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The Untouchables in the new millemnium.

An article by Antony Raj,

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 diabolical.

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 creator.

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.




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.


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