If you want to destroy a society, destroy its history and the society will get destroyed automatically – Dr. Ambedkar.
On 26th July, a statue of Behan Mayawati was broken in Lucknow; a day later, three statues of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were broken in Azamgarh and on 30th July, another statue of Dr. Ambedkar was vandalised in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. All this is not new and has been happening to Dalit leaders’ statues, Dalit idols or icons, Dalit places and Dalit history since ages. Numerous Dalit saints/gurus were killed – such as Sant Chakardhar, Sant Namdev, Sant Tukaram, Guru Ravidas, Sant Chokhamela; people even tried to kill Mahatma Jyotiba Phule & Shahuji Maharaj. Dalit history has been maligned and distorted since ages. Historians are supposed to be free from fear, to be sincere, open minded, open hearted truth seekers & also courageous enough to show the truth at any cost. But it is the misfortune of Dalits of India that historians have shown a distorted picture & never showed truth to the people. Being Dalit, we have been taught to hate ourselves, we have been taught that Dalits’ don’t have any history; we have been taught Dalits can’t do any good. Who taught you all this? Upper caste people did.
Dr. Ambedkar’s followers were putting up statues of him in slums and villages even when he was alive but the first official statue of Dr. Ambedkar was set up in 1962, in Mumbai (Bombay) at the Institute of Science crossing. And then came the moment when Dalits started asserting and in 1966, Dr. Radhakrishnan (President of India) inaugurated Dr. Ambedkar’s statue in the Parliament building complex (New Delhi). In Uttar Pradesh, one research study shows that the very first Dr. Ambedkar statue was installed with the contribution of Dalits in around 1966 on the outskirts of Allahabad, and Dalits of Kanpur didn’t take much time to install another statue on the same lines. We must not forget that many installations of Dr. Ambedkar’s statues were opposed by upper caste people with stone pelting or boycotts but Dalits showed courage and didn’t move back. Dalits knew that statues of Dalit idols will stand as a major feature in the Dalit-Bahujan movement. And in all those statues Dr. Ambedkar will stand aloft. How can we forget the struggle and sacrifice of our forefathers?
Statues of Dalit icons are built by Dalit people with their own money and contributions, not with the money from the state as Gandhi-Nehru statues are being made in India. So, why are Dalit icons’ statues being broken and damaged? Statues represent a crucial point in the aspirations of Dalits towards democracy, aspirations of Dalits towards equality and justice. Dalits gather around these statues, get organised, organising functions and all these gatherings give them strength to believe in themselves and get inspired by other fellow Dalits. All these attempts to demolish Dalit icons’ statues is an attempt to demoralise Dalits, deprive Dalits of their rich history and rob them of what Dalits have been able to gather after years of struggle.
By depriving Dalits of their history and culture, people of other castes want to prove that Dalits are not citizens of India. But we are citizens of India and we demand equal rights. We don’t believe in second class citizenship, we are either citizens or no citizens at all. There is nothing as second class citizens, give us equal rights. We are not demanding special rights; we are demanding rights which have been promised to us by the constitution of India. By damaging Dalit icons’ statues, people of other castes want to remind us that Dalits are not free, Dalits are still slaves and live on other people’s bread. Freedom is essential for life, freedom is the first step towards development of human beings, equal rights and justice. By damaging a statue of Behan Mayawati and statues of Dr Ambedkar, in which present Government is also involved, people are trying to check the resistance which Dalits can give at this moment and if Dalits accept this they will take the next step towards putting their dirty hands on more icons and Dalit history.
We also don’t believe in ‘love your enemy’ philosophy. Let me remind everyone once again that the days when we were taught to turn the other cheek are long gone. Days have come when we have stopped loving our enemy-– you may remember post-Khairlanji and post-Vienna burnings. We have learnt or must learn to give a fitting reply. As Malcolm X said, as long as you teach a man the ‘Love your enemy’ kind of philosophy, he’ll remain a slave. By teaching this philosophy, we have been enslaved since ages. If we have to go to court for each and everything (as the Delhi University suggested recently, that if Dalits want their rights, they should go to the courts), to get all our rights, which are promised by the constitution, if government has fails time and again, if government has to intervene every time, is it worth all that effort? I doubt it. It is the same as holding a gun to someone’s head and make him act like a brother but in reality it won’t be true brotherhood, it will be hypocrisy that won’t last long. You will never be labelled as ‘wise’ if you let anyone exploit you. You will never be labelled as ‘brave’ if you let you rich history die in the hands of anyone. We must learn to shed this attitude of ‘love your enemy’; we must learn to protect and respect our icons and must learn to assert our rights rightfully.
Moreover, a disturbing part in all this vandalisation of Dalit icons’ statues and Dalit history distortion is that not all Dalit leaders from different political parties have raised their voices against these mischievous acts. Why do we always hear voices of Dalits in BSP? What happens to the Dalits enjoying bread and butter in the name of Dr. Ambedkar, in parties such as Congress and BJP? If these leaders claim that they are the voices of Dalits then why we don’t hear those voices when we need them the most? I agree there can be differences among them but these leaders must come forward when the cause is the same or when someone is laying his hands on Dalits, in a manner speaking. Also, they must iron out their differences and act united for the Dalit cause. Till the time our leaders are not fearless and intelligent, acts of vandalism of Dalit statues will continue. Or till the time our leaders continue to live on leftovers of upper caste people, there will be no dearth of such crimes.
Dalits look upon Dalit leaders, Dalit icons, and Dalit history everywhere. Dalit masses need a source of inspiration, someone among them with whom they can relate to. Dalits need icons among them, who had/have suffered or faced the same pain as today’s Dalits face. By relating themselves to those icons, Dalits of today can achieve higher goals. Dalits of today don’t need outsiders to inspire them: who knows a shit about Parshuram? Dalits don’t need someone with twelve arms, nine tails and six legs to inspire them. Dalits need someone real, someone who can be from Dalits only. Well dressed Dalits’ statues give people educational, political, and social ambitions. So by damaging Dalit icons’ statues, upper caste people are depriving Dalits of the source of inspiration and of pride. Don’t touch. And if anyone puts his dirty hands on Dalit pride, Dalits know better what to do. If they don’t, read another quote by Malcolm X:
We are nonviolent with the people who are nonviolent with us, but we are not nonviolent with people who are violent with us.
Pardeep Attri blogs here.
Picture courtesy: ambedkar.org