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“You get a well dug by us, but stop us from drinking its water… We make idols… but the doors of temples are closed to us,” said Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot in a strong comment against casteism.
Addressing a national symposium on Dr B R Ambedkar at Nagda, in Ujjain district on Saturday, Gehlot said: “Kuan humse khudwa lete ho, wo jab aapka ho jata hai to paani peene se rokte ho. Talab banana ho to majdoori humse karvate ho, us samay hum usme paseena bhi girate hai, thukte hai, laghu shanka aati hai to door jane ke bajaay usime karte hai. Parantu jab uska paani peene ka avsar milta hai, to phir kehte ho ki abda jayega. Aap mandir me jakar mantrochchaar kar praan-pratishtha karte ho, uske baad ve darwaje humare liye bandh ho jate hai. Akhir kaun thik karega isse? Murti humne banai, bhalehee apne paarishramik diya hoga, par darshan to humme kar lene do, haath to laga lene do.”
“(You get a well dug by us, but when it becomes yours, you stop us from drinking its water. When a pond has to be made, we are made to labour. At that time, we spit in it, sweat in it, and even urinate in it. But when we get a chance to drink water from it, you say that the water will become impure. You install idols in temples amid chanting of mantras, then the doors are closed to us. Who will set things right? We made the idol, although you may have paid us for our labour, but at least let us have a darshan, and touch it).”
When The Indian Express contacted him in Delhi on Sunday, Gehlot said he made those remarks to convey the sense of discrimination Ambedkar must have felt during his time. However, he admitted that he was also reflecting on the current situation. While there may be an improvement in the situation, some incidents are reported even today, he said.
“I am a minister, I keep getting such reports. It (discrimination) may have come down, but it still exists in society,’’ he said.
Gehlot, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, said he had also suffered discrimination when he was young. He recalled that “lower caste” students of a hostel in Ratlam had to be given security cover for a temple visit.
Born in Rupeta (Nagda) village in Ujjain district, Gehlot, 68, was thrice elected to the Madhya Pradesh assembly — he was a state minister in 1990-92. He was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1996, and won three more parliamentary polls after that. In 2012, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha.