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Why Gujarat Dalits want huge brass coin placed in new Parliament building base

  
By Rajiv Shah*
Huge brass coins weighing 2,700 kg, largest one 1,000 kg and the rest relatively small, prepared from brass donated mainly by Dalits of 758 Gujarat villages, have been released at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), a technical-cum-Dalit empowerment institute operating about 20 kilometres from Ahmedabad. With BR Ambedkar’s image on one side, and of Lord Buddha’s on the other, embossed on the coins is the phrase, “Will Dr Ambedkar’s dream to end untouchability end come true by 2047?”
To be presented to the President of India, the purpose of the 1000 kg coin, said Martin Macwan, who conceptualised the idea of minting the coin, is to place it in the foundation of the new Parliament building to be built at the cost of Rs 20,000. “It is meant to be a reminder to India’s law makers that even 75 years after Independence, untouchability remains intact. How can India be called free with such a disgraceful practice continuing to prevail to this day?” he asked.
Answering the question why this coin, Macwan said in an explanatory note forwarded to Counterview, “The cultural tradition of Gujarat to lay a coin in the foundation of a new house has a history. A young man, Megh Mahya, considered to be an untouchable, was sacrificed in the stepwell-pond constructed by the King of Patan, a princely state in Gujarat, Siddharajsinh Solanki. According to the legend there was a seven year long spell of famine due to the suicidal death of a young married woman who was laid upon a lustful eye by the king.”
Macwan continued, “The solution to end the famine was found in the sacrifice of a perfect man with 32 qualities of life. Megh Mahya was declared the perfect person. He however demanded that in lieu of his sacrifice the compulsory practice for Dalits to tie a broom at their backs, to hang a spittoon in their neck and to always cover their hair with a cotton scarf be removed.”
He added, “This was agreed upon and he was beheaded. The site is protected by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). Dalits as well as poor communities pay respect to the sacrifice of Megh Mahya by laying a coin in the foundation of their new house.”
Taking cue from this legend, Macwan said, “India is building its new Parliament house. Parliament reflects the hopes and aspirations of Its citizens as it protects their rights enshrined in the Constitution. Since the constitutional mandate to build India as a mation that is free of untouchability has remained unaccomplished even after 75 years of independence, the coin will be a reminder to free India from the slavery of caste.”
Speaking at the programme to release the coin, organised at DSK, Macwan said, the journey to carry it to Delhi will begin in Ahmedabad on August 9. Called Bhim Rudan, the distressed reminder to the unfinished task of Ambedkar’s call to annihilate casteism, the programme is planned to highlight the fact that caste distinctions and discrimination “are becoming more pervasive in India, humiliating and challenging the Constitution”, he added.
The coins have been minted from 2,279 kg of brass utensils collected from Gujarat’s 758 villages of 12 districts, and rest from other states, including Rajasthan, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. Three Dalit artists, Odisha’s Vishwarajan, and Delhi’s Manubhai and Akshaybhai, involved in the gold plating of Somnath temple, worked on it for several months.
“We hope to present the 1000 kg coin to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha speakers, apart from the President”, Macwan said, adding, “We want all political parties to include their representative as we meet the three dignitaries. We have confirmation from two MPs so far – from from Bihar and another from Tamil Nadu – who have agreed to join in. We will be writing to all Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs to be part of the programme with the simple demand: to remove untouchability by 2047.”

Tens of one foot, 13 lakh one rupee coins 

Along with the main 1000 kg coin, a large number of one-foot coins, prepared from the donated brass, will be taken and placed at several of the major spots, including where Dr Ambedkar organised satyagraha against untouchability in Maharashtra and Gujarat, as also major spots in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where Jyotiba and Savitri Phule, TN Ramaswamy Naicker Periyar and Narayan Guru, respectively, struggled against casteism.
The one foot coins will also be taken to Amritsar at the Golden Temple as a reminder of how Guru Nanak sought to annihilate caste discrimination; and to the spots in Varanasi where two great saints who stood against casteism -- Sant Ravidas and Sant Kabir -- were born. In Gujarat, the one foot coin will be taken to Patan in memory of Megh Maya, and Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, where Gandhiji refused to bow before the pressure not to allow Dalits in the ashram premises.
Apart from the huge coin and many one foot coins, nearly 13 lakh one rupee coins have been collected from across India. “We hope, before we reach Delhi, this will increase to 1 crore”, said Macwan, adding, “These coins will be handed over as Dalits’ contribution to building the new Parliament building as a grim reminder that casteism needs to be annihilated urgently.”
Put on display at DSK, said Macwan, these coins were donated by those who believe that India should be a nation free of untouchability. Answering the question why one rupee coins, he related the following legend: “In the school, we were taught this story: A kingdom announced to construct Buddha statue in gold. The monks led the campaign of collecting donations. As it was to be a golden statue, everyone donated gold.”
Continued Macwan, “The artisans designed the Mold and poured the melted gold in it. Everyone waited eagerly for the mold to open. But 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.”
He asserted, “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?’”
He added, “The head priest hurried followed by all the monks to the hut of the old woman and with stretched palm and lowered gaze he humbly said, ‘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 and when it was opened there appeared Buddha with a smile.”
Explained Macwan, “Gandhi said that the last person in the country must be happy for the nation to be happy. With untouchability which humiliates 20% of Indian citizens everyday, how can the nation be happy? Hence, the 1 rupee coin as a donation to strengthen Parliament.”
Organised among others by the the Dalit Foundation and DSK, those who donated brass and coins included Niharika, a teenaged girl, the youngest volunteer. She collected from her Kutch district’s village Dharmaj, the richest NRI Gujarat village with about Rs 1,000 crore fixed deposits, 5.4 kg of brass and 300 one rupee coins. “Dalits until recently were not allowed to cast their votes in the village”, said Macwan.
Yet another example, said Macwan, is that an old Dalit woman, who reached the gate of DSK in the early morning at 7 one day. She had travelled a distance of 50 km to donate a 3 kg brass pot for the coin. She gave way the pot gifted to her by her parents on her wedding day.
---
*Editor, Counterview

Comments

Anonymous said…
This article should be spread world wide as maximum as possible.
Unknown said…
Good one and very important
Iqbalmasud Khan said…
This coin if placed in the foundation of the new parliament building will be buried and forgotten 😂
It will only be noticed when the the parliament building collapses after two or three centuries due to earthquake or demolished by invaders from China , Russia or any super power of the time.
It is better that the coin be displayed in a glass frame inside the new building so that Manuvadis could see their history of cruelty on Dalits .

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