Skip to main content

Anti-untouchability move? Dalits to 'mint' brass coin to be laid beneath new Parliament

By Rajiv Shah

Gujarat’s top Dalit rights organisation, Navsarjan Trust, is all set to initiate a unique campaign under which families from different parts of the country will contribute a brass article or a utensil -- all of it will be melted and minted into a 1111 milligram diameter coin with the question engraved on it: Will the 1947 dream of untouchability-free India be reality yin 2047?
The coin will have carry the images of Dr BR Ambedkar leading his famous Mahad satyagraha against the refusal of the dominant caste people not allowing Dalits to drink water from the Chavdar Pond. The satyagraha took place 94 years ago, on March 20, 1927. It was followed by a series of campaigns launched by Dr Ambedkar to end untouchability, including the bonfire of Manusmriti on December 25, 1927.
Martin Macwan, founder, Navsarjan Trust, who conceptualised the campaign, says, 1,111 MG stands for “1 country, 1 nation; repeal: 1 country, 1 nation. The coin will be donated to all the members of Parliament to lay the same in the foundation of the new house of Parliament to be constructed to remind ourselves of the unfinished promise to abolish untouchability.”
Macwan announced the decision to hold the campaign at a programme at the Dalit Shakti Kendra, a training-cum-human rights institute set up him off Surat town in Ahmedabad district on the occasion of the anniversary of the Mahad satyagraha.
Explaining that the campaign is meant to strengthen and unify the nation to end untouchabity, he says, “People will also contribute Re 1 coin as a contribution for the upcoming Parliament house. After all, Parliament is the only political and moral temple of all Indian citizens, which is mandated to protect the rights of all its citizens as enshrined in the India’s Constitution.”
It is a kind of “appeal to all the people -- of different languages, different religions, different regions and from different cultures -- to join hands to ensure that India remains 1 country and 1 nation”, for the pledge to end untouchablity by 2047, when India completes 100 years of Independence.”
The campaign, which is proposed to continue for more than a year. It will end with the coin and the donation being presented to members of Parliament on August 15, 2022. However, insists, Macwan, it “does not demand any welfare scheme from the government. There are no rallies, no sit-in programs, no slogans, and no call for Bharat Bandh. Neither abuses are showered on anyone.”
In an email alert to Counterview on the campaign, Macwan wonders, “Should we be content with the fact that Dr Ambedkar has been posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna and that his portrait is hung on the wall of Parliament? In fact what Dr Ambedkar desired was the annihilation of caste, and least his glorification.”
He asks, “Has Dr Ambedkar’s dream fulfilled? How long are we going to continue to live with the untouchability? Do the new born babies in India have to carry the blot of untouchability on their identity? In the presence of untouchability, our great country fails to rise as a single, undivided mation. Hence, the cries of Bhim, the Bhim Rudan, is heard in our streets, only if we can lend our ears to listen.”

Coin legends

The idea of the coin, states Macwan, comes from a tale he had heard when he was in school. A kingdom announced to construct a Buddha statue in gold. The monks led the campaign of collecting donations. Who will not contribute to the memory of Buddha. As it was to be a golden statue, everyone donated gold.
The artisans designed the mold and poured the melted gold in it. On opening the mold, there was a grief on everyone’s face to see a crack on the face of Buddha. Was there a mistake in the construction of mold or in pouring the melted gold? The statue was melted once again and poured in the mold but the crack on the face emerged yet again and it repeated for the third time too.
The head priest summoned all the monks with a question: Did anyone of you reject any donation from anyone? The eyes of the youngest monk fell and he fumbled with shaking voice, “An old lady living on the outskirts of our kingdom wanted to donate a tiny copper coin, and I thought with all the gold, how will the copper coin match?”
Every new house constructed is laid with coin in foundation, a symbol of peace and prosperity for its dwellers
This made the head priest, followed by monks, to reach up to the hut of the old woman. On reaching up to the old lady’s hut, he told her, “Mother, without your copper coin, the smile on the face of Lord Buddha will never come. And with the copper coin in hand, they hurried back.” The coin was melted with all the gold. It was poured in the mold. When it was opened there appeared Buddha with a smile.
Pointing out that India “gained its identity in the world as the land of Lord Buddha, the teacher who unified and influenced all the religions of the world to an eternal truth: All living beings are created equal by nature”, Macwan recalls, Dr Ambedkar, like Buddha, who gave Constitution to India, also “promised equality as a fundamental right to all its citizens” and untouchability-free.
However, Macwan regrets, “Like the attempts to build the statue of Buddha with a smile, our dream of building untouchability-free nation has turned more than 70 years old. Yet, the wide and deep crack of untouchability on the face of the largest democracy continues to appear.” Hence, he says, while having a new Parliament building, one shouldn’t depend on the dream of “few who possess plenty of gold.”
Drawing yet another parallel, states Macwan, in Gujarat, Siddhraj Jaysinh (1094-1143), the king on ruled large parts of today’s Gujarat and Rajasthan, dug a mammoth pond in Patan, his capital, to ensure water for his people. The pond was ready but there was famine for seven years. The legend has it that the famine was the result of a wrath, as the king had laid a lustful eye on a married woman working at the pond and that she killed herself to protect her honour instead of submitting herself to the most powerful man.
Megh Maya temple in Patan
The royal astrologer found a remedy: “If only we sacrifice a perfect person with all the 32 qualities embodied, that the water will flow out of the mother earth.” The search for such a person ended in a young, unmarried man living on the outskirts of the kingdom, an untouchable. His name was Megh Maya.
Megh Maya was brought before the king. He was told he had no choice but sacrifice himself for the good of all. He agreed, but with one condition: “Declare my community free of the untouchability.” The legend has the king agreed, and with the blood falling on the mother earth from the slit neck of Megh Maya, the water filled the pond.
While this may be considered a legend, says Macwan, it is a historical fact that in many palatial homes, for their safety, the Dalits were buried in their foundation. This finds a mention in an essay published in ‘Gyanoday’ (1955) written by Mukta Salve, who was one of the eight girls who attended the first-ever Dalit girls school in 1847 founded by Savitri and Jyotiba Phule in Pune.
“So, even today in the memory of Megh Maya, every new house constructed is laid with a coin in the foundation, a symbol of dream of peace and prosperity for all its dwellers. We need to lay a coin in the foundation of the upcoming Parliament house to ensure that it can truly build India as a democratic nation, free of untouchablilty. With the presence of untouchability India cannot become undivided nation”, he asserts.
Hence, the brass coin, he suggests, would work as a symbol to fulfill the dream of building an untouchability-free nation by 2047.

Comments

2047???????? I won't be around to see it but then it is not going to happen the way things are today.

TRENDING

Political consensus? Celebrations, with over 5,000 plus post-vaccine deaths in India

By Rosamma Thomas*  As India fully vaccinated nearly 20% of its population and celebrated the “milestone” of administering one billion (100 crore) Covid-19 vaccine doses, it was time to remember those who died shortly after vaccination . By October 20, 2021 Twitter handle C400T, tracking deaths reported to have occurred after receiving the Covid-19 shot in India, updated the 5,134th death.

Is sacrilege charge against Punjab Dalits any different from Pak blasphemy cases?

Lakhbir Singh, his wife By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  There is no doubt that Sikhism actually was a revolt against the Brahmanical system and superstition. Guru Granth Saheb is perhaps the only Holy Book which contains matters from different religions as well as those of various Sufi saints, including Kabir, Ravidas, Baba Farid and others. The aim of Sikhism was to create an egalitarian society, and, definitely, Punjab that way is far better than many other States in India, where violence against Dalits is rampant.

'Human rights trampled upon': Activists, litterateurs, academics 'reimagine' India

Bezwada Wilson, Romila Thapar, TM Krishna By Our Representative  The Reimagining India public lecture series, initiated by the civil rights group India Inclusive Collective, has brought together one platform about 50 prominent speakers in order to highlight how, over the last seven years, there have been “consistent attacks” on the democratic fabric of the country, with Constitutional and human rights of people being “trampled with impunity.”

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Billion vaccine doses? Devil is in details: 70% haven't got 2nd jab; numbers jacked up

By Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury*  India has reached the one billion Covid-19 vaccinations milestone. It is indeed a great news and a big salute to the less paid ordinary health-workers in interiors of India for this feat. The government wants all of India's 944 million adults to get vaccinated this year. Around three-quarters of adults in the country of 1.3 billion people have had one shot and around 30 percent are fully vaccinated, the government says.

How are Tripura Muslims responsible for attacks in Bangladesh?: 'Concerned' citizens

Counterview Desk  Calling it a “retaliation” of Bangladesh violence, several “concerned citizens”*, including Magsaysay award winning social activist and academic Sandeep Pandey and PV Rajagopal of the Sarvodaya Samaj, have said that the recent attacks on Muslim community in different areas of Tripura is a the reflection of “growing trend of using violence against another community.”

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".

Ease of doing business? Govt of India seeks legal cover to 'divert' forest land

By Gopinath Majhi*  The proposed amendments to Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 (FCA) vide ‘Consultation Paper on Proposed amendments in the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980’ (F No FC-11/61/2021-FC dated October 2, 2021) must be dropped by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC). 

Uttarakhand, Kerala disaster due to policies favouring India's developmental mafia

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  Two of India’s most beautiful regions where thousands of people go to watch and feel the wonders of nature are suffering because of the extremely disastrous rains and floods. The pain that the rains brought to Kerala and Uttarakhand is a warning to all of us. It's nature’s warning to us to mend our ways.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.