Jai Bhim Network

Sharing my experiences in Hungary so far by Swati Kamble

2008.12.20. Categorized: Uncategorized   

Dear All

There have been a lot of enriching experiences taking place in my educational life and it has been a very good learning which I would like to share with you all. I have been thinking of doing this for a while now, never got myself to actually put it all together but now that I have done it, look forward to hear what you all have to say about this experience sharing.

Gandhi Conference at CEU: Questioning the trend of glorifying Gandhi, Interaction with RajMohan Gandhi

I believe you all know, I am doing my second year of masters studies in Public policy from Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

Indian Embassy in Hungary had organized an India week, starting from  Nov. 29th till Dec. 6th, 2008. You all can see the events that were organized in “India Week”.


Part of this India week  was the Gandhi conference starting  from Dec.1st till 3rd December in central European University which was  organized by Central European University in cooperation with the Embassy of India, Budapest and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR); with the support of the Hungarian Ministry of Education and Culture; the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Municipality of Budapest; Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Department of Indo-European Studies (ELTE); the Csoma de Koros Society; the Open Society Institute, Budapest, and the Le Meridien Hotel, Budapest.

for further details please find the Gandhi conference schedule bellow and have a look at it to see what were the topics that were covered.

(It is very important to have a look at the narrowly covered Topics.)

Coming to the conference and me, I attended bits and pieces of conference during first two days to get a picture, (and also was constrained by the classes, so couldn’t attend all the panel discussions).

During the Exhibition on Ettakopa village, Andhra Pradesh I happen to talk to one of the organizers of the event Mr. Istvan Perczel who is a professor of medieval studies and working on the preservation of Syriac manuscripts that are found in old catholic churches of Kerala by the digitized means.

I brought to his notice the non-inclusion of debate surrounded around Gandhi-Ambedkar’ s political standpoints on separate electorate, which is one of the major events in Gandhi’s life. His “fight” so to say for homogenized one country, “Swaraj” (?)  For which he went for the longest “Hunger strike” and not to forget the impact that it left on the then Untouchables (Now Dalits) of India.

Istvan shared the dynamics in organizing such kinds of events especially with the support of embassies and ministries. He himself wasn’t very satisfied with the poorly organized and highly controlled, politicized event.  He proposed to have another conference in coming year which would be inclusive of all pros and cons that are part and parcel of Indian socio-political realm and specifically from intellectual lenses.

After listening to Istvan, who is an admirer of Gandhi and his spirituality (as several other Europeans I wont blame him), and is least aware of the Political views of Gandhi, specially the biased views when it came to rights of untouchables, I decided to draft few questions for the last day panel.

The panel topics were focusing on the non-violence in the midst of war prone and unrest regions ” Ahimsa after Gandhi”, to name the panel papers which are most likely to turn into a book soon ” Grasping the truth: Gandhi Vision of leadership and the European Union”, “Gandhi Reborn: Non-Violent Protest in Palestine, 2008″, “Between Revenge and reconciliation: A Gandhian Truth and Reconciliation commission?” (Rajiv Bhargava, DU), followed by the valedictory speech by Rajmohan Gandhi, ” The relevance of Gandhi’s close associate, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, to today’s south Asia and the Middle East”.

All these two days and even on the third day of course Gandhi view points were not put on the debate or were not contested, argued…what was done was glorifying his Image almost to the level where one can not see that this person could do mistakes or could have had debatable political views (which is the case when Gandhi-admirers come together in the name of conference, we can see the invited panelist from India Uma Dhupelia-Meshrie, Gnadhi’s great grand daughter, Bhikku Parekh, Goparaju Vijayam, Ashish Nandi and ofcourse grandchildren of Gandhi).

And then my turn came, when Rajiv spoke  about reconciliation and that there should be space to talk for both the parties both the wrong doer and the one who is  getting exploited (oppressed and oppressors) but I saw fundamental problems in his explanations as when he spoke of Gandhi legacy of non-violence and making the ” wrong-Doer” feel ashamed and guilty by excommunicating (as a punishment)him/ her is effective way, now in Indian context we all know inferior Dalit would feel if they walk by the Village side where upper caste live, if they fall in love with an upper caste or if they try to imitate upper caste, it is “wrong doing”  well this might sound simplistic but hasn’t this been the psychological slavery.
The other point about Reconciliation was, what reconciliation are we talking about, when the conference till today fails to be conscious about flaws in Gandhian legacy or fails to at least bring it up in the open for discussion even at an intellectual platform such as this conference, will reconciliation at the level where the ground realities are still unchanged, take place…

I had to question Rajiv, I was of course not expecting answer for there is none, I was expecting to see floor being open for discussion, which did happen after my question. I asked Rajiv, what he feels about the non-inclusion of Gandhi-Ambedkar debate on Separate electorate and Gandhi’s longest fast before Poona pact came into being. When we talk about reconciliation I asked wasn’t this issue of Ambedkar-Gandhi political standpoints as important, why shouldn’t we hear Gandhi’s arguments and what Ambedkar said, over the issue of separate electorate. It created an uneasy silence amongst the panelists, and Rajiv tried to play politically correct but I wondered why there is  uneasiness when it comes to talking about Caste…(Before the conference I happened to have casual talk with Rajiv’s wife who is a teacher, she saw me reading Suhas Palishikar’s Gandhi-Ambedkar Interface:.. .When Shall the Twain Meet? and she was like whenever we go for conferences such as this one the issue of caste is unavoidable to, now in this conference it is not even relevantRajmohan Gandhi announced that the issue raised is of his concern to and he would much love to talk about but would not take time of people in the conference (he later told me by this he meant that majority of the Foreigners might not be aware of this political history) but would like to share what his personal views and what he interpreted Gandhi’s views were. I told Mr. Gandhi, which is exactly the issue, people here in the conference were most of them scholars on Gandhian studies and they were ignorant of this very important phase of Gandhi’s politics.  I had a very nice conversation with Mr. Gandhi, who is an intellectual and he said what he felt he had known from being Gandhi Grandson and from what he had interpreted of Gandhi’s readings, although his views seemed biased such as he said he didn’t know how much successful or effective the separate electorate would have been as it was never implemented but if it was why Ambedkar dint insisted on it after Gandhi’s death again, his view was that the Poona pact was a win-win situation that Gandhi proposed. Gandhi wanted a homogenized state entity and he wanted untouchable to get their rights from being in the community itself and sensitizing the oppressors. He gifted his book “Mohandas, a true story of a man, his people and an empire” and asked me to read if I could and comment if I will have any, which seemed a very healthy and encouraging gesture. A lady who had presented who spoke about ” Gandhi, citizenship and the resilience of Indian nationhood” Ornit shaniAmbedkar debate and importantly they were foreigners.. .at this point I was really amazed people knew it all and they were in the organizing committee’s too, how dint it occur them to have a panel devoted to the critical overview of the historical event, Poona pact and the status of Lower castes in India. But at the same time I was glad that the discussion was stirred up and that I met really nice people in the process. Istvan proposed to have another conference including the issue, although I decided to go via a student body and have Independence in deciding the panel topics. Purpose was served, and I have a friend studying Indian social movements, focusing on Kerala Chengara movement for her PhD who and I are planning for Ambedkar Conference. ). well but then before his valedictory speech Mr. (whose lecture I missed) came up to me and said well, I brought this up in my discussion and she faced the silence about it too…and there were at least ten people who came up to me to share what they had thought about the Gandhi.

My this year thesis: Roma Integration Policies in Hungary

And I have decided to write my thesis on Roma rights, Roma integration policies in Hungary. I first heard about Roma was when I read a paper on Human Horizon Yahoo group, the writer connected the systemic discrimination of Roma in central and eastern Europe to the situation of Dalit in India. I was amazed to know that the Roma in Europe could be compared to Dalits for their lower socio-economical background. A Swedish friend of mine who I had met through International Dalit Solidarity network, she had lived in Romania and she described how much the Gypsies in Romania resembled to Indian Nomads, Banjara’s, she also showed me an ethnographical study as an evidence which proved Gypsies are wanderers, Musician travelers from North-west India, I was all the more fascinated until then gypsies I had romantic image of carefree life of gypsies, Roma for me was mere an Italian name for the famous city Rome. Not until I came to central Europe myself and had to face discrimination for I looked like Roma to some white Hungarian (I was almost bashed by a lady while getting onto the tram) that I realized that it’s not only about romantic Roma life its about human dignity and rights, the search started and soon pieces of jigsaw started to become clearer, in later months I was remembered the English poem that had impacted me as a child about poor gypsies, I happened to watch Tony Gatilf’s musical Journey Latcho Dorm, Gadgo Dilo and the milestone was to get in contact with Derdak Tibor, Andras and Janos in Budapest Mangesh from Manuski put me in touch with these three incredible people and I explored a whole new connection and purpose. Tibor, Janos, Andras work for Roma right and Roma education, I met Dhammachari Subhuti in Budapest just because I had contacted these three people via email, I was amazed by the network that we have established through virtual space on internet. I visited Jai Bhim Network, and met the women’s group which is at its initial stage to develop into a self-help group; they are mothers of children getting educated at Jai bhim Network. I spoke to them all shared my Indian experiences and spoke about Ambedkar, Buddhism with them. It is all very difficult to put in words but going through the post-socialist ruins of industrial village and ghettos of Roma it reminded me of Girangaon in Mumbai, any typical slum dwelling devastated after the collapse of industries. Poverty, segregation, ill health, many children, girls having children at small age, seasonal employment in informal sector, alcoholism, name the problem and it is there, I felt at home for a moment (sounds paradoxical) and then the discrimination and violence on Roma by extreme right wing parties and youth groups. It was all like déjà vu and I said well I can compare situation of Dalits in India with the situation of Roma in central and eastern Europe, that can be my long term study, I look forward to do a qualitative and quantitative research, but at the moment my thesis would be on Roma Integration policy in Hungary.

Having penned down all this I must say the purpose is to share the enchanting experiences of mine and to also get guidance from this forum.

I look forward to several comments, if some of you survive reading this rather long experience sharing.

Immense Metta


1 | Kate Herd

November 6th, 2010, 2:15 pm

Hi , i’m a student at the university of Ghent in Belgium. Maybe you should try to contact me because i’m doing the same thing. I’m making a comparative study of the discrimination of dalits and romani people. That is how i found this website, i was looking for the importance of inspiration by Ambedkar with both groups. I just started my masters so i turned in the subject for my thesis to get an approval but i haven’t heard anything yet. It could get dismissed because i don’t have the resources to do the fieldwork research required. Anyways, if you want, i think we could have interesting conversations. Are you from Hungary? I love Budapest!

2 | Swati Kamble

January 11th, 2011, 10:48 pm

Dear Kate,

I am very happy to hear about your study plan. Do share your email id and we should talk more on this. I have already put down my email id here, feel free to write.


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1720 (You will need this technical-number if you would like to offer one percentage of your tax to Our Inspiration.)----

Our Inspiration 1st Part

Our Inspiration (1st Part)
Jai Bhim is a cheerful greeting. Ten million Indians greet each other in this manner. They're the Dalits who are a proud community. They inherited an extremely difficult life. Their parents and grandparents and untold generations before them were outcasts in society. Even today they still encounter prejudice and experience helplessness.
For more than a millenium their ancestors lived as outcasts. People had a horror of touching them. Others even avoided being in their proximity as their shadow was considered polluting. If they went to school they were seated separately, If they were able to obtain work they did the dirtiest and lowest paid jobs.

Our Inspiration 2nd Part

Our Inspiration (2nd Part)
With their greeting of Jai Bhim they remind each other of their own successful revolution in 1956 for their human rights. Their cause is sacred. It inspires us here in Hungary, as we also face segregation and prejudice today. We would like to know discrimination is a thing of the past.
The dalit's story is like a fairy tale.

Our Inspiration 3rd Part

Our Inspiration (3rd Part)
Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there lived a seventeen year old untouchable boy in a big family, His name was Bhim. He was the youngest child among 14 siblings. He surpassed all of them because of his brilliant mind. A wealthy maharaj acknowledged his poverty and bestowed a scholarship on him. Bhim was aware that Indian schools were being discriminatory and practiced segregation. Therefore, he tried his fortune in London and New York where he achieved university degrees. He received the title Dr. Ambedkar when he returned home to serve his people as a barrister.

Our Inspiration 4th Part

Our Inspiration (4th Part)
Nevertheless, he was considered as an untouchable in accordance with the holy books of the Hindu religion. Therefore, he convened with his friends and publicly burned Manu's Laws, the Hindu holy script which bids the Hindu to hold the Untouchable in disdain. He became a human right fighter and his authority was constantly growing throughout the whole country. When India gained independence in 1947 he was nominated as law minister. He was entrusted with drafting the Constitution for the country. He wrote in it that discrimination is forbidden.

Our Inspiration 5th Part

Our Inspiration (5th Part)
In his old age the Dalit people addressed him with veneration as Dr. Babasaheb. He and his laws, however respected they were, he still stared frustratedly at the discrimination existing all over the country. He decided then to show the people a spiritual alternative. As our judgment is determined by our faith, he took an oath: "I was born a Hindu Untouchable. It was beyond my power to prevent that but I declare that it is within my power to refuse to live under ignoble and humiliating conditions. I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu". He abjured hindu religion that had brought so much suffering and humiliation to the Untouchable people (today's Dalits).

Our Inspiration 6th Part

Our Inspiration (6th Part)
He studied thoroughly all the faiths of the world. He was seeking a religion which fitted together with reason, with modern science, and which declared liberty, fraternity and equality amongst people. He decided to follow the path of the Indian prince who lived 2500 years ago: he would be a follower of the Buddha. This was a decision of profound importance for the Dalits because the Buddha is venerated thoughout the world, and India is entitled to take pride in her great son. Dr. Ambedkar showed his astuteness: all of us can choose the way to be respected, we can change our fate for the better. Hundreds of thousands followed Ambedkar to the magnificent ceremony in Nagpur in October 1956. This was the rebirth of Buddhism in India. Babasaheb died six weeks later.

Our Inspiration 7th Part

Our Inspiration (7th Part)
Those who at that time embraced a new world view with him, they are today grandfathers and grandmothers. Their grandchildren are as numerous as the whole population of Hungary. They follow Ambedkar's example: they face even the biggest difficulties in all things - to study and to exercise their human rights.

All of the Parts in One

Our Inspiration

  • Chandrakirti: I like ur views on Bhim Jayanti... And i jst can say "Jai Bhim".....
  • Sunil Sagar: Jai Bhim Janos it's great seeing Dr. Ambedkar's follower in Hungary. The Emancipator, The god of Small. What Millions of god and goddess of Hindu's c
  • Ashwin Jangam: Struggle for liberation of Mulnivasis When freedom struggle of our country was going on, we were dual slaves. The Arya Brahmin
  • Ashwin Jangam: Jaibhim Abhinav Thank you Abhinav for putting up a superb photos of our ancestors to know our peop

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