Thousands of Hindus vow to end caste divide

via published on March 11, 2007

New Delhi, March 10 IANS:  Railway porters in their trademark red uniform, Hindu holy men in saffron robes, social activists, large numbers from the middle class…all joined hands here as spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar launched a campaign to end centuries of discrimination against Dalits.

Leaders of several social groups from within the Hindu community, the Dalits included, were among the 4,000 who gathered at the open air theatre in Pragati Maidan here Friday evening and took a pledge to end the caste divide that Ravi Shankar warned would harm India’s progress in the long run.

A seven-point action plan that Ravi Shankar unveiled at the meeting and which the thousands of men and women accepted with their right hands outstretched included an immediate end to the ban on the entry of Dalits into Hindu temples in parts of India.

The other aspects of the ‘action plan’ are ending the practice of keeping separate utensils for the use of Dalits in eateries and also providing religious and spiritual education to Dalit children.

‘The anger of the past should not engulf us and divide the country. The fear and communication gap between communities is what is keeping us apart,’ he said in a brief address, first in English and then in Hindi. ‘We must accept the reality and reconcile the differences.

‘What we have started today will resonate across the country and unite the people. When leaders come together and take a vow, the people will follow them,’ he added. ‘My main concern is how to bring people together.’

The organisers pointed out that months of painstaking hard work had gone into the conference, with Ravi Shankar – whose Art of Living Foundation has millions of followers across the world – reaching out to the leaders and activists of a wide variety of social groups in the Hindu fold.

Present at the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Conference’ were representatives of the Bhumihar, Valmiki, Brahmin, Dalit, Gujjar, Vanniar, Kayastha, Kshatriya, Kurmi, Mahar, Majhabi, Marwari, Meena, Mushar, Paswan, Raigar, Rajput, Thakur, Thevar, Pasi, Mala, Vaish, Valmiki, Verma and Yadav communities.

Ravi Shankar pointed out that many were unaware that Dalits had contributed immensely in the development of Hindu scriptures.

‘Historically, many of the revered rishis were Dalits. The authors of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Maharishis Valmiki and Vyas respectively, were Dalits. The narrator of the Puranas, Soot Maharishi, was a Dalit…We need to make the people realise that discrimination is not sanctioned by religion.’

Despite legislation making discrimination against Dalits a crime, the offence continues in large parts of India. Many young Dalits have today joined the ranks of Maoists in sheer disgust, convinced that mainstream India does not care for them.

Speaker after speaker at the conference praised Ravi Shankar for his initiative and promised to spread the ‘action plan’ in their areas of influence.

But Udit Raj, a civil servant-turned-social activist, cautioned that it would need more than a public pledge to end caste discrimination.

‘The fact is that the Dalit community to which I belong has no representation in the capital market, in the share market. There is hardly any Dalit among the leading journalists in this country. Can I forget all that?’ he said, describing the state of a community that for centuries was considered ‘untouchable’ by high caste Hindus and made to do demeaning work.

‘The wound goes very deep,’ Udit Raj said. ‘The media calls me a Dalit leader. Why? Do they call Atal Bihari Vajpayee a Brahmin leader? Do they call L.K. Advani a Sindhi leader?

‘India cannot be a superpower unless caste discrimination does not end. I see so many (middle class) volunteers from the so-called upper castes here. But will they attend my rallies too? They won’t.’ He quickly added: ‘But this is the beginning.’

Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

4 × five =


Latest Articles from Bharath Focus

Did You Know?