My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
On my last article, “What can a ‘sincere’ upper caste person do?“, I received many emails, most of them labelling me as casteist, asking me what a Dalit should do? I have heard these type of questions many a times from my friends, confused with what they should do, how they can contribute, where they should contribute and I suppose these and many questions come to the minds of Dalits who really want to contribute to the community. Though, I am not an expert or maybe not as experienced as many are, but I would try to reply with all my capacity – on things I feel should change immediately. But before that let me make one thing clear: that Dalits usually don’t have many options so many of the things that I would be talking about in this article may sound impractical to many Dalits, but still I believe we must do our best. Also, here in this article, I am not talking about our illiterate brothers and sisters but about the highly educated ones, who are pretending to be asleep.
Let me start with Dalit women. When I was researching for my article ‘India and Prostitution – My thoughts and experiences‘ – most of the women working as sex-slaves are from lower castes. Not that I didn’t know all these facts but after meeting many people I almost went into depression. On one occasion, I even met the sole survivor of ‘Khairlanji killings’ and I’ll never be able to forget the Khairlanji massacre. In states like Madhya Pradesh almost 100% women working as sex slaves are from the lower castes. Dalit woman is most the disrespected, unprotected, and neglected person in India. We must learn to respect and protect our women. We must believe that if upper caste men demand respect or do ‘whatever’ to protect their women then we must also do ‘everything’ to respect and protect our women.
Stop fighting in the name of Dr. Ambedkar- Dalits, in the name of Ambedkar, are fighting to prove that they are the real ‘Karva Pullers’ of Dr. Ambedkar, but everyone knows that the reality lies somewhere else. Remember what Dr Ambedkar said:
“With great difficulty, I have brought this caravan where it is seen today. Let the caravan march on and further on despite the hurdles, pitfalls and difficulties that may come in its way. If my people, my lieutenants are not able to take the caravan ahead, they should leave it where it is seen today, but in no circumstances they should allow the caravan to go back.”
Dalits are divided into countless organisations, societies and parties etc but till now we have not been able to achieve anything remarkable. I agree, we need as many organisations as we can have and neither am I denying the impact these organisations might have been able to make in their own spheres but we must agree we really need one major organisation which will work for Dalits at all India level. When in need we must support every organisation and must forget our differences or petty benefits.
Start a national level newspaper/magazine – as I said above, there are many organisations, societies and parties working for Dalits, the same is true with magazines. Since childhood, I have been reading many magazines published by various Dalit organisations/publishers, and since childhood I have wondered why there can’t be a single national level newspaper or magazine? There are about a hundred small Dalit magazines published every month. We always make a noise when Dr. Ambedkar is ranked below Gandhi by some manuwadi newspaper or magazine, but why don’t we think bigger and unite all these Dalit magazine publishers and bring out one single magazine? We can do many more things apart from releasing our own ranking.
I am not saying that these existing magazine publishers should stop publishing but I want them to start working on a national level magazine or newspaper along with the existing ones. I believe it would be easy if we can unite at least one magazine publisher from each state and ask them to contribute one article for the national level magazine. In this way, we can easily bring out one national level magazine and challenge the hegemony of manuwadi media. One reason I see behind the defeat of BSP in the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh is because no media was established by Behan Mayawati in 5 years; and on the other hand, the corrupt SAD-BJP government of Punjab won the elections because SAD has a stronghold in the media – it started two new channels in Punjab and holds major shares in Punjabi newspapers. So, what are we thinking about or waiting for? Don’t tell me we don’t have resources or money, if we can operate separately, we surely can operate united.
The book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, published in 1852 and authored by Harriet Beecher, was the second bestselling book of the 19th century, next only to the Bible. This anti-slavery novel had actually intensified the sectional conflict that finally led to the American civil war and ultimately resulted in the abolition of slavery under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The book’s impact was so great that it is said that when Abraham Lincoln met author Stowe at the start of the Civil war, he commented, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” Believe it or not, this is the power of the ‘pen’. Start writing, write your mind. Start writing whatever comes to your mind and one day you will surely be able to make a difference. Create blogs, prepare e-mail lists, websites, SMS, create videos, do each and everything that you can to raise the Dalit voice. Internet gives us many opportunities to promote Buddhist values, understanding and insights on the global scale. Use Internet wisely. Round Table India is a great initiative, one step towards making people aware and everyone must support the Round Table India team.
You have been stripped off your true history, your culture, and everything. So, what are you afraid of? Dalits weren’t Hindus or Dalits didn’t use to go to temples. Our festivals, our Gods, our eating habits, our lifestyle and each and everything were different. Who stripped you of all these? Do you have to visit temples to get all these back? I seriously doubt that. How many of us seriously follow the 22 vows administered by Dr. Ambedkar? I feel ashamed when I see many of my Buddhist friends from Maharashtra visiting the Shirdi Sai temple. Whenever I visit my friends’ homes, no doubt I always see Dr. Ambedkar’s pictures there but along with that I always find some idol or picture of one of the 33 crore fake Gods. And I could never understand why they are not able to come out of slavery or why they could never change their mindset even after 55 years of conversion. Stop visiting temples– why don’t Dalits understand that money donated by you at temples is used against you?And follow the 22 vows administered by Dr. Ambedkar.
I can keep on writing on this topic (such as: if you can, teach someone, inspire someone, start a school, start library, start a scholarship for Dalit students, adopt Dalit students etc) but I don’t want to make this article long. So, I will end it with a few more final words.
Don’t tell me that all this is impossible to be done. When you are ready to die at the warfront fighting with unknown persons, what happens to you when you have to fight with the known enemy? What happens to Dalits when their own mothers and sisters are stripped naked in the streets and in broad daylight? Doesn’t your blood boil with anger? Unite. Take time out of your busy lives, encourage others in their strife, encourage Dalit students for higher studies & create such a system which will give legal and financial aid to Dalits. More importantly, take time to listen to what they have to say, share positive thoughts, give them confidence, and bring the best out of you. You surely can make a difference. If you can’t do any of the above, don’t do anything, just read what Dr. Ambedkar said, read the rich history of Dalit ideals. Selfless devotion, dedication with enthusiasm and an assertive mass movement will lay the foundation of the Dalit movement.
P.S. - This article was originally posted at Round Table India. Please spread the message, Like the post and share it with your friends.
The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history, Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster. The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting. - Milan Kundera.
In the month June 2012, the Government of Punjab announced that it will set up a ‘cow memorial‘ at a factory site in Joga town, Mansa District, where recovery of cow carcasses had sparked off riots. And a day after announcing a ‘cow memorial’, the Badal Government further announced it will constitute a ‘cow commission‘ to ‘prevent cruelties against the holy animal’. Mr. Badal even made a visit to the factory where cow slaughter was supposedly taking place and instructed the DGP to look into the cases of cow slaughter with interest and thoroughly. Mr. Badal and his party members didn’t even have the time to pay a visit to the blanket factory at Jalandhar which collapsed in April 2012 and which left more than 10 people dead and 100s badly injured. Not even a single statement came in favor of dead or injured in the one of worst factory accidents of Punjab’s history. Was it because people working at that factory were poor and their lives were not as important as the lives of cows? And recently, when a madman at a Wisconsin Sikh Gurdwara killed 6 people, Mr. Badal, CM of Punjab, decided to visit Wisconsin! Isn’t it strange that when in his home state, thousands Dalits are being tortured and when the crime rate against Dalits is going up day by day, he decided to visit Wisconsin to comfort Sikhs of Wisconsin? Is it because these people living abroad finance him and support his party during the election time and the poor Dalits don’t have as much money to donate? So Dalit voices are left unheard.
All these announcements didn’t come to me as surprise as I know who are working behind all these. For centuries, Hindu fundamentalists have always taken a keen interest in destroying Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. RSS’s ‘secret agenda‘, (published by “New Age” weekly of Communist Party, dated 18th-24th June 2000, same was also reproduced by Aajka Surekh Bharat, Nagpur, Oct. 2000, P-44,) shows the same, ‘secret agenda’ in which it was advocated to members that they “teach false history, misguide minority communities, compel them to chant ‘Om’, divide Dalit unity, keep converting Dalits, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists into Hindus etc. There were 34 such points in that ‘secret agenda’, points which were against humanity, mankind & full of hatred. These days, Sikh organizations, Sikh temples etc are hijacked by Hindu fundamentalists and they are running these organizations as they want. Sikh leaders can be seen at Hindu functions, celebrating Hindu festivals, visiting Hindu temples and performing Hindu pujas. How can Dalits, who protected Sikhism at each and every step, trust such Sikh leaders who attend such Hindu functions where Sikhism is being ruined?
Recently, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar has been ranked as “The Greatest Indian”. You can watch the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J48dmpKoyPo or you can read about it at http://www.outlookindia.com/content10894.asp
An Appeal from Sakya Hostels
Visuddhaloka Welfare Association,
Manali New Town, Chennai
Greetings with love and compassion!
We are obliged for all your support to the Sakya hostels, without which it would not have been possible to turn this dream into a reality. In the year 2005, the people of Karuna Trust, UK came forward to support the Tsunami affected Dalit (Scheduled Caste) children who did not receive due attention during the relief and rehabilitation work undertaken by the NGOs and government. With Karuna Trust support through Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG), Nagpur, two hostels, one for 25 boys and one for 25 girls, were started in Thiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu.
We, the NTI Alumni Tamil Nadu, South India, initiated Visuddhaloka and take care of these children in the Sakya hostels. We provide food, educational materials, bedding, clothes, health care, sports and cultural items. For the last several years we have received no support from Karuna or Taiwan and are managing entirely on our own. It is not easy but we are managing and the hostels are still doing well.
However we are now faced with an emergency situation which is why we are writing to you. Since the beginning, we have run the hostels in rented houses. At present, we have been informed by the house owner that he wants to sell the main building where we have been running the boys’ hostel for the last 7 years.
If you want to destroy a society, destroy its history and the society will get destroyed automatically – Dr. Ambedkar.
On 26th July, a statue of Behan Mayawati was broken in Lucknow; a day later, three statues of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were broken in Azamgarh and on 30th July, another statue of Dr. Ambedkar was vandalised in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. All this is not new and has been happening to Dalit leaders’ statues, Dalit idols or icons, Dalit places and Dalit history since ages. Numerous Dalit saints/gurus were killed – such as Sant Chakardhar, Sant Namdev, Sant Tukaram, Guru Ravidas, Sant Chokhamela; people even tried to kill Mahatma Jyotiba Phule & Shahuji Maharaj. Dalit history has been maligned and distorted since ages. Historians are supposed to be free from fear, to be sincere, open minded, open hearted truth seekers & also courageous enough to show the truth at any cost. But it is the misfortune of Dalits of India that historians have shown a distorted picture & never showed truth to the people. Being Dalit, we have been taught to hate ourselves, we have been taught that Dalits’ don’t have any history; we have been taught Dalits can’t do any good. Who taught you all this? Upper caste people did.
Dr. Ambedkar’s followers were putting up statues of him in slums and villages even when he was alive but the first official statue of Dr. Ambedkar was set up in 1962, in Mumbai (Bombay) at the Institute of Science crossing. And then came the moment when Dalits started asserting and in 1966, Dr. Radhakrishnan (President of India) inaugurated Dr. Ambedkar’s statue in the Parliament building complex (New Delhi). In Uttar Pradesh, one research study shows that the very first Dr. Ambedkar statue was installed with the contribution of Dalits in around 1966 on the outskirts of Allahabad, and Dalits of Kanpur didn’t take much time to install another statue on the same lines. We must not forget that many installations of Dr. Ambedkar’s statues were opposed by upper caste people with stone pelting or boycotts but Dalits showed courage and didn’t move back. Dalits knew that statues of Dalit idols will stand as a major feature in the Dalit-Bahujan movement. And in all those statues Dr. Ambedkar will stand aloft. How can we forget the struggle and sacrifice of our forefathers?
Statues of Dalit icons are built by Dalit people with their own money and contributions, not with the money from the state as Gandhi-Nehru statues are being made in India. So, why are Dalit icons’ statues being broken and damaged? Statues represent a crucial point in the aspirations of Dalits towards democracy, aspirations of Dalits towards equality and justice. Dalits gather around these statues, get organised, organising functions and all these gatherings give them strength to believe in themselves and get inspired by other fellow Dalits. All these attempts to demolish Dalit icons’ statues is an attempt to demoralise Dalits, deprive Dalits of their rich history and rob them of what Dalits have been able to gather after years of struggle.
It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What do you do? You integrate it with cream, you make it weak. But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep –Malcolm X.
After I wrote the last article on Untouchability & Satyamev Jayate, I got an email asking me -so do I think no upper caste person does any good for Dalits? It is a perfect time for this question. I had wanted to write on the same topic for some time now as there was a discussion going on in a forum on almost the same topic – do organisations owned/run by upper caste people really do any work for Dalits?
Before, I answer this question; can anyone tell me an instance in history where upper caste people ‘collectively’ have done anything for the upliftment of Dalits? You may point to some individuals who have done their bit but if you check out the history of India, there is no such instance where upper caste people ‘collectively’ have done anything for the betterment of Dalits. All that upper caste people want is power and upper caste people have perfected the art of projecting themselves as friends of Dalits. By winning the friendship/support of the Dalits, so called ‘progressive upper caste people’ are able to use Dalits as a pawn in the social-economic-political game. Dalits are nothing but a game played by ‘progressive upper caste people’, based on tokenism or false promises of equality. In this game, played on the rules of deception, only upper caste people have gained and Dalits have remained on the bottom rung.
Many so called ‘progressive upper caste people’ are just like foxes, they keep hiding their true nature and they misguide till the time comes to put their jaws on the misguided. Such people are more dangerous than the people who snarl openly against Dalits. I have never seen a ‘sincere’ upper caste person helping Dalits without any real motive.
Few days back, I watched the episode “Untouchability – Dignity For All” on the Satyamev Jayate show on 8th July, 2012. Many people rated it as a ‘great’ show but I don’t accept it as a ‘great’ show. It was just another show made with the intention of earning profits and TRP. There was nothing on the show which common public didn’t know apart from the clippings from Stalin K’s documentary – India Untouched. (And if you are a bit conscious on human rights, you would have already seen that documentary!) We all know Dalit students face discrimination; Dalit couples are killed because of inter-caste marriages, who doesn’t know that caste remarks are not uncommon in India? (Read “I have a Dream” for more detail, describing where Dalits face discrimination and what a Dalit dreams about.)
The episode started with the heart touching story of Dr. Kaushal Panwar, professor at Delhi University. She spoke about her upbringing and the caste discrimination she faced during her childhood and during her student life. Her life story is no different from that of most of the Dalits in India. Discrimination that Dr. Kaushal faced at JNU is of no surprise because even today Dalit students are murdered in professional colleges due to caste discrimination.
Next on the show comes Stalin K– he was the only man, apart from Bezwada Wilson, who impressed me on the show. Stalin K is the director of the documentary named “India Untouched” created in 2007 and he also runs an organisation named Video Volunteers. He has done a remarkable job, has travelled more than 25,000 km in India covering caste discrimination. The show took the readymade clippings from his documentary and presented it! I don’t think Aamir Khan and his team would have put any effort in producing this episode as everything was readymade and conveniently available. At one point Stalin K rightly pointed out – if you don’t know your caste you must be from upper caste because society don’t leave a single chance to remind you that you are from lower caste.
At another point on the show, someone from the audience compared ‘ragging’ to ‘caste discrimination’ and that point was praised by the host! What a joke! Unless ragging is based on caste it can’t be compared to caste discrimination. And ragging with Dalit students, unlike with other students, is played only on caste lines, so comparing ragging with caste discrimination is completely illogical and out of context when we are discussing caste based discrimination. For most of the times on the show, the host seemed to me an ignoramus. Was he pretending to be ignorant of all the facts, or didn’t he really know about all the discrimination– I couldn’t figure that out. I seriously doubt if Aamir Khan has read or knows anything about the Sachar Report!
Then there comes a so called progressive Brahmin on the show – Dharmadhikari! He praised Gandhi, and at the end prescribed a solution to the caste problem. His solution: we will not ask anyone about his/her caste and we will not let anyone know of our caste. What an incredible solution! How could Dr. Ambedkar have missed such a brilliant solution? I couldn’t figure out how letting no one know about caste or not talking about caste will solve the problem of caste discrimination? People ask each other – which part of the village do you live? Oh! Western part? You must be Dalit. Caste will still be there in society, whether we discuss it or not. At one point on the show, he was opining that with this episode, untouchability has been brought into the national level media and it will get the attention of higher authorities and at another point he was putting across just the opposite viewpoint: don’t discuss caste. How ridiculous!
Further, he said inter-caste marriages will solve the problem of caste discrimination. I seriously doubt the efficacy of this solution as did Dr. Ambedkar, who said:
Caste cannot be abolished by inter caste dinners or stray instances of inter caste marriages. Caste is a state of mind. It is a disease of mind. The teachings of the Hindu religion are the root cause of this disease. We practice casteism and we observe Untouchability because we are enjoined to do so by the Hindu religion. A bitter thing cannot be made sweet. The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar.
Mumbai’s Way: Buddhism in the Daravi slums (Visits to Daravi slums with Dr. Arun Kamble)
You can also watch the same video from this link https://vimeo.com/9441279
My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality. - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
Abidhamma = Pertaining to Dhammas
Pariyatti = Study of the theoretical aspects of the Dhamma.
Sama-sam-buddha = One who rediscovers the teachings and teaches the masses as the historical Buddha did.
Vinaya Pitaka = The Vinaya Pitaka contains the rules for monks and nuns, monastic jurisprudence & the early history of the Sangha.
Tipitaka = “Path” or “Way of Dhamma”. This book consists of a collection of 423 verses grouped into 26 chapters.
Paccekabuddha = A silent Buddha.
Arahant = Fully enlightened person.
Dhamma = Teaching & doctrines of the Buddha, called as Dhamma because they explain & describe nature of things, the way things are, and the way they operate.
Bodhisatta = A person who is seeking to be a Buddha
Nibbana = A Bliss of No-Craving
4 Stages in the realization of Nibbana
Sotapanna – Stream-entrant
Sakadagami – Once returner
Anagami – Non returner
Arahant – The Holy One
Buddha = Gyan/Vigyan/Tarq/Bodhi,
Dhamma = Gyan ka Marg/Astangik Marg/Madhyam Marg,
Sangha = Gyan ke Marg par chal rahe/chalchuke log