Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Land, Dignity and Freedom footmarch which covered around 140 villages, 7 urban slum in four districts of Maharajganj, Kushingar, Deoria and Gorakhpur district, It started from Tilakwania village in Ghughali town of Maharajganj district on June 1st, 2007 and culminated at Chauri Chaura on June 22nd, 2007 with a total of 370 kilometers. Organised by Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance and led by Shri Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Director, Social Development Foundation, Delhi, the Padyatra raised the issue of hunger, land, water and sustainable development. Nearly 20 Padyatris including women and girls from the marginalised sections of society walked this distance in scorching heat for full 22 days. It raised the issue of the failure of the previous government to deal with the issue of livelihood of marginalised communities and their continuous marginalisation through hunger, malnutrition, poverty and depression. It also voiced its concern over growing communalisation process as well as spreading of superstition among the poorer sections of society. At many places the marchers spoke to small gatherings, met people, visited affected areas and conducted social audits of schemes like NREGA.


At the culmination of 22 days padyatra at Chauri Charua, we demand the following:


1. The government must take special measures to improve the condition of Mushahars, Rajbhars, Bansfors, Nonias, Machchuaras, Dom, Swachchakars, Pasis and Chamars. These communities are living in abysmally degrading conditions and need special measures.


2. In the Eastern Uttar-Pradesh the Sand Mafias are controlling the rivers like Chhoti Gandak, Gurra, Rapti and Ghaghara. The mechanised sand mining has resulted in soil erosion by these rivers during monsoon. Thousands of hectares of land has turned infertile. In Brahmapur region Rapti has destroyed Ranapar area. In Kaptanganj and Ramkola towns in Kushinagar district are facing severe soil erosion due to sand mining. We demand immediate halt of mechanised sand mining and ask the government to allow the fishworker to do the same but government should fix up a limit for the same.


3. In many villages of Eastern Uttar-Pradesh powerful local people have illegaly grabbed the land given to Dalits and Most backward communities. In many villages, the Dalits are not even allowed passage to move out. Government must ensure that every person lives with dignity at his/her land that every one has a right to access road in his/her house.


4. The Sugar factories and distillaries in Ramkola, Kaptanganj, Deoria, Rudrapur, Sardarnagarare throwing chemical waste in the rivers like Chhoti Gandak, Rapti, Amy and Gurra resulting in heavy pollution in the rivers. The fishworkers are facing hunger as the fish catch is almost nill. Apart from this, the waste has spilled over to a vast agricultural land turning them completely barren and dangerous. The ground water in most of the eastern UP town is contaminated which is a severe threat to public health. We demand immediate action against these factory/mill owners and ask the government to compensate the farmers who have lost their land to these mills. The Pollution Control board should be asked to explain as why they continue to allow such hazards industries to run.


5. In Kushingar and Gorakhpur the condition of National Employment Guaranttee Scheme is a matter of grave concern. It has not been implemented accordingly. We found work being done through tractors and people without work despite having the valid card. The scheme seems to have failed because of the connivance between the village Pradhans and block officials. We demand severe action against erring officials to implement the scheme and ask the government to form a monitoring and evaluating committee which should include civil society representatives.


6. In Poorvanchal, we found lot of discrepency in the distribution of ration cards. Those who should have been eligible for the cards have not got it while others have got it. We demand strong action the Sarpanches and officials who are involved in nepotism and corruption. We also demand from the government that the reach of the Public Distribution System should be expanded and it must include important edible items, books, cloths, Masalas etc so that the poor can benefit from this.


7. Hunger and starvation is prevelent in Eastern Uttar-Pradesh. A majority of families do not ration for two times. The children have uncertain futrue. It is shameful that children from Mushahars, Chauhan, Rajbhar etc are eating rats and fishermen are forced to survive on snails. We demand the government to focus on these communities with special programmes particularly developing schools in the villages with mid day meals and other incentives for school children and their parents.


8. The government must form special Land Courts to settle land disputes and implement the land reform measures strongly and effectively. The government must concentrate on giving communal entitlement. We also demand that women should be given priority in allotment of agricultural land and all new entitlement whether residential or agricultural should have joint entitlment.


Today on the day of culmination of Padyatra we committ ourselves to continue our struggle for Land, Dignity and freedom. We will continue to make government aware of the ground situation while fighting for our rights democratically. We also want to make it clear that this war of independence is not possible with out the support and alliance of anti caste, anti communal, anti superstition and progressive forces in which the role of women, Dalits, Most backward communities and tribals have an important role to play. We also feel that this for dignity and freedom we have to take inspiration from Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Jyoti Ba Phule, Savitri Bai Phule, and EV Ramaswamy Naicar.  They remain our icons and role models in our struggle for the creation of a civil society.


Following organisations signed the resolution
Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance, Social Development Foundation, Delhi. Food for Hungry Foundation, Delhi Dr B.R.Ambedkar Gramodyog Sansthan, Deoria. Swachchakar Kalyan Samiti, Ghazipur. Smt Sonia Gramin Mahila avam Bal Kalyan Samiti, Deoria. Lord Buddha Trust, Kushinagar. Hitkari Sewa Samiti, Deoria. Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur. Palanjivi Samiti, Rudrapur, Deoria. Mushahar Shakti Sanghthan, Deoria. Tharu Development Society, Lakhimpur Khiri. Tal Ratoy Machchua Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Mau. Bharatiya Jan Seva Ashram, Jaunpur. Chitrakoot Sewa Ashram, Chitrakoot. Dalit Mahila Mukti Morcha, UP Machchua Adhikar Manch, Rudrapur and number of others



March for Land, Dignity and Freedom in Poorvanchal

Hunger and starvation deaths in the eastern Uttar-Pradesh continue to haunt communities during the last one decade. Every year people are dying of different diseases particularly Malaria, and Japanese Encephalitis (brain fever). While the names have changed the target of these viral diseases remain the same communities.


Government, aid agencies and campaigns were launched to tackle the starvation and hunger prevalent in the region. Many of these districts are under the National Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) yet reports suggest that the scheme is another way of 'helping' those who are power groups in the rural set up. They have rarely reached the masses. Many of the NGOs formed community groups to help them yet the food never reached. While it was good that government provides food aid to the dying people yet very few raised the issue that the hunger has raised its ugly head in the country because of the continuous antipathy of the government to the land redistribution programme. Contrary to this, more land was acquired in the name of development without providing enough and satisfactory rehabilitation. The victims of this unsustainable development have been the communities like Dalits, tribals and MBCs.


The numbers of landless communities in Poorvanchal is substantial and are severely facing challenge to their livelihood. With more mechanized agri-farming, these agrarian workers are now jobless. Forests are already out of bound for them as forest department consider the poor forest dwellers as encroachers and exploit them. The Kumhars (clay potters) have lost their work to plastics and the fishermen are clueless at the moment as how to increase their income when most of their lakes are under the threat of sale. The migration to cities has increased in the past few years but now even those seems to be blocking the way of the rural poor with not only theocratic fundamentalist parties raising their ugly head against them but also the self styled protectionists of the secular ideas too feel that immigration to the cities is a threat.


Even when people were dying of hunger and starvation, the 'nationalistic' forces were doing their work in the villages, but not to help the rural poor get out of the poverty trap but to push them back into the Dark Age. To increase their woes, these forces have pushed people to superstition so that they do not question the injustice done to them and blame it to their misfortune and Gods wish.


That manual scavenging is still prevalent in the region reflect the condition of the Swachchakar community in Eastern Uttar-Pradesh. Communities like Mushahars, Bansfors, Swachchkars, Rajbhars, Chamars, Pasis; Chauhans, Nishads, Kumhars are facing severe threat to their livelihood and dignity.


Keeping in view of this, Uttar-Pradesh Land Alliance and Social Development Foundation, Delhi are organizing a Padyatra ( Footmarch) beginning from June 1 st, 2007 till June 22nd , 2007. The Padyatra will cover four districts of Poorvanchal. They are Maharajganj, Gorakhpur, Deoria and Kushinagar. The Padyatra will start from the Tehsil headquarter of Ghughali, Maharajganj on June 1 st. The Padyatra culminate at the Shaheed Smarak in Chauri Chaura on June 22nd, 2007. The Padyatra would cover more than 75 small and big villages and towns including Kushinagar, Ramkola, Padrauna, Kasaya, Fazilnagar, Pathardeva, Nautan, Deoria, Bhatani, Salempur, Laar, Bhagalpur, Barhaj, Rudrapur, Brahmnpur, Tarkulhadevi and Chaurichaura. In these 22 days we would cover nearly 375-400 kilometer of these four districts.


Padyatra will have public meetings, social audits and even training programmes related to land and livelihood. Not only this, the Padyatra aims to speak unambiguously against the caste oppression, rituals as well as exploitation in the name of religion, rituals and superstitions.


 The Padyatra is named as Land, Dignity and Freedom which clearly indicate that we feel access and control to land and other natural resources is key to dignity and freedom of an individual and community. Today, this freedom is under the threat. The governments have failed in fulfilling their promises to implement the land and agrarian reform resulting in greater social chaos. In India, this situation is more complicated as the exploitation has not just economic dimensions but socio-cultural dimensions. And despite changing power equations at the political levels, the situation in the ground level has not changed much. That most of these communities who suffer indignities are the Dalits and most backward communities. Tragically, in the broader schemes of things also, a majority of these communities are on the margins because of their minority status with in their villages and hence even in the broader Dalit-Bahujan framework they remain isolated and excluded.


The Padyatra aim to strengthen the community organizations in the region so that the development agenda is focused on community based. We sincerely feel that the developmental paradigms need to take a new turn and communities need to be targeted in the rural planning otherwise term like 'rural poor' in India would always help maintaining the status quo and would be ambiguous. The Padyatra would also focus the issue of women's right over land and forest resources. In simple term the padyatra is an attempt to inculcate humanist ideas on the issue of livelihood, hunger and starvation.


While many of our friends suggested against organizing the Padyatra in this scorching heat yet it was felt that it is the best time to understand how the communities that we work with face such oppressive heat. Also due to summer vacations, many of you might find some time to join it. We are therefore extending you our invitation to join this Padyatra to understand the reason of hunger, starvation and social oppression in Poorvanchal. Those of you who wish to join it of any dates which are comfortable to you or for the full march may please get in touch with us through email or telephone contacts for the purpose of more information, logistics and other details.

We will keep you updated with the movement of Padyatra through our regular mails.

Yours Sincerely,

Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Social Development Foundation, Delhi . Tel No 011-65902846

Ram Chandra Prasad,  Dr B.R.Ambedkar Gramodyog Sansthan, Deoria  Mobile No  09450482908

Ram Bhuvan,  Jan Kalyan Sanshtan Chauri Chaura. Mobile No  09838107588

Rajkapoor Rawat, Convener,  UP Land Alliance, Mohammdabad, Ghazipur. Mobile No 09451689246

D.P.Baudh, Lord Buddha Trust, Kushinagar.  Mobile No :

Ramasrey Nishad, Rudrapur, Deoria

Rajendra Sahni, Tal Ratoy Machchua Jan Kalyan Sansthan, Maryadpur, Mau

Sumitra Rajbhar, Dalit Mahila Mukti Manch Maryadpur, Mau

Rajan, from Swachchakar community in Laar

POSTED ON MAY 28, 2007




By Vidya Bhushan Rawat



A two judges bench headed by Justice Ajit Parsayat has stayed the 27% quota meant for the Other Backward Communities in the higher education. The upper caste Hindus today celebrated Holy and Diwali. After the miserable failure and huge loss of advertisement by the favorite Indian cricket team virtually surrendered to Bangladesh and then to Srilanka, the reactions were similar to that happened to anti Mandal agitation in 1991. If our memories have not faded, we must revisit the events in Eden Gardens, Kolkata when the downtrodden Sri Lanka was inflicting a humiliating defeat and the Bhadralok crowd at Kolkata started throwing paper missiles, and stones at the Srilankan players. I am afraid, if this World Cup were being organized in India, the Indian people would not have allowed Bangladesh to win. That is upper caste nationalism in India. A nationalism, which does not recognize merit but purely create merit on the basis of one's caste.


The defeat by the under estimated Bangladesh spelled a pall of gloom over the market which has been monopolized by the caste media which had lionized the team without realizing its real strength. India sunk into gloom (it was not a game but the nation was already declared world champions) and defeat clearly put the astrologers also to mat who were predicting super performance from the team. Nevertheless, despite this entire nonsensical attitude, the irrational astrology still is the best medicine that the caste Hindus takes. The doctors also have the same attitude as they have red tilak over their forehead and big temples outside the ICUs in Delhi. Nothing is irrational and unscientific as long as the Hindus believe in it. So Muslims become cruel for they slaughter animals but Hindus become 'non violent' when they slaughter goats, buffalos and pigs in the temples to please their Gods and Goddesses.


After days of gloom, the anchors at the TV studios are smiling for a 'historic' judgment of Supreme Court. Now, they can discuss things and bring the 'cheerleaders' to their studios suggesting that the 'whole' 'nation' is against reservation. A few doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or as I would like it call All India Institute of Manuwadi Studies have become   'nation' imagination. Based on their assumptions, the Supreme Court has stayed the order of the reservation for OBCs in the institutions of higher education, which were always meant for the Brahmins when Manu's law first defined it. As India moved to secularism and democracy, Manu's laws became politically though socially they remained as powerful as ever despite 9% growth rate. Understanding that power of democracy means power of number and not just democracy for the people but now it has become 'of' the people and 'by' the people. With the marginalized groups asserting their number power with more political aggressions, the upper castes were left with no options except to dilute the entire concept of social justice through the judicial process, which remain outside the purview of the quota. Moreover, through privatizing the various government owned corporations and services, the government has already nullified the concept of reservation.


Now, after the formation of Special Economic Zones, the government as well as the courts have hit on the backbones of our farmers. SEZ have been declared legalized while people have been uprooted from their nation. Land Reforms have been made redundant by the continuous protections by the courts. Today, the politicians use the courts for their own purposes. It is due to this ambiguity that the courts have now become the most powerful and uncontrolled institution of the country. A healthy democracy need independent judiciary and committed governance. Nodoubt, the political leadership during the past 20 years have reduced to nothing as more criminals taking lead but the power of the masses is relegated to 'people's representatives'. Still, even a bad democracy is better than an unaccountable government or military dictatorship. Ofcourse, this clearly means that it is the political class which will need to run the country and not the courts and the bureaucrats which is increasingly becoming the case in India.


Upper castes elite in Delhi often says that reservation is denying them basic human rights of equality and hence they are leaving for the United States. Let the courts ask them to stay in India if they studies in Indian schools. They cannot go abroad after getting the subsidized education at the premier Indian educational institutions. The youngsters do not know what is happening even outside their house. They would not even ask their parent as why the scavenger who clean their shit and toilet come from one particular community. This elite would not even know that in India there are places where people still clean shit and carry night soil. Yes, they are not interested to know about this.


Shockingly, the judgments in the past few years reflect of the growing trend to keep the middle classes happy. We have judges who speak for Hindutva terming it as a way of life. We have a former Supreme Court Judge who did not implicate a single politician in the anti Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984 and later became a Member of Parliament against all the ethics of impartiality of an institution. Right to Strike was also banned by the Kerala Highcourt, which was appreciated by the media and industries.


The Judges went overboard in terming the quotas as vote bank politics. Question is why not vote bank politics after all what are politicians required to do? Yes, if they are working for their people than the best one is that who does not to take care of their constituencies? It is absurd as former Prime Minister V.P.Singh said about the court order. Parliament passed a bill unanimously and the court's are terming it as vote bank politics. The Judges further said that politicians should not divide the country on the basis of caste and that in India it has become habitual for people to claim 'backward' status.   One need to support V.P.Singh's demand for a referendum and census based on caste.


It is tragic that the record of the courts related to social justice and social reform reflect poverty of ideas and lack of human rights understanding. It is also reflected that the courts are consciously giving judgments on the basis of media campaign. A media, which has been thoroughly unprofessional and highly prejudiced one. Justice Rajendra Sachar had long back stated in a public meeting that the court buckle under public pressure.   Unfortunately, there is no backward movement in India, which can take on the upper caste thugs who are destroying India. Except for the forthright stand of DMK, PMK and other political groups representing the OBCs there is no one to raise their voice. They remain loyal shudras providing fodder to Hindutva to kill the Dalits in the villages. It is time for the OBCs to revolt against their self-serving leaders and get a new leadership which can give them new ideas and for whom OBC does not mean a family of their own but the entire community. We need a dynamic leadership which does not sale farmer's land to corporate houses at the throwaway prices and have a clear vision to help and upgrade the communities. Alas, most of them have nothing except their caste. They remember their people only when they do nothing are defeated in the larger games of manipulation.


Where are the OBC students and their political leaders? Tamilnadu has taken the lead in this direction in a rare gesture of unanimity among the political class. But that unanimity is not visible in the North at the moment. In UP while every OBC caste is struggling to get an identity and a share in power but none of them is raging the issue of reservation in power. The reason behind this is the absence of the cultural movement among the OBCs. Unlike Tamilnadu where Periyar launched self respect movement for the OBCs and Dalits, north Indian OBCs still have not been able to divert their attention from the ritualistic Hindutva. The political ideas of the OBC leadership remained prejudicious and anti Dalits. Dalits is good for them as long as it vote to them but bad if the Dalit take the leadership. OBC leadership in the north must think that as long as they remain loyal soldiers of Hindutva as Ambedkar once said, they can not take on the powerful forces of corporations and religion, who jointly work together to thwart any new effort which challenges the status quo.


It is said that Periyar and his followers had no will to come to north and educate their 'illiterate' backward leaders who remain caged in the brahmanical agenda. Similarly, portraying Jyoti Ba Phule, as leaders of Bahujans have not worked as a community called Sainis feels that he was their leader. Kurmis have gone for Sardar Patel and Rajbhars towards Raja Sohail Dev. This is the irony of the entire movement in Uttar-Pradesh has been defeated by the shortsighted caste leaders who have very little to offer to their communities. They only need a power position and manipulating the sentiments of their communities. It is not for nothing that in Uttar-Pradesh, which is going to polls, that all the OBC-Dalit parties are running after the Brahmins and Thakurs. None of them have come out strongly against the current judgment of the Supreme Court. Perhaps, the leadership knows it would be too dangerous to 'offend' the Supreme Court because a majority of them are under the scanner of the Supreme Court.


More than the courts, Congress Party's credentials in remain suspect in this regard. It is clear that with in the party, there is a group of member of Parliaments as well as Ministers who are opposed to quota for OBCs. One even doubt the credentials of H R Bhardwaj, the law minister who was brought back from hibernation for being Sonia loyalist, for his inability to put the government's case properly in the court. A large number of OBC students who prepared for the IIMs and IITs have been denied human rights due to an intervention from the court, which many clearly term as retrogressive.



During the Mandal agitation and afterwards, it is the Dalits who have been supporting the reservation for the OBCs but OBC students hardly fought their battle. It is time for them to wake up and challenge the myth by the brahmanical media. Yes, I would say it firmly that Indian media remain confined to the sentiments of their fellow caste men who leave India after getting subsidized education from the elite institutions of IITs, IIMs and other institutions. This media does not see the plight of OBCs and MBCs.


It is the fallacy that the reservations have forced the upper castes to leave India. They had left India long before and they were using the services of the elite institutions to benefit their own community since a majority of them cannot afford to compete with the west on a level playing field.


The Indian Express today carried a story of Justice Parsayat quoting from the American Judiciary. The fact of the matter is that American Judicial system worked against the social justice but still it does not come in way of social justice. Secondly, in the United States and elsewhere, it is the minority, which is seeking the rights to be in the governance but in India it ironically the majority of Bahujans-Dalits who are asking to be given the space to govern and participate in the democracy. Prof Dipankar Gupta of the JNU has been in the news recently when he told the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in Geneva that there is no caste system in India and that the Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Shudras do not have separate identities and they live together with great affection. Gupta has now come out strong in support of Supreme Court Judgment. Of-course, writing for mainstream media would not be that easy if you question the very basis of the Varnadhrama and its notoriety in keeping people subjugated. Dipankar Gupta is happy at the rational judgment of the Supreme Court and so are our friends in the media. The die has been caste and the judgment of the two-judge bench would become difficult for those who are celebrating today.


It may have been unintentional but the crude fact is that after the Supreme Court's judgment, it is imperative for the government to go for a caste census. The upper caste leaders and bureaucracy has clearly not wanted to go for it, as they know it would be the last nail in their coffin. That the National Sample Survey which remains an organization of the upper elites in India could found 37% the population of the OBCs, and then it is for certain that the OBC population in Indian has grown much beyond what was in 1931. Let the government come out with a specific data on the OBC population and their social status. Just saying that all Yadavas have grown up because there are Mulayam and Lalu, is the travesty of truth.   A majority of OBCs consisting MBCs whose social status remain as the Dalits. Ofcourse, these MBCs would always consider themselves higher in the social ladder despite weak economic strength yet they remain socially and educationally backwards.


There are various ways to measure socio economic ostracisation of the marginalized. And it should be done but the intention of the ruling party and those claiming 'youth for equality' is not to demolish the caste system but perpetrate it and ensure that their relatives and blood brothers remain safer in the new global world.


It is time not only for referendum but also for a constitutional review. To ensure that Parliament's supremacy is retained, it is important that the leaders representing the communities have done their homework well. So far, there are very few who can speak with strength of their conviction and challenge. Democracy works on healthy relationship of judiciary with the Executive and legislature. One does not need moral preaching from the judges while exonerating themselves from the public scrutiny. If there is a Lokayukta for the state lagislature, there will have to be same provision for the judges also. And most importantly, why should the judiciary remain outside the ambit of quota and social justice. It is time for all the political parties, jurists, and academic to sit together and decide. The regular humiliation of merit and non-merit must stop. The country cannot remain silent when its majority is being humiliated by those who have no concern for the country and sole interest remain outside the country. Let us decide once for all, the entire issue of reservation. So it is also the time to review our constitution, which can make Parliament Supreme again. The present constitution was drafted by a legend called Ambedkar but his hands were tied with strong upper caste feudal presence in the constituent assembly. Let there be a new committee to look into the problems of the constitution and change it accordingly as numbers do matters in democracy. You cannot allow courts striking everything that is public welfare as against the spirit of the people.


Politicians have a lot to learn from this. No need for taking shelter in Supreme Court for taking potshots at others to score political goals. Introspecting the mistakes will help them realize whether it would the executive or the Supreme Court to run the country as they are doing it today. Their lack of convictions and moral high ground have given ample ammunition to the courts which might be unhealthy for democracy in the longer term as every good measure might be treated as 'vote bank' politics which the politicians are no doubt involved in. Time for them to look beyond their personal interest and serve the people.



VB Rawat

Mr N.G.Uke, a great Ambedkarite, a friend and guide died on November 4th, 2006 at his Vasant Kunj residence at the age of 82. Uke Saheb, as I would fondly call him was among the rare breed of Ambedkarite who saw Baba Saheb and was selected by him as a scholar though he had already got the same.

As an admirer of Mr Uke for his forthright views and because his open support for atheism, I knew NG Uke was a treasurer who had with him a number of incidents and things and that is why I kept on calling him for an interview. ' You are always welcome', Uke Saheb told me. Last month on October 7 th, I was able to record a conversation with him to keep his memoirs. I know many such Ambedkarite who are treasure of great source are on the wane and I decided to interview them and record conversation to keep their memories safe.

I have rarely found person of strong secular commitment such as N G Uke. Even in his conversation, he hated words like 'fortunate, unfortunate, Mahatma, noble soul, gods' etc. He would say that by using these words we are ultimately trapped into the religious moulding justifying the oppression and exploitation.

Uke Saheb send reply to some of my questions on mails. A freewheeling interview with him was recorded which I would be able to produce after some time. As a tribute to Uke Saheb, I am sending this interview to our friends. He was the first person to use term ' Ambedkar Samaj' and rather than saying ' I am a Buddhist' which he was. Till his last, Uke Saheb remained a sharp mind, concerned about the condition of his community, which he always thought would lead India to 21 st Century.

I salute to his memory.


 Excerpts of his conversation with me

V. B. Rawat 

VB: Use Saheb, how did you come in touch with Dr Ambedkar.

 NGU:  My first meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was in July 1942 at Nagpur

during the Depressed Classes Conferences held on 18,19,20 July 1942. During  these conferences were attended by about 75,000 Scheduled Castes persons, including 25,000 women. The three Conferences were:

1. All India Depressed Classes Conference, 2. All India Depressed Classes Women's Conference, 3. Samata Sainik Dal Conference.

During these Conferences we the Scheduled Castes student established All India Scheduled Castes Students Federation (SCSF). I was one of the Joint Secretaries of the SCSF. At that time I was studying in Inter Science at the College of Science Nagpur. We met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and sought his advice and guidance for working of our SCSF. He was very happy and we had a very useful discussion.

  • Since Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was being appointed as the Labour Member of the Executive Council of H.E. the Viceroy and the Governor General, he could not function as the full time President of the All India Depressed Classes Conferences. In his place Rao Bahadur N. Shivraj, MLA (Central) was appointed as the president of the Conference.
  • My second meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was at his residence 22 Prithviraj road at Delhi. I had gone to Delhi for an interview before the selection board for the selection of scholars to be sent abroad for higher studies. I was selected by the board for higher studies in Engineering in London. Rai Saheb GT Meshram who was the Estate Officer Govt. of India took me to 22, Prithviraj road to meet Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. As soon as I was introduced to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, he immediately said " Mr. Uke Congratulations since we have selected you for higher studies in UK, under the Scheduled Castes Students Scholarship. We had a selection in Simla". I thanked Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar for my selection in the SC Scholarship. But I told Babasaheb that I have also been selected today by the Govt. of India under general scholarship for study in UK for Engineering. Babasaheb was very happy that I was selected in General Scholarship, thus saving one scholarship of Scheduled Caste.
  • My next meetings with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were in London 4 times, on 26 th Oct. 29th Oct. 2nd Nov. and 9th Nov.1946. During this period he had met important personalities from London including Clement Attlee Prime Minister of UK, and Mr. Winston Churchill. On 2 nd Nov. 1946 we invited him to visit our place at 4, Downside Crescent. He blessed us by visiting our place and sitting for a group photo which included number of SC Scholars including Mr. Khobragade studying for Bar.
  • The next time when I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was when I was called from London to return to India, for selection for a post in Defence. The Public Service Commission selected me for this post. I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar along with Raisaheb GT Meshram after my selection. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had a liking for me and suggested to Mr. Meshram that he should propose my marriage with his daughter Kamal. Meshram family and Babasaheb Ambedkar were very close to each other. Whenever Babasaheb used to go to Nagpur he used to stay with Meshram family. Kamal used to know Babasaheb from her childhood of about 6 years since 1935. Our marriage took place on May 8 th,1949 at 4 Lodhi  Estate, the residence of Mr. Meshram. Our marriage certificate was signed by 3 Cabinet Ministers of Govt. of India, 1 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar   , 2. Dr. John Matthai, and  3. Dr. Kakasaheb Gadgil. 
  • VB: What was your personality about ? Did you face discrimination during your childhood? How supportive were your parents.

    NGU: You desired to know whether I was docile or strong person and whether I suffered from discrimination. In my childhood I was very strong. I normally used to score very high position in my class.   The Brahmins did not like my status in the class and they closed the school after I passed class 3 of the primary school. For the 4th class I had to go to near by village about 2 miles from our village. I cleared class 4 th from that school with top record. I had told my father that he should help me financially up to 8th class including the middle school in English at Bramhpuri about 10 miles from my village. I passed the 8 th class with high % and was allotted Govt. Scholarship from 9th class onwards. I secured the high school admission in Patwardhan high school at Nagpur. My further studies were at the College of Science at Nagpur. Later I won the Govt. of India Scholarship for higher studies in London.

    VB : What impression did you get from Baba Saheb. What do his followers need to do to take forward his mission?

    NGU: When we met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in London during 1946 he advised us that our people should be better than their best. Some of us definitely tried to come to the expectation of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on 14th of October 1956 along with 5 lacks of people at Nagpur. His mission was to make whole of India as a Buddhist Country. How ever he expired within 53 days of his embracing Buddhism.

    His followers were not of the required capacity for the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar with same vigor and achievements. They have been working in different groups and are not united.

    Ambedkarites must join together under one platform. I had met Dalai Lama in Ashoka Hotel a few years ago and I had suggested to him that he should take up the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar of converting India into a Prabuddha Bharat. For my suggestion he became very happy and embraced me very warmly. In order to convert India into Prabuddha Bharat on the advice of Buddha and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, it is necessary to workout a rational program.

    There are various factions in Buddhism. We must consolidate all the Buddhists of the world. For that matter we will have to spell out the Buddhism as has been prescribed by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

    VB: A number of people are redefining Ambedkar's conversion. Some says that he wanted to embrace Islam while others suggest that he was in fact for Christianity. There is a Sikh angle also. To strengthen their point, they say that Ambedkar buckled under the pressure of the upper caste Hindu leadership? For me it is difficult to digest as Ambedkar remained a man of conviction and character all his life and it would have been difficult for him to accept anything as final word or Gods word. As a staunch Ambedkarite how do you respond to such questions?

    NGU: It is wrong. He never wanted to become Muslim or Sikh or Christian. Neither did he want to remain as a Hindu. He wanted to become Buddhist and he had declared in 1935 that though he was a born a Hindu, which was not in, his hand but he would not die as a Hindu. When he was in his matriculation, he was given a book on Buddhism. Baba Saheb had been reading about Buddhism for a very long time. Nizam offered him a lot of money. Others also offered him but he was not worried about money. He was worried about India. To make India a Prabuddha Bharat, an enlightned India and no religion can do that. He believed in Buddha but never in those rituals. He redefined Buddhism. Scriptures and Gods cannot help India at all.

    VB:  Reservation issue has again rocked the country. While the current row has been actually against the OBC reservation in government services but it seems that in this entire scheme of things, it is the Dalits who have become target of the upper caste contempt. The Dalits are fighting the battle for OBCs while the latter are not visible anywhere, only to be found hitting at them in the villages. Now questions are being raised about creamy layer as well as different Dalit identities. As an Ambedkarite how to you resolve this crisis?

    NGU: As per as the reservation for Scheduled Castes is concerned people refused to understand the Constitutional provisions regarding SCST reservation. The Constitution is very clear. Constitution provides for reservations for the Scheduled Castes. These reservations are Universal. However the Govt. have excluded a large number of Jobs from the reservations, which goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

    There is also a view that a creamy layer from Scheduled Castes must be taken away from Scheduled Castes. This view is totally wrong The Creamy layer is the cream of the society. The Cream, which consists of the intellect of the Scheduled Castes are the people who guide and lead the Scheduled Castes. Nobody can deprive the Scheduled Castes of their intellectual leaders. All the rulers namely The President, The Prime Minister and the other leaders come from Creamy layer and govern. The Scheduled Castes cannot be divided as very rightly ruled by the Supreme Court.  

    As far as the reservations for Scheduled Castes are concerned no Non-SC is affected and they have nothing to do with reservations.

    VB : You are a rare breed of Ambedkarite who are proclaimed atheists. Why?

    NGU: Scheduled Castes cannot gain anything from Gods and their work. The only way out is to prove that our society, our system is better than theirs. We believe that superstitions, rituals ultimately exploit human being.

    VB: What do you think of economic globalisation. I mean many new Dalit scholars have complimented capitalism and often condemn Marx and his vision. What is an Ambedkarite vision of India.

    NGU: Privatisation is a threat to our soverignity. Land should be nationalized and redistributed among our people. Why should we allow the national resources to the private companies to suck our blood. Privatisation is nothing but taking away people's resources and we must oppose it.

    Once you privatize things, our people lose jobs in the government sector. Private companies are not going to follow that. The government must bring out a law to protect the interest of the Scheduled Castes.

    Baba Saheb was a revolutionary and so was Marx though Baba Saheb differed with his violence theory yet in no way was Baba Saheb anti Marx. We may have differences with Marxist theoreticians in India yet Marx and his philosophy are for the benefits of the common man.

    VB: What are the activities of Ambedkar Samaj. What does it aims at?

    NGU: We have started Ambedkar Samaj to bring all Ambedkarites on one platform to fulfill the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar   not only to convert India as  a Prabuddha Bharat but we have to transform the whole world as a Scientific Humanity without any differences. The Ambedkarites must lead to take the world forward as one humanity.


    Thanks Mr. Balram Sampla, Dalit Solidarity Network for sending the valuable matter of Mr.V.B .Rawat.

    Dr. Ambedkar 's Revolution

    A Humanist Alternative for the Dalits

    The emancipation of Dalit s started as an essentially Humanist movement, but as the movement grew politically, the Humanist element has been lost. It is high time the Humanist alternative be made available again to the Dalits,

    V.B. Rawat

    Through his writings on the Indian social structure, through his analysis and criticism of Hindu thought and mythology, and through the political mobilization of the masses around their problems, Dr. Ambedkar, himself a Dalit and also father of the Indian Constitution, inaugurated a social and political revolution in which the Dalits were active participants. Underlying this approach was Dr. Ambedkar's realization that political empowerment of the Dalits was possible only on the basis of a social revolution.

    Dr. Ambedkar's sophisticated strategy put the Dalits on a course of personal liberation while at the same time mobilizing them as a community of victims. His strategy never ignored the individual: "Unlike the drop of water that merges its existence with the ocean in which it drops, man does not lose his entity in the society in which he lives. Man's life is independent. He is not born for the service of the society but for his self- development," he wrote. This is a Humanist approach, consonant with M.N. Roy's idea that "Freedom of society must be the totality of the freedom of individuals … the doctrine that the individual should sacrifice for the benefit of welfare and progress of society is fallacious. That it is not a liberating but an enslaving doctrine."

    Like the other backward caste s that fought hard in the early 1900s, the Dalits too made impressive contributions to the spread of Humanistic values. Seeking the human dignity that was denied them for centuries by upper caste Hindus, they fought against the scriptures authored by the priestly class, and they defied the divinely ordained caste system. Both Dr. Ambedkar's approach and the movement that was inspired by him was essentially a Humanistic struggle.The Revolution is Lost


    Today this very Dalit revolution has reached an impasse because its character has changed. As Dalits become progressively involved in electoral politics, there is a steady move away from emphasis on individual emancipation. To mobilize people in electoral politics the leadership of the Dalits is emphasizing their caste identity – today's Dalit movement and its new leaders would rather consolidate caste identities than create a casteless society.

    The important north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh is a case in point. Here, for the first time, Ms. Mayawati, a powerful Dalit woman became Chief Minister. Mayawati and her colleagues built a political movement under the leadership of the recently deceased astute political strategist Kanshi Ram. They mobilized the Dalits and the other backward castes, and fashioned them into a powerful and influential vote bank. And then they struck an alliance with the Hindu political party the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and came to power holding onto their coat tails. The leadership of the Dalits – including many intellectuals, applauded this development, but they did not stop to ask how Dalits could seek the support of a political party which represents the crass interests of the upper caste Hindus – and which was responsible for the genocide of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat state. At the same time as praising Dr. Ambedkar's explosive work 'Annihilation of Caste', they now seek an alliance with the casteist and political Hindus. Social development is not on their agenda, as it does not fetch you publicity. Through these opportunistic alliances and the loss of focus, the revolution has lost its moral character. They have ended up with an alliance with the oppressor, rather than create a Humanist alternative to the Hindu mindset!

    Deepening Caste Identities

    As the ideological fight has turned into an 'identity' struggle, Humanism and Human values do not necessarily inform it anymore. In Uttar-Pradesh, many Dalit activists have set up their own God men who are sucking the life blood of the community. Today, to many Dalits, a priest is bad only if he is a Brahmin by birth – but good if he is a Dalit. In Kushinagar where the Social Development Foundation works, I was aghast to see how the poor Mushahar (an untouchable community) women were being exploited by a local Tantrik who is also a Dalit (Dushadh). Many years ago, an ideologue of the Dalit movement asked me not to be too critical of Lord Rama as he was a 'Kurmi', a backward community person. I was not aware of this lineage of Lord Rama, since he is considered to be a Kshatriya . In any case, my reaction was "So what if he was a Kurmi? His life does not inspire me!" Similarly, attempts are made to suggest that the Buddha was either a tribal or a Saakya. It is sad when you like the Buddha not for what he has said or done, but for what his caste was.

    Once the egalitarian thrust is lost, the first victims are amongst the Dalit community which itself is made of different castes. The community of scavengers literally carries the burden of tradition by cleaning human excreta manually and transporting night soil. Unfortunately, this community, called the Valmiki s, feels alienated from the wider Dalit movement in India – as the lowest amongst the Dalits, they do not have the support of the rest of the Dalits – and hence they do not get a share of the benefits that accrue to the Dalit community despite the sudden spurt in the number of donor agencies and NGO s taking an interest in their plight. We in the SDF have been involved in a struggle for reclamation of 1167 acres of land from a private company in Shaheed Uddham Singh Nagar. Some 150 Dalit families were tilling this land which had been declared ceiling surplus under the Land Ceiling Act which limits the amount of land one can hold in India. In 1990 the industrial house demolished the Dalit colony – and it took us 14 years to obtain a judgment in favor of the Dalits. We have seen how the victims have been used by a large number of human right organizations for political and other ends. Even Dalit groups have been guilty of this.


    Getting it Right

    Ambedkar condemned India's village system, terming it a 'den of feudalism, corruption and nepotism'. These words are as true they were in the past – yet many of the NGOs which are working to 'emancipate' the Dalits continue their glorification of India's past and of our village system. This is because many of these NGOs are religious and are driven by the religious value system. Also, religion, rather than the welfare of these people is their main agenda.

    Religiosity dis-empowers the marginalized. The poor, marginalized communities are sandwiched between different Gods and their different followers. When we focused on the issue of Mushahars, a community of rat eaters who were dying of hunger and starvation, a few 'God-fearing' activists came over and asked me whether the community members wished to convert to another religion. My answer to them was that the first priority of the Mushahars was to get two meals a day.

    While the problem is in, and with religion, the Dalit movement faces a grave danger from those religious groups which suggest that there is liberation through conversion to Christianity and to Islam. Conversion to either of these religions has not really helped them in their struggle for emancipation – on the other hand it has turned them apolitical. Except for Ambedkar's conversion which was really a political conversion (Buddhists Dalits are highly motivated and active with a Humanist vision) conversion to either Islam or Christianity has not really helped, even if they are better than the brahmanical system. Those who are motivated by the desire to preserve Hinduism insist that the scriptures do not discriminate against them! When we report that people are dying of hunger in the remote corners of the country, the religious gangs pack their bags with bibles and food and set out for these villages to 'save' their souls; and the Hindus scramble to the affected areas to 'save' the victims from being converted. None seem interested in empowering them.

    Starting Again

    What binds the Dalits together is a common-sense of denial of dignity by the brahmanical system, a denial of justice by religious scriptures and religious system. What they fear is violence by the dominant upper castes and also by those in power –including the police and the administration. Since the Dalits have been victims of religious values and a society based on religiously ordained and sanctioned caste, it is humanist values which can bring them dignity and human rights .

    We have therefore to introduce Humanism and Humanist values to all our developmental programmes. Our aim is clear. We do not want the Dalits to suppress themselves with the burden of God, be that a Christian God or a Muslim God or a Hindu God. For us, the concept of God itself is the creation of an exploitative society and the sooner we get rid of it, the better it would be for entire society. We do not wish the Dalits to 'convert' to Humanism; but we will have to create a humanist alternative for the Dalits – this is what Dr. Ambedkar did when he identified Buddhism as an option for Dalits.

    Cultural emancipation and economic empowerment of the Dalits will mean their liberation from the shackles of religion and the oppression of the idea of God. It will mean the Dalits obtaining training in alternative livelihood skills. This will necessitate offering them training and education in practical skills as well as in universal human rights and in Humanism.

    Dalits are entering the Humanist movement of their own accord. When Humanists themselves take the initiative to reach out to the Dalits, the results will be dramatic.


    Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a leader of Delhi-based IHEU Member Organisation Social Development Foundation, and an activist for Dalit Rights. He has recently made a film of the plight of the rat catcher community in North India.