The event was a discussion about the book “Kali’s Daughter” written by Raghav Chandra, who was present too and who answered questions and queries related to the book. Gauri P Joshi asked the questions and Rajshekar Vundru chaired the discussion. Kali’s Daughter is the story of a Dalit woman called Deepika, who, as India’s representative in the UN, has to refute the UNHRC’S report on rampant caste discrimination, being practised in India. But the reality is that caste discrimination is rampant in India and she’s also faced the same in brutal ways. She gets caught up in a conflict of identities, where her achieved identity as a diplomat representing India internationally comes into conflict as a Dalit woman, a woman who has been bullied just because of her caste, a Dalit woman who wants to expose the truth. This conflict gets played out across the novel and takes her back on an emotional rollercoaster.
Of the many questions asked by Gauri Joshi, one question really made the audience ponder over the question of whether caste discrimination was still a problem in India, when India has crossed miles in modernisation and people don’t care about caste as much as one used to. Raghav Chandra shoots back with the reply that that itself is a farce, that exemplifies the hypocrisy of Indians. We like pretending to uphold liberal values but are still slaves to prejudices and negative stereotypes. He gives a very Lucid example of how matrimonial advertisements in newspapers like Times Of India still have very explicit references to one’s caste identity and that this form of casteism gets hidden beneath the farce of it being one’s own preferences. Caste identity permeates every aspect of Indian society and it’s difficult to separate the two without the two of them coming at an intersection at one point.
The most interesting statement (might be considered offensive to some) Raghav Chandra made was when he claimed that Hanuman was actually a trustworthy tribal who represented the notion of aboriginal trustworthiness. This statement was in response to Gauri’s question over whether calling Hanuman a “handsome monkey guy” in the novel was controversial or not. He argued that it was his own interpretation after reading the Ramayana, that that was the logical conclusion that he came to.
When Gauri asked Raghav Chandra over whether art should be just for the sake of it or if art should be for a social message too, Raghav Chandra, asked her to answer that question herself on a playful note.
Another related topic that came on resurfacing many times in the discussion was the question of reservations and their necessity in helping to root out caste discrimination. Often, opponents of reservation argue that caste-based reservations actually perpetuate caste discrimination and that they’re not the solution, that they come with a lot of side-effects. To which, Raghav Chandra thundered that that kind of perspective comes from a very casteist view which isn’t willing to accept the injustices and sufferings of Dakota and tribals.
Lastly, over a question asked by an audience member over the reason why caste discrimination exists to this day, in spite of policies of positive discrimination and reserved constituencies in place to safeguard the rights of tribals and Dalits, Raghav Chandra says that this problem isn’t the government’s problem anymore, that it’s a reflection on society. Just the fact that caste discrimination is still prevalent, hints at the selfishness of how we, as humans, as Indians, are unable to root out such inhumane practices.