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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.

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