A wave of blue had hit the National College Grounds in Bengaluru on 6 December as a mark of Dalit assertion.
A sea of people draped in blue-coloured shawls and t-shirts with the slogans of Dalit icon Dr BR Ambedkar took part in the “Cultural Resistance Convention” to observe the 66th Parinirvana — the death anniversary of Ambedkar.
Among the 50,000 people who had gathered were Ramabai Teltumbde, Ambedkar’s granddaughter, and retired high court judge HN Nagamohan Das.
Ramabai received a rousing welcome from those who had gathered for the event. Hundreds of people, folk artists and women rushed to take her blessings. She also politely allowed everyone to take photos with her.
Reminding Dalits to take on atrocities
Stating that the Constitution of India is under threat, Ramabai said, “Everyone should make sincere efforts to protect the Constitution, which is under threat. Ambedkar gave a clear message to raise our voices against injustice. The Dalits have to fight for their rights.”
“It is sad that most of us (Dalits) have forgotten to agitate against atrocities and injustice. Even our jobs and rights for education have been shrinking. The only way to claim our rights is by protesting,” said Ramabai, calling on Dalits to raise their voice.
The 10 percent EWS quota in jobs and education brought in by the Narendra Modi-government at the Centre and the decision to discontinue scholarships for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) school children till high school featured prominently in speeches at the event.
“We read these developments in newspapers and remain tight-lipped instead of claiming our rights,” Ramabai said, appealing to the crowd to break their silence.
“I also appeal to everyone to read the works of Ambedkar and follow his path to fight against injustice,” she added, expressing gratitude to all those people that morally supported her when her spouse Anand Teltumbde, 73, was arrested and jailed.
Anand was jailed for over two and half years as an accused in the Bhima Koregaon case. The high court found no prima facie evidence to prove his involvement in any anti-national activities.
Justice Nagmohan Das raised concerns over the privitisation of the public sector.
“Based on my commission report the Karnataka government has decided to increase reservations for STs from three percent to seven percent. But how will this be beneficial to the people when public sector firms are being privatised,” he sought to know, calling for a protest against privatisation.
15 resolutions passed
A group of Dalit leaders passed a total of 15 resolutions, including one on the implementation of Sadashiv Commission report, at the mega Cultural Resistance Convention.
Among them were those condemning the imposition of “Vedic/Brahmanical ideas” on the country, demanding internal reservations for SC/STs, and seeking allocation of 24.10 percent grants for SC/STs as per the Special Component Plan (SCP) and Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) Act in Karnataka’s annual budget.
“This cultural convention will strongly oppose the EWS reservation announced for the upper castes based on their annual financial income of ₹8 lakh, where the SC/STs and OBCs have been excluded. This unconstitutional amendment should be scrapped. The government should also work on implementing reservations in the private sector,” read another resolution.
The cultural resistance convention organised by Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (DSS) was apolitical. The organisation had not invited any political leaders, limiting itself to Dalit activists and leaders who are not into politics.
In an unexpected turn of events, a group of Dalit activists objected when Aam Aadmi Party leader and former IPS officer Bhaskar Rao was invited to the stage by the organisers, as the event was apolitical. The retired-police-officer-turned-politician was quick to get off the stage and participate as a spectator.
The mega cultural resistance convention witnessed a huge gathering of over 50,000 people from across the state.
Kumar B, a Dalit activist from Chamarajnagar, said, “It is our event. I have ensured that around 100 people from my hometown take part in this convention. We need to organise more such programmes nationwide to create awareness among Dalits and oppressed communities. It is the need of the hour.”
“Me and my friends have come from Yadgir to listen to the speech of Ambedkar’s granddaughter (Ramabai). It is a time for everyone to unite and fight against the atrocities and injustice being meted out on Dalits across the country,” K Ramesh told South First.