The Great Accident: Bleeding Blue in a Saffron Age

-Deepen Lawaria

(TW: suicide, rape, discrimination, mental health)

On 14th April, 130 years ago the 14th and last son was born to Bhimabai Ramji Sakpal who over the course of his life became the first Indian to hold a doctorate degree, worked for equal rights for women shackled in the patriarchal setting, quite literally liberated nearly 25% of the Indian population subjected to brutal and unjust practice of ostracizing the so called “lower castes” by leading a movement that to this day lives on in the heart of millions and uplifts them on daily basis.

“The caste problem is a vast one, both theoretically and practically. Practically, it is an institution that portends tremendous consequences. It is a local problem, but one capable of much wider mischief, for “as long as caste in India does exist, Hindus will hardly intermarry or have any social intercourse with outsiders; and if Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, Indian caste would become a world problem.”

  • Dr. B.R. Ambedkar ( Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development)

 Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Champion of Dalits and Father of the Indian Constitution (and his economics, according to Dr. Amartya Sen) led the war against this social evil (which is an understatement), this epidemic of untouchability that plagues the minds of youth to this day.

“It is a pity that Caste even today has its defenders.”- words carved in history by Babasaheb 85 years ago still holds true for many as the NCRB report and a recent report tabled in Rajya Sabha portrays.

Not just Babasaheb, the fight against social ostracizing of dalits and tribal people had many known spearheads like Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Periyar etc and they to this day inspires the youth to, in Babasaheb’s words: ‘annihilate the caste’

  • Dr. R.S. Praveen Kumar

“The protests strengthen my resolve to empower my community through constitutional means so that their perpetrators can no longer take them for granted.” ( In conversation with KP Narayan Kumar, in context of Gujrat Dalit riots)

Dr. RS Praveen Kumar is a senior IPS officer and Secretary, Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society (TSWREIS).

Leading the Swaero movement, gaining a huge momentum in Telugu states is an Ambedkarite organisation working to dismantle the caste based oppression and stigma through government’s constitutional mechanisms.

“Investing heavily in qualitative education (preferably in English) of the underprivileged is a silver bullet.”

Swaero ( Social Welfare Aeros) has become synonymous with representing aspirations of SCs STs and socially backward classes who were kept away from mainstream development and subjected to systematic suppression. Swaero run social welfare schools have a stellar record in academia and help underprivileged children realise the dreams of changing the world at a practical level by reclaiming the social circles.

“Gone are the days of calling the SCs as Chandala, Harijan, Dalit, Badugu, Nimna.. etc. We are Swaroes. This is our new identity to discover our true potential” says the Harvard Graduate who has faced discrimination first hand while growing up, facing an informal segregation in his birth village which continued till his university days in a well institutionalised manner.

  • Radhika Vemula

“My birth is my fatal accident” wrote Rohith Vemula in his suicide note as institutional casteist harrassment broke this Ambedkarite scholar who wanted to be a writer but ended up with a suicide note as his work. “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”

Radhika Vemula, mother of Rohith Vemula is a dalit activist working to end caste based discrimination in higher education institutions and universities. Radhika was arrested by police for protesting at the University of Hyderabad on the first death anniversary of his son. She continued the work her son left unfinished, and converted to Buddhism along with her son on Ambedkar Jayanti in 2016 in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

  • Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan

“The Great Chamars of Dhadkhauli Welcome You”

The Ravan to Ram, Chandrashekhar Azad is a dalit activist who leads the Bhim Army, an Ambedkarite organisation working to uplift the marginalized through radical means. Recently named in Time 100 Emerging Leaders who are shaping the future, Azad rose to prominence when he was jailed in 2017 through the National Security Act (NSA) for alleged role in violence that took place in May 2017 in Saharanpur district. Chandrashekhar Azad has led his voice to many movements like protests against CAA/NRC, Farmer’s protest and was on the front line demanding justice for the victim of Hathras Rape case. Under his leadership, Bhim Army educates dalit children, works on grassroots level proactively against caste based violence and challenge the notion that dalits should be obsequious by his very being.

  • Grace Banu

“No amount of temporary governmental and non-governmental schemes can have the transgenerational impact that reservations can have. Reservations are the only way”
On the path of intersectional activism, Grace Banu is the first transgender engineer to be admitted in a  college from the state of Tamil Nadu. Part of many small scale start-ups to facilitate the marginalized communities in standing up and becoming self reliant, Grace Banu is a beacon of hope for many. Her work is widely known in the dalit and transgender community.

  • Mayawati

National President of Bahujan Samaj Party, Mayawati is a well known figure in Indian politics working for the betterment of people belonging to lowest strata of Hindu samaj (comprising of Brahmins, Rajputs, Vaishya, Shudra and the Dalits with Dalits and Shudras facing the brunt of socio-economic harassment).
Belonging to a low-income dalit family of Delhi, Mayawati served has served a total of four terms as chief minister of an Indian state becoming  the first dalit women to rise to such high level of governance in India.

Under the mentor of Kanshi Ram, a prominent dalit rights advocate and politician, Mayawati has to this day worked for the betterment of Bahujan samaj.
A recent Bollywood film, Madam chief minister is allegedly based on the life of Mayawati.

  • Bhanwar Meghwanshi

Author of ‘I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in the RSS’, an ex-karsevak of RSS is a whistleblower of casteism in the RSS amd bares it all in his novel. Getting ‘keep up a positive outlook’ for his tireless work in RSS and fighting for social justice on multiple fronts, broke this enthusiastic dalit Swayamsevak who rested his hopes of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to listen to his plead and work for the betterment of dalits but led to no fruition.

“When Babri was brought down I felt no joy”
Contrary to the tokenism of Kameshwar Chaupal’s role in shilanyas of Ram Mandir (which in itself was a big feat for dalit community), Bhanwar Meghwanshi regularly calls out the injustice and discrimination in society and works to eradicate these social evils.

Despite all the efforts, reports suggest a negligible change in the mindset of Indian society. According to one such report, 21 Dalit women and raped each weak and 13 killed on a weekly basis. Today’s casteism, equally rigid in the rural settings had taken a rather subtle yet alarmingly equal if not more hard hitting stance through normalised microaggressive statements and deeds.

Recently, Trans rights activists based in India, Dr.Trinetra Haldar and Meera Singhania-Rehani publicly took to their Instagram lives and speculated another activist’s caste location and mental health. The conversation of two activists, the millenial ‘Champions of Intersectional Activism’ bare how the caste and privilege is deeply ingrained in savarna socio-political system and how emasculating the dalit identity, is not just an age old culture.