Rosa Parks: How It all Started


Rosa Parks & Jim Haskins

(Excerpt from the book 'Rosa Parks: My Story')

 One evening in early December 1955 I was sitting in the front seat of the colored section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The white people were sitting in the white section. More white people got on, and they filled up all the seats in the white section. When that happened, we black people were supposed to give up our seats to the whites. But I didn't move. The white driver said, "Let me have those front seats." I didn't get up. I was tired of giving in to white people.

    rosa parks

"I'm going to have you arrested," the driver said.
"You may do that," I answered.
Two white policemen came. I asked one of them, "Why do you all push us around."
He answered, "I don't know, but the law is the law and you're under arrest."


Buddha and caste system


Bhikku U. Dhammaratana

There are some writers who try to depict the Buddha, the Enlightened One, as the teacher of Nibbana who had nothing to do with the affairs of the contemporary society. This is a misrepresentation of the greatest teacher of humanity. It is true that when we think of the Buddha it is a picture of moral and spiritual perfection that appears before our mind. Our first impression is that of the Lord who had solved the problem of life and death that is the problem of Samsara. It is the mighty figure of the great conqueror that appears before us. He received, as no other figure in human history, the spontaneous homage and veneration of millions of people in his very life time. Greatness of Tathagata, the incomparable teacher, is beyond measure. All this refers only to one aspect of the life of the Buddha. That is his Bodhi or enlightenment which is concerned with the ultimate nature of things or the reality as such. This gives us only one aspect of the Buddha, namely, his Mahapragya or the supreme wisdom. This represents the Buddha as the teacher of Nibbana. The other aspect is Mahakaruna or his supreme compassion. If one represents the divine aspect of the Buddha the other represents his human aspect. To have full picture of Tathagata both the aspects have to be taken into consideration. One without the other is incomplete.

buddha and caste

Here it has to be borne in mind that, after the Mahaparinibbana of the Buddha, as the centuries rolled by, people began to lose the human touch of the master. A tendency began to develop among the people to remember him only as the teacher of Nibbana. The disciples went on emphasising one aspect of the master to utter negligence of the other. As a result, in course of time, the divine aspect alone was remembered and the human aspect altogether lost sight of. But fortunately, at a later stage, this fact was recognised by a section of disciples who brought out the importance of both the aspects and reasserted their significance. This gave rise to the Bodhisatva doctrine. The essence of the doctrine lies in the teaching that Buddhahood is the full flowering of the two principles of pragya or wisdom and karuna or compassion. It has already been mentioned that the principle of pragya represents the divine aspect of the Buddha and karuna his human aspect.


The many shades of Saheb Kanshiram


Gurinder Azad

Once Kanshi Ram Saheb was going somewhere with his colleagues in a car. His health was a bit bad. A colleague, probably wanting to please Saheb, asked 'Saheb, tell me, what do you want? Whatever you want, I will offer it to you.' Saheb said, 'Will you? Really?'. 'Yes, of course', he enthusiastically replied. 'So get me time from somewhere. I don't have it', Kanshi Ram ji's voice was suddenly very deep then. No one could utter a single word after that. There was eerie silence followed by that. The car was still on the road. Kanshi Ram ji was lost in some thoughts or was maybe drowned in some concern for his Bahujan people. He was about 65 years at that time.

Understanding Kanshi Ram ji, is neither difficult nor easy. Imagine a person who came to know about Babasaheb Ambedkar when he was 30 years old. After graduating in science, he was sitting in a government post. An incident (which most people are aware of) happened at DRDO (Pune), where he used to work; and a book written by Babasaheb changed his life. He left his job and family for the sake of the society. He did everything that would strengthen the Bahujan Samaj. It did not matter if he had to eat dry bread by dipping it in water, or had to starve. Or at the age of fifty, if he had to travel 4,200 km on a bicycle just to make people aware; he kept on doing everything he could, he did not stop. Today, in the midst of Brahmin-imperialism, where this country is being compared with the period of Pushyamitra Shunga, we remember Kanshi Ram ji used to challenge the same Brahmin-imperialism by holding its tail in his hand, and drive away its bodyguards.


Arigay Ramaswamy and His Struggle for Uniting Dalits


Dr. Chandraiah Gopani

chandraiah gopani 3The concept of emancipation has occupied a central place in Dalit movements and politics, both in colonial and post-colonial period. There were organic leaders among Dalits during the Nizam (Asaf Jahi) period, especially from 1906 to 1953. The period between 1906-1953 was crucial for vibrant Dalit activities and autonomous assertions in Hyderabad state. Although the Nizam was autocratic there was urban centric Dalit leadership which played a vital role in mobilizing and organizing Dalits. Leaders like Bhagya Reddy Varma, Arigay Ramaswamy, B. Shyam Sunder, B.S. Venkat Rao, P.R. Venkat Swamy and etc. have envisaged the emancipation of untouchables against caste/class inequalities.


Chhatrapati Shahu's Crusade against Untouchability


B. D. Khane

 [Shahu was born in 1874 as Yeshwantrao ghatge, elder son to Appasaheb Ghatge. he was adopted by Anandibai, widow of Maharaja Shivaji IV of Kolhapur in 1884. In 1891 Shahu married Lakshmibai Khanvikar who gave birth to four children. Shahu took responsibility of the State in 1894 and died on May 6, 1922]

chhatrapati shahuji

The Depressed Classes of India in general and of Maharashtra in particular owe a deep debt of gratitude to the late Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj for the work he did for them. Not only did he fight fiercely on their behalf to free them from the yokes of slavery, ignorance and poverty to which they were subjected to for thousands of years by the higher Hindu castes, but he also laid the foundation on which their future leader Dr. Ambedkar could stand and carry on the unfinished task with undaunted courage. The pioneering reforms that he introduced and implemented for the upliftment of untouchables, fifty years before, have all now found a place in the constitution of free India. During his administration from 1894 to 1922, he introduced reforms for the welfare of his subjects, but one task, to which he especially devoted his energies was the removal of the social inequalities and disabilities imposed upon the untouchables who formed one-fifth of the country's total population. Right from the beginning his realisation, appears to be, that there was a necessity of setting on the right track the whole social machine, which, for ages, had strayed along lines harmful to national growth. To do this, he had to embark on a strenuous campaign against the evils, the traditional hierarchy of castes.


The promise of Mook Nayak


Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

From the pages of Bahishkrit Bharat (Untouchable India)

[The following is from an editorial (translated from Marathi) written by Babasaheb Ambedkar for one of the issues of the newspaper Bahishkrit Bharat published on April 3, 1927! Translated by Dr. B.R. Kamble.]

bahishkrit bharat 1

We Are On the Scene Again

This writer had started a fortnightly newspaper called "Mook-Nayak" (leader of the dumb) on 31st January, 1920. There he had stated in the first issue itself that there is no more effective means than the newspaper to voice against the injustice done to the untouchables by the Caste Hindus and also to suggest the ways and means for their progress and total liberation from their slavery imposed on them by the high Caste Hindus from ages past. But when we throw our glance to the newspapers that are brought out in Bombay Presidency we are constrained to say that they do no other work than safeguarding the interest of their respective caste men only. They do not bother for the interests of other castes; not only this but even at times they go against the interests of others in their view points.


Need for Political Power for Depressed Classes: Babasaheb Ambedkar

(Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's speech at the Plenary Session, Fifth Sitting of the Round Table Conference on 20th November 1930)

ambedkar speaking

"Mr. Chairman, my purpose in rising to address this conference is principally to place before it the point of view of the depressed classes, whom I and my colleague, Rao Bahadur Srinivasan, have the honour to represent, regarding the question of constitutional reform. It is a point of view of 43,000,000 people, or one-fifth of the total population of British India. The depressed classes from a group by themselves, which is distinct and separate from the Mohammedans, and, although they are included among the Hindus, they in no sense form an integral part of that community. Not only have they a separate existence, but they have also assigned to them a status which is invidiously distinct from the status occupied by any other community in India. There are communities in India, which occupy a lower and subordinate position; but the position assigned to the Depressed classes is totally different. It is one which is midway between that of the serf and the slave, and which may, for convenience, be called servile with this difference, that the serf and the slave were permitted to have physical contact, from which the Depressed Classes are debarred. What is worse that this enforced servility and bar to human intercourse, duo to their untouchability, involves, not merely the denial of those most elementary of civic rights on which all human existence depends. I am sure that the point of view of such a community, as large as the population of England or of France, and so heavily handicapped in the struggle for existence, cannot but have some bearing on the right sort of solution of the political problem, and I am anxious that this Conference should be placed in possession of that point of view at the very start.