My final words of advice to you are Educate, Agitate and Organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality - Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
On my last article, "What can a 'sincere' upper caste person do?", I received many emails, most of them labelling me as casteist, asking me what a Dalit should do? I have heard these type of questions many a times from my friends, confused with what they should do, how they can contribute, where they should contribute and I suppose these and many questions come to the minds of Dalits who really want to contribute to the community. Though, I am not an expert or maybe not as experienced as many are, but I would try to reply with all my capacity – on things I feel should change immediately. But before that let me make one thing clear: that Dalits usually don't have many options so many of the things that I would be talking about in this article may sound impractical to many Dalits, but still I believe we must do our best. Also, here in this article, I am not talking about our illiterate brothers and sisters but about the highly educated ones, who are pretending to be asleep.
Let me start with Dalit women. When I was researching for my article 'India and Prostitution – My thoughts and experiences' – most of the women working as sex-slaves are from lower castes. Not that I didn't know all these facts but after meeting many people I almost went into depression. On one occasion, I even met the sole survivor of 'Khairlanji killings' and I'll never be able to forget the Khairlanji massacre. In states like Madhya Pradesh almost 100% women working as sex slaves are from the lower castes. Dalit woman is most the disrespected, unprotected, and neglected person in India. We must learn to respect and protect our women. We must believe that if upper caste men demand respect or do 'whatever' to protect their women then we must also do 'everything' to respect and protect our women.
Stop fighting in the name of Dr. Ambedkar- Dalits, in the name of Ambedkar, are fighting to prove that they are the real 'Karva Pullers' of Dr. Ambedkar, but everyone knows that the reality lies somewhere else. Remember what Dr Ambedkar said:
"With great difficulty, I have brought this caravan where it is seen today. Let the caravan march on and further on despite the hurdles, pitfalls and difficulties that may come in its way. If my people, my lieutenants are not able to take the caravan ahead, they should leave it where it is seen today, but in no circumstances they should allow the caravan to go back."
Dalits are divided into countless organisations, societies and parties etc but till now we have not been able to achieve anything remarkable. I agree, we need as many organisations as we can have and neither am I denying the impact these organisations might have been able to make in their own spheres but we must agree we really need one major organisation which will work for Dalits at all India level. When in need we must support every organisation and must forget our differences or petty benefits.
Start a national level newspaper/magazine – as I said above, there are many organisations, societies and parties working for Dalits, the same is true with magazines. Since childhood, I have been reading many magazines published by various Dalit organisations/publishers, and since childhood I have wondered why there can't be a single national level newspaper or magazine? There are about a hundred small Dalit magazines published every month. We always make a noise when Dr. Ambedkar is ranked below Gandhi by some manuwadi newspaper or magazine, but why don't we think bigger and unite all these Dalit magazine publishers and bring out one single magazine? We can do many more things apart from releasing our own ranking.
I am not saying that these existing magazine publishers should stop publishing but I want them to start working on a national level magazine or newspaper along with the existing ones. I believe it would be easy if we can unite at least one magazine publisher from each state and ask them to contribute one article for the national level magazine. In this way, we can easily bring out one national level magazine and challenge the hegemony of manuwadi media. One reason I see behind the defeat of BSP in the last assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh is because no media was established by Behan Mayawati in 5 years; and on the other hand, the corrupt SAD-BJP government of Punjab won the elections because SAD has a stronghold in the media – it started two new channels in Punjab and holds major shares in Punjabi newspapers. So, what are we thinking about or waiting for? Don't tell me we don't have resources or money, if we can operate separately, we surely can operate united.
The book 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', published in 1852 and authored by Harriet Beecher, was the second bestselling book of the 19th century, next only to the Bible. This anti-slavery novel had actually intensified the sectional conflict that finally led to the American civil war and ultimately resulted in the abolition of slavery under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln. The book's impact was so great that it is said that when Abraham Lincoln met author Stowe at the start of the Civil war, he commented, "So this is the little lady who made this big war." Believe it or not, this is the power of the 'pen'. Start writing, write your mind. Start writing whatever comes to your mind and one day you will surely be able to make a difference. Create blogs, prepare e-mail lists, websites, SMS, create videos, do each and everything that you can to raise the Dalit voice. Internet gives us many opportunities to promote Buddhist values, understanding and insights on the global scale. Use Internet wisely. Round Table India is a great initiative, one step towards making people aware and everyone must support the Round Table India team.
You have been stripped off your true history, your culture, and everything. So, what are you afraid of? Dalits weren't Hindus or Dalits didn't use to go to temples. Our festivals, our Gods, our eating habits, our lifestyle and each and everything were different. Who stripped you of all these? Do you have to visit temples to get all these back? I seriously doubt that. How many of us seriously follow the 22 vows administered by Dr. Ambedkar? I feel ashamed when I see many of my Buddhist friends from Maharashtra visiting the Shirdi Sai temple. Whenever I visit my friends' homes, no doubt I always see Dr. Ambedkar's pictures there but along with that I always find some idol or picture of one of the 33 crore fake Gods. And I could never understand why they are not able to come out of slavery or why they could never change their mindset even after 55 years of conversion. Stop visiting temples-- why don't Dalits understand that money donated by you at temples is used against you?And follow the 22 vows administered by Dr. Ambedkar.
I can keep on writing on this topic (such as: if you can, teach someone, inspire someone, start a school, start library, start a scholarship for Dalit students, adopt Dalit students etc) but I don't want to make this article long. So, I will end it with a few more final words.
Don't tell me that all this is impossible to be done. When you are ready to die at the warfront fighting with unknown persons, what happens to you when you have to fight with the known enemy? What happens to Dalits when their own mothers and sisters are stripped naked in the streets and in broad daylight? Doesn't your blood boil with anger? Unite. Take time out of your busy lives, encourage others in their strife, encourage Dalit students for higher studies & create such a system which will give legal and financial aid to Dalits. More importantly, take time to listen to what they have to say, share positive thoughts, give them confidence, and bring the best out of you. You surely can make a difference. If you can't do any of the above, don't do anything, just read what Dr. Ambedkar said, read the rich history of Dalit ideals. Selfless devotion, dedication with enthusiasm and an assertive mass movement will lay the foundation of the Dalit movement.
Pardeep Attri blogs here.
Image courtesy: ambedkar.org