The article is all about the recent appointment of K.G. Balakrishnan as the 37th Chief Justice of India and the First ‘DALIT’ to assume this esteemed position. This appointment has ushered in messages of optimism among the most oppressed sectors of society, who developed a wounded psyche after the atrocities which rocked India in the last two months. It also touches about the vandalism which marred the 50 th Death Anniversary of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar the Father & Chief Architect of The Indian Constitution and the slow and sure revolution of the ‘Dalits’ or Lesser Humans of India…….read more……
In Search of Human Dignity
The recent appointment of K.G.Balakrishnan as the 37th Chief Justice of India and the first Dalit to assume this esteemed post, has brought in messages of optimism among the oppressed sectors, who developed a wounded psyche after the atrocities which rocked India in the last two months.
Wednesday 6 December 2006, the 50 th Death Anniversary of Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, the Father and Chief Architect of the Indian Constitution, saw acts of vandalism than ever before..
This sent a rallying cry to the ‘Dalits’ or the most oppressed sectors of India, that it is high time they woke up,’ to create a just and new humanity, thus challenging the subjugation they have suffered for decades.
At Mannekeri village in the state of Karnataka, some miscreants had hung slippers along the fence protecting the brand new statue of Ambedkar, which was to be unveiled on that memorable day .
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Ambedkar statue in front of the Allahabad University was desecrated, leaving the statue sans the right hand and the face badly marred.
In late November, another case of damaging Ambedkar’s statue was reported in Kanpur also in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which was even debated in the Parliament.
Although the motive of the perpetrators was not clear, it was assumed that some upper caste persons, did not favour Ambedkar’s vision of ‘An India liberated from caste consciousness, a Futuristic Society of human dignity available to each and every citizen ‘.
However, the sequence of insults rendered to a great statesman and the ‘Messiah of Dalits’, stimulated some irate youth to set fire to five coaches of the Deccan Queen Train and ninety buses at Maharashtra..
This retaliation was noted as a very unfortunate event, for Ambedkar had steadfast faith in non-violence and never wanted his disciples to turn violent..
The infuriation of the Dalits was also a way of showing how aggrieved they were, towards the recent massacre in Khairlangi village of eastern Maharashtra, where an entire Dalit family was humiliated, women stripped, paraded nude, raped and then all of them murdered.
Dalits are a caste of people who are said to be the lowest of human existence and are even termed as the ‘ Lesser Humans’.. Derived from Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, the word Dalit means ‘broken victims’ or ‘crushed and torn asunder’.
Their lives are said to be centered around 4 ‘D’s, that is
* Dehumanized * Defeated * Dispossessed and * Deprived.
Today there are 170 million Dalits in India , that is about 16.48% of the 1.1 billion population of the nation. They live in almost 600,000 villages and are said to be at the bottom of the India Society, called ‘the untouchables’, they are still searching for human dignity.
Ambedkar himself was a Dalit, born into the ‘Mohars’ sector, the lowest of the lowest in the Dalit community. Yet, he was often mistaken to be a Brahmin (upper caste) due to his pale peach complexion and high accomplishment, acquired after graduation from The London School of Economics and The Columbia University, New York.
As a great humanist he began an Era of Social Revolution on 20 March 1927, instilling in the minds of rulers and ordinary people, the need for a veritable emancipation of the oppressed communities.
Once during a conversation with Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar had told him, “ I want political power for my community. That is indispensable for our survival’’.
When drafting the Constitution of India, Ambedkar enforced Article 17, bringing in ‘the principle of protective discrimination, extended reservation and other special statues for the welfare of the Dalits’.
Although there are many cases which stand testimony that Dalits have remained ‘A Third World Within The Third World’. The following three atrocities would melt even the hardest of the hearts.
•38 year old Muthumari a Dalit grass -cutter, had defied the old social order that Dalit women were vulnerable to sexual exploitation, by combating her molester an upper caste man and even threatened to lodge a police complaint. As a result, an enraged mob of upper castes, made Muthumari drink a mixture of human excreta and water & dumped a bucketful of excreta on her and beat her up left and right.
•Muthukumar a 14 year old Dalit boy, was brutally tortured by his landlord, for fetching water from a well meant only for the upper classes. With his hands tied behind, the boy was made to kneel on a heap of salt, whilst a cord carrying a stone weighing about half a kilogram ,was tied to his penis and pulled vigourously. The boy writhed in pain for several hours, until his abdomen and private parts bloated and turned red and he developed a terrible and unbearable chest pain.
•To mark the 56 th year of India’s Independence, a Dalit man was invited as the Chief Guest to hoist the National Flag at the function in a village.. On hearing this, a gang of infuriated and unreasonable patriots of the upper classes, barged into the venue and beat up the chief guest with shoes and slippers. Shouting that he was a social outcast and was not worthy to perform a sacred duty, like hoisting the country’s flag.
However, it cannot be denied that the Government of India is striving hard to render benefits, advantages and opportunities to the Dalits.. A standing example of this, would be the installation of K.R. Narayanan as the first Dalit President of India from 1997-2002. Narayanan as the ‘ First Citizen of India’ and’ Head of the State’, enjoyed the same powers of a monarch . This was a sheer example which proved that Ambedkar’s teachings bore fruit, for Narayanan was elected on pure merit, barring off all caste prejudice.
The recently increasing atrocities and oppressive features, have turned the ‘ Maha-Parinirvana’ or commemoration of the 50 th death anniversary of the Dalit icon Ambedkar, into a new era of collective and united action .
The oppressed races would act under one banner and a common platform to change their destiny, by asserting their dignity, seeking powers to participate in all important issues and thus join the mainstream of the nation
Already first signals of this crusade are shown, for at functions and meetings, Dalits are seen raising high their fists and uttering “Jai Bheem !”.
(‘Hail Ambedkar!’). Also they have begun to play the ‘Thamate’ or the musical instrument of the Dalits, which has 18 rhythms and was once
forbidden by the people of superior classes.
This urgent impulse for a radical change in their lives, would be ‘good news’ to the historians, ethnographers and sociologists who have observed for the past 3,500 years that “ Caste in India is the longest surviving hierarchical system, perhaps not so glaring in any other part of the world”.
By : Hilwiah Roche