborers. [00:49:30] Speaker A: And the empowerment, has that come about as a result of this Dalit panthers being there, so active at that time? [00:49:37] Speaker B: Yeah. What happened is my grandfather worked in a Nakpur municipal corporation as a tax collector. Part time job. He had that job. So when I grew up in slums. So I see that Dalit panthers, a lot means, like Panthers activists. Dalit Panthers was a movement started in 1972 by few people named Namdi Dasar, Rajar Hale, Ron Kamre. And second line leader is Dr. Ramdas Athole, who is now minister of state of social justice and empowerment in government of India. So Athole and Prakash Ambedkar, Bharasai. Ambedkar was also in this moment. And so he was young guy at that time, like very young. So these people have started. This was like inspired from black panthers of United States. So this movement created resistance against the atrocities happening on Dalits. So Dalits face regular atrocities. Till today, Dalits face atrocities. So in Maharashtra, it was too much. And Shu Sena, the political parameter wing of Balasat Thakre at that time was rising and atrocities were happening all throughout the Maharashtra state. [00:51:13] Speaker A: Thakuray being at that time, he was, I believe, chief minister of Maharashtra. [00:51:17] Speaker B: No, he was never a chief minister. [00:51:19] Speaker A: But he was an influential political force. [00:51:22] Speaker B: He was an influential because his father was influential. [00:51:28] Speaker A: As under Sheikh Sena, his organization, a militant organization. These atrocities were rising. So then in resistance, these Dalit panthers. [00:51:39] Speaker B: Yeah. So in this resistance, like these whole writers and poets, Rajadhali, Namdhasal, these people were like kind of thinkers, the poets, writers. They formed these Dalit panthers to give an answer to the atrocities. So these people sparked the audience, like, wow, there is something. So Ambedkar is still alive and we will fight back. Now enough is enough. At that time, panthers were really, like, roaring. When I was growing up, I grew up listening to Ramdas Athole, Prakash Ambedkar, Bharasai Bambedkar. These people, I grew up listening to Rajadhale's audio cassettes. He was a bomb. They say, we don't give an s, we don't give an f. And those words sangs and they would use and help with this India government and blah, blah, blah. So they would fight back. The atrocities, they would do protests, they would march. Their resistance were totally with violence. Okay, violence. Answer to the violence is violence. Now enough? We will also fight back. So that movement literally created an atmosphere in Maharashtra, especially if you go and stop when Panther was active, literally, I have seen that in every square, any road or any roadside, if you see few crowd standing, any crowd is being there in a public place, any public place, you go and say, I am the follower of Ambedkara. I am follower of Baba Sahara. People will run away. People will run away. Just saying that I am a follower of Ambedkar. That power, this movement that literally created, like, oh, my goodness. Ambedkarite means, my goodness, he's dangerous. We cannot do so. Of course, fighting, fighting and movement. And also police would come, and they will face police brutalities as well, because we are fighting against government. So government will send police. So police would stop by our slums every time, every week. Once in a week, police cars will see. So once there was a turmoil, there was a conflict, which I seen. So I was very young, like, I was like 1011 years of age, ten years of age, kid, and my fourth grade. So I came from school and I see there is some confident and police is coming, and police were coming in our town. So kids of my age, we were throwing stones on police. We were stoning police. So I also joined them. Oh, wow, it's fun. Let's grab a stone and throw. Grab. And then suddenly someone from my back, like I was wearing shirt. So someone was pulling my shirt like this. And I was like, I use a slang and I said, who the heck this person? And I saw, it's daddy. It's my daddy. And he slapped me, like, get up, get home. So he deadlines. But that was like rage and resistance. The childhood days of anthropomorphs, which I see, and that aggression. And I was a Christian. Everyone, whole community knew Pachpali slums. They knew this is a christian family. We were only two christian families living in that slum area. Rest of our Ambedkarite Buddhists. Then there were OBCs, other backward caste, a few of the other backward caste people, they were living. So all those who are financially poor and by caste, who are marginalized, that is the area within and opposite to our slum, there was a Balmiki slum. Balmiki slum means the system of manual scavenging sanitation workers. So slums. Talking about slums. Slums are a segregated area. People who are segregated, who are marginalized from the privileges of food, clothing and shit, who are marginalized from the finances, who are marginalized from becoming rich, who are marginalized from education, who are kept away from all the things which is needed for human being to become successful. That kind of segregation is slums. So slums exist in India. Not because there is some kind of poverty or something. It is being systematized to make people live in that condition by the caste system. Caste system. So that exists. [00:57:07] Speaker A: So Islam in indian context, basically is like this area where everybody's kind of been pushed into it. They're from almost exclusively lower caste or outcast backgrounds, and they're kept there in order to cut them off from access to any kind of ability to advance their lives or succeed by climbing up that ladder of success, including things like cut off from education. Even now, within that context, though, as you're telling these stories, obed, I'm hearing about a lot of this resistance that is flourishing within these slums, these movements for self uplifting liftment, for recognizing and promoting the dignity of the person, and for just generally standing up and pushing forward to acknowledge that underlying beauty of humanity and equality of humanity. Within that context, I want to come back to what you were referencing a little bit earlier about how you grew up. You have told me, I believe you said, that you witnessed horrors of poverty, persecution, discrimination, abuse, colonialism and corruption. And that as that was happening, tracing back to your grandfather after his conversion to Christianity, that he and some of the fellow members of his congregation, they rebelled, your word, rebelled, against the whiteness and caste practices of the church and went off to plant their own marathi speaking. Marathi being your mother tongue, marathi speaking church in the city. You described it to me as the first ever agrarian indigenous church planting movement in central India and colonial and post colonial era. So what do you mean by that? What is so significant about that? Especially the whiteness aspect, the colonialist aspect of this breaking away to stand up for the indigenous church in India. And I think it's also tossing this out into the conversation. An interesting point to consider in context of the way that the modern hindu nationalist movement portrays Christianity as somehow alien or foreign to India. Can you unpack that for us a little bit? [00:59:55] Speaker B: Yes. Well, the whiteness exists, and the problem of the whiteness is, and we still have that. And american church as far as see american church, whiteness is threatened here. Whiteness feels threatened here. So I will say it out loudly because that is the fact and that's the truth, and we are dealing with it totally. So, in India, whiteness operates in a significant way. My grandfather, the discrimination was happening in the church itself. The discrimination was. There were benches in the church. Benches, sitting benches. And there was a floor, there was a carpet. So indian converts would sit on the carpet, and the whites and half whites, the Anglo Indians, I'm talking so Anglo Indians who are married to Brahmins or whatever. Upper caste, so called upper caste. So that race, so Anglo Indians. And they would have the privilege to sit on the chair. And my grandfather and all these people. So they will have to face this kind of discrimination. And if anyone dares to sit on the bench, pastor from the podium will call. Hey, why are you sitting there? Come and sit here. You are not supposed to sit there while in the worship services as well. So that was the fact. Second, there would be communion, holy communion, Lord Supper. In the times of Lord's Supper, we would get communion in different plates and cups. And they would get communion in different plates and cups. So grandfather and all his associates, all those few people like our church fathers, I will say it. Our church fathers, those who planted our church, our church fathers questioned this. Why the heck this happening? So said that is what. No, this is not biblical. They confronted it like, this is not biblical. You cannot do that. It is nowhere in the Bible, nowhere. Paul says it, nowhere. Jesus has said it, nowhere. Blah, blah, blah. Even not in your doctrines, even not in your doctrinal book or something that this could happen. There is no law like that. And on the other hand, and they say like we face discrimination a lot and we came for healing. We faced a lot of discrimination in which we were. And now we are trying to see that this is happening here as well. So they said like, if you don't like it, don't like it. But this is what the church authorities said, no, this is what we will practice and this will continue. So they all said, to hell with your church. To hell with your church. We'll plant our own church now. So all this associate, they rebelled and they planted their own church. They bought land near to that church. And they bought a land. They raised money from their own pockets. They bought a land. They built up a building. They started their congregation, they started their own. So that's wakanda. That wakanda, our own wakanda. So that is the first ever in my opinion. The marathi speaking Agri revolt. The church which came from revolt against whiteness and the caste supremacy which still exists in the church. Most of the majoritarian priests in the church today in India are from brahmin background. I see few of the dalit bishops. And all in my career as my christianity. I didn't see any female Bible college director or bible college or bishop or something. Now it is happening. Now it is happening that females are getting. But patriarchy still rules the church. And so that is there in indian church, whiteness operates in a different way. India's Jesus doesn't matter how much we indigenize it. His skin color will be white, and he will wear a robe, sadhu robe or something. That is the imagination of that indian christian theology. That is garbage. I call it garbage means a white man becoming a Pradhan and doing yoga. That is Jesus. That is your imagination of being christian. About Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible is a carpenter. He's a Labor Class guy. He works hard. He calls himself a shepherd. He's talking about farmers. He's talking about samaritans. He's important samaritans who are Dalits in that context. He's hanging out with samaritans means, like, untouchables at that time. He's hanging out with them. That's Jesus of the BIblE. And this Jesus of the church was a white dude. And when he goes to India, he wears a saffron robe and becomes a yogi. And that is the imagination of the church. So Church imagination of the church is still brahminic. Check on. And that's why Amitka's critic, that, and I agree with his critic, that church always associated with the Brahmins. What white missionaries came to India. They thought that if we approach the Brahmins, the most high caste, so they will communicate the gospel, and this way, we will christianize India. So that's the idea of Christendom. In a new Christendom, I say reaching the unriched. Nowhere in the BibLe it says unriched. This reaching the unreached thing. This is all colonial idea. Jesus never said that, go and colonize the world. He said, go and make disciples. He didn't say colonize them. He didn't say that christianize them into indoctrinate them into believing the doctrinal part and blah, blah, blah. So that systematize them. This is all layers of Christendom idea, which continues to hyperrule the church and irony of the Pauline narrative. The Pauline. I don't agree with that. What Paul did, apostle Paul, he went to Europe and all that missionary journeys. He approached the powerful people. He approached the powerful people. So that Pauline narrative also copied by. Also taken by Thomas. Apostle Thomas was apostle of Jesus came to India, and he approached few BrahmIns. And then, since then, Christianity began. He planted seven churches among the Brahmins, and then he was assassinated by a Brahmin in Tamil Nadu. That is the story of Thomas. But ever since the beginning, the early christianity, which begins from India, it was always under the Brahmins occupied by the Brahmins and the so called uppercast. And then there is a famous tradition called de Nobili tradition in Robert de Nobili on a portuguese missionary who came to India. So his pictures are floating over there in churches. You can see he's wearing January, and in January, he's wearing cross. [01:08:30] Speaker A: Janu is the sacred thread. [01:08:32] Speaker B: Sacred thread, yeah, that kind of means. That is the thread of caste supremacy. I am the supreme caste. That is the sign. And in that, he's wearing the cross. So that is what indigenization. That perception of indigenization. Not a single church, I'm telling you, not a single church. I have never seen. I grew up in the church. When church sermons, I heard church sermons, be it Methodist or Anglican or whatever, whichever denomination, I went in any church in India. Poverty glorification agenda. Poverty was being glorified and continues to be glorified. Oh, we are poor, so it's good. We should be dependent on God and blah, blah, blah. It's good to be poor. We will reach heaven. Basically, if I want to become rich, I cannot become rich because I will go to hell if I become rich. These poverty glorification sermons continues to float on the church. And so that's how the Christendom idea has taken another shape. And the perception of rss and all these people is that BECAusE JEsus is white and this is a white God, Jesus is the white God, and in their perception. And so British ruled India, East India Company ruled India for 250 years. So in the narrative they set is against conversion, which fulfills the narrative against conversion, that british rule is coming back. If you embrace this british religion or this is religion of America now. So this religion, the white people will come back and colonize. So if we embrace this. So that is another thing. And this is the basic agenda. And second thing is rice bag. Now, that has become a teaser rice bag for the indian Christians. They troll rice bag. Now, rice bag means. [01:10:55] Speaker A: Rice bag is this slur popularly used by hindu nationalist adherents, which basically is thrown at anybody who is a Christian, whether they're a convert or not, that, oh, you're just a Christian because you sold your soul for a bag of rice, and that's. [01:11:10] Speaker B: The only bag of the rice. So, basically, this rice back story is simple. People were starving during the feminine period. Christian missionaries came out of nowhere, and they distributed food. They fed them. So people saw their compassion at heart. Wow. And they asked them, no, why are you doing this? You don't know us. You don't belong to our column. But still, why are you doing this? They say, like, it's Jesus who has asked us to feed the hungry, as. [01:11:43] Speaker A: In the case of your. This. This lady comes and she opens up this clinic, this dispensary, and she begins treating people. And people begin to realize and ask her that, oh, she's doing this because she loves Jesus, and that's why she's driven to give. But as we begin to come to a little bit of a closing point, obed, this is. [01:12:08] Speaker B: Yes, I want to add. Hold on. Sorry to stop you, but I want to add this rise back story. When people were hungry, starving christian missionaries fed them food. Correct. And that's why people became christian. That is the narrative. So they sold their souls to the whites. That's the narrative they are spreading. But in this story, people are not seeing the main issue. Conversion is not an issue here. Issue is hunger. When people were starving, your own people were starving. What were you doing? Why it required a christian mysteries from the west to come and feed them. Why didn't you do that? You didn't feed your own country people. So hunger was the issue. The hunger is the issue. Global hunger is the issue. India ranks 113th today in global hunger. No one is talking about that issue at all. So that is the thing. This is what my grandfather came with. Different story. He came to Christ. And I am still christian, but right now I have boundaries with the church. I don't like the church because, as I said when we had this conversation beginning about the Christianity and christian dome and all. So whiteness feels threatened because christian dome and narrative today feels threatened. And just want to say like, christendom is never coming back. It will never come back. But those theological narratives feels threatened. So that's why. But anyways. Yeah, please continue. Yeah. Sorry to interrupt you. [01:13:58] Speaker A: No, I'm sorry. I didn't interrupt you. That's a fantastic point about. Well, the main issue is the hunger. Why aren't these people being fed? And as you mentioned, I think India is number 113 out of world countries in the global hunger index, which I believe, if I'm not mistaken, has dropped in the past several years. And the audacity of the current regime in India is that instead of taking those catastrophic numbers and grappling with them and finding a solution for the hunger, they actually spend their energies on arguing against the legitimacy of the ranking and claiming that it's not true. But that's fascinating and very disturbing, what you've just shared about the whiteness, the coloniality, and I'm familiar with some of it. Already myself, I've been in indian christian homes and have seen pictures of Jesus on the wall. And I have asked know, why is it that you have a picture of white Jesus on your wall? I've listened to some people talking in recent days about. Actually one of the beautiful things about the christian religion in particular is that it is malleable to all cultures that certainly we know that Jesus was from Palestine, he was probably brown or maybe even black. But that besides that, that around the world over the past 2000 years, we've seen this, where the christian religion, faith can be adapted to every culture. You can have a black or a brown or a white Jesus, you can have a Jesus of any color. Now this indigeneity and the claiming of the right of indian Christians to direct an indian church is such a beautiful story and hopefully will continue. Of course, unfortunately, as I'm sure you're well aware, even today, outside of the coloniality aspect, there are, and I think many Christians outside of India have no understanding that this is the reality. In India there are many churches which are still today segregated by know. I've heard stories of upper caste and then lower caste churches or stories of churches where in the same church the so called uppercasts and so called lower castes are not allowed to share from the same communion cup or tray. And hopefully we can have more conversations in the future and maybe dig into some of those issues. But as we begin to kind of come to a close and discuss a few more issues before we wrap up this faith of Christianity, it seems that it's particularly attractive in India to Dalits or people of so called lower castes. Is that true? I mean, who generally is converting and why are they converting also? So maybe this kind of answers this question. You've touched on your grandfather and what happened with him. How are these people usually being inspired to convert? Do they encounter the idea or these days? How do they encounter the idea or these days? Is it mostly from outsiders or from their fellow countrymen? [01:17:47] Speaker B: Well, Christianity, as far as I see, convergence are happening and will continue to happen because the message of Jesus Christ, the message of Jesus Christ has power to emancipate people from the horrors of slavery, of any kind of slavery. That's the power of the message of Jesus Christ is it's not just why people converted to different religions, because people wanted to. People were fed up of the caste system and they wanted to emancipate themselves. We cannot stay in this system because we are not treated as human beings as well. They saw these faiths, christian faiths and Muslims. And even in 18 hundreds there are the times of Mathmajotiba fuller. And that was like boom. People were becoming Christians. Even Brahmins were becoming Christians. And Dalits and OBCs. I think few of the OBC caste became Christians. But not much OBC. But Dalits, especially Dalits have. Today the good news is. Today's good news is all religions in India, majority religions which exist. Sikhism, Buddhism. Then Christianity and Islam. The good news about this religion. All these four major religions. The foot soldier of this religion is Dalit. All these four religions. Buddhism is alive because of Maharashtra. Because these Maharashtras Ambedkara. They do buddhist, buddhist. Buddhist, buddhist. Dalits. They have shielded. This legacy of Amitar means buddhist legacy. Otherwise north or you go towards northern. No one much cares about Buddha. But the northern Maharashtra, Ambedkar, the Vidarabha, Ambedkarish Nagpur and all this state. They do lot of Buddhism. Buddhism. Buddhism. To talk about lot of Buddhism. So these people are holding Budhism, Buddhism legacy. Similarly Christianity. You go to south from Tamil Nadu to Kerala to Andhra to Orissa. Majority tribal have become Christians. And then in Andhra you see Dalit. Dalits are Christians. Rohit Vemula. You see Rohit Vemula. The story of Rohit Vemula which floated Rohit Vemula was a Dalit. He was a Christian by the way. Yeah. He was a Christian by the way. Rohit Vemula or be it. You see in Maharashtra many Mahars or many balmikis or many other dalit caste people which come in sharl caste. They are embracing Christianity. So even a Sikhism. I'm telling you Sikhism. In Punjab Sikhism is alive because of Majbi, Sikhs, Rasiks and of course Ravidasiya. That sect become separated. They said like. No. [01:21:06] Speaker A: All of these communities being people who are from low caste or Dalai. [01:21:10] Speaker B: So because of them Sikhism is alive. Sikhism is not alive because of Khatris and Jats. The two upper castes. It is alive because of majbis, rasiks and all this ram Garya, Sikhs, Saini, Sikh. These people are there. So because they have holding up onto Sikh legacy. Guru Nanak's legacy or Dasham Guru's legacy. And Islam. Even Islam. I'm telling you majority of the Muslims are Dalits. And of course a few of the OBCs as well. Like Pasmanda community that Julah, they weavers. They are Muslims. And you see kartiks or kartik means I don't know that is a caste. But there are Qureshis in Islam. They do meat business. So meat business, meat selling business. So meat sellers shop that scrap dealers. And all this community, labor class community, this is all the late and basically the agrarian communities, they are holding on to these religions. And I'm telling you, even Hinduism, Hinduism or Brahminism, what is called it is alive because of the lith. And one community which is called as Balmiki community, the sanitation work community, that is the most, even, not even OBC, the most proudest hindu today, who is willing to fight for Hinduism or whatever, like Hindutva and foot soldier is Balmiki, the sanitation worker. Fight the foot soldiers. I'm talking about this paramilitary you call Rss. Rss. The Brahmins don't fight. [01:22:56] Speaker A: Yes. [01:22:57] Speaker B: Mount Bhagavat won't come and fight. You fight a war or something. He will make others fight. They will make others fight. So Dalits fighting Dalits. Obesity is fighting obesity. These baojans fighting with each other in this Hindutva and Islam, whatever the Islamophobia, whatever things are happening, we, our agri communities become victim of that, and we fight each other because there is no sense of brotherhood, because caste barriers have there. So that's why I'm saying my attempt and my experiment was become successful. Like, we had Amber's anniversary, Babasai Ambedkar's birth anniversary last year in 2023. It was an interfaith gathering. We had one common hero, Ambedkar. Muslims, Buddhist, Ravidasia, Sikhs, Christians. We all came together because we are Ambedkarites first. So that's identity and narrative we have gained. And so that's the power of that. So that's the thing. So that's why convergence are happening, and it will continue to happen. No one can stop this, because even though you try to beat up people, you lynch people, whatever you want to do. Do people have freedom of expression? And they will continue to. They have freedom of choice. They will make choice. You cannot stop people from doing anything. Do whatever you want to do. Gharwapsi do Garbapsi. They will go to your ghar, they will go back to your home for a few days. They will impress you. And they will come. Yes, because it's operation. No. See, if anyone comes to me to do a garvapsi. [01:24:52] Speaker A: I just want to interject for our listeners. Garvapsi is this idea. Homecoming means homecoming. It's this thing that happens in India, which is termed as, like, reconversion, where basically these hindu nationalist elements target communities that have converted from Hinduism to another religion, or even sometimes people that they're not converts. Maybe they're even just born in that religion, and they go out and they attempt to do a so called reconversion to bring them in a homecoming, back into the hindu fold, oftentimes forcibly. [01:25:29] Speaker B: Yeah. So, garavapsi, what I'm saying, okay, you want to do my garbsi, do it. Okay. But my question will be for. Question would be, okay, I'm coming to your home. Okay, I will come to your. I'll become Hindu. Okay, fine, I'll do it. But what caste will I convert to? If you're appointing me a shankaracharya of all four muts, I am willing to become a Hindu. I'll become a head priest, most high priest. That will be my demand. If someone comes to me at Fatherwapsi, I need at least thirupati rich temples. I need to become the head priest of that big, rich temple so that I could use all that money and fight the world hunger. At least I will use all that money from the temples, and I will, because I'm quoting Sai Thackeray's father, Prabhupadhan kar Thackeray, was a disciple of Babasaib Ambedagar. He said, take out the temple funds and distribute to the public because it is necessary. So I am not saying this. Prabhadan kar Thakre, the grandfather of Udav Thakre, former chief minister of Maharashtra, he said this. He wrote this in his book, Devarasadaman Deva Dharmachi Devari Emirati. But anyways, so those are the things. Of course. Yeah. So that has been the journey. The journey of being a Christian who is a mahar and a proud mahar and worked for, like, 13 years, I think, in India, in the civil rights movement. And so that has been an amazing journey. And this journey continues because I am not the one, because I believe the one who calls himself Christian or follower of Christ or family of Christ, he's always one with the one. So one with the one. So this has been my journey, and this journey will continue unless and until he says, put it well. [01:27:44] Speaker A: I really appreciate that, obed. And it's a fantastic, very interesting journey, certainly far different from that which most people here in the west, most Americans born and raised in the US are familiar with. And I really appreciate you offering some insight to what that journey has been like for you and to what's going on in India and to this whole issue of the caste paradigm, the conversion issues, the practice of Christianity, especially indigenous Christianity in India. That was a wonderful, beautiful way that you put it about this idea of being of the Garvapsi, of the reconversion to Hinduism is that if somebody wants to come and do garvapsi on you and reconverse you to Hinduism, okay, as long as they agree that when they do so, they're going to put you as the highest caste in control of all of these hindu temples. So you can do what we should be doing. Whatever faith you follow, we should all be doing, fundamentally as humans, is using that wealth to uplift the poorest of the poor among us. I have so many things that I really wanted to touch on with you. I think we're going to have to get back to another conversation, because as I'm talking with you, there is just too much. Because you are too informative, you are too inspiring, and there's just too much to unpack with you. I wanted to touch on dollop theology and your grandfather's relationship to that. I definitely want to touch on this issue of your thesis that you did for your PhD, the tale of two Mahatmas of India. I know one of those Mahatmas was this man from the 19th century, Jothi Rapule, who we just commemorated about a week ago the anniversary of the birth of Jothi Rapule's wife, Sabito Bai, I believe, who is a key figure in India from the 19th century in women's empowerment and in educating especially young women, but women from disadvantaged, marginalized, so called low caste backgrounds. But before we take leave, I did want to ask you a couple of quick questions, one and two. One, is this issue of English. Now, you don't speak English as your mother tongue. Obviously, you're quite fluent in it. You speak Marathi. From growing up, many Dalit scholars that I've encountered, they've talked about this issue of English and learning English as somehow being an emancipatory effort for the Dalit community or for the lower caste, so called lower castes. And I want to hear your perspective on that. When and how did you learn English, and how did it help you, or did it help you? And how do you perceive just the general issue of learning English in context of this anticaste struggle? That's my one question before my last. [01:31:05] Speaker B: Yeah, of course, English is not my mother tongue, but now English, in my opinion, is indian language. Now, see, whichever language exists for, like, more than 200, 300 years, it becomes that country's language. So we don't speak british English. We speak Indian English. Now. We have indian accents. We have indian accents. We speak our own English. But again, English has been emancipated. That is correct. My upbringing. Because I studied in convent school, christian convent school, catholic schools since my grade one to ten. So that my whole teachers, they will teach in English. They will speak English. They will teach in english language. Whichever subject they are teaching. From maths to geography or science or whatever. So all the subjects were in English. So textbooks were in English. That's how I know. Because from the childhood, since grade ten. So that's how I learned English. And then my writing, all my graduation post graduation, then PhD, it's all in English. English medium. So English has been an emancipatory because there is a craze of learning English. And right now, even in the society, whenever there is a season for new admissions in the school, I get calls, brother, because they know I'm Christian. Brother, do you know principal of this school? We need admission for our kid. I said, why are you picking up christian schools only? Why don't you pick up hindi medium school, marathi medium school. There are schools. Government granted school. Why don't you go there? No, we want there only. Why? Number one, discipline. Discipline of the catholic school. They are number one in discipline. No one can build that. Although there are private schools opened by many, even RSS associated people and all that. So politicians have also have their schools and all institutions exist. But the beauty of the christian schools, discipline, manners and all that moral, including english language, with English, this all comes discipline, manners. [01:34:04] Speaker A: And they teach you moral science. [01:34:06] Speaker B: The moral science. Yeah, the ethics. So this you can get only in christian schools in India. Nowhere. I haven't seen any other beauty. That's why there is a craze for schools. So that's why people want to study English. And English has been an emancipatory. Because when British colonized India and that story and when Macule, Thomas Babington Macule introduced english things and all. So it was a colonial agenda. It was a colonial agenda to colonize the youth, train them into british, something british. To train british brains in indian skin. That was the agenda. The colonial brain in indian skin. But the OBCs, the Dalits, especially Dalits who were being marginalized from education, they never had access to Sanskrit. They never had access to literature. All we survived through songs and poetry. Poetry in our own script. Like Tukaram wrote in his Times of Marathi something guru Ravidas wrote on leather skin. He was a cobbler. So he used to write in that. In leather plates. Guru Kabir was like. He used to weave and sing. And somehow he wrote on his clothings and something. So you see all the saints. So we never had a pen and paper thing that access to the education at all. And if we try to speak Sanskrit, they will cut off our tongues and they will kill us. So what to do? And Macule's program, this Macula's program is basically, of course, Macule was a colonizer. I say, and I don't justify colonialism, but Macaulay was our savior, in my opinion. We got access to the schools, we got access to the English. But I don't justify what Macule did was correct or whatever, but this wrong thing of british, whatever they did, become good for us. And we got access. Our old ancestry got access. English education. And Fule comes in. Mahatma Fule comes from the convent school, christian school. So he studied in christian mission school. Savitri Bhaiful, you talked about Savitria bhai. Fule was trained by Cynthia Farrar, she was trained by Cynthia Farrar, american christian missionary, not british, american christian missionary. First ever american christian missionary teenager who came in a teenage, in a very young age, single lady. I found her tomb. She's buried in. I think I need to check the place in America. Her tomb is there. So she died in Ahmed Nagar. She started planting schools. And Fule saw that, I'm telling you, Mahatma Fulhay saw that when he went to Ahmed Nagar in a town far from Pune. That town is very far. So he just went for another trip casually, to meet some people. And he saw that. And he says to his friend Sadash, you go one day, bro, I feel so ashamed here. This woman flew across the seven seas and for my girls, and I need to connect with this lady. I need to learn how to run schools, school administration. Fulh learned school administration. Then he said to Savitri bhai, come, let's learn from her. They took lessons from her, how to run the school, english medium schools or whatever. And they took the christian missionaries, they adapted. Christian missionaries, model plant schools. So that's how Savitri bhai Fulh planted first ever girl school. Mathma Fulhay and both couple, they planted first ever girl school on first January 1848, 3rd January was her birthday. Savitri, by fulfill my research is on Matma Fulhay and Gandhi, tale of two mahatmas. But we can talk about later. But that's very emancipated poetry, English. Emancipated women. Our women. Our women didn't even exist in the but women. First girl school, which was planted. They were like four girls. The smartest girl ever produced. She started first ever girls school with four girls. Savitribai. One of them was Anandi ben Joshi. First ever doctor, medical practitioner who went abroad. Anandi ben Joshi. Mukta Sarawe. She wrote an essay after that. Her essay is brilliant. Not a single academician of today can compare. Like the way the depth she has written in that essay is like equivalent to thesis. Mukta Salve. In her essay, you google it. She explains her pain and misery. What they go through. And she writes with a hope that what is the hope for me? So those are the bright. Shouldn't they raise so English. I'm talking about English. English has been so professor Kancha Eli shepherd, he called many times English as our goddess. I don't agree with the term goddess, but fine English is there. And he calls himself shepherd now. He said, I am using english name Kancha Elaya. Shepherd. So shepherd means his caste is Dhangar. Dhangar community. They are shepherd in English. They do shepherding. They do herding. Not herding. Catalding. Yeah. So he calls him a shepherd. So if someone is Kunbi, he's suggesting that to have english surnames like someone is Kunbi who is tealing the land. So you are a farmer. So we can see people in America. Farmer with farmer broom. I have met a guy named Broom whose last name was Broom in America, white guy. His name is Broom. Last name is Broom. I met one person. His last name is farmer. So why can't we say we call ourselves cobblers? Mahar can be soldier. Because we have Mahar battalion. So Mahar soldier, obed the soldier. I can call myself obed soldier. So these english names are really emancipatory. It helps you to dismantle the layers of the caste system. And that caste abusive surnames which gave and only six did it. The name revolution at the time, Dasham Guru and especially Guru Gobind Singh. He led a revolution of names, Singh and Kaur. Because we had bad surnames. Very demeaning surnames. [01:41:41] Speaker A: Derogatory with the cast is always attached to the surname. [01:41:45] Speaker B: With the surnames, with the surnames, with the last names. Periyar in modern times, in Tamil Nadu did that. Dismantling the last names. Like you should not use the last Periyar movement. Did that. You should dismantle last names so that you cannot be identified with your caste. And sikh movement, the Sikhism, they did an amazing job. Like Guru Gobind Singh. Just when he formed Kalsa, he said, like you are Kalsas. Men would be Singhs and women will be core Singh means lion and women are princes. So core core means princess. So lion and princess call yourself. But that's the irony. Then caste entered Sikhism and all that. Then people started using their last names. This thing that, this thing. Anyways, I'm not getting into that, but I'm telling you that English and this name change and all that, this is happening, and this has been an immense. I'm not justifying colonialism here. That whiteness thing is really horrible. It's a horror which rules the american church today. And I have seen that, I have experienced that. And so that's why I'm having boundaries with the church, because church doesn't care anymore about us, about the things happening with the immigrants and all. So church is Always, the diversity agenda of the church is always like, you have a maculese kind of program there, a white brain with brown and black skin. That is happening in the church. That's a diversity. To believe in the white theology and to manipulate the white theology. So that's white centric, but all will be diverse. See how beautiful we are. [01:43:37] Speaker A: Well, thank you, Dr. Oped, so much for that. And next time we come back, really want to delve into some of these issues more deeply with you about pule, of course, as you were discussing and this issue of English and what it's meant for the emancipation of these downtrodden people in India, especially tracing back to the first school for girls being taught in English, apparently, and in India. And then love to touch more on the issue of Ambedkar, ambedkarism, your civil rights activities in India, your immigration journey, and so much more, which is still left to uncover and delve into. But just as we go, I wanted to ask you if you have any last thoughts for our listeners, anything that's on your mind as we go. [01:44:34] Speaker B: Well, what I would say to my listeners that never, ever stop dreaming, keep dreaming. And dreams is not just daydreaming. I'm saying dream not, not. Don't just pick one. Dream. Dream multiple times, have multiple dreams. Have your multiple goals in life, not just one goal. Because if you dream about three goals, to achieve three things, you have to aim so at least you will fulfill one. You will be contented. Fine, I did one. If one doesn't work, at least there is a backup. Fine. I wanted to become this, but I can so never, ever stop dreaming and keep, so keep proclaiming the truth and never forget the roots. The God of all nations will turn down the shekels of caste and race and horrors in this world. Thank you so much. [01:45:57] Speaker A: Thank you so much Dr. Obed Manwatkar, and we look forward to hearing more of your wisdom, your story in the near future. Take care and bless you. Thank you for tuning in. If you liked what you heard, please remember to subscribe and follow for more to come as we look forward to dialoguing once again on Dosa.

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