'I Have a Dream' for Dalits of India

Pardeep Attri

(Pardeep had penned down this inspiring dream for the new year, but it is equally appropriate for the Republic Day-- Round Table India)

There is no nation of Indians in the real sense of the world; it is yet to be created. In believing we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into thousand of castes be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not yet a nation, in a social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us. – Dr B R Ambedkar.

As all of us welcome the year 2012 and greet each other with open arms, I visualise a dream. I have always said that I am a dreamer. Yes, I do have a dream, a dream (Begumpura) like the one that Guru Ravidas saw about 650 years ago for everyone, or like the dream (Utopia) that nourished Dr Ambedkar or I have a dream like the one Martin Luther King Jr. saw for the blacks of America. Here is my dream for Dalits of India, almost along the same lines as the dreams Guru Ravidas, Dr Ambedkar, Martin Luther King Jr., and many others saw for a better world.

republic_day_pardeep

I have a dream that one day: Dalits will break the chains of caste discrimination and free themselves from the chains of slavery that have ruined Dalits for thousands of years. Yes, it's my dream to see a casteless society. I do also dream that Dalit houses won't be set on fire and Dalits won't be boycotted anymore. Dalits won't be killed for bearing the same names as upper caste people or Dalits won't be forced to change their names or Dalits won't hide their names to escape caste discrimination. I also dream with open eyes that untouchability will become history and there will be no untouchables.

I have a dream that one day: justice won't be delayed for Dalits, or justice won't be just another word or justice won't be alien to Dalits. I anticipate that Dalits won't be told to wait, wait and wait a bit more for justice; a wait that always meant never. The day when everyone will be treated equal and will live with dignity and pride won't be far away. That will be the day, when Buddha will smile upon India again!

I have a dream that one day: Dalit women won't be paraded naked, raped or forced to commit suicide. Not only the Dalit women but the whole women society will not be forced to do menial jobs. Women won't be disrespected, exploited, neglected or won't be treated as only sex-objects in Indian society. I dream that one day, equality will come in all spheres and women's suffering will come to an end.

I have a dream that one day: Dalit students won't be made to sit separately in classrooms, or won't be discriminated against and forced to commit suicide in schools and colleges. A day will come when Dalit students won't be purified via sprinkling cow urine on them and Dalit students' seats won't be left unfilled in schools and colleges. No Dalit student will be forced to do cleaning work in schools, no student will refuse food cooked by Dalit cooks and Dalit students will be able to use the same playing grounds as other caste students.

I have a dream that one day: Dalits will be able to sip tea from the same cup as the so called upper castes, there won't be separate taps and Dalits won't be forced to remove their shoes in upper caste people's areas. There won't be different barbers for Dalits and other castes and there won't be separate chairs for Dalits in barber shops. I also dream that a day will come when there won't be separate caste-wise columns in matrimonial advertisements and those ads won't mention 'Dalits need not apply/respond'. No more walls will be erected to separate Dalits from the village. Temples and other religious places won't be barred for Dalits and there won't be separate entry gates for Dalits in temples.

I have a dream that one day; there will be no more character assassination of Dalits and there won't be any degradation of Dalit characters in movies, serials and real life. (I have witnessed in my childhood so called upper caste illiterate people calling my father- Principal in school- by nicknames, that always filled me with outrage!) There won't be any innocent Dalit or Muslim behind the bars.

I have a dream that one day: there won't be separate work timings for Dalits and other caste people in offices. Dalits won't be denied from renting houses and there will be proper postal delivery to every Dalit house. Dalits will be at peace after death and they won't be buried or cremated in separate places. Police will change its attitude towards Dalits and Muslims and will work honestly.

I have many more such dreams and I am optimistic about those dreams. Am I dreaming and demanding too much from society? But, I believe if India has to become a great nation, it has to free its society from all kinds of discrimination, give Dalits equal rights, give Dalits freedom. I have a dream that one day Indians will think beyond caste and religion. I will end with the words of Martin Luther King Jr., from his 'letter from a Birmingham jail' (just change 'colored', 'nigger', 'negro' to Dalit, and 'whites' to so called upper castes and almost everything rings so true).

"Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness"–then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.

Pardeep Attri blogs here and his previous writings can be found here. Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar

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