“We are Indian, first and lastly”- Dr B.R. Ambedkar
On 15th august, India will complete 70 yrs of Independence marking Indian freedom from the stranglehold of Colonial oppression and established the will of the populace. Monday, the Prime Minister will hoist the National Flag and the words of Tagore shall once again be cherished by a nation’s soul, born of voluntary patriotism. Seventy years of the largest democracy is an ode to the memory of sacrifice rendered by our forefathers. To give a grandly gesture our Prime minister on 9 August launched 70 Saal Azaadi, Yaad Karo Kurbani celebrations in Alirazpur, Madhya Pradesh, the birthplace of one such martyr, Chandra Shekhar Azad. The celebrations are perhaps enhanced by the NDA’s triumph t parliamentary reconciliation and the passage of the GST, touted to be the most historic economic reform since 1991, which will unite India under a unified tax-system.
India’s novelty isn’t just the volume of its democracy or the numbers of its franchise but its acceptance to diversity. Long before Indira Gandhi chose to constitutionally mandate it, secularism has been a ‘basic structure’ of the Indian subcontinent. Four major world religions owe their genesis and peaceful coexistence to this country. Seventy years of such a nation is truly worth the festivities. However, we must ask, who truly can celebrate this independence? Intellectuals and congressmen commonly refer to two India’s within our territorial confines. One India that still doesn’t see recognition is that of the Dalit. The Una flogging incident, which shamed this great history, highlights the blatant caste divide once again. Why has seventy years of evolution, progress, deliberation and legislation have we failed as a society to counter this reality?
As per the doctrines of the archaic Varna, society was divided into four divisions; Bramhins , Kshatriyas , Vaishyas and Shudras. The mere reference to occupation over time stratified into immovable discrimination and an irrevocable sense of destiny. Discrimination wasn’t even the end of suffering. Their menial labour made them untouchables and their social status drifted into oblivion, no longer even recognized by the Varna’s that guided them. The principle of untouchabilty and “purity and pollution” led Dalits into being the oppressed. From ancient times to the emergence of Republic of India, Dalit community became subject of lot of atrocities which are against the morale of humanity. After Independence as dictated by the Constitution of India, untouchability and other practices were banned and Dalit were referred as Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes and other historically disadvantaged communities who were traditionally excluded from society.
Even after Independence they became subject of discrimination under the belief of ancient system although being protected under the Prevention of Atrocities Act (Sc and St) 1976. More recently this issue became more adverse when four youth were flogged in Mota Samadhiyalla village in Una district of Gujarat for being allegedly slaughtering a cow by “Gau rakshaks”. The video which surfaced of these youth being flogged caused an uprising by the Dalit community who protested on large scale against the ruling BJP government in the state. Even after the boys identified themselves as part of a community which was subjugated into skinning of the dead cow, they were beaten and flogged for their oppression.
Was this a political strategy to hamper BJP rule in Gujarat? Does this incident threaten the BJP’s Gujarat hegemony? Modi’s Kurukshetra is after all where he started his conquest of Lutyens Delhi. But this is not the question that needs the answer. The protest by the Dalit community is not only to seek justice from the those at the helm but also from the social conscience of India over the atrocities they have faced since independence. It would be inappropriate of us to tag them as Dalit and still retain their identity of being an outcaste. The people of this community in Gujarat began an “Asmita Yatra’ from Ahmadabad on 5th August to Una converging on the 15th of August. This padyatra by the people was aimed at encouraging their brothers and sisters to give up this task of disposing the cattle and cleaning sewer and demanding government jobs with “Your mother, you take care of it” being slogan of these protest. 10 demands were put forward by the community leaders to government which include alternative livelihood options, reservation for Dalits under the reservation act, allotment of land for Dalit families, strong legal framework to fight atrocities against Dalits, ensuring that people from the community do not work as manual scavengers and implementation of Forest Rights Act of which demand of agriculture land being main. They have come up with essential demand as they understood the centrality of landlessness as a basic cause of vulnerability for them.
These people are awakened and seeking justice for all the atrocities they faced, all the issues that the successive Central and State Government have ignored. We recently commemorated Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on his 125TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY nationwide. Ambedkar was not only one of the greatest reformers and academician this nation has produced. More importantly he brought the backward communities in light giving them opportunity to come out of the century old oppression. If any of the individual of 21st century from Dalit community is in forefront in any of the field contributing in nation’s growth, the success is dedicated to Ambedkar. Political parties conducting such a big grandeur event to honour Ambedkar is harsh reality of playing vote bank politics on these people. But this game of deception backfired and Dalit people are standing upto the poltical parties and not just get played on by the strategy in the name of their God like leader. If we go on statistical basis, Dalit people contribute 16% of total population but still have hands on less than 5% of resources. This simple data highlights the situation of these people. However the UNA spark will definitely be turned into a fire that will be difficult to be extinguished and once nationwide mobilization begins than even the people of other backward community will join them. India cannot progress, unless all of India can progress.
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