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

You promised 50 lakh houses, give us one: Ahmedabad migrant women's plea to Modi

Women display letters containing rakhi for PM    By Hirabhai Solanki, Bhartiben Dantani, Ramesh Shrivastav*  Poor labouring families, including seasonal or long-term migrants of nearly 15 squatter settlements -- working as construction and casual workers and petty vendors, providing cheap but critically important labour for Ahmedabad city, living under plastic sheetings -- have reminded the Gujarat and Central Governments about the promise made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of building 50 lakh dwellings, wherein every pavement dweller and homeless would be given a decent home by the end of 2022. Holding a meeting in Ahmedabad under the aegis of the Majur Adhikaar Manch, they also referred to the appeal of the Prime Minister to poor and labouring women, seeking his support as brother by sending rakhis to protect their humble basti dwellings and provide them with decent housing, which is secure for them and their families. So far, about 300 women have posted rakhis to the Prime Ministe

A tale of horror and fraud: Profits in trillions of dollars for vaccine manufacturers?

By Aruna Rodrigues*  John Leake is a best-selling and “experienced non-fiction, true crime author”. Having just read what must be described as an extraordinary ‘telling’ of the Covid-19 saga, his book “The Courage to Face Covid-19: Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex”, co-authored with Peter A McCullough, MD, MPH, is the narration of true crime on a scale that could top the list in the history of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’. The book chronicles the unique role of national governments across the world and their health agencies, led by the USA and WHO, which followed an agenda that led to completely avoidable fatalities numbering several million. The question is why? The usual culprits are money and power. But to ascribe cause to these two is woefully insufficient. The sheer magnitude of the ‘dark agenda’ – coordinated and played out by governments, health agencies, the medical establishment (hospitals, doctors and chemists) and the massive a

A countdown to disaster: Breach in fly-ash bunds of Nagpur's thermal power plants

Fly-ash dyke, Koradi thermal power plant  By Dhwani Shah, Deepmala Patel*  Last month the residents of several villages of Nagpur district woke up to the nightmare of being inundated with fly-ash. Located in the north of Nagpur city are Koradi and Khaparkheda thermal power stations which have their ash dykes in the vicinity. On July 10, 2022 at 3 am, the ash dyke of the Khaparkheda thermal power station broke, leading to ash contaminating the Kanhan river. Though the authorities claimed to have acted quickly and the fly ash dumping in the river was stopped, the claim stood to be misleading and false. Even today, the Kanhan river continues to be polluted with fly-ash, and the water supply to the city is affected. Not only did ash dyke of the Khaparkheda power station break, on July 16, 2022, the ash bund of the Koradi thermal power plant also broke. Fly-ash and water stored in the dyke gushed downstream to six villages -- drowning houses, water bodies and farmlands. With such large-

Kailash Satyarthi NGO floats new centre in Delhi to 'empower' underprivileged children

By Our Representative  A voluntary organisation linked with Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi-supported NGO has floated a unique children’s resource centre at Sanjay Camp, Chankyapuri, New Delhi, in order to facilitate in imparting remedial education, recreational training and holistic development of children of around 2,500 under-privileged slum-dwelling families. Virender Singh Kadian, MLA of Delhi Cantonment, inaugurated the centre, which is called Shaheed Kalu Bal Vikas Kendra. The resource centre is in memory of Kalu Kumar, who died at an young age serving and working towards the development of under-privileged children, said an NGO source. A firebrand activist, Kalu Kumar was trafficked from Bihar to the carpet manufacturing belt of Allahabad when he was six. He was rescued by the Bachpan Bachao Andolan at the age of 10. A bright student, Kalu he covered up the lost ground very quickly and grew up to become a leader fighting for the rights of other child slaves at Bal Ashram. In

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

Multi-crore NRC updation scam? Awaited: Assam media's self-cleaning mechanism

By Nava Thakuria  If some editor-journalists are allegedly involved in a financial scam, shouldn't the people get an opportunity to identify them? As the mainstream newspapers and news channels of Assam are avoiding the issue in their coverage, how come the actual picture will come to the public domain? If the mainstream media outlets intentionally kill the news, reasons best known to the editors, should the social media users take a lead? By now a number of senior journalists (with experience in print journalism for many decades) have highlighted the issue in social media. Their message is loud and clear- identify the corrupt television journalists who grabbed a huge amount of money which is actually meant for thousands of Assamese professionals. It all began when a second first information report (FIR) was filed by the outgoing State coordinator of National Register of Citizens (NRC) against his predecessor alleging corruption and money laundering while updating the 1951 NRC in A

RSS, Sangh Parivar consider tricolour as "state flag" and not "national flag"

By Teesta Setalvad* Today, when the nation has been independent for 67 years, the Sangh Parivar is set to launch ‘Tiranga yatras’ and Satyagrahas to defend the honour of the flag and the nation. Yet when the Indian people were involved in the decades-long struggle for freedom against British imperialism, the RSS was conspicuous by its absence in the struggle. When thousands of people faced lathis, bullets and jail sentences for hoisting the tiranga and participated all over the country in satyagraha during the Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements against the British Raj, the Sangh publicly took the stand that it would not take part in the movement and seldom missed the opportunity of assuring the British rulers that they would keep to the right side of colonial law and avoid any clash with the authorities. Of course the reason given for this was that the Sangh was secretly strengthening itself and would take on British imperialism only when it was strong enough to do so! A simil

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Grossly inadequate': NREGA allocation 0.29% of GDP, World Bank recommended 1.6%

By Rajiv Shah  A civil society tracker, seeking to periodically analyse the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), has said that NREGA budgetary allocation is only 0.29% of GDP and 1.85% of the total government expenditure of the financial year 2022-23, which is grossly inadequate. Thus, “As per estimates of researchers of the World Bank, for NREGA to run robustly, its allocation must at least be 1.6% of the GDP.” Prepared by the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), a group of activists, academics and members of people’s organizations, who came together to advocate for NREGA in 2004 in order to catalyse discussion and strengthen the top Government of India rural jobs guarantee scheme, the tracker states, the NREGA budget as percentage of the total government expenditure has also decreased -- it stands at 1.85% for FY 2022-23, just about half the level in FY 2020-21 (3.65%). The tracker, titled “Meagre Funds and Unlawfully Low Wages: How

Since 2015 Govt of India didn't allocate single rupee to Gujarat for RTI training, awareness

By Pankti Jog*  The Department of Personnel and Training, Government of India (GoI) has allocated Rs 8.7 crore to Maharashtra for conducting Right to Information (RTI) training and awareness between 2015 to 2022. Of this, Rs 5.9 crore has gone to the Maharashtra State Training Institute, YASHADA, and Rs 3.01 crore have gone to the State Information Commission, Maharashtra. Gujarat, on the other hand, has not received even a single rupee over the last seven years for RTI programmes. Even Gujarat’s State Information Commission too has not not received any funds since 2005. RTI is one of the effective tools to bring transparency and accountability in the administration, thus improve governance. If citizens are aware, they would participate in a more meaningful manner in governance. They would effectively monitor planning and expenses of public programmes. Indeed, it is necessary that RTI is taken to every citizen, for which the government needs to conduct awareness drives and training