Mr. Paladino, in the interview with The Times, said he was “not politically correct,” though he disputed the notion that his comments were racist. Asked why he wanted to see the first lady live with a gorilla in Africa, he paused for a long time, then said: “What’s wrong with that?”
We may just be witnessing another bout of forced amnesia about caste atrocities. On Monday, the CBSE announced its decision to remove a section entitled ‘Caste, Conflict and Dress Change’ from its social science curriculum for Class IX students, following an order by the Madras High Court that directed it to remove ‘objectionable content’. The removed section of the NCERT textbook, used by the CBSE and 15 state boards, involves a discussion of the Nadar community, whose men and women were forced to keep their upper bodies uncovered by the National Council of the Pidagaikars, the caste council of the Nairs of the state of Travancore in the early 1800s. This was perceived as a sign of respect towards the ‘upper’ castes, and the Nadars had to pay a mulakkaram or ‘breast tax’ if they chose to cover themselves. In 1822, the practice sparked a series of violent agitations known as Maru Marakkal Samaram, or the Channar Revolt, where women from the Nadar and Ezhava communities demanded the right to wear the same clothing as ‘upper’ caste women. Hostility around the issue continued until 1858 because the Nadar women were unsatisfied with the compromises they were being asked to make – those who were Christian converts were allowed to wear a kuppayam (a jacket-blouse of sorts), but not allowed to wear any apparel in the style of Nair women, who wore an upper cloth around their torsos.
The Shuar situation about which Acción Ecológica had been sounding the alarm involved the escalation of the conflict between the Shuar community of Nankints, the government, and a Chinese mining conglomerate Explorcobres S.A. (EXSA). The government had granted EXSA rights to mine for copper in the area of San Carlos Panantza, which overlaps with Shuar ancestral territory, without seeking the consent of – let alone properly consulting with – the Shuar, despite the fact that international and Ecuadorian law require such consultation. As the mining project moved forward, the Shuar tried to engage various government entities in dialogue.Those attempts at dialogue were brutally interrupted in August when military and police forces forcibly evicted Shuar families from land the company needed for the mine. After a lack of adequate response from the government, in late November the Shuar attempted to return to those lands and were met with heavy police and military presence, including air assaults. When the vice president of FICSH tried to mediate, he was arrested. Instead of heading calls from regional and national indigenous federations for mediated dialogue, the government continued its heavy-handed approach, and the conflict escalated. Last week those protests turned violent, resulting in several injuries and the death of one policeman. The government then declared a 30-day “state of emergency” – essentially the suspension of rights and due process – and sent in the military, complete with armored tanks. President Rafael Correa wasted no time in taking to the airwaves and Twitter to defame the Shuar, calling them “semi-delinquents” and implying that they’re using extortion for material gain.