Dr. Om Sudha
Approximately one kilometre away from my village Ghorghat is Murla Musahari, which is primarily a Dalit basti. There is a caste Musahar, yes Musahar, you must be knowing about them? I'm just asking because nowadays you are seen feasting in Dalits' homes, so I thought I would ask. There are 50-60 houses here, and the population of Musahars must be around 300. In that same village lives Mohan Sada.
Mohan Sada never went to school, his children also never did; in fact, forget the children, no one from his previous generations had ever attended school. Mohan says, "If he has eaten in an Untouchable's home, call him to our place too, we will also feed him." He wanted to write you a letter, Amit Shahji, but how is an illiterate villager to write a letter to you? That is why I am taking on this responsibility, so that Mohan Sada's words reach you. The pain is Mohan Sada's, the words are mine. So when you read this, please assume that this is written by Mohan Sada.
Respected Amit Shahji,
Since I saw you eating food from a shining plate in some Dalit's house, I don't know why, I too felt like our fate will shine very soon. We are of the Musahar caste. Our basti has been set up away from the rest of the population. Our village does not even have electricity. There is a public community hall open on all four sides, which has been made into a school where a Madam comes to teach. But we aren't able to send our children there everyday. Just think, if children were to attend school daily, then who will take care of the pigs? I can't, for I have to take the buffaloes out to graze.
My village does not even have a hospital and a few days back, a woman from the village died while in labour. It was a rainy day. The thing is, our village becomes an island in the rains, and even ordinarily, to reach our village there isn't a kachcha road, forget a pucca one. Once the woman in the village went into labour, we couldn't get her to the doctor's place. After laying her on a cot, we were crossing the water when she breathed her last.
But there is one good news, Amit Shahji. If you wish, you can add this to your UP election propaganda. The good news is that my village has also become digital now. Mantoo Sada had gone to Delhi to earn some money, and has bought one or two phones and come back. If he wants, Modiji in his UP rally can lift both hands, show his 56-inch chest and roar, "Brothers and sisters, see how we have made all of India digital, the mobile phone has reached Murla Musahari now! See this country's Dalits have gone from where to where!"
Do you know Amit Shahji, seeing you eat at a Dalit basti, we are bursting with pride. We are convinced that from hereon, no Khairlanji and Mirchpur will ever happen. No Rohith Vemula will ever be murdered, and no one can ever stop a Dalit bridegroom from sitting on a horse and taking his baraat out. We were certain even earlier, when you sounded the poll bugle for Bihar elections on Ambedkar Jayanti itself. But these media persons you know; see what dirty things they say, how much propaganda they spread against you. They say that BJP is anti-reservations, that you have made budget cuts in welfare schemes meant for Dalits. Why don't you hold a press conference in their faces and say these are all lies, so that their mouths will be shut?
In the same way that you people said in Panchajanya that Babasaheb too wanted 'India to become a Hindu Rashtra', we too felt assured that nobody would beat us for entering temples now. A little beating here and there is no big deal, but these media persons simply blow things out of proportion. To be honest, seeing you eat at the home of a Dalit yesterday put all our misconceptions to rest, and actually, the misconceptions disappeared the same day you took a communal dip for the Samrasta Snan in Simhastha Mela. I tell you honestly, my entire heart was drenched in affection. Everybody kept saying that you seated the Dalit sadhus at the back, but they don't understand that at least you seated them along with you! We are trapped in your love, and if you really want to know, we are getting a strange sense of spiritual satisfaction.
But respected Amit Shahji, I am getting this letter written to you for a feast at our place. Someone was saying that in UP, you had taken your own utensils and water to the house you dined at. Please bring them here too, because at our place we only have a battered aluminium plate and a plastic cup, and if you eat from them it won't look nice and the photos in newspapers and TV should be nice to look at. And you will definitely have to bring water because here we have only one hand-pump out of which comes arsenic water. In summers, it remains dry and often is defective too. And if you drink arsenic water, we will be very unhappy. Because for us, you are coming as an avatar, a Shahenshah..
Look at the fun of all this, your name is itself Amit, and saying Amitji sometimes gives an Amitabh Bachchan type of feeling. Just like how Amitabh Bachchan in the film Shahenshah used to come as a messiah to eliminate all oppression, you are coming as a messiah in the lives of us Dalits. When you arrive in our village, we will play this same tune in the background... "To eliminate all oppression, a messiah sets out, whom the people call Shahenshah, Shahenshah, Shahenshah..."
The good thing is you may well bring your own utensils and water, but the food you will eat is what is made in our home, and anyway I've heard that the problem is with kachchirasoi, not pakkirasoi. We eat rats, we eat snails. Oil is a little expensive so we often eat them boiled with salt and chili. But on the day you come, we will fry it nicely in oil, so the cooking is not kachchi and is made well – in our place, one of the most delicious dishes is "rat kadhi". Well, if you prefer you can have snails too, but right now the river is dry so we will dig out rats from the field and bring them.
So please do come. Some people are even trying to discredit your efforts by saying that those whose house you ate at were not Dalits but OBCs, of the Baandh caste. But Amit Shahji, we are not going to fall into their trap... because we know that you are our messiah... our Shahenshah... Shahenshah... Shahenshah... Shahenshah...
Anticipating your arrival with longing eyes and rat kadhi,
Your very own,
Mohan Sada and the people of Murla Musahari
Translated from Hindi by Pallavi Rao. The original article was published on Round Table India (Hindi) here.
Dr. Om Sudha is constantly involved in social work. Living in Bihar's Bhagalpur, he is constantly fighting the battles of Dalit concerns on the streets. Currently, he is the President of the All India People's Forum's National Council and the Ambedkar Phule Yuva Manch.