The recent Dalit protests in Gujarat is a sign that the community is “finally fighting back”, Bezwada Wilson, one of the two Indians in the 2016 list of Ramon Magsaysay award winners, has said.
“I have seen the video (of seven Dalits being flogged in Una, Gujarat, on July 11). It’s nonsense that the upper castes couldn’t bear the sight of the dead cow being skinned,” he said.
According to Wilson, the decision by Dalits to boycott disposal of animal carcasses was “not reactionary”. “They are only saying that if the cow is your mata (mother) when she is alive, she is your responsibility after she is dead, too. Don’t throw your mata on my face,” Wilson told The Indian Express at the office of Safai Karamchari Andolan in New Delhi.
“If you believe there is no social order, then everybody has to take responsibility for cleaning the waste they create.”
Wilson, a crusader recognised by the Magsaysay board for “leading a grassroots movement to eradicate the degrading servitude of manual scavenging in India”, also criticised the NDA government’s Swachh Bharat mission. Stating that the mission’s goal is to create toilets, he asked, “Does the government have a plan for who will clean these toilets? Will it be the Dalits, or will everyone take responsibility? If you love your country, don’t create waste and then turn around and tell the Dalit to clean it,” he said.
Wilson also slammed the recent “political appropriation” of Ambedkar. “The Prime Minister calls himself an Ambedkar-bhakt,” he said. “(But) a true Ambedkarite would have never said that. Ambedkar is not God. In a God-devotee relationship, there is a certain hierarchy, and Ambedkar was against any such order.”
Calling Ambedkar an “inevitable tool” today, Wilson said, “He is the symbol of equality (and) fraternity. Appropriate Ambedkar’s principles, (and) not through mere symbolism,” he said.