Bheel Intellectual Forum: Heartbeat of Dalit Activism in Pakistan

 

Sufi Ghulam Hussain

On 26th of March, the Bheel Intellectual Forum (BIF) organized a Scheduled Caste Jagarta Rally, the first ever rally that saw the participation of all major Dalit communities of Sindh. Kolhi, Bheel, Meghwar and Baghri walked through the streets of Mithi city of Tharparkar to demand rights of Scheduled castes communities, and the Dalit leaders spoke on the importance of marking the Scheduled Castes option in the ongoing 6th population census in Pakistan. Interestingly, in census forms, the 'Scheduled Caste' category has been inserted as one of the religions in opposition to 'Hindu' category. Dalits have been left to mark either 'Hindu' or Scheduled Caste in the census form. This has put Dalit communities in an unusual situation as almost 95 percent of Dalits in Pakistan are believed to be Hindus by religion. Dalit leadership has risen up to the challenge to assert themselves as the most original indigenous Dravidian 'Scheduled caste Hindus'. Despite very huge opposition and internal conspiracies fomented by the foot soldiers of Brahmanism, BIF along with Dalit Sujaag Tehreek, Scheduled Caste Federation of Pakistan, Sindh Kolhi Itehad - all voluntary community based social and political organizations of Dalits, have been at the forefront to mobilize Dalits to mark 'Scheduled Caste' instead of 'Hindu' in the March-April census, 2017.

mahesh bheel

Mahesh Bheel, 27, along with Lajpat Rai Bheel, Chetan Bheel and Bhagchand Bheel, is one of the founding members of BIF. He has been ex-President and currently a member of the Bheel Lawyers' Forum that deals with legal cases pertaining to Bheel and Dalit communities. BIF was initially a university students' association formed on 25th November, 2010, that gradually came to be the most vibrant community driven Dalit forum. Making themselves visible to the mainstream, shaming the upper caste Hindu business class, and mobilizing through rhetorical speeches is the modus operandi of BIF. BIF activists work like a team.

Below is the short transcript of one of the speeches, written by one of the senior BIF activists, and delivered by Comrade Mahesh Bheel, the young Dalit leader of Sindh, at the end of the historic rally held on 26th of March 2017 at Mithi, Sindh. The speech was, however, not delivered word to word as scripted below. The purpose of sharing this transcript is to afford the wider non-Sindhi speaking audience, the nature of Dalit rhetoric being articulated by Dalit activists in Sindh, Pakistan.


Script of the Speech of Mahesh Bheel written by Anonymized BIF Dalit activist:

You order me not to get perturbed
You order me not to speak up
But will you allow me to ask one question!
How many will you silence!
There are thousands, not me alone!

My brave comrades
Leaders of the BIF
Brothers and Sisters
Jai BIF
Jai Scheduled castes
Jai Sindh
Jai Latif
Jai Kabir
Jai our Haq Parast struggle!

 I salute hundreds of Bheels, Kolhi, Balmiki, Bagri, Meghwar and Adivasi tribes who have gathered here today under the scorching sun to be part of this historic Scheduled Caste Jagarta rally.

You have made history today. We want to tell our opponents that your social media chatter-patter is nothing but just naked lies. It's farce based on deception. Today all Scheduled Caste communities have proclaimed that in their blood runs the blood of great warrior Ekalavya. Kolhi, Bheel, Chammar, Bhangi, Sansi, Bagri all are true and indigenous inheritors of this land.

They are the people who founded the great civilization of Moheen-jo-Daro. They are the ones that have always battled against the outsiders, aliens and the Aryan invaders. They are the ones that gave their blood and sweat to make Sindh fertile. They are the people whose culture and traditions reflect the Indus civilization.

We were invaded by the foreigners in the past. They turned us into untouchables. We were driven out of our land. Our rulers and our regions were annihilated. We were turned economically bankrupt and virtual slaves. We were pressed into walls. The upper caste elite is responsible for the worst kind of inhuman existence that our people are living in today. Even today they have not receded and continue to loot and plunder our rights.

These Malani (Brahmin political family of Sindh), these Vankvani (Vaishya politician), these fake Rana Rajpoot (Kshatriya rulers of Sindh), these Kohistani, these Parwani (Vaishya political class), all these bastards intentionally oppose Scheduled Castes so that we could show up our strength in population census. They have occupied our land and enslaved our minds for centuries. They want us to tick mark 'Hindu' in the census form so that upper caste population figure could rise up. Comrades! Let your conscience decide, ask her. In Thar who is in majority, Kolhi, Bheel and Meghwar or Malani Maharaj? 18 Hindu families have kept us in bondage. These dependents, who depend on our vote are ruling over us, and we who are in millions are perturbed to get Benazir Income Support card (an Aadhaar card-like Scheme in India).

We could have rights only when we shall mark Scheduled castes. Comrades, my brothers. If you want that your coming generations do not remain dependent on these looters, and you yourself were the owners of your vote and drafters of your future, then mark Scheduled Caste in this census.

These so called upper castes in Pakistan will hardly be two and a half lakh, whereas Bheel, Kolhi, Bagri, Meghwar, as it is obvious, are more than 10 million only in Sindh. But all privileges, assembly seats, jobs are given to the upper castes. All benefits are procured by the upper caste Hindus in the name of 'Hindu'. We do not find a resting place in the graveyard (incidents of Dalit dead bodies exhumed from graves have been reported in the recent past). Bhooro Bheel, Manu Bheel , Kukoo Kolhini, Gudi Meghwarii are some of the glaring examples before you. Our sisters and daughters are not secure. Each passing day atrocities are committed upon our people. The major reason is that we have not yet recognized our own self. Mark Scheduled Castes and secure your rights. We could then claim that we have such a huge population and demand our constitutional rights and share in proportion to our population. These are not the times that Vaniya (Vaishya class) can forfeit our rights anymore.

From amongst those who oppose Scheduled Castes, they are in fact traitors of us all. Scheduled Caste is not a religion but a constitutionally approved social identity of the backward and oppressed people so that they could secure their constitutional rights.

Comrades! Rise up for your rights. Do not care about false propaganda. Challenge the politics of usury-prone Vaniya. Your mark yourself as Scheduled Castes so that in days to come we could claim that we are more than 10 million and demand our constitutional rights accordingly, in proportion to our population. Today a tiny minority of Vaniya is occupying 32 seats in assemblies. Whereas, our people have not even been offered two seats. What could be the worst example of oppression than that? Friends, after marking Scheduled caste, no one could usurp our rights. We shall wrest our rights from the Vaniya class.

Friends! You want that your people were in legislative assemblies? Kolhi were in assemblies, Bheel were in assemblies, Bhangi were in assemblies, Meghwar were in assemblies, Bagri were in assemblies; then get yourself counted as Scheduled Castes. You want that your sons and daughters get jobs; your people get higher education on Scheduled Caste quota then mark Scheduled Caste in census. When your own people, on your own vote will get elected to assemblies then no Vaniya Malani, Vankvwani, or Rano or Kano could usurp our rights. Comrades let us give our own selves into our own possession, instead of submitting to the deceit of the upper castes.

I appeal to my BIF workers to go and visit each house, guide their people. We must continue this campaign through pamphlets, awareness rallies, through writing books, and in newspapers. Each married household should fill in separate form. In the column for religion mark Scheduled Castes so that poor oppressed castes' true population figure could be counted. BIF is launching this campaign utilizing whatever resources we have. We invite all sensible Dalit forums and associations also to come forward and actively participate in this campaign so that every one of us be marked as Scheduled caste.

 This is the land of Dravidians, of Kolhis
This is the land of Bheels
This is the land of Balmki Chammars
This is the land of Baghri Rawra
This the land of Scheduled castes
Long live BIF
Jai Bheel
Jai Kolhi
Jai Chammar
Jai Balmiki
Jai Bagri
Jai Bhim
Jai Scheduled castes
Jai Kabir
Jai Sindh
Jai BIF
Long live Scheduled caste Struggle
Long live BIF.

Transcribed and translated by Sufi Ghulam Hussain. The original speech was delivered in Sindhi language.

~

Notes

i. In 1998, two years after his release, nine of his family members were kidnapped, allegedly by men sent by his former landlord Abdul Rahman Mari. See: http://idsn.org/pakistan-manu-bheel-sindh-province/

ii. Abduction, rape and forced religious conversion of Dalit girls are common in Sindh. To cite a few examples see: URL: http://internethindu.org/2016/11/11/sindh-pakistan-3-more-hindu-girls-of-same-family-abducted-for-forced-conversion-hindus-protest/ and Also URL: https://tribune.com.pk/story/960464/serious-issue-hindu-community-protest-girls-gang-rape/

~~~

 

Sufi Ghulam Hussain is a doctoral scholar at Bielefeld University, Germany. He is doing research on caste politics and Dalit assertions in Pakistan. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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