Surviving boycotts for Ambedkar’s sake

 

Rahi Gaikwad

Part II of the series continued from here

rahi gaikwad 1Washim/Hingoli. The local provision store turns them away. The flour mill refuses to grind their grain. The village well becomes a no-go zone. Barred from farm work their daily wages stop. And a boycott begins.

A number of Dalits in several villages in Washim and Hingoli district are reeling under the impact of boycotts, some lasting as long as a year. Their crime? Celebrating Ambedkar and following his teachings.

A little over a week ago, the Dalits of Pimpalgaon in Maharashtra’s Washim district started to get water supply through a tanker. Till recently, they could not draw water from the fields of the Maratha landowners and had to travel five kilometres from the village to fetch it.      

Caste conflict began with a ‘Dhamma Shibhir’ (Buddhism workshop) they organised on the Republic Day in 2015, which took a violent turn during the Ambedkar jayanti that year. 

“We had invited a guest from Mumbai to guide us on Ambedkar’s 22 vows [Ambedkar prescribed 22 vows to his followers during the historic religious conversion to Buddhism in 1956 at Nagpur’s Deekshabhoomi]. While all of us were sitting in the ‘vihar’, Vishnu Nirgude [from the Maratha community] stormed into the ‘vihar’ and threatened us. He said he would bring 10-12 strong youths with him and show us ‘Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh’ [Ambedkar’s first vow says: I shall have no faith in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh nor shall I worship them.],” said Datta Tayde, a farm labourer, a portion of whose house was set on fire in the resulting violence a few months later.    

 “On April 20, 2015, we celebrated Ambedkar jayanti. On April 23, the boycott began and on April 25, our houses were burnt. An Ambedkar library in the village was vandalised and his photo smashed,” said Tayde.

“They stoned our houses. As April approaches and when we play Babasaheb’s songs the stone pelting begins. This year we had some respite. Children still get scared even if a cat jumps on the roof,” said Sanghamitra Pattebahadur.

People complained that only 22 victims of the attack received State compensation. They recalled the early days of the boycott with horror saying they were so harsh that the Marathas even imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 on anyone seen talking to the Dalits, some of whom were nearly driven to starvation.  

However, village sarpanch Pandit Bhusare, from the Maratha community told Round Table India that the dispute and boycott were the result of an argument at a hand pump, where a group of youths from the Buddhist community took photographs of some women.

Asked about the role of Vishnu Nirgude, Bhusare confirmed, “He has several cases against him. He is the cause of all this tension. He went and abused them [Buddhists] during their meeting. He asked me a couple of times why I was supplying tanker water to the Dalit colony, but I have to think of everybody.”

When Round Table India went to Nirgude’s house, neighbours said he did not stay in the village, a claim refuted by the sarpanch.  

The prolonged strife had an impact on this year’s 125th anniversary celebrations. The Buddhists were not given permission to hold a procession through the village, but were assigned a peripheral route.

“Other religious processions, including Holi rally, are allowed through the village through the Dalit colony, then why not Babasaheb’s procession? They want to keep Babasaheb on the outskirts,” said Nanda Waghmare.

Garkheda’s woes

In Hingoli district’s Garkheda village, a Dalit woman Mathura Khillare did the unthinkable. In her capacity as an Anganwadi worker, she objected to waste water being directed from the sarpanch’s house to the Anganwadi footsteps two years ago. The backlash that followed drove the four Dalits houses in the village to the edge of survival.

vidya anganwadi

The Marathas pulled out their children from the Anganwadi, leaving Khillare with only one Dalit and three savarna children. The sarpanch petitioned the authorities to dismiss her and her helper Vidya Tayde from service. The impact of the boycott is still felt as Dalit men are still not given work in the fields.

“They even stopped taking ‘sukdi’ [a wheat-based supplement given to Anganwadis for distribution among children up to six years and pregnant women]. We were not allowed to draw water from the well. We used river water for two years. They would defecate in the small ditches we made on the river bank to collect water. So next day we would dig fresh ditches. We struggled a lot for water,” said Khillare, who was awarded the Rajmata Jijau Excellence award in 2012 for her work. Today her fate hangs in balance.

The Dalits were provided a bore well after they wrote to the district administration and sat in fast.

~~~

 

Rahi Gaikwad is an independent journalist based in Mumbai

Other Related Articles

Forging the New Indian 'Genius': the RSS roadmap
Saturday, 19 August 2017
  N. Sukumar and Shailaja Menon I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity ~  B.R. Ambedkar The RSS-BJP combine has fine tuned its political strategy and chameleon... Read More...
Muslim and Pasmanda education: Affirmative Action issues
Thursday, 17 August 2017
  Naaz Khair Muslim population (172 million) is the second largest in the Country, followed by Christian (27 million) and Sikh (20 million) populations (see Table 1). Muslim literacy rates and... Read More...
Bahujans and Brahmins: Why their realities shall always collide, not converge
Wednesday, 16 August 2017
  Kuffir My grandfather,The starvation deathWhich occurred during the drought when men were sold;My father,The migrant lifeWhich left home in search of work to pay off debt;I, in ragged shirt... Read More...
Sayyids in Muslim Societies
Monday, 14 August 2017
Morimoto Kazuo The world today is home to a great number of putative lineal descendants—and collateral relatives—of Muḥammad, the Prophet of Islam. Let us begin by sharing three recent episodes... Read More...
"Don’t guide us, we know what to speak": The Dalit women of Kabirnagar
Monday, 14 August 2017
  Pradnya Jadhav I had been waiting for a long time to meet Jamanabai and her daughter Sangita, and today I was going to meet them. Almost everyone who I have met in the past few days regarding... Read More...

Recent Popular Articles

Index of Articles in Features
Sunday, 30 July 2017
  2017 ~ Crossing Caste Boundaries: Bahujan Representation in the Indian Women's Cricket Team by Sukanya Shantha ~ Dalit University: do we need it? by Vikas Bagde ~ The beautiful feeling of... Read More...
The Death of a Historian in Centre for Historical Studies, JNU
Sunday, 19 March 2017
  Jitendra Suna Speech made at the protest by BAPSA on 16th March, 2017 against the Institutional Murder of Muthukrishnan (Rajini Krish) I am Jitendra Suna, and I am from a remote village named... Read More...
I Will Not Exit Your House Without Letting You Know That I am a Dalit
Thursday, 02 March 2017
  Riya Singh Yes, I am assertive. Assertive of my caste identity. It is not a 'fashion statement' trust me, it takes a lot of courage and training of your own self to be this assertive. You... Read More...
Kishori Amonkar: Assertion, Erasure, Reclamation
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
   Rohan Arthur Hindustani vocalist Kishori Amonkar passed away on 3rd April, 2017. Kishori Amonkar is remembered for her contribution to Hindustani classical music, and her passing was... Read More...
From Breast Tax to Brahminical Stripping in Comics: Orijit Sen and Brahmin Sadomasochism
Thursday, 02 March 2017
  Pinak Banik "Only dead dalits make excellent dalits.Only dead dalits become excellent sites where revolutionary fantasies blossom!" ~ Anoop Kumar The context for this article centers around... Read More...