Skip to main content

Unfortunate that there is little public discussion on the significance of the historic Mahad satyagrah

By Subhash Gatade*
Can water catch fire? The question may surprise anyone in senses. Yet any person who keeps an open eye for social and political movements would know that when masses forge ahead, breaking millennia old chains of slavery, then not only sky can be pierced, but water too can catch fire.
2017 is the ninetieth anniversary of Mahad Satyagrah when thousands of people had gathered at Mahad in Maharashtra to challenge the practice of untouchability by drinking water from a public pond. It may appear just one event in one corner of the country, but it gave voice to many new notes of rebellion in the social and cultural landscape of India.
It needs to be noted that this historic satyagrah is known as the Mahad Revolution Day in the social movements of Western India, when in the first phase Ambedkar and his followers had gathered to drink water from Chavdar pond, and in the second phase om 25 December, 1927 he had publicly burnt Manusmriti. It may appear that all they did was to drink water from a pond, yet this one simple act was a declaration of revolt against centuries old pernicious practices of Brahminical caste system.
They openly challenged injunctions ordained by religion, which did not mind animals drinking from a pond, but would punish a section of humanity or doing it. It is not without reason that in Marathi it is said with pride, that it was the day when’ water caught fire’. This was a symbol of the self respect of Dalits, and announced their arrival at the forefront of the battle for equality. This declaration of their basic rights by Dalits forever changed the face of Indian politics and social movements.

Ambedkar on lips, Golwalkar in heart

It is unfortunate that there is little public discussion on the significance of this historic satyagrah, and its current relevance. However, this is an opportune occasion to discuss challenges before, and potentialities of the Dalit movement after Ambedkar.
It needs to be understood that not many remember the two twin enemies of the exploited and deprived - Brahmanism and Capitalism – that Dr Ambedkar had underlined in a workers’ conference at Manmad. How far the movement has progressed in his tactic of developing a common platform with the left, democratic and progressive forces to achieve extensive and deep transformation? This question can not be avoided.
The party in power, which has no shame in proclaiming Ambedkar while secretly cherishing Savarkar-Hedgewar-Golwalkar in their heart, needs a Dalit politics which will dance to their tune. Real Ambedkar is anathema to them; they want sanitized, harmless Ambedkar.
In this context the gap between what they say, and their actions is becoming clear. They not only want to attack programmes of positive discrimination like reservations, their economic policies and social agenda has been a disaster to Dalits and others on the margins of society.
Needless to say there has been a strong reaction to this deceit and hypocrisy of the government about Ambedkar. It is evident that ever since Modi led government came to power in 2014, incidences of Dalit assertion are on the rise, and every successive incidence has drawn in more popular support.
Whether it was the successful agitation against the ban on Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras, countrywide agitation by students against the ‘institutional murder’ of Rohith Vemula by Hyderabad Central University, popular mobilization against the BJP government’s decision in Maharashtra to demolish Ambedkar Bhavan in Mumbai, successful agitation by Dalits in Punjab under the leadership of revolutionary left to occupy land and start experimenting with collective agriculture, or the Dalit revolt in Gujrat after Una against cow-terrorists which raised the historic slogan ‘you keep your cows’ tail, give us our land’ ; it is evident that Dalit assertion is sharper, more militant and also more extensive.

Time to break new ground

The truth of the hegemonic Hindutva agenda is out. The livelihood and the right to organize of the oppressed and exploited are under attack. They want to crush any form of Dalit assertion. Yet, in their anxiety they are also trying to appropriate Amdedkar. It seems battle lines are being drawn from both sides.
The leader of Bhim Army, Chandrasekhar Azad Ravan is behind bars. It is well known that the social and cultural movement led by his organization in Saharanpur and neighbouring areas has unnerved Hindutva forces. It was not without reason that when the Allahabad Highcourt granted him bail, he was immediately arrested again under the National Security Act.
It needs to be noted that if attraction for the BJP among a section of Dalits, for whatever reasons, in 2014 elections was one of the reasons for Hidtuva’s success, the increasing assertion of Dalits now is the proof that they can not be fooled any longer. It is essential now to discuss if identity (Asmita) should remain the focus of the Dalit movement, or as it came out in Una movement, the question of basic economic rights (Astitva) should also be a slogan. In this struggle for fundamental change it will be essential for the Dalit movement to identify its true friends, and implacable enemies.
---
*New Socialist Initiative

Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.