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Articles Mari Marcel Thekaekara

  • Mar 24, 2016: Drowning in liquid filth – in 21st century India (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist)
    We pretend that people are not condemned to the caste system, Mari Marcel Thekaekara writes.
    "In 1996, I listened in disbelief as Martin Macwan, a dalit leader, told a Delhi gathering, ‘I am ashamed that as a dalit, working with my people for over 10 years, I did not know that balmiki people still carry shit on their heads everyday of their lives.’ It was on the eve of 50 years of independence from British colonialism. The Indian economy, we were told at that time, was poised to take off. Indians were ready to take over the internet world. Silicon Valley was ours for the asking. Yet we couldn’t deal with our own excrement with a modicum of decency. Women scooped it up, of different textures, from large open gutters, with a tin sheet, a stick broom and their bare hands. These were semi-urban toilets." >>

  • Apr 28, 2014: Fighting Violence against Women: Manjula Pradeep, Dalit leader (Mari Marcel Thekaekara)
    I have watched Manjula Pradeep grow from a novice, an inexperienced young girl in the early 90's into a confident, assured, gutsy Dalit leader over the last 20 years. In this interview, Manjula traces the history of her struggle for Dalit rights from her early induction into Navsarjan Trust, as a raw, young recruit and her tumultous journey to her present post as head of Navsarjan Trust, often representing Dalits in the UN and other national and international fora. >>

  • Jan 17, 2014: I am terrified – and optimistic – for India’s future (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist)
    For India, 2014 starts on a note of optimism. A fledgling new party, the Aam Aadmi Party, AAP, or common peoples party, flaunting an anti-corruption campaign, decency, and other values not commonly associated with politics, inspired India’s middle classes to come out on the streets to protest against rampant, pervasive corruption. Although most people approved of and felt inspired by the movement, few gave the party much chance against our two mammoth political power centres. The Congress (India’s oldest and for four decades only strong party) and the BJP or Bharatiya Janata Party. >>

  • May 2, 2013: Bring workers’ rights back into fashion (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist)
    It’s May Day as I write this. A few days ago, powerful Bangladeshi writer Rahnuma Ahmed had people across the world in tears, as we read her account of the latest Bangladeshi tragedy: ‘The Stench of Rotting Corpses.’
    Rahnuma wrote about the illegally constructed, eight-storey Rana Plaza which collapsed in a heap on the morning of Wednesday 24 April, burying thousands of workers in the five garment factories in the building. Thousands escaped. But, the latest reports say, more than 400 people died. Those who perished instantly were lucky. The others died dreadful deaths, trapped in the rubble with the clock ticking ominously, fully aware that these terrifying hours or minutes were their last. Untrained civil volunteers worked like maniacs, trying to save people. They were weeping, Rahnuma tells us, as they brought each corpse out and anxious mothers, fathers, husbands, wives and children peered frantically at decomposing bodies, hoping desperately it was not their loved one. >>

  • Apr 26, 2013: Britain moves a step closer to combating caste (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist)
    There’s been jubilation in some British circles. After several years of Dalit solidarity groups combating caste discrimination there, the House of Lords finally voted for legal protection to be given to the most vulnerable British citizens of Indian descent, primarily Indian and Sikh communities. >>

  • Sep 27, 2012: When did rape cease being news? (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist)
    A few days ago, major TV channels highlighted a case in which a dalit girl was gang-raped in Haryana, near Punjab. That’s not really news, here in India. Rape, today, is India’s fastest-growing crime. Between 1971 and 2006, the number of reported rape cases increased by 600 per cent. Women are raped every day. But dalit girls are often specially targeted, to keep their men humiliated and in their place, to teach their people a lesson, and because they are more vulnerable than most other groups. >>

  • Jul 13, 2012: Can Bollywood shatter India’s caste system? (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, New Internationalist)
    Recently, Aamir Khan – leading film star and household name all over the India where Bollywood reigns supreme – began a prime-time show tackling India’s most serious issues. And the whole country is riveted. >>

  • Jun 10, 2012: Take those earplugs out (Mari Marcel Thekaekara, Hindustan Times)
    A group of upper caste youth allegedly urinated on the face of a Dalit vendor, Ashok Kumar, after beating him up in Rohtak on May 28. He was beaten up outside a liquor store when he tried to stop five Jat youths from stealing his money and the eggs that he sells everyday. Though some onlookers rescued him, the gang attacked him again at an isolated place in the night. >>

  • May 11, 2012: Video Volunteers – A new campaign to fight untouchability: An interview with Stalin K., film maker ('Lesser Humans’, ‘India Untouched') (Mari Marcel Thekaekara)
    A fascinating project is currently under way. Spreading it's message all over India, is a campaign against untouchability run by Video Volunteers, a unique effort to get a community to document and showcase its own problems to bring them to the notice of the World. The originality lies in the way the campaign is being conducted. >>

  • May 2, 2011: Cooking for Change - The Malgudi Coffee Shop (Mari Marcel Thekaekara)
    Cooking for change? Yes. It’s possible. A very small step forward, no doubt, yet balmiki girls cooking for Brahmins in the orthodox South Indian city of Mysore, is a mini revolution. It’s breaking the barriers of untouchability and caste pollution. Let me tell you about it. >>

  • Feb 22, 2011: Another day, another rape (Mari Marcel Thekaekara)
    Every day three Dalit women are raped. I read this statistic for the first time when I was on my way to the Durban Racism conference in 2001, writing articles for the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. It is hard to absorb, even harder to internalize, because it seems so utterly impossible that something so outrageous could be true. When I incorporated this statistic into articles, people challenged me. Where did you find that figure? Statistics are easy to manipulate, you should get your facts right. >>

  • Jan 18, 2011: A historical battle for dignity for India's balmikis (Mari Marcel Thekaekara)
    The best news of 2010 was that one million balmiki women threw down their brooms after a decade long campaign declaring “We will never clean shit again”. Balmikis or safai karmacharis are at the bottom of the Indian caste ladder. Balmikis are the only community, ordained by the caste structure, to clean toilets. >>

Read the blog of Mari Thekaekara on the struggle of Dalit women on New Internationalist   >>

Who is Mari Marcel Thekaekara?

On the website of Dalit Network Netherlands (, Mari Marcel Thekaekara will write a series of at least six articles on issues relating to Dalit women, men and children. The series is giving ‘views from the inside’ on a number of aspects of what caste discrimination means in practice but also what is done against it in India.

The writer of the articles, Mari Marcel Thekaekara, is a professional journalist on social issues and a media campaigner on the rights of Adivasi, Dalits and other disadvantaged groups. Mari has written in national and international magazines and newspapers as well as on websites which include The Hindu, Statesman, Times of India, Indian Express, Frontline, Economic and Political Weekly, Hindustan Times, Seminar, Infochange, New Internationalist and The Guardian.

Mari Marcel Thekaekara has written extensively on the issue of Dalit human rights, including the (violation of) rights of Dalit women, for e.g. the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Action Aid, Christian Aid and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. A piece she wrote for The Hindu on children of sanitation workers won the Press Club “best article of the month” award in 2004.

In particular Mari has closely tracked the issue of manual scavenging for over a decade. In 1999 she published the book ‘Endless Filth’ which contributed significantly to attracting attention to the issue. Mari has also documented in a number of article the struggle against manual scavenging by the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), a national movement against this inhuman practice.

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