THE AMBITION AND ESPERANCE OF DACA
The Untouchables in the new millemnium.
An article by Antony
director of the DACA
Doctor Ambedkar Cultural Academy (DACA) is an outcome of a long
struggle by the Untouchables, now known as Dalits, for liberty,
equality, justice and fraternity. The Hindutva ideology has
kept them in a state of servitude for four thousand years . Even
after fifty-two years of India's independence they are kept in virtual
servitude. Though for too long they have been fighting for their
rightful place in the Indian society, yet they are denied of their
right to be human. The history of four thousand years of oppression
needed to be exposed in order to understand their psyche.
The untouchables had a meaningless past. A non-Dalit , even economically
and intellectually impoverished one, thinks of an Untouchable not
fit for human association. If this is our place in the Indian society,
then we hate to associate and live with , as Swami Vivekananda says,
such caste conscious lunatics and live in this lunatic asylum, of
course against our will, and 'blessed' with an eternal curse of
associating with the insane. The Indian caste system is pointedly
Neither the present brings any ray of hope. The Dalits are the
hunting ground for the non-Dalits. In the golden jubilee republic
address, Mr. K.R Narayanan reminds the nation "In parts of
rural India forms of sadism seem to be earmarked for Dalit women.
From the time of Draupadi our womenfolk had been subjected to public
disrobing and humiliation as means of vendetta _ individual, social
or political". Recently, Mariamma, a twelve-year young flower,
who attended one of our sixty evening supplementary schools, was
raped and killed by a human beast. Even the tender ones are not
spared. The tragedy goes unabated.
The past and present teach us that we are inserted into an immoral
social order legitimized and justified by Hinduism, its world-view
and ethos. The denial of our right to be human is basically a moral
issue. Morality, fundamentally a humane phenomenon, encourages human
beings to contribute to the development of societies in which it
may be easier for rational agents to be decent human beings. I am
afraid the progenitors of caste and the perpetrators of untouchability
, who had made their hate so violent and sinister, so cerebral and
poisonous through caste and caste-based institutions are neither
nor decent human beings.
When the social order is immoral , our perception and attitudes
carry along with them germs of immorality. To burn Nanthanar, a
Dalit saint, alive and proclaim to the world that he was consumed
by the divine fire is a lie. To purify a statue with "holy"
water from Ganges unveiled by an impure Chamar, Mr Jagajivan Ram
, our former minister of defense is indecent. Arun Shourie in his
book Worshipping False Gods tries to prove that Ambedkar did not
write the constitution of India and that he was not a patriot but
only a power-monger. The Indian public and the press for the past
three years shamelessly have been harping on the dalitness of Mr
K.R Narayanan . Ashok Singhal of the RSS says that K.R Narayanan
does not know the history and culture of India. An anonymous decrepit
soul writes to the newly elected Jesuit Provincial of Tamil Nadu,
"Do not forget that your are placed in the chair only because
you are a Dalit." His Christian faith and his religious life
have done no good for him.
What do we infer from these and other incidences? First, it is the
determination of the non-Dalits that the untouchables placed at
the bottom of the caste hierarchy should stay there without any
claim for their right to be human, self-respect or other basic human
rights. Second, our fitness, whatever may be acquired knowledge,
ability talents etc. to govern and rule is questioned and even suspected.
No doubt, K.R Narayanan is a Dalit. The country cannot forget that
Mr. K.R Narayanan was graduated from the London School of Economics,
a consummate world diplomat and a capable administrator. He is a
quintessence of human courage. He has proved to the world to be
a Dalit is to be brave. Third , if this is the respect the non-Dalit
show to the Dalit leaders, one can imagine how the non-Dalits will
be treating the ordinary Dalits in the streets, in our work-place
and in our schools and colleges.
How do we cleanse this augean stable? Should we wait for an avatar
of Hercules to divert a river to clean this pollution?
Or should we wish prenatal death as Ambedkar in one of his desperate
moments advocated to the Untouchables. He says: "My heart breaks
to see the pitiable sight of your faces and to hear your sad voices.
You have been groaning from time immemorial and yet you are not
ashamed to hug your helplessness as an inevitability. Why did not
you perish in the prenatal stage instead ?" We, Dalits ask
this question at some point in our lives to ourselves and to our
Messiahs, who preached total amnesia or conversion of the heart,
were either crucified or assassinated. Waiting for a Messiah is
also a human weakness. We are not for prenatal death as it carries
with it germs of nihilism , and goes against the author of life.
Our fond hope in the new millennium is to reconstruct a saner
and just world order, which is governed, not by unscrupulous
bigots , but by God, the author of our lives. This social reconstruction
is not possible without annihilating caste and eradicating untouchability.
Our cherris are little segregated hideouts from our little hovels
we, the Cherriwalas, will fight for an India which is just and equal.
We do not want to be tormented by caste conflicts, nor tortured
by hunger and fear, nor torn apart in senseless divisions to caste
and religion. May this new millennium give us the courage and foresight
to begin the work of humanizing our world, so that our children
and grandchildren may one day take pride in being called human.
This is our dream. We will work with fury to establish a moral social
order. The president of India has reminded the nation :"Beware
of the patient and long-suffering man." Our rage is gracious
and its power is love. It is a blessed rage for a moral social order.
Our agenda for a moral social order falls under three headings:
negation, affirmation and sublimation.
First , we ought to negate all those structures, institutions,
organizations, and system of meaning that dehumanize the oppressor
and the oppressed.
Second, we have to affirm our faith in the universality
and oneness of humanity. Fr Theillard de Chardin in his book
Hymn of the Universe says: "Yet in the very depth of this formless
mass you have implanted-and I am sure of it, for I sense it - a
desire , irresistible, hallowing, which makes us cry out , believer
and unbeliever alike: Lord make us one."
As a human family, we have the same origin. There is no graded scale
of essential worth, there is no pure and impure in God's creation.
Every human being has etched in his personality the indelible stamp
of the Creator. The worth of an individual does not lie in his social
origin. Human worth lies in relatedness to God. If we affirm our
faith in the common source , then we will no longer be judged (we
and our future generation) on our social origin but on the content
of our character and caliber. The consciousness of universal
brotherhood is the foundation for universal humanity and oneness
of human race.
Third, we have to work toward sublimation of the humane
race. By sublimation I mean to be more than what we are today.
Our struggle is to free ourselves from being an untouchable and
becoming human. This struggle is taking place in a particular
social . economic and cultural context. This demands from us building
up institutions where priority to Dalits is given in order to help
them to free themselves.
DACA and CMF are such institutions. These institutions will negate
any value and practices that deny the Dalits human dignity , affirm
all that is genuinely human, and fight for the Dalit to restore
their human dignity. The objective of DACA is to identity Dalit
youth power, build their capacity through formal education and vocational
training and CMF will offer the poor in and around the two hundred
villages good medical care. It is only through education, economic
development and health care that we will be able to empower the
Dalits. We are sure that through these institutions we will be able
to make the Dalits more human.
WHY A WEBSITE ?
To motivate development specialists to come to Madurai
To encourage student exchanges
To ask for
financial support from firms, universities, private donors (by financing
a student) so that DACA can reach the goals it has set itself on
the short and long run.