Break the Shackles-March Forward Towards Real Freedom
Dalit Sthree Sakthi (DSS) organized a conference on the eve of 70th Independence Day i.e., on 15thAugust 2016 at Ravindra Bharathi, Hyderabad, Telangana. The program was on the theme ‘Break the Shackles – March Forward towards Real Freedom’. In these 69 years of independence, many human rights, feminist and dalit movements have brought in change in the societal perspectives to some extent.
The dalit women movement initiated by DSS in 2004 has brought a wave of change in the perspective towards dalit women leadership. Though all the movements have been successful in shacking away many constraints, there are yet many shackles to be broken. Hence, the meeting intended at identifying the bonds restraining dalit women and ways to break free from them. Also, on the occasion ofSri Bezawada Wilsonbeing awarded the prestigious Magsaysay Award, has been invited as special dignitary to address the participants and share his journey.
The program started with the songs by DSS cultural team on Ambedkar ideology and dalit women rights. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Savitri Bai Phule’s photos were garlanded by Sri K. Praveen Kumarand Padmasri Narra Ravi Kumar. Sri GDV Prakash, National Program Manager gave an introductory speech and invited the dignitaries on the stage.
Sri V. Nanda Gopal presided over the meeting.He said that, the print and electronic media goes on congratulating everyone on Independence Day.Here comes the question, who is congratulating whom and what for.The liberty, equality, equity and self-respect of many and in particular of the dalit women are still questionable facts.It is a fact, hence we all need to think for the ways to bring them out of this situation.On this Independence Day, DSS has put forward a question to dalit women and the organizations fighting for dalit and women rights, as how to go forward breaking the shackles and march towards real freedom.For this discussion, intellectuals and eminent personalities from dalit community are invited to give their valuable inputs.The erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh was the mother-land for dalit movement.It is in this place that the ideology of ‘Dalit rights are human rights’ was born and spread to the nation.It is in this place, DSS has been established, that has brought in the
the ideology of ‘Dalit women rights are human rights’. As the dalit movement is taking strong roots in the society, the negative forces are targeting to uproot it. As a part of it, the culture, food, and work of dalits are targeted and criticized. Dalit women are targeted more. This is a war on culture. There is a need to protect dalit women rights and the economic, cultural, political and social rights of dalits. Dalit women should analyze the shackles that are broken and yet to be broken. Later National Program Manager and State Coordinatorsof DSS have shared the dalit women issues in both the states.
Sri B. Bhagya Lakshmi, Telangana State Coordinator, DSSsharing about the situation in Telangana statehas narrated a recent case where a 7-year-old dalit girl was raped and the girl was not given proper medication.DSS had to intervene to get proper treatment for the victim by approaching the concerned District Collector and ACP.Dalit women are being subjected to rapes, cheating in the name of love and many other forms of violence.There are almost 40 cases of cheating in the name of love among the 60 cases dealt so far in 2016 in Telangana.
. These girls are sexually exploited, left with pregnancies or babies and in inter-community violence, men re-marry another woman from their community. In extreme cases, the victims are either murdered or abetted to commit suicide. DSS has joined many victims of these cases in government homes. Domestic violence is another prevalent form of violence on dalit women and girl children. In Telangana, there are a great number of belt shops. DSS succeeded in getting them removed in some places. Dalit men are addicted to alcohol, which is one of the reasons for domestic violence, where they spoil their health; do not give money to run errands at home-abuse their wife and children physically and verbally.
After Bhagya Lakshmi’s speech, Sri Nanda Gopal said that, there is a need to understand that in dalit cases, victims are victimized more by the society, while the accused are protected. There is a need to think of the mechanisms where the society changes its perspective towards dalit women’s cause.
Sri K. Rajamani , Andhra Pradesh State Coordinator, DSS mentioned Prime Minister’s promise on the 69thIndependence Day. He promised to provide adequate facilities to government schools and social welfare hostels. He specifically mentioned building toilets and separate toilets for girls in the government educational institutions. But, in the schools and social welfarehostels monitored by DSS, none of them have proper toilets. This year he promised of good governance .He said that from a village panchayat member to the Prime Minister,
everyone should fulfill their duties properly. This is nowhere to be seen. The recent cow-skinning case in Amalapuram is a good example. 4 dalits were skinning a dead cow. People belonging to dominant community attacked them thinking it is their missing cow. Almost 100 men from dominant community dragged them, tied them to trees and beat them with foot wear and stones. Two of the victims are elderly people and pastors. Rajamani came into tears while narrating the incident. She expressed a hope that the leaders on the stage would speak of the ways to break the shackles.
Sri Nanda Gopal said that words are not enough to console the bitter feeling. He questioned how many of them would even consider it as an incident. There is a need to think of ways to increase awareness and concern among people on these issues.
Sri GDV PrakashNational Program Manager DSSsaid that the DSS team has to reach the place of incident within 24 hours, conduct fact-finding and follow up the case till judgment.Without conducting fact finding, they do not proceed with any case.If a case is found to be false, DSS doesn’t intervenes. For any case, right from registering a complaint, and during investigation process and court trails, nothing goes according to procedure.At every step, public action like
dharnas should be conducted and representations should be sent to the concerned authorities continuously. Saying about the recent amendments to SC, ST (PoA) Act and Rules, dalit organizations had to fight to get amendments. But, most of the concerned officials are not aware of these amendments. In the Vigilance and Monitoring Committee, there were instances where the officials were unaware of the amendments. The courts are also not considerate towards dalit cases. Recently, in a case where dalit students were continuously being harassed by non-dalit students in a school, a case was registered after persistent efforts of DSS. In the Charge Sheet, A1 was shown as W1. When DSS asked to change it, the judge commented that DSS is playing with the future of students (non-dalit). Countless human and economic resources were spent on Rohit Vemula’s case. There are numerous cases where immediate attention is needed. At this juncture, new strategies need to be adopted to address the issues.
Sri K. Praveen Kumar, IAS expressed his happiness to see so many eminent personalities on the stage. During the time of independence, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said that, independence
should be true to its core, not just transfer of power. The independence movement was led by dominant caste people, though numerous dalits participated in the movement, they were never allowed to lead. The non-dalit leaders did not promise a caste-less society. They exhibited an ideology that the caste and class system stays as it is, and the only difference is that Indians would rule instead of British.Therefore, we need to question who got independence. After 69 years of independence, the dalit colonies are still the same. There are no roads, water facility or a good school or hospital nearby. The GDP of India has gone up this year, but there is no difference in the situation of the poor. There are some important incidents that happened in the recent past, first being Rohit Vemula’s suicide. The reaction that has come from dalit organizations is not planned, but was spontaneous. Next comes the Una incident where 3 dalits were bashed for skinning a cow. The reaction from community and dalit organizations in this case was also spontaneous.
It is not organized by any single organization or supported by any political party. The dalit organizations have come forward voluntarily and fought for justice. This was a strong reaction, which resulted in a situation where the Gujarat Chief Minister had to be changed; and the Prime Minister had to apologize. This is an example of the power of dalit community. These incidents are show-casting that proper reaction gets desired results.
The topic for the day is ‘Break the Shackles – March Forward Towards Real Freedom.” The idea is to break economic and political shackles. It is the daily fight for DSS. The speaker said that, his message for DSS is to break the shackles of mind than those of the material world.
Dalits are kept in fiction of incapability. The dalit community does not realize that they have the potential to make the country. It is the dalits that work in fields, factories, constructions, etc. Majority of labor force is dalits. Indian economy is dependent on its work force. Hence, it is dalits that built the physical resources and the economy of the nation. They made India rich. In spite of having such potential, the dominant castes kept dalits in a myth that they do not contribute anything to the economy, they are of no use to the nation, they cannot do anything and it is the dominant castes and corporate that are contributing to the economy. Farmers and labor force are important contributors than the land-lords and factory owners. This is a mind game that has been influencing dalits for centuries.
Though dalits are literate, they do not read much about Ambedkar’s ideology. This is the weapon that help to combat this mind game. In the Indian history, Harappa and Mohenjadaro are one of the ancient and greatest civilizations. They are equivalent to the Egyptian civilization in the world history. Mohenjadaro belongs to indigenous clans. Dalits were the rulers of these civilizations. Later, other civilizations from central Asia have entered the country and brought in the poisonous culture of caste-system. There are other great rulers like Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Harshavardhana, etc., who belonged to dalit community. Ashoka, who made most parts of India as one entity, was a dalit and Buddhist. The dalit rulers in Indian history, have led theirkingdoms with democratic ideology. They are the ones who did not rule as dictators. They brought the culture of tolerance among communities. Dalits, to this day live together. Dalits are the community who have production, conservation of nature, increasing economy in their blood. Since centuries, dalits are nature lovers; their habits and culture are designed to preserve it. These facts should be known to the dalits to come out of the myths.
Sanskrit is being known as mother of all languages. But, Prakrutha and Pali are the languages that have come before Sanskrit. Unfortunately, these languages and their scriptures have been destroyed gradually. The Mohenjadaro scriptures were in Dravidian and Munda languages. Due to illiteracy and lack of interest, dalits are ignoring these facts. The reason for the occurrence of atrocities is the ignorance of victims. If there is instant reaction and immediate response from dalits, they will not be victimized. India responds only when dalits start responding. Dalits are passive like the farmers who are dependent on the rains. Being passive does not fetch in any way. When all dalits read and imbibe Ambedkar’s ideology and get into ruling position once again, India flourishes like in past.
The Special Invitee Sri Bezawada Wilsonaddressing the gathering has said that he came in between from the funeral procession of the 3 manual scavengers who died on 13th August, 2016 while at work. As he did not want to miss this meeting he has come to share a few things with the participants.
Independence Day is celebrated by many, whereas he did not participate in Independence Day celebrations for many years as dalits say that they did not get real independence yet. In the present situation, people who do not have the least eligibility to speak of independence are touching the flag, hoisting it and talking about independence. India got independence on 15th August, 1947 and English rulers left the country. Freedom is not only for dominant communities; Dalits were also a part of the people who gained freedom. But, dalits claim that they are still in systematic exploitation and they are yet to gain real freedom. Independence is not just political freedom, it is about the social, economic and all those rights enshrined in the Constitution. This thought of freedom is not understood by the dominant communities.
Before the proposal of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, everyone did not have the right to vote.He is the person who brought in the concept of one vote for one person and equal value for each vote.After this, everyone is enjoying the right to vote.This is the concept of equal political rights for all. Constitution has guaranteed equal economic right also.But, everyone does not have equal land in villages.This is the concept Dr. B.R. Ambedkar used to raise quite often.The society has entered into a phase of understanding political equality, but economic, social and cultural equalities are yet to be achieved.The day when equality is achieved in all these categories, everyone would have liberty, equality, equity and self-respect.That is when India can claim it is independent and democratic.If this goal is not achieved, it is a danger to democracy.
People say India is democratic.But, only people of some communities decide about others.They say what is right and wrong.They decide how to dress, how to groom hair, etc.They claim that what they say is culture.They want everyone to believe that their words
are sacrosanct. They claim that they are superior. They divided the society into castes and said that Brahmins are superior and then gave a hierarchical order. Their fables were so strong that even dalits believe sometimes that the Brahmins are knowledgeable.
Their allegories have come to such a stage where, cow which was called as ‘Aavu’ has suddenly become ‘Govu’. Everyone knows cow by its common name ‘Aavu’. Sharing his childhood, they had some cows in their house. They were part of family. They used to carry calves on their shoulders and if a calf died, they used to carefully stuff it with grass so that the mother cow won’t fall ill. This cow, suddenly became govu and then ‘gomatha’ meaning mother cow. The dominant communities first created diversities among humans, and at present they are creating diversities among animals. There is no reason why they claim a cow as mother. Donkey works even harder, horses, oxen, buffaloes all are hardworking animals. This clearly shows that whatever they claim is irrational. Their principles are not based on any principal or theory. They throw waste on the society and ask it to believe. If anyone does not agree, they do not hesitate to use physical force. Dalits need not tolerate all this. Whatever they have tolerated all these years is enough.
Dalit Sthree Sakthi is advocating the same ideology. Break the Shackles. Dalits are not waiting for the dominant communities to help them break their shackles. On this Independence Day, dalit women are ready to break their own shackles. They will not stay silent anymore. Today, the dominant communities are calling cow as their mother. Next day, they will call something else as their mother. Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi said that all Safai workers are his mothers. If everyone is a mother, then there is no reason why 3 dalit women are being raped every day. This shows that something is wrong with their perspective. They claim cow as their mother and order everyone else to respect it. But when that cow dies, they throw it on dalits for its burial. He questioned that if it is really their mother, is it not their duty to conduct funeral. So, their idea of calling cow their mother is a shallow thought. The major problem lies where there is not even a pinch of truth in whatever they say, but they make everyone follow that by hook or crook.
Dalits, at present, are conveying to the dominant communities that, if cow is their mother, let them take care of it dead or alive. When a cow of dalits dies, they are not throwing it on dominant communities. Then, dominant communities should also not throw their cow on the dalit community when it dies. This is the demand of dalits in Gujarat. They are asking the dominant communities to take care of the funeral of their dead cows. The society is calling it revenge. It is not revenge. It is only making clear that dalits are no more ready to put up with the ideology of slavery anymore. There is a need for more movements in the society for liberty and freedom to flourish. But, whenever there is a movement from people, the government at the center or state thinks that the movement is against them. They are under the impression that the voice of the citizens is definitely against the government. The reason why they are taking it against them is that they do not think it is people’s government. Gurajada Appa Rao said, ‘country is people, not soil.’ But, these people claim country is theirs, world is theirs, all lands are theirs, all property is theirs and slavery is for dalits. The dominant communities have clarity of their ideologies. They do not have any confusions. It is the dalits who should change. The dominant communities have clarity of their ideologies. They do not have any confusions. It is the dalits who should change. The dominant community does not allow even an acre of land to slip from their hands. For instance, if a manual scavenger takes a loan is not able to pay 4-5 installments, his auto is taken away.
If dalits are not able to repay loans, their property or possessions are taken away. But, in the past 2 years, 1.14 lakh crore rupees’ loans of the rich are written off. It is not the interest, but the principal amount that was written off. On one hand, the dominant communities need not pay a single rupee. On the other hand, dalits struggle even to own an auto. Vijay Malvya is a small example. He just took 10 thousand crores and absconded. This is a meager amount. There are others who have cheated on lakhs crores.
In the present scenario, corporate sector is ruling the country. They are a plunder to the country’s economy. If any dalit raises her/his voice against them, s/he is put into prison. The National Program Manager and State Coordinators of DSS said that, the dalit activists are having to spend their life time to get an FIR registered in the atrocity cases. This clearly shows that laws are made but are not implemented. There is no mechanism to punish the authorities who do not implement laws. Though there are so many laws, none of them is implemented. In 1993, an Act has come abolishing manual scavenging. Not even a single case was registered in 23 years under this Act. There are 650 districts and one authority for each district. Not even one district authority or one police station has registered a case under this Act. Two days before, on 13th August, 3 manual scavengers died while cleaning drainage. On every Independence Day, people hoist flags. The flags keep going up, while the lives of these dalits are buried in the deep holes of dirt.The hierarchical strata have to be removed from society. If not, there is no use of claiming that this country got independence.
The bodies of the manual scavengers who died on 13th are being taken for funeral on the Independence Day. The bodies are taken as a procession for funeral. At a place, they stopped the bodies and many dalits started dancing. When they are dancing in that situation, it was hard to relate. 3 bodies were coming in a row and so many dalits were dancing. Sri Bezawada Wilson called some of them and asked the reason for their dance. They said, they could find no other way to express the feelings in their heart, hence they are dancing. If any close relative dies, no one dances. There is no place in the society, in the public for dalits to express their sorrow, anger, frustration. If dalits express their resentment, there is no one to listen. When a representation is given to the Prime Minister that 1370 manual scavengers died in the past two years falling in the manholes, there was no response from him. When their pleas go astray, they are left with no other go, but to vent out their piled up frustrations in the form of dance. Witnessing this, the society does not understand, but in turn ridicules the dalits for dancing in the funeral processions. There are numerous art schools and theaters. There are scholarships to encourage art. There is no place in them to exhibit dalit art. Scholarships are given to learn Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, but not for dalit dances. Without putting an effort to understand the situation of dalits, the society is finding wrong with their actions. A day is not enough to vent out their anger.
Sri Wilson said that he has been with DSS even before its formal establishment. He has been closely observing the work of DSS. DSS has grown as strong dalit women collective and is conducting a splendid program on the 70th Independence Day. Independence is not just political freedom. There should be more people movements. Dalit women should be a part of all the movements. They should not be confined only to dalit movements. The whole country, the parliament belongs to dalit women. Irom Sharmila is on hunger strike for 16 years against Armed Forces Special Appeal Act. Military is to protect the citizens. She is also a citizen of India. She is also supposed to be protected. She is fighting for the cause of people. The issues in Jammu & Kashmir are also similar. In the Una incident in Gujarat, dalits were accused of killing a cow and were bashed. Later it was found that wild animals killed those cows. Similar incident happened in Amalapuram. Whenever there is a movement from the people, dalit women should participate in that. On this Independence Day, he asked the DSS leaders to take an oath that, as Ambedkarites, they have the responsibility to believe in the Constitution and protect the rights enshrined in it.
Sri Saila ReddyofPraja Telanganasaid that, in general people have a goal in life.But, Sri Bezawada Wilson is a person whose life and goal are the same.It is frustrating to speak about tactics to combat violence against dalits after 70 years of independence.Ambedkar has given
given great knowledge to dalits. Combining it with the communist ideology, dalit women should learn to gather, research and fight. They should be vigilant of the changing situations around them. Dalits are speaking of preserving their culture. They have to aim high to become engineers, editors and other professions. Ambedkar has given the right to equality to all the citizens. Savitri Bai Phule was the first dalit woman teacher. There are many icons in the dalit community. Ambedkar spoke about the welfare of the SCs and BCs. Dalits should join the BCs in their movement and fight for economic and social justice.
Sri Ghanta Chakrapani, Chairman, TSPSC said that he is attending the meeting not in his official position, but as a well-wisher of DSS who has been in its journey from its establishment. He is glad that Sri Bezawada Wilson is also sharing the platform. At present the discrimination against dalits in India has gained international attention. But, people who are unaware and dishonest are also speaking on dalit issues and preaching them. Dalits face discrimination everywhere. They are subject to discrimination not just by OCs, but also by BCs. BCs are not discriminated like dalits.
Then there is no logic in asking dalits to go along with their perpetrators to fight for rights. Even a person working in Swatch Bharath would also look at a dalit to clean his premises. As Sri Praveen Kumar said in the beginning of the meeting, dalits should change their mind-set. They have to fight for their own rights. There is no political party or leader that support the cause of dalits. The world has understood and recognized the struggle of dalits and as a recognition, honored Sri Bezawada Wilson with the prestigious Magsaysay Award. The world should further support dalits and their fight for rights. The societal discriminations should be eradicated for the nation to go forward.
Padmasri Narra Ravi Kumar, DICCI said that, in these 69 years of independence, dalits have born as poor and died as poor.Though the Constitution speaks of right to equality, there is no economic equality that preserves other equalities.The nation is divided into rulers and followers.The government to address the poverty of dalits, it promises to provide money for marriages.
What dalits need is not alms from the government. Economic equality is a right. Dalits claiming their share, is their right. The government need not throw money for marriages or build houses.
This strategy makes dalits dependent on government for their economic freedom. The government should spend the funds to the right resources. Dalits should start thinking of standing on their own.
Sri Venkat Rao, IRTS, CCM, SCR congratulated DSS for its decade’s journey.Among all the books published by DSS, his favorite is the decade book, which is a consolidated form of
struggle for dalit women rights. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar being born in the dalit society is a great advantage to them. He is like a God who impartially gives everyone their share. Ambedkar has given dalits their rights as well as to others. He suggested many principles and ideologies for the welfare of dalits. He always encouraged dalits to fight for their economic rights and education. Education gives knowledge while economic status removes poverty. Along with dalit movement, dalits should participate in other movements and work with other organizations.