ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dalits Cry on the Eve of the Ambedkar Festival

The more than four-month-long Bhim Yatra that culminated a day before the 125th birth celebrations of B R Ambedkar highlighted the pitiable conditions of the most downtrodden of the Dalits, the manual scavengers. While there are a slew of laws to check manual scavenging, they remain largely on paper. The Dalit leadership has also ignored the plight of manual scavengers.

As the world readied for the gala celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, a section of Dalits who work as manual scavengers gathered in the capital. They had marched 3,500 km, starting at Dibrugarh in Assam more than four months ago. Traversing 500 districts in 30 states over 125 days, the manual scavengers’ march, called the Bhim Yatra, reached Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 13 April 2016.

The Dalits had rallied under the banner of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) and their cry of anguish, “Do Not Kill Us,” referred to more than 22,000 unsung deaths of sanitation workers every year—incidentally acknowledged by the Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, Tarun Vijay, in the Rajya Sabha, just the previous month. With tears flowing down their cheeks and in choking voices, several children narrated horrific tales of their kith and kin falling victims to this noxious practice. The stories symptomised a terrible paradox. While Ambedkar is being lionised as a super icon, the people he lived and fought for have to beg for their basic existence.

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