Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Dignity and Freedom footmarch which covered around 140 villages, 7
urban slum in four districts of Maharajganj, Kushingar, Deoria and
Gorakhpur district, It started from Tilakwania village in Ghughali town
of Maharajganj district on June 1st, 2007 and culminated at Chauri
Chaura on June 22nd, 2007 with a total of 370 kilometers. Organised by
Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance and led by Shri Vidya Bhushan Rawat,
Director, Social Development Foundation, Delhi,
the Padyatra raised the issue of hunger, land, water and sustainable
development. Nearly 20 Padyatris including women and girls from the
marginalised sections of society walked this distance in scorching heat
for full 22 days. It raised the issue of the failure of the previous
government to deal with the issue of livelihood of marginalised
communities and their continuous marginalisation through hunger,
malnutrition, poverty and depression. It also voiced its concern over
growing communalisation process as well as spreading of superstition
among the poorer sections of society. At many places the marchers spoke
to small gatherings, met people, visited affected areas and conducted
social audits of schemes like NREGA.
At the culmination of 22 days padyatra at Chauri Charua, we demand the following:
The government must take special measures to improve the condition of
Mushahars, Rajbhars, Bansfors, Nonias, Machchuaras, Dom, Swachchakars,
Pasis and Chamars. These communities are living in abysmally degrading
conditions and need special measures.
2. In the Eastern Uttar-Pradesh the Sand Mafias are controlling the rivers like Chhoti Gandak, Gurra, Rapti and Ghaghara.
The mechanised sand mining has resulted in soil erosion by these rivers
during monsoon. Thousands of hectares of land has turned infertile. In
Brahmapur region Rapti has destroyed Ranapar area. In Kaptanganj and
Ramkola towns in Kushinagar district are facing severe soil erosion due
to sand mining. We demand immediate halt of mechanised sand mining and
ask the government to allow the fishworker to do the same but
government should fix up a limit for the same.
many villages of Eastern Uttar-Pradesh powerful local people have
illegaly grabbed the land given to Dalits and Most backward
communities. In many villages, the Dalits are not even allowed passage
to move out. Government must ensure that every person lives with
dignity at his/her land that every one has a right to access road in
The Sugar factories and distillaries in Ramkola, Kaptanganj, Deoria,
Rudrapur, Sardarnagarare throwing chemical waste in the rivers like
Chhoti Gandak, Rapti, Amy and Gurra resulting in heavy pollution in the
rivers. The fishworkers are facing hunger as the fish catch is almost
nill. Apart from this, the waste has spilled over to a vast
agricultural land turning them completely barren and dangerous. The
ground water in most of the eastern UP town is contaminated which is a
severe threat to public health. We demand immediate action against
these factory/mill owners and ask the government to compensate the
farmers who have lost their land to these mills. The Pollution Control
board should be asked to explain as why they continue to allow such
hazards industries to run.
5. In Kushingar and Gorakhpur
the condition of National Employment Guaranttee Scheme is a matter of
grave concern. It has not been implemented accordingly. We found work
being done through tractors and people without work despite having the
valid card. The scheme seems to have failed because of the connivance
between the village Pradhans and block officials. We demand severe
action against erring officials to implement the scheme and ask the
government to form a monitoring and evaluating committee which should
include civil society representatives.
Poorvanchal, we found lot of discrepency in the distribution of ration
cards. Those who should have been eligible for the cards have not got
it while others have got it. We demand strong action the Sarpanches and
officials who are involved in nepotism and corruption. We also demand
from the government that the reach of the Public Distribution System
should be expanded and it must include important edible items, books,
cloths, Masalas etc so that the poor can benefit from this.
Hunger and starvation is prevelent in Eastern Uttar-Pradesh. A majority
of families do not ration for two times. The children have uncertain
futrue. It is shameful that children from Mushahars, Chauhan, Rajbhar
etc are eating rats and fishermen are forced to survive on snails. We
demand the government to focus on these communities with special
programmes particularly developing schools in the villages with mid day
meals and other incentives for school children and their parents.
The government must form special Land Courts to settle
land disputes and implement the land reform measures strongly and
effectively. The government must concentrate on giving communal
entitlement. We also demand that women should be given priority in
allotment of agricultural land and all new entitlement whether
residential or agricultural should have joint entitlment.
on the day of culmination of Padyatra we committ ourselves to continue
our struggle for Land, Dignity and freedom. We will continue to make
government aware of the ground situation while fighting for our rights
democratically. We also want to make it clear that this war of
independence is not possible with out the support and alliance of anti
caste, anti communal, anti superstition and progressive forces in which
the role of women, Dalits, Most backward communities and tribals have
an important role to play. We also feel that this for dignity and
freedom we have to take inspiration from Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Jyoti Ba
Phule, Savitri Bai Phule, and EV Ramaswamy Naicar. They remain our
icons and role models in our struggle for the creation of a civil
Following organisations signed the resolution
Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance, Social Development Foundation, Delhi. Food for Hungry Foundation, Delhi Dr
B.R.Ambedkar Gramodyog Sansthan, Deoria. Swachchakar Kalyan Samiti,
Ghazipur. Smt Sonia Gramin Mahila avam Bal Kalyan Samiti, Deoria. Lord
Buddha Trust, Kushinagar. Hitkari Sewa Samiti, Deoria. Jan Kalyan
Sansthan, Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur. Palanjivi Samiti, Rudrapur, Deoria.
Mushahar Shakti Sanghthan, Deoria. Tharu Development Society, Lakhimpur
Khiri. Tal Ratoy Machchua Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Mau. Bharatiya Jan Seva
Ashram, Jaunpur. Chitrakoot Sewa Ashram, Chitrakoot. Dalit Mahila Mukti Morcha, UP Machchua Adhikar Manch, Rudrapur and number of others
POSTED ON JULY 5, 2007
March for Land, Dignity and Freedom in
Hunger and starvation deaths in the
continue to haunt communities during the last one decade. Every year people are
dying of different diseases particularly Malaria, and Japanese Encephalitis
(brain fever). While the names have changed the target of these viral diseases
remain the same communities.
Government, aid agencies and
campaigns were launched to tackle the starvation and hunger prevalent in the
region. Many of these districts are under the National Employment Guarantee
Scheme (NREGA) yet reports suggest that the scheme is another way of 'helping'
those who are power groups in the rural set up. They have rarely reached the
masses. Many of the NGOs formed community groups to help them yet the food
never reached. While it was good that government provides food aid to the dying
people yet very few raised the issue that the hunger has raised its ugly head
in the country because of the continuous antipathy of the government to the
land redistribution programme. Contrary to this, more land was acquired in the
name of development without providing enough and satisfactory rehabilitation.
The victims of this unsustainable development have been the communities like
Dalits, tribals and MBCs.
The numbers of landless communities
in Poorvanchal is substantial and are severely facing challenge to their
livelihood. With more mechanized agri-farming, these agrarian workers are now
jobless. Forests are already out of bound for them as forest department
consider the poor forest dwellers as encroachers and exploit them. The Kumhars
(clay potters) have lost their work to plastics and the fishermen are clueless
at the moment as how to increase their income when most of their lakes are under
the threat of sale. The migration to cities has increased in the past few years
but now even those seems to be blocking the way of the rural poor with not only
theocratic fundamentalist parties raising their ugly head against them but also
the self styled protectionists of the secular ideas too feel that immigration
to the cities is a threat.
Even when people were dying of
hunger and starvation, the 'nationalistic' forces were doing their work in the
villages, but not to help the rural poor get out of the poverty trap but to
push them back into the Dark Age. To increase their woes, these forces have
pushed people to superstition so that they do not question the injustice done
to them and blame it to their misfortune and Gods wish.
That manual scavenging is still
prevalent in the region reflect the condition of the Swachchakar community in
Communities like Mushahars, Bansfors, Swachchkars, Rajbhars, Chamars, Pasis;
Chauhans, Nishads, Kumhars are facing severe threat to their livelihood and
Keeping in view of this, Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance
and Social Development Foundation, Delhi are organizing a Padyatra ( Footmarch)
beginning from June 1 st, 2007 till June 22nd , 2007.
The Padyatra will cover four districts of Poorvanchal. They are Maharajganj, Gorakhpur,
Deoria and Kushinagar. The Padyatra will start from the Tehsil headquarter
of Ghughali, Maharajganj on June 1 st. The Padyatra culminate at the
Shaheed Smarak in Chauri Chaura on June 22nd, 2007. The Padyatra
would cover more than 75 small and big villages and towns including Kushinagar,
Ramkola, Padrauna, Kasaya, Fazilnagar, Pathardeva, Nautan, Deoria, Bhatani,
Salempur, Laar, Bhagalpur, Barhaj,
Rudrapur, Brahmnpur, Tarkulhadevi and Chaurichaura. In these 22 days we would
cover nearly 375-400 kilometer of these four districts.
Padyatra will have public meetings,
social audits and even training programmes related to land and livelihood. Not
only this, the Padyatra aims to speak unambiguously against the caste oppression,
rituals as well as exploitation in the name of religion, rituals and
The Padyatra is named as
Land, Dignity and Freedom which clearly indicate that we feel access and
control to land and other natural resources is key to dignity and freedom of an
individual and community. Today, this freedom is under the threat. The
governments have failed in fulfilling their promises to implement the land and
agrarian reform resulting in greater social chaos. In India,
this situation is more complicated as the exploitation has not just economic
dimensions but socio-cultural dimensions. And despite changing power equations
at the political levels, the situation in the ground level has not changed
much. That most of these communities who suffer indignities are the Dalits and
most backward communities. Tragically, in the broader schemes of things also, a
majority of these communities are on the margins because of their minority
status with in their villages and hence even in the broader Dalit-Bahujan
framework they remain isolated and excluded.
The Padyatra aim to strengthen the
community organizations in the region so that the development agenda is focused
on community based. We sincerely feel that the developmental paradigms need to
take a new turn and communities need to be targeted in the rural planning
otherwise term like 'rural poor' in India
would always help maintaining the status quo and would be ambiguous. The
Padyatra would also focus the issue of women's right over land and forest resources.
In simple term the padyatra is an attempt to inculcate humanist ideas on the
issue of livelihood, hunger and starvation.
While many of our friends suggested against organizing the
Padyatra in this scorching heat yet it was felt that it is the best time to
understand how the communities that we work with face such oppressive heat.
Also due to summer vacations, many of you might find some time to join it. We
are therefore extending you our invitation to join this Padyatra to understand
the reason of hunger, starvation and social oppression in Poorvanchal. Those of
you who wish to join it of any dates which are comfortable to you or for the
full march may please get in touch with us through email or telephone contacts
for the purpose of more information, logistics and other details.
We will keep you updated with the movement of Padyatra
through our regular mails.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Social Development Foundation, Delhi .
Tel No 011-65902846
Ram Chandra Prasad, Dr B.R.Ambedkar Gramodyog Sansthan,
Deoria Mobile No
Ram Bhuvan, Jan Kalyan Sanshtan Chauri Chaura. Mobile
Rajkapoor Rawat, Convener, UP Land Alliance,
Mohammdabad, Ghazipur. Mobile
D.P.Baudh, Lord Buddha Trust, Kushinagar. Mobile No :
Ramasrey Nishad, Rudrapur, Deoria
Rajendra Sahni, Tal Ratoy Machchua Jan Kalyan Sansthan,
Sumitra Rajbhar, Dalit Mahila Mukti Manch Maryadpur, Mau
Rajan, from Swachchakar community in Laar
POSTED ON MAY 28, 2007
MANDAL WILL HAVE THE LAST LAUGH
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
two judges bench headed by Justice Ajit Parsayat has stayed the 27%
quota meant for the Other Backward Communities in the higher education.
The upper caste Hindus today celebrated Holy and Diwali. After the miserable failure and huge loss of advertisement by the favorite Indian cricket team virtually surrendered to Bangladesh and then to Srilanka, the reactions were similar to that happened to anti Mandal agitation in 1991. If our memories have not faded, we must revisit the events in Eden Gardens, Kolkata when the downtrodden Sri Lanka was inflicting a humiliating defeat and the Bhadralok crowd at Kolkata
started throwing paper missiles, and stones at the Srilankan players. I
am afraid, if this World Cup were being organized in India, the Indian
people would not have allowed Bangladesh
to win. That is upper caste nationalism in India. A nationalism, which
does not recognize merit but purely create merit on the basis of one's
The defeat by the under estimated Bangladesh
spelled a pall of gloom over the market which has been monopolized by
the caste media which had lionized the team without realizing its real
strength. India sunk into gloom (it was not a game but the nation was
already declared world champions) and defeat clearly put the
astrologers also to mat who were predicting super performance from the
team. Nevertheless, despite this entire nonsensical attitude, the
irrational astrology still is the best medicine that the caste Hindus
takes. The doctors also have the same attitude as they have red tilak
over their forehead and big temples outside the ICUs in Delhi.
Nothing is irrational and unscientific as long as the Hindus believe in
it. So Muslims become cruel for they slaughter animals but Hindus
become 'non violent' when they slaughter goats, buffalos and pigs in
the temples to please their Gods and Goddesses.
days of gloom, the anchors at the TV studios are smiling for a
'historic' judgment of Supreme Court. Now, they can discuss things and
bring the 'cheerleaders' to their studios suggesting that the 'whole'
'nation' is against reservation. A few doctors of the All India
Institute of Medical Sciences or as I would like it call All India
Institute of Manuwadi Studies have become 'nation' imagination. Based on their assumptions, the
Supreme Court has stayed the order of the reservation for OBCs in the
institutions of higher education, which were always meant for the
Brahmins when Manu's law first defined it. As India moved to secularism
and democracy, Manu's laws became politically though socially they
remained as powerful as ever despite 9% growth rate. Understanding that
power of democracy means power of number and not just democracy for the
people but now it has become 'of' the people and 'by' the people. With
the marginalized groups asserting their number power with more
political aggressions, the upper castes were left with no options
except to dilute the entire concept of social justice through the
judicial process, which remain outside the purview of the quota.
Moreover, through privatizing the various government owned corporations
and services, the government has already nullified the concept of
after the formation of Special Economic Zones, the government as well
as the courts have hit on the backbones of our farmers. SEZ have been
declared legalized while people have been uprooted from their nation.
Land Reforms have been made redundant by the continuous protections by
the courts. Today, the politicians use the courts for their own
purposes. It is due to this ambiguity that the courts have now become
the most powerful and uncontrolled institution of the country. A
healthy democracy need independent judiciary and committed governance.
Nodoubt, the political leadership during the past 20 years have reduced
to nothing as more criminals taking lead but the power of the masses is
relegated to 'people's representatives'. Still, even a bad democracy is
better than an unaccountable government or military dictatorship.
Ofcourse, this clearly means that it is the political class which will
need to run the country and not the courts and the bureaucrats which is
increasingly becoming the case in India.
Upper castes elite in Delhi often says that reservation is denying them basic human rights of equality and hence they are leaving for the United States.
Let the courts ask them to stay in India if they studies in Indian
schools. They cannot go abroad after getting the subsidized education
at the premier Indian educational institutions. The youngsters do not
know what is happening even outside their house. They would not even
ask their parent as why the scavenger who clean their shit and toilet
come from one particular community. This elite would not even know that
in India there are places where people still clean shit and carry night
soil. Yes, they are not interested to know about this.
the judgments in the past few years reflect of the growing trend to
keep the middle classes happy. We have judges who speak for Hindutva
terming it as a way of life. We have a former Supreme Court Judge who
did not implicate a single politician in the anti Sikh riots in Delhi
in 1984 and later became a Member of Parliament against all the ethics
of impartiality of an institution. Right to Strike was also banned by
the Kerala Highcourt, which was appreciated by the media and
Judges went overboard in terming the quotas as vote bank politics.
Question is why not vote bank politics after all what are politicians
required to do? Yes, if they are working for their people than the best
one is that who does not to take care of their constituencies? It is
absurd as former Prime Minister V.P.Singh said about the court order.
Parliament passed a bill unanimously and the court's are terming it as
vote bank politics. The Judges further said that politicians should not
divide the country on the basis of caste and that in India it has
become habitual for people to claim 'backward' status. One need to support V.P.Singh's demand for a referendum and census based on caste.
is tragic that the record of the courts related to social justice and
social reform reflect poverty of ideas and lack of human rights
understanding. It is also reflected that the courts are consciously
giving judgments on the basis of media campaign. A media, which has
been thoroughly unprofessional and highly prejudiced one. Justice
Rajendra Sachar had long back stated in a public meeting that the court
buckle under public pressure. Unfortunately, there is no backward movement in India,
which can take on the upper caste thugs who are destroying India.
Except for the forthright stand of DMK, PMK and other political groups
representing the OBCs there is no one to raise their voice. They remain
loyal shudras providing fodder to Hindutva to kill the Dalits in the
villages. It is time for the OBCs to revolt against their self-serving
leaders and get a new leadership which can give them new ideas and for
whom OBC does not mean a family of their own but the entire community.
We need a dynamic leadership which does not sale farmer's land to
corporate houses at the throwaway prices and have a clear vision to
help and upgrade the communities. Alas, most of them have nothing
except their caste. They remember their people only when they do
nothing are defeated in the larger games of manipulation.
are the OBC students and their political leaders? Tamilnadu has taken
the lead in this direction in a rare gesture of unanimity among the
political class. But that unanimity is not visible in the North at the
moment. In UP while every OBC caste is struggling to get an identity
and a share in power but none of them is raging the issue of
reservation in power. The reason behind this is the absence of the
cultural movement among the OBCs. Unlike Tamilnadu where Periyar
launched self respect movement for the OBCs and Dalits, north Indian
OBCs still have not been able to divert their attention from the
ritualistic Hindutva. The political ideas of the OBC leadership
remained prejudicious and anti Dalits. Dalits is good for them as long
as it vote to them but bad if the Dalit take the leadership. OBC
leadership in the north must think that as long as they remain loyal
soldiers of Hindutva as Ambedkar once said, they can not take on the
powerful forces of corporations and religion, who jointly work together
to thwart any new effort which challenges the status quo.
is said that Periyar and his followers had no will to come to north and
educate their 'illiterate' backward leaders who remain caged in the
brahmanical agenda. Similarly, portraying Jyoti Ba Phule, as leaders of
Bahujans have not worked as a community called Sainis feels that he was
their leader. Kurmis have gone for Sardar Patel and Rajbhars towards
Raja Sohail Dev. This is the irony of the entire movement in Uttar-Pradesh
has been defeated by the shortsighted caste leaders who have very
little to offer to their communities. They only need a power position
and manipulating the sentiments of their communities. It is not for
nothing that in Uttar-Pradesh,
which is going to polls, that all the OBC-Dalit parties are running
after the Brahmins and Thakurs. None of them have come out strongly
against the current judgment of the Supreme Court. Perhaps, the
leadership knows it would be too dangerous to 'offend' the Supreme
Court because a majority of them are under the scanner of the Supreme
than the courts, Congress Party's credentials in remain suspect in this
regard. It is clear that with in the party, there is a group of member
of Parliaments as well as Ministers who are opposed to quota for OBCs.
One even doubt the credentials of H R Bhardwaj, the law minister who
was brought back from hibernation for being Sonia loyalist, for his
inability to put the government's case properly in the court. A large
number of OBC students who prepared for the IIMs and IITs have been
denied human rights due to an intervention from the court, which many
clearly term as retrogressive.
During the Mandal
agitation and afterwards, it is the Dalits who have been supporting the
reservation for the OBCs but OBC students hardly fought their battle.
It is time for them to wake up and challenge the myth by the
brahmanical media. Yes, I would say it firmly that Indian media remain
confined to the sentiments of their fellow caste men who leave India
after getting subsidized education from the elite institutions of IITs,
IIMs and other institutions. This media does not see the plight of OBCs
is the fallacy that the reservations have forced the upper castes to
leave India. They had left India long before and they were using the
services of the elite institutions to benefit their own community since
a majority of them cannot afford to compete with the west on a level
Indian Express today carried a story of Justice Parsayat quoting from
the American Judiciary. The fact of the matter is that American
Judicial system worked against the social justice but still it does not
come in way of social justice. Secondly, in the United States
and elsewhere, it is the minority, which is seeking the rights to be in
the governance but in India it ironically the majority of
Bahujans-Dalits who are asking to be given the space to govern and
participate in the democracy. Prof Dipankar Gupta of the JNU has been
in the news recently when he told the United Nations Human Rights
Committee, in Geneva that there is no caste system in India
and that the Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras do not have
separate identities and they live together with great affection. Gupta
has now come out strong in support of Supreme Court Judgment.
Of-course, writing for mainstream media would not be that easy if you
question the very basis of the Varnadhrama and its notoriety in keeping
people subjugated. Dipankar Gupta is happy at the rational judgment of
the Supreme Court and so are our friends in the media. The die has been
caste and the judgment of the two-judge bench would become difficult
for those who are celebrating today.
may have been unintentional but the crude fact is that after the
Supreme Court's judgment, it is imperative for the government to go for
a caste census. The upper caste leaders and bureaucracy has clearly not
wanted to go for it, as they know it would be the last nail in their
coffin. That the National Sample Survey which remains an organization
of the upper elites in India could found 37% the population of the
OBCs, and then it is for certain that the OBC population in Indian has
grown much beyond what was in 1931. Let the government come out with a
specific data on the OBC population and their social status. Just
saying that all Yadavas have grown up because there are Mulayam and
Lalu, is the travesty of truth. A majority of OBCs consisting MBCs whose social status
remain as the Dalits. Ofcourse, these MBCs would always consider
themselves higher in the social ladder despite weak economic strength
yet they remain socially and educationally backwards.
are various ways to measure socio economic ostracisation of the
marginalized. And it should be done but the intention of the ruling
party and those claiming 'youth for equality' is not to demolish the
caste system but perpetrate it and ensure that their relatives and
blood brothers remain safer in the new global world.
is time not only for referendum but also for a constitutional review.
To ensure that Parliament's supremacy is retained, it is important that
the leaders representing the communities have done their homework well.
So far, there are very few who can speak with strength of their
conviction and challenge. Democracy works on healthy relationship of
judiciary with the Executive and legislature. One does not need moral
preaching from the judges while exonerating themselves from the public
scrutiny. If there is a Lokayukta for the state lagislature, there will
have to be same provision for the judges also. And most importantly,
why should the judiciary remain outside the ambit of quota and social
justice. It is time for all the political parties, jurists, and
academic to sit together and decide. The regular humiliation of merit
and non-merit must stop. The country cannot remain silent when its
majority is being humiliated by those who have no concern for the
country and sole interest remain outside the country. Let us decide
once for all, the entire issue of reservation. So it is also the time
to review our constitution, which can make Parliament Supreme again.
The present constitution was drafted by a legend called Ambedkar but
his hands were tied with strong upper caste feudal presence in the
constituent assembly. Let there be a new committee to look into the
problems of the constitution and change it accordingly as numbers do
matters in democracy. You cannot allow courts striking everything that
is public welfare as against the spirit of the people.
have a lot to learn from this. No need for taking shelter in Supreme
Court for taking potshots at others to score political goals.
Introspecting the mistakes will help them realize whether it would the
executive or the Supreme Court to run the country as they are doing it
today. Their lack of convictions and moral high ground have given ample
ammunition to the courts which might be unhealthy for democracy in the
longer term as every good measure might be treated as 'vote bank'
politics which the politicians are no doubt involved in. Time for them
to look beyond their personal interest and serve the people.
REMEBERING A TRUE HUMANIST
Mr N.G.Uke, a great Ambedkarite, a friend and guide died
on November 4th, 2006 at his Vasant Kunj residence at the age of 82.
Uke Saheb, as I would fondly call him was among the rare breed of Ambedkarite
who saw Baba Saheb and was selected by him as a scholar though he had already
got the same.
As an admirer of Mr Uke for his forthright views and
because his open support for atheism, I knew NG Uke was a treasurer who had with
him a number of incidents and things and that is why I kept on calling him for
an interview. ' You are always welcome', Uke Saheb told me. Last month on
October 7 th, I was able to record a conversation with him to keep
his memoirs. I know many such Ambedkarite who are treasure of great source are
on the wane and I decided to interview them and record conversation to keep
their memories safe.
I have rarely found person of strong secular commitment
such as N G Uke. Even in his conversation, he hated words like 'fortunate,
unfortunate, Mahatma, noble soul, gods' etc. He would say that by using these
words we are ultimately trapped into the religious moulding justifying the
oppression and exploitation.
Uke Saheb send reply to some of my questions on mails. A
freewheeling interview with him was recorded which I would be able to produce
after some time. As a tribute to Uke Saheb, I am sending this interview to our
friends. He was the first person to use term ' Ambedkar Samaj' and rather than
saying ' I am a Buddhist' which he was. Till his last, Uke Saheb remained a
sharp mind, concerned about the condition of his community, which he always
thought would lead India to 21 st Century.
I salute to his memory.
Excerpts of his conversation with
VB: Use Saheb, how did you come in touch with Dr
first meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was in July 1942 at Nagpur
during the Depressed Classes Conferences held on 18,19,20
July 1942. During these conferences were attended by about 75,000 Scheduled Castes persons,
including 25,000 women. The three Conferences were:
1. All India Depressed
Classes Conference, 2. All India Depressed Classes Women's Conference,
3. Samata Sainik Dal Conference.
During these Conferences we the Scheduled Castes student
established All India Scheduled Castes Students Federation (SCSF). I was one of
the Joint Secretaries of the SCSF. At that time I was studying in Inter Science
at the College of Science Nagpur. We met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and sought his
advice and guidance for working of our SCSF. He was very happy and we had a very
Since Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was being appointed
as the Labour Member of the Executive Council of H.E. the Viceroy and the
Governor General, he could not function as the full time President of the All
India Depressed Classes Conferences. In his place Rao Bahadur N. Shivraj, MLA
(Central) was appointed as the president of the Conference.
My second meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
was at his residence 22 Prithviraj road at Delhi. I had gone to Delhi for an
interview before the selection board for the selection of scholars to be sent
abroad for higher studies. I was selected by the board for higher studies in
Engineering in London. Rai Saheb GT Meshram who was the Estate Officer Govt.
of India took me to 22, Prithviraj road to meet Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. As
soon as I was introduced to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, he immediately said " Mr.
Uke Congratulations since we have selected you for higher studies in UK, under
the Scheduled Castes Students Scholarship. We had a selection in Simla". I
thanked Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar for my selection in the SC Scholarship. But I
told Babasaheb that I have also been selected today by the Govt. of India
under general scholarship for study in UK for Engineering. Babasaheb was very
happy that I was selected in General Scholarship, thus saving one scholarship
of Scheduled Caste.
My next meetings with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
were in London 4 times, on 26 th Oct. 29th Oct. 2nd Nov.
and 9th Nov.1946. During this period he had met important
personalities from London including Clement Attlee Prime Minister of UK, and
Mr. Winston Churchill. On 2 nd Nov. 1946 we invited him to visit
our place at 4, Downside Crescent. He blessed us by visiting our place and
sitting for a group photo which included number of SC Scholars including Mr.
Khobragade studying for Bar.
The next time when I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
was when I was called from London to return to India, for selection for a post
in Defence. The Public Service Commission selected me for this post. I met Dr.
Babasaheb Ambedkar along with Raisaheb GT Meshram after my
selection. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had a liking for me and suggested to
Mr. Meshram that he should propose my marriage with his daughter Kamal.
Meshram family and Babasaheb Ambedkar were very close to each other. Whenever
Babasaheb used to go to Nagpur he used to stay with Meshram family. Kamal used
to know Babasaheb from her childhood of about 6 years since 1935. Our marriage
took place on May 8 th,1949 at 4 Lodhi Estate, the residence of Mr. Meshram.
Our marriage certificate was signed by 3 Cabinet Ministers of Govt. of India,
1 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
, 2. Dr. John Matthai, and
3. Dr. Kakasaheb Gadgil.
VB: What was your personality about ? Did you face
discrimination during your childhood? How supportive were your parents.
NGU: You desired to know whether I was docile or strong
person and whether I suffered from discrimination. In my childhood I was very
strong. I normally used to score very high position in my class. The Brahmins did not like my status in
the class and they closed the school after I passed class 3 of the primary
school. For the 4th class I had to go to near by village about 2
miles from our village. I cleared class 4 th from that school with
top record. I had told my father that he should help me financially up to
8th class including the middle school in English at Bramhpuri about
10 miles from my village. I passed the 8 th class with high % and was
allotted Govt. Scholarship from 9th class onwards. I
secured the high school admission in Patwardhan high school at
Nagpur. My further studies were at the College of Science at Nagpur. Later I won
the Govt. of India Scholarship for higher studies in London.
VB : What impression did you get from Baba Saheb. What do
his followers need to do to take forward his mission?
NGU: When we met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in London
during 1946 he advised us that our people should be better than their best. Some
of us definitely tried to come to the expectation of Dr. Babasaheb
Ambedkar. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on 14th
of October 1956 along with 5 lacks of people at Nagpur. His mission was to make
whole of India as a Buddhist Country. How ever he expired within 53 days of his
His followers were not of the required capacity for the
mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar with same vigor and achievements. They
have been working in different groups and are not united.
Ambedkarites must join together under one platform. I
had met Dalai Lama in Ashoka Hotel a few years ago and I had
suggested to him that he should take up the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar of
converting India into a Prabuddha Bharat. For my suggestion he became very happy
and embraced me very warmly. In order to convert India into Prabuddha Bharat on
the advice of Buddha and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, it is necessary to
workout a rational program.
There are various factions in Buddhism. We must
consolidate all the Buddhists of the world. For that matter we will have to
spell out the Buddhism as has been prescribed by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
VB: A number of people are redefining Ambedkar's
conversion. Some says that he wanted to embrace Islam while others suggest that
he was in fact for Christianity. There is a Sikh angle also. To strengthen their
point, they say that Ambedkar buckled under the pressure of the upper caste
Hindu leadership? For me it is difficult to digest as Ambedkar remained a man of
conviction and character all his life and it would have been difficult for him
to accept anything as final word or Gods word. As a staunch Ambedkarite how do
you respond to such questions?
NGU: It is wrong. He never wanted to become Muslim or
Sikh or Christian. Neither did he want to remain as a Hindu. He wanted to become
Buddhist and he had declared in 1935 that though he was a born a Hindu, which
was not in, his hand but he would not die as a Hindu. When he was in his
matriculation, he was given a book on Buddhism. Baba Saheb had been reading
about Buddhism for a very long time. Nizam offered him a lot of money. Others
also offered him but he was not worried about money. He was worried about India.
To make India a Prabuddha Bharat, an enlightned India and no religion can do
that. He believed in Buddha but never in those rituals. He redefined Buddhism.
Scriptures and Gods cannot help India at all.
Reservation issue has again rocked the country. While the current row has
been actually against the OBC reservation in government services but it seems
that in this entire scheme of things, it is the Dalits who have become target of
the upper caste contempt. The Dalits are fighting the battle for OBCs while the
latter are not visible anywhere, only to be found hitting at them in the
villages. Now questions are being raised about creamy layer as well as different
Dalit identities. As an Ambedkarite how to you resolve this crisis?
NGU: As per as the reservation for Scheduled Castes is
concerned people refused to understand the Constitutional provisions regarding
SCST reservation. The Constitution is very clear. Constitution provides for
reservations for the Scheduled Castes. These reservations are Universal. However
the Govt. have excluded a large number of Jobs from the reservations, which goes
against the spirit of the Constitution.
There is also a view that a creamy layer from Scheduled
Castes must be taken away from Scheduled Castes. This view is totally wrong The
Creamy layer is the cream of the society. The Cream, which consists of the
intellect of the Scheduled Castes are the people who guide and lead the
Scheduled Castes. Nobody can deprive the Scheduled Castes of their intellectual
leaders. All the rulers namely The President, The Prime Minister and the other
leaders come from Creamy layer and govern. The Scheduled Castes cannot be
divided as very rightly ruled by the Supreme Court.
As far as the reservations for Scheduled Castes are
concerned no Non-SC is affected and they have nothing to do with reservations.
VB : You are a rare breed of Ambedkarite who are
proclaimed atheists. Why?
NGU: Scheduled Castes cannot gain anything from Gods and
their work. The only way out is to prove that our society, our system is better
than theirs. We believe that superstitions, rituals ultimately exploit human
VB: What do you think of economic globalisation. I mean
many new Dalit scholars have complimented capitalism and often condemn Marx and
his vision. What is an Ambedkarite vision of India.
NGU: Privatisation is a threat to our soverignity. Land
should be nationalized and redistributed among our people. Why should we allow
the national resources to the private companies to suck our blood. Privatisation
is nothing but taking away people's resources and we must oppose it.
Once you privatize things, our people lose jobs in the
government sector. Private companies are not going to follow that. The
government must bring out a law to protect the interest of the Scheduled Castes.
Baba Saheb was a revolutionary and so was Marx though
Baba Saheb differed with his violence theory yet in no way was Baba Saheb anti
Marx. We may have differences with Marxist theoreticians in India yet Marx and
his philosophy are for the benefits of the common man.
VB: What are the activities of Ambedkar Samaj. What does
it aims at?
NGU: We have started Ambedkar Samaj to bring all
Ambedkarites on one platform to fulfill the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
not only to convert India
as a Prabuddha Bharat but we have
to transform the whole world as a Scientific Humanity without any differences.
The Ambedkarites must lead to take the world forward as one humanity.
Thanks Mr. Balram Sampla, Dalit Solidarity Network for sending the valuable matter of Mr.V.B .Rawat.
Dr. Ambedkar 's Revolution
A Humanist Alternative for the Dalits
The emancipation of Dalit s started as an essentially Humanist
movement, but as the movement grew politically, the Humanist element
has been lost. It is high time the Humanist alternative be made
available again to the Dalits,
Through his writings on the Indian social structure, through his analysis and criticism of Hindu thought
and mythology, and through the political mobilization of the masses
around their problems, Dr. Ambedkar, himself a Dalit and also father of
the Indian Constitution, inaugurated a social and political revolution
in which the Dalits were active participants. Underlying this approach
was Dr. Ambedkar's realization that political empowerment of the Dalits
was possible only on the basis of a social revolution.
Ambedkar's sophisticated strategy put the Dalits on a course of
personal liberation while at the same time mobilizing them as a
community of victims. His strategy never ignored the individual:
"Unlike the drop of water that merges its existence with the ocean in
which it drops, man does not lose his entity in the society in which he
lives. Man's life is independent. He is not born for the service of the
society but for his self- development," he wrote. This is a Humanist
approach, consonant with M.N. Roy's idea that "Freedom of society must
be the totality of the freedom of individuals … the doctrine that the
individual should sacrifice for the benefit of welfare and progress of
society is fallacious. That it is not a liberating but an enslaving
Like the other backward caste
s that fought hard in the early 1900s, the Dalits too made impressive
contributions to the spread of Humanistic values. Seeking the human
dignity that was denied them for centuries by upper caste Hindus, they
fought against the scriptures authored by the priestly class, and they
defied the divinely ordained caste system. Both Dr. Ambedkar's approach
and the movement that was inspired by him was essentially a Humanistic
struggle.The Revolution is Lost
this very Dalit revolution has reached an impasse because its character
has changed. As Dalits become progressively involved in electoral
politics, there is a steady move away from emphasis on individual
emancipation. To mobilize people in electoral politics the leadership
of the Dalits is emphasizing their caste identity – today's Dalit
movement and its new leaders would rather consolidate caste identities
than create a casteless society.
important north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is a case in point. Here,
for the first time, Ms. Mayawati, a powerful Dalit woman became Chief
Minister. Mayawati and her colleagues built a political movement under
the leadership of the recently deceased astute political strategist
Kanshi Ram. They mobilized the Dalits and the other backward castes,
and fashioned them into a powerful and influential vote bank. And then
they struck an alliance with the Hindu political party the Bharatiya
Janta Party (BJP) and came to power holding onto their coat tails. The
leadership of the Dalits – including many intellectuals, applauded
this development, but they did not stop to ask how Dalits could seek
the support of a political party which represents the crass interests
of the upper caste Hindus – and which was responsible for the
genocide of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat state. At the same time as praising
Dr. Ambedkar's explosive work 'Annihilation of Caste', they now seek an
alliance with the casteist and political Hindus. Social development is
not on their agenda, as it does not fetch you publicity. Through these
opportunistic alliances and the loss of focus, the revolution has lost
its moral character. They have ended up with an alliance with the
oppressor, rather than create a Humanist alternative to the Hindu
Deepening Caste Identities
As the ideological fight has turned into an 'identity' struggle, Humanism
and Human values do not necessarily inform it anymore. In
Uttar-Pradesh, many Dalit activists have set up their own God men who
are sucking the life blood of the community. Today, to many Dalits, a
priest is bad only if he is a Brahmin
by birth – but good if he is a Dalit. In Kushinagar where the Social
Development Foundation works, I was aghast to see how the poor Mushahar
community) women were being exploited by a local Tantrik who is also a
Dalit (Dushadh). Many years ago, an ideologue of the Dalit movement
asked me not to be too critical of Lord Rama as he was a 'Kurmi', a
backward community person. I was not aware of this lineage of Lord
Rama, since he is considered to be a Kshatriya
. In any case, my reaction was "So what if he was a Kurmi? His life
does not inspire me!" Similarly, attempts are made to suggest that the
Buddha was either a tribal or a Saakya. It is sad when you like the
Buddha not for what he has said or done, but for what his caste was.
the egalitarian thrust is lost, the first victims are amongst the Dalit
community which itself is made of different castes. The community of
scavengers literally carries the burden of tradition by cleaning human
excreta manually and transporting night soil. Unfortunately, this
community, called the Valmiki
s, feels alienated from the wider Dalit movement in India – as the
lowest amongst the Dalits, they do not have the support of the rest of
the Dalits – and hence they do not get a share of the benefits that
accrue to the Dalit community despite the sudden spurt in the number of
donor agencies and NGO
s taking an interest in their plight. We in the SDF have been involved
in a struggle for reclamation of 1167 acres of land from a private
company in Shaheed Uddham Singh Nagar. Some 150 Dalit families were
tilling this land which had been declared ceiling surplus under the
Land Ceiling Act which limits the amount of land one can hold in India.
In 1990 the industrial house demolished the Dalit colony – and it
took us 14 years to obtain a judgment in favor of the Dalits. We have
seen how the victims have been used by a large number of human right
organizations for political and other ends. Even Dalit groups have been
guilty of this.
Getting it Right
Ambedkar condemned India's
village system, terming it a 'den of feudalism, corruption and
nepotism'. These words are as true they were in the past – yet many
of the NGOs which are working to 'emancipate' the Dalits continue their
glorification of India's
past and of our village system. This is because many of these NGOs are
religious and are driven by the religious value system. Also, religion,
rather than the welfare of these people is their main agenda.
dis-empowers the marginalized. The poor, marginalized communities are
sandwiched between different Gods and their different followers. When
we focused on the issue of Mushahars, a community of rat eaters who
were dying of hunger and starvation, a few 'God-fearing' activists came
over and asked me whether the community members wished to convert to
another religion. My answer to them was that the first priority of the
Mushahars was to get two meals a day.
the problem is in, and with religion, the Dalit movement faces a grave
danger from those religious groups which suggest that there is
liberation through conversion to Christianity and to Islam. Conversion
to either of these religions has not really helped them in their
struggle for emancipation – on the other hand it has turned them
apolitical. Except for Ambedkar's conversion which was really a
political conversion (Buddhists Dalits are highly motivated and active
with a Humanist vision) conversion to either Islam or Christianity has
not really helped, even if they are better than the brahmanical system.
Those who are motivated by the desire to preserve Hinduism
insist that the scriptures do not discriminate against them! When we
report that people are dying of hunger in the remote corners of the
country, the religious gangs pack their bags with bibles and food and
set out for these villages to 'save' their souls; and the Hindus
scramble to the affected areas to 'save' the victims from being
converted. None seem interested in empowering them.
binds the Dalits together is a common-sense of denial of dignity by the
brahmanical system, a denial of justice by religious scriptures and
religious system. What they fear is violence by the dominant upper
castes and also by those in power –including the police and the
administration. Since the Dalits have been victims of religious values
and a society based on religiously ordained and sanctioned caste, it is
humanist values which can bring them dignity and human rights .
have therefore to introduce Humanism and Humanist values to all our
developmental programmes. Our aim is clear. We do not want the Dalits
to suppress themselves with the burden of God, be that a Christian God
or a Muslim God or a Hindu God. For us, the concept of God itself is
the creation of an exploitative society and the sooner we get rid of
it, the better it would be for entire society. We do not wish the
Dalits to 'convert' to Humanism; but we will have to create a humanist
alternative for the Dalits – this is what Dr. Ambedkar did when he
identified Buddhism as an option for Dalits.
emancipation and economic empowerment of the Dalits will mean their
liberation from the shackles of religion and the oppression of the idea
of God. It will mean the Dalits obtaining training in alternative
livelihood skills. This will necessitate offering them training and
education in practical skills as well as in universal human rights and
are entering the Humanist movement of their own accord. When Humanists
themselves take the initiative to reach out to the Dalits, the results
will be dramatic.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a leader of Delhi-based IHEU
Member Organisation Social Development Foundation, and an activist for
Dalit Rights. He has recently made a film of the plight of the rat
catcher community in North India.