Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Crisis of Zari Zardosi work in Uttar-Pradesh

Shabanam’s struggle for dignity and honor By Vidya Bhushan Rawat She is about 28 year old living in a very dilapidated structure of Muraintola near Lala Bazar, in the nondescript district Fatehpur of Uttar-Pradesh, about 150 kilometer from Allahabad and nearly 70 kilometer from Kanpur town. Once a constituency of former prime minister V.P.Singh, Fatehpur is a rural district lacking basic developmental facilities with a fairly large number of backward community people living along with Dalits and Muslims. Shabanam has graduated in Urdu language from a local women’s college. Two of her elder sisters got married many years back but now the burden of her family rest on her. She lost her father Babu Ali Khan when she was just studying in the IIIrd standard. None in her family was literate but she wanted to study. As the financial condition of her family was worst, a thought to get admission in the school was nearly impossible without a strong support. She had three brothers who were elder to her, too worked at the local shops and her mother worked as domestic labour. Somehow she completed her VIIIth and the family people asked her to stop then lacking financial resources. Fact is that more than the financial resources it is the labour resources that they want from their children. The family was in to Beedi making and also doing the zari-zardosi work which was actually not able to sustain the family as the payments were low and exploitation high. It is an organised crime against these unorganised people, a regular perpetuation of criminality mixed in class, gender and religious bias. One of her sisters actually understood her ambition to study further and promised that she would support her in studies. That helped Shabnam in completing her 10th standard. Unfortunately, her sister who supported her died leaving her future to further uncertainties. Yet, she decided that whatever happens she would study further. She understood well that for that she needed economic independence. She started making Beedis in the night and used to go college in the morning which helped her completing her graduation. Her three brothers were illiterate and did not show any interest in education. Two of them were into tailoring work while the third one was a carpenter. All of them got married somehow and were living with their families. In fact, running the family was solely the duty of Shabnam. In a sad turn of event, her younger brother died leaving his wife and child to be fetched by Shabnam. When we see the home they live in, it shows their desperation. In the absence of the state’s duty, most of the Muslims masses are destined to feed themselves in such a way as Shabnam is doing. They have no idea that they have certain rights too envisaged in the constitution and that the government need to honour them. It is tragic that the community is living in such a state that its political class has no time to look beyond its narrow and self cantered political agenda while those playing secular politics are just not able to look beyond their narrow political agenda. Shabnam’s trial did not end with the death of her brother. Nearly three months after her brother had died, her sister in law also passed away leaving her baby in her hands. One of her elder brother live with her family but his income is not enough to feed his three children. The macabre dance of deaths that Shabnam witnessed in her family can’t be just coincident but the brutal fact of prevailing health conditions among the artisans working in beedi and zardosi work. They suffer silently and before they could realise that some disease has caught them, it is too late. These young deaths are brutal reminder of complete failure of state, civil society and our governance system to look beyond the traditional work of ‘development’. Developmental agenda of our country has still remained biased towards Muslims and fail to provide them any alternatives and support despite their efforts to continue with age old traditions and occupations particularly in terms of arts and music which clearly is our national heritage. At the moment, Shabnam is actually the guardian of her mother, her elder sister who is not married and the 10 years old son of her brother. The family lives in a desperate situation. The rooms are dark with virtual no air or light. Looking like shell of an old jail, you can find here the aging and isolated Muslim population living in disgusting conditions, of course with smiling faces. Dr Salim, an old man in his seventies who claims to be a ‘doctor’ owns this dilapidated structure with about five tenants each paying nearly Rs 500/- as rent. One can understand what could be the living conditions of these houses in such an amount. The ‘doctor’ himself needs a doctor as age has caught him and his condition look grim and pathetic. The rent, perhaps, is the only source of his survival as one does not know whether he still ‘practices’ or not. Shabnam lives in one of these rooms with her family. The dirty lanes that leads to her home in Murain Tola, Fatehpur, openly speak about the seriousness of the local authorities related to Muslim community particularly those who are living in depressing conditions. Most of the occupants, here live in dark single rooms and mostly engaged in the handicraft work. At the rooftop, Shabnam introduce me to another zardosi worker Naseema Khatoon, who has started her morning work. It is just 9 am and yet most of the people had started working on their ‘projects’. Naseema has three children and her husband is a tailor master. I asked her about her life, her earnings, her fears and future which she feels remain uncertain at the moment. And according to her, ‘It is painful living with no security of life and family as each one suffer as running a home in these time of inflation is nearly impossible’. She does the Zardosi work and could earn Rs 20-25 per day. A deep sense of insecurity and uncertainty looms large over her face as she does not want to speak saying what is the outcome of speaking to you? People come and report but our plight remain the same, says, Naseema. With no fixed income and no social security such as a BPL card which could enable them to procure the essential commodities in fair prices, life is harder. One does not really know why the ‘pro poor’ programmes have not reached the Muslims. Shabnam says that so many houses were constructed in the name of poor like Kanshiram Shahari Avaas Yojna, Indira Awas Yojna, Balmiki Ambedkar Avas Yojana and nowhere did even a single person from her community got a house. Isn’t it a bias in our governance structure and its so-called anti-poverty programmes that have left the poor Muslim in the belief that she does not have right? As Shabnam takes me to another house of another family engaged in this work which does not fulfil their minimum daily needs, the same question comes in my mind as why despite hard work these families are most marginalised. Meena is on the work at the compound of her home in the early hours. Despite working all through the day, the four sisters still find it very difficult to get going. They have no support from any quarters for their survival. No ration card and no job security. ‘ We lost our father several years back. He was a scooter mechanic and my younger sister now looks after his work’, said a Meena who remains illiterate and yet has a zeal to study. They are five sisters in all in which one is married. At this small kuchcha home, these four sisters live together and earn their living. Meena’s elder sister Asma is looking after her father’s work in the mechanic shop and repair cycle and scooters. Actually, this family is related to Shabnam and like her these girls are taking care of their own families with all what they could do. I have the same question about their studies and most of them actually suggest that they want to study but circumstances have forced them to be in this work. ‘Don’t you think this art will die, if you people also leave this work in the absent of fair compensation?’, I ask. ‘You see the problem is not the work but our financial capacity. Most of the work is actually not coming directly to these artisans. The middlemen in Kanpur and Delhi actually procure orders from the businessmen and then give it to us on a very low rate, says Shabnam. In the market, the stuff created by these artisans is appreciated and have large buyers but behind these beautiful creations are some bitter truth of negligence, exploitation and painful living conditions. Most of the people engaged in this work suffer from eye sight problems, migraine etc. Since this work does not fetch enough money to run even a single person’s life, young woman like Shabanam take to other work of Beedi making which add to their miseries further. As an instant rehabilitation, it might help them earn some money but make them vulnerable to other diseases like tuberculosis and skin diseases. The women chose beedi making due to various social stigmas attach to her particularly when she venture out. In such a society, it would be difficult for a working woman to survive if any day her name is attached to someone. Most of the time, women do not feel safe in going out and as they are illiterate hence it would not be possible for them to get even a safe job except domestic worker which too is very limited in the town. Asma, elder sister of Meena runs a scooter and cycles repair shop in the market. As I go along with Shabnam to speak to her, she does not feel comfortable in speaking to me. She earn about Rs 3000 per month which goes in running her house. ‘Many reporters came here and written about me and appreciated of my work but I am not comfortable doing this work’, she says and adds that ‘ It is not a worthwhile work for woman like me as people gaze at me and speak about me when I lie down to repair the scooter or fix the puncture. I am not doing this work at my own’. ‘ If I get an opportunity and some funds, I will leave this work and venture into cosmetic shop which is more ‘respectable’, she says. This shows the concerns, pain and fears of Muslim women who do something different yet feel deeply disturbed with the turn of events. To run her living shabnam does zari-zardosi work and in the night from 9 pm till 1.30 she makes beedis so that she could earn some extra bucks to run her family. She works with a local nongovernmental organisation too but all this could not provide her a stable Rs 3,000 per month to run the family. It is tragic that such a hard working woman with great ideas has to suffer. The tension looks in her eyes. She is frustrated as nothing seems to be working at the moment. The art that we appreciate so much does not fetch her anything. Today, there are one thousand such zardosi workers in Fatehpur town and most of them living in deeply difficult situation. Life is virtual hell for them as they seem to have no way forward. They are destined to live in such inhuman condition. For the beautiful art work that they do on the salwar-kameez which might be appreciated at Delhi market as superb, these people get a meagre amount. They are able to complete the work in 4 days on a Kurta and that too not alone as other also support them but the returns are very low. It is rather unfortunate and exploitative that for this much of work a girl earns nearly Rs 40-60 per piece which is completed in four days. In a month period, most of them do not even earn Rs 400-500/-. The men have better chances as they are paid more but still their earning too is less than Rs 3,000 /- a month if everything goes fine and the work is regular. Last year, I was informed, that a majority of them suffered under the Chinese invasion. Most of the new work was coming from China virtually making these artisans workless but today the situation seems to change as the customers have realised that the hand work is much better in quality than the mechanical one. And therefore, this year there was more work though it too is seasonal. Shabanam want to unite the workers and start something for them. The frustration comes in hear heart and in her talks quite often. She is angry as nothing materialise here despite publication of articles and many people ‘photographing’ here. Newsmen come here and publish our stories in their newspapers but so far nothing has changed in their lives. The ‘developmental’ programmes have never reached pasmanda Muslims. They are virtually left out by the powerful leaders. None of these people have a BPL ration card even when most of them are living in abject poverty. Shabanam’s widowed mother has no pension, no other support. The family conditions forced Shabnam to apply for a job in the municipality but there too she was asked to pay Rs 70,000 as bribe for contract work which she was unable to pay. Shabanam moves around in Burqa but very confident of her own self as she is able to earn something but the anguish of having an elder sister who is not married yet and an old mother who does not get anything, reflects in her eyes. There is no fixed salary for her and earning even Rs 3,000 is a rare thing in today’s time. She mocks at the government schemes of pretending to provide support to people. ‘Where is the support’, she ask? We are not even asking government to pay us, all we want is a fair deal in creating these beautiful stuff. We all know that in the international market these things are sold at a very high price but we are unable to get anything. We suffer while making other joyous. While both men and women have faced tremendous pressure from the modern market here. She says, people appreciate art work and machine cannot really replace their art. But at the same point of time, people must pay for it. When I ask as why she has not been able to make a union of the people, she replies that now she is willing to work if people support the cause, she may take up. At the moment, she has her priorities to work for her family but definitely she does not want to sit silently and suffer. Most of the artisans cannot send their children to school as it is difficult to finish work on time and hence they engage their children too. There is no social security, health benefit and this art work actually affect their eye sight and beedi work makes them vulnerable to tuberculosis and breathing problems.They are always indebted and the contractors use it. Women are not able to go out and remain under tremendous social pressure. This work is seasonal and hence artisans remain workless for many months. The contractors do not pay on time and for many months. Their own money is treated as advance and used as a tool of exploitation. Shabanam’s eyes are asking various questions to me. But after hearing from many people she has this hope also that her voice and feeling will go to people who can think of saving this art. ‘Have you heard about Narega’, I ask. Yes, ‘ I know about it and they get Rs 100/- for their 8 hours work while we work to save this art and yet Rs 100 is a dream for us even in the three-four days. What an irony’, she says. I have refused to accept defeat even in the darkest hour of life as these circumstances are created by our society and apathy. Democracy does not mean anything to them as it failed to protect them. They do not even know whether they have rights to get a dignified return for their work. Those who fight in their names have failed to benefits as most of these war cry’s actually created leaders and do not really resolve the issues of the people. Travelling different parts of India and speaking to various path breakers such as Shabanam is always a refreshing experience that people are still hopeful and have that ability to live their life in happiness and whatever they possess. They are exploring new ways despite the marginalisation created by the system in the past so many years. They are hope of the country even in these hours of gloom that so-called liberalisation has brought in their lives. I have seen in the eyes of Shabanam the hope for future and the courage, which is essential in these moments of crisis. One is sincerely hoping that there will be people who will be able to support such initiatives which can bring cheers in the lives of these people, our own Zardosi workers, who makes our brides beautiful, our boys look handsome and have kept our art alive despite all their pains and troubles.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Initiative for Change in Fatehpur

Fatehpur's Balmikis fight for Life with dignity and honor By Vidya Bhushan Rawat Chanda is a happy woman today as she has more confidence in her ability as a human being which was degraded due to her work which she was forced to do by the caste forces. In the Lalauli village of feudal Muslims and other Hindu castes, she was engaged in picking up the human excreta for nothing. Two chapatis were the things which they got in lieu of their work. But that Chapatis for the most degrading work actually took away the freedom, liberty and dignity of Chanda. Yet, when the people like Dheeraj Balmiki entered in the area with an aim to pursuade people leaving this occupation they had to face a lot of resistance. Primarily, the people were upset as what would they do in the absence of an 'alternative' and secondly and most importantly on the retailation from local powerful community of Muslims which would feel threatened as who 'would clean' their toilets if these people leave the work. August 13th, 2010 , under the 'People's Alliance Against Untouchability' activist in different parts of Uttar-Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh took out rallies and protest marches against mannual scavenging and called for its total abolition and complete rehabilitation of the people engaged in this work. Chanda was in the forefront of that protest despite the known fact what would happen to her if things do not materialise. Actually, the confidence of Chanda had grown after participating in a conference against untouchability in Nagpur where she was asked to speak. For the first time, she ventured out of district headquarter of Fatehpur and stayed at Nagaloka Buddhist Center in Nagpur. She realised that life was much bigger outside her confined 'work' area and those domesticated world where she was always treated as untouchable and with utter contempt. Nobody would talk to her pleasanly and with respect but here in the conference for the first time she felt that she too was a human being and could shake hands with people and eat along with them at the same dining table. And then when she spoke to me, the fire in her started, ' Sir, I am now ready to fight. Now, I am changed completely. I will not at all do this work again even if I remain hungry. Even if the entire people kill me, I am not going to do this indignified work', she empahsied. Many months later when I met her in Fatehpur, one of the greatest victory for us was when the entire village of Lalauli was forced to leave the manual scavenging. After our memerendum to officials and continuous campaigning the government officials went to the village and souught clarification. The biggest threat was coming from those people who had these latrines but the officials threatened them with dire consequences if they do not close down their toielts. People like Chanda were already advocating for the community to come out of this mindset that their ancestors did this work hence they had to follow it. Its simply blackmailing of our community, she said. Dalit Yuva Swabhiman Manch was leading the movement in the Balmiki community for voluntary rejection of manual scavenging from with in community. ofcourse, it was also part of the 'People's Alliance against Untouchability' and campaigning to collect about one lakh signature from the State of Uttar-Pradesh to submit it to the government to rehabilitate the women from this community who leave manual scavenging with five acres of agricultural land so that they can live theirilife with dignity. Today nearly 6 villages voluntarily left the work of manual scavenging in Fatehpur and our campaign is growing says, Dheeraj. The only thing people face is 'future' and 'alternative' and we have to think about it, he quipped. 'While we all know how government function in this country and that the community can not be dependent on government. We should campaign with government and put pressure on her but at the same point of time the community must also prepare itself to leave this dirty work at their own. What we were looking was a community initiative against manual scavenging and we feel happy that this has happened in many of the villages in Fatehpur where people have voluntarily left the manual scavenging', says Praksh Balmiki. About 12 kilometer from Fatehpur is village Damapur which has a population of 1,500 people. In the five families of Balmikis 8 women were engaged in the manual scavenging who were cleaning the toilets at nearly 115 families of Muslims, Thakurs and Brahmins. Two of the families had 1/2 bigha agricultural land to cultivate. The women are now engaged as agricultural labour apart from work at the NREGA. Unfortunately, there is another grim reality of village life where even the basic facilities meant for them are not made available to them. None of the family have BPL cards to procure ration from the PDS shop. Most of them have got NREGA job card yet the payment made for the work done take three weeks to one month. Ganga Deiya has four sons and three daughters. She left manual scavenging but has no pain though life is tougher for her. Her husband make bamboo work. In the absence of resources the children could not get education. Most of them feel that if the government provide them at least two acres of land then it would be able to create a sense of ownership and dignity among them. Some of them even felt that soft loans should be provided for buffelo rearing, goat rearing and pig rearing etc. However, they also felt that starting tea shop or grocerie shop in the village is not an option as none would buy product from them. In the village Badanpur, which is about 6 kilometer from Fatehpur town nearly 9 women volutnarily left the work. These women were engaged in manual scavenging and after the intervention of Dalit Yuva Garima Manch, felt it important to leave the work. Here too they have the crisis of livelihood and most of them want to get some training whether in sewing or tailoring or Zardosi work. They are also demanding five acres of land from the state government so that they can live their lives in dignity and with honor. It was a difficult work but not impossible to make people think that their dignity and self respect was more important than such non payable work which degrade them virtualy and make them 'slave' of the feudal caste Hindus and upper caste Muslims who too are in large number in some of these localities where manual scavenging takes place. According to Prakash Balmiki, its easier to complaint to municipality and then get an action but that is dangerous as it would only add to the woes of the community. The Manual Scavenging Abolition Act actually justify the victimisation of the victim and hence on many ocassions whenever we made a visit, we were careful not to send these informations to the authorities, the main action would be against the people engaged. In the past few months, many women who were doing and whose names appeared in the papers faced problems as their husbands who were working in the Nagar-Palikas as Safai Karmcharis were suspended. Such campaigns are not good in the people's interest says Dheeraj Balmiki. We can not be instrumental in targetting our own people even the Nagar-Palika. We have to understand why our women whose husbands or children work in the Nagar-Palika were still engaged in the work says Dheeraj. Most of the workers these days are being appointed on 'adhoc' and contract basis. They do not have any social security or leave benefit. Many time the salaries backlog is of over 6 months which kills them virtually. Moreover, the salaries are so low and if there is a leave then you do not get the amount too, that forces the females of the family to do the business. Dheeraj says that ' We need to be careful in such work. I have been using negative thing in my work to bring people to positivity, like leave this work otherwise we will complaint or such as giving example of what a great health and mind would be there with doing this 'work'. Some time you have to speak 'the exact opposite' for the people to understand otherwise they do not understand, says Dheeraj.The battle is bigger for the Balmiki community as Malti Balmiki who has been constantly participating in the awareness programmes. From her personal life where pressure at home to now going outside for studies, she face oppression virtually daily, yet her head is high. ' It is not that only upper caste inflict untouchability on us, we are isolated in our own communities and they practice untouchability with us who claimed to be Scheduled Castes and backward communities too'. Malti devotes her time to social action too and persuing her studies too even after the marriage where she is living in a very traditional family where going out of home for work is not considered good. It is a fact that the Balmiki community was kept out of many developmental programmes. There may be many reasons for that includng local caste politics. Most of them are not even in the developmental agenda of the organisations. When issue of land redistribution comes, organisations are conspicuously silent and Balmikis outside its perview may be becasue a majority of them living in the urban centers yet a look at the rural areas would show how difficult is the life of those who have not got a job with municipality. Actually, municipality is the 'lifeline' of the community. It has worked well but also kept them isolated from other movements of the Dalit communities and when politics comes it become easier for 'leaders' to take sides. Majority of them are landless and live in the desperate situation. Yet, the new youngs have refused to accept the defeat. In Fatehpur people like Babulal have started their own band. Dheeraj himself did not go to do the same work while Prakash Balmiki is still persuing higher education. A number of girls are now learning computers and sewing along with other girls of different communities including Muslims. Today, at attempt has been made in Fatehpur to provide them literature of great writers and liberators such as Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Jyoti Ba Phule, Periyar and many others like them to bring awareness and change in their lives. The change is coming. Fatehpur's youngs are now not sitting idol and they are preparing a new , world of their own. The community is now looking forward. It does not sit and wait for something happen. As I write this Dheeraj informs me about a possible blockade by the upper caste people as they have closed the main passage of the community which link to the road. Such road blockade by the caste Hindus are open and blantant violation of human rights of the Dalits. The fact is they not only block the road but filed FIR against the people opposing it. In fact UP government will have to introduce such stringent laws that where ever the Dalits and other marginalised communities are not allowed passage by the caste Hindus or Muslims or OBC people, actions must be taken against them as they are blatant violation of human rights. In the village Vinobapuri, with the efforts of community mobilsation ( and here we have Kanjar community people), a link road is being developed and primary school also will soon be there in the locality. Ofcourse, just four kilometer from district headquarter and with in the local municiple area this does not have electricity at the moment. One can understand what could be the future of the people. As, I move a few yards from the village towards the main road, I find a locality which is called as 'Balmiki-Ambedkar Aawas Yojna' but most of the villagers say it is Duda colony. I decide to get down and want to have a look to only find to my utter dismay that there is not a single Balmiki family who have got a house here. There are a few of them who are from Chamar community but most others hail from relatively better background. Its tragic that such colonies too which are being built in the name of Balmiki-Ambedkar Awas does not have a space for people from the community. There is a dire need to stop this victimisation and isolation of communities. A large number of houses in such colonies are empty and most of those living there claims that 'powerful' people come here and 'enjoy' in the night. This has made the women feel threatned and unsafe in the entire area. Its tragic that when I leave this place, I found two old women ( mother and daughter) from Ravidasi community who wanted us to request the government provide them house. Living in pethatic conditions, now many of the families have got notices from the authorities to depoist the money which they have not. Actually, the Dalals i.e. middlemen with local political linkages take money from the people and promise them heaven. Most of the people who have got into these places felt that the government has gifted them these houses for a token amount of money but now they are realising that they are in a trap when huge bills piles up for them. In Lalauli and Dasauli village, the local Muslims were the culprits of forcing people into the scavenging work. It was painful when I saw even young girls of 7-8 years age in manual scavenging. Now both the villages have lef manual scavenging work. Ofcourse, we have to hard think what alternative could we provide to the people as well as how can we take our children further. That is a big challenge but as Maina who came into this work at a very young age of 8 years, is now liberaated and ready to fly. Though she does not know what to do as her parents did not have time to send her to school, even at this age of 17 years, she has dreams of future. Much of our battle is 'internal' says Malti, we can fight with outsiders, we know how to tackle but who will tell our parents and in laws to allow their girls to go to school, do work, learn professional courses. ' Our community is not that weak financially, as others might be, but still they do not want us to go out. At the young age of 15, the social pressure is so much that we have to get married. Malti has decided that she will work and work for the community. She put Baba Saheb Ambedkar and Buddha's photograph in her home despite reluctance of her in laws who worship the 'Hindu Gods'. Chanda is raring to go to fight against injustice. Dheeraj is already fighting for the community and now initiaed 'Prerna Kendra' for community girls and boys in Fatehpur along with Babu Prasad and Prakash to bring community boys and girls into the world of computers and literature of the Dalit movent. Dheeraj rightfully says that It is time for the community youth to come and join hand with other like minded people and combinely fight for their rights, dingity and freedom as well as be part of the revolution initiated by Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Swami Achhutananda and his Adi-dharma movement

SWAMI ACHHUTANAND HARIHAR (1869--1933): A VOICE AGAINST SOCIAL EXCLUSION, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL MARGINALIZATION By Dr. Mahendra Pratap Rana INTRODUCTION: The emergence of untouchable consciousness and political voice spread across the country during the last quarter of the 19th century is a phenomenon that has received a very little attention by non-Dalits and Dalit scholars. Swami Achhutanand Harihar (original name Hirala) was born on 6th May, 1869 in District-Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh State. He was well worse in eight languages such as Hindi, Sanskrit, Pharsi, Marathi, Bangla, Gurumukhi, Urdu and English. Hiralal worked for Arya Samaj from 1905 to 1917 was honoured with the title of “Pandit Hariharanand” and made chief of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan unit. Witnessing the existing untouchability practiced by Arya Samaj, he not only resigned but also returned the title of Pandit Hariharanand to Arya Samaj and adopted a title of “Swami Achchutanand Harihar” as a mark of identity of the untouchables. He formed “Bharatiya Achhut Mahasabha” to address social, political and economic issues of untouchables and edited a monthly magazine ‘Achhut’ from Delhi in November, 1917 to awaken his people at village level. The untouchables can achieve everything if they are educated and Hindus have already closed the door of education for them. Therefore, untouchables should open schools. They should not leave their children uneducated if they want to live a human life. Adi-Dharma: An alternative to Hindu religion Swami Achchutanand Harihar was convinced that the Untouchables continue to suffer social, political and economic subjugation as long as they are Hindu. Therefore, he launched Adi-Dharma (a religion for original race of Bharat-Native Indians) an alternative religion for untouchables to uplift them socially, culturally, religiously and economically. He challenged every customs and laws which placed untouchables as lower castes in the society. Instead of worshiping Hindu gods, they should dedicate themselves to Bhakti (prayer) or devotion as alternative religious rites which had been practiced prior to the advent of the Aryans. The untouchables believe in a philosophy or dharma which they understand is Vyavaharik, Tarksangat or scientifically logical. Achhutanand Harihar focus on Truth and scientific philosophy seems he preaches the philosophy propounded by Gautam Buddha. Instead of throwing dead animals, carrying night soil and digging Hindu’s graveyards, they should adopt other means to come out from poverty and hunger. The untouchables and Shudra castes have to burry their differences if they want to rule the country. You have to demolish the exploitative structure and it will be possible only when you become a ruling race. Prince of Wales: 17 Points demands presented by Swami Achhutanand Harihar Achhutanand saw British rule, with the possibility of political representation and a source of salvation for the untouchables. Prince of Wales was on official visit to India in 1922. Swamiji utilized the opportunity and organized a conference” at Purana Quila (Old Fort) where more then ten thousands untouchables and Shudras attended. Prince of Wales was the Chief Guest in the conference. While welcoming the chief guest, Swami Achhutanand presented 17 point demands before Prince of Wales. Those demands were such as: 1. The Untouchable communities will progress with education only, therefore, it is most urgent that schools to be opened for them. 2. Law should be enacted and implemented in true spirit to eradicate Untouchability. 3. Separate Electorate granted political representation untouchables to be introduced and ensure their representation in proportion to their population. 4. Legal provisions to be made to ensure representation of untouchable communities/ native Indian communities in local bodies such as Municipal Corporations, District Boards, Town areas and Notified areas. 5. Educated Untouchables be appointed on Gazetted posts. 6. It should be made an official policy to promote native Indian communities to start their own trade and business. In addition, they must be given financial support from government to start that business. 7. Begar Pratha should be abolished. 8. The social, political and economic rights in terms of progress of Untouchable communities should not be left any more on Hindus and British Government should take extra care to protect their rights. 9. Representation to be given to them in proportion to their population in every Government and private controlled businesses. 10. The Untouchable communities are extremely poor and can not afford the cost of education; therefore, scholarship must be given to every child. 11. Separate school to be opened in villages where Untouchable communities live in majority. 12. The untouchable castes were not recruited to the subordinate ranks of the police force because of lack of awareness as well as social restrictions. Swami Achchutanand Harihar demanded that they must be recruited in police and armed forces. 13. There is need to enhance in wages. 14. The Chaukidar in the villages shall be appointed from the untouchable castes. 15. The untouchable communities should be given the Government lands belong to the Gram Sabhas. 16. The untouchable communities should be given representation in State Assemblies. 17. Women belong to the Brahmins and Kshatriyas have been exploited by their males only, therefore, provisions be made to ensure basic rights to them. Simon Commission: An alternative plans for socio-economic development of untouchables: Swami Acchutanand Harihar presented the “socio-economic conditions and alternative plans for the liberation of untouchables” before Simon Commission. He convinced the members that Congress and its leaders as Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi are representing Hindus; they can’t be representative of untouchables at national as well as international forums. Letters to the organisors of Round Table Conference, London to invite leaders of Untouchable Community: Acchutanand Harihar and his supporters sent several letters and Telegraphs to the organisors of Round Table Conference in London to extend official invitation to the untouchable leaders separately. He stated in one of his letter stated that untouchables have no faith in the leadership of Gandhi and Congress led movement in India and abroad as far as the issues of untouchables are concerned. It was a matter of a great satisfaction for him when he got a message that Dr. Ambedkar was officially invited for the Round Table Conference. Before living for Round Table Conference in 1930, Dr. Ambedkar met and discussed all those issues related to untouchables were raised in the conference. Separate Electorate, Gandhi’s Fast unto Death: A reply to Gandhi by Swami Acchutanand Harihar The British Premier granted separate seats in the Provincial Legislatures, and the right of double vote to the Untouchables under which they were to elect their own representatives under Communal Award on 20 August 1932. Gandhi sat on fast unto death 20 September, 1932 against the grant of separate electorate to the Untouchables Swami Acchutanand Harihar organized protest rallies in Prayag, Etawah, Lucknow and Kanpur against the fast of Gandhi. Addressing the rally as a chief guest Harihar said that “Gandhi’s fast unto death is a mischievous act against untouchables being granted political rights. We can not accept joint electorate at any cost. If Hindus consider untouchables their brother then why not they give some seats in Vidhan Sabhas and local wards. Joint electorate is a death nail for untouchables and we will go to any extent to ensure that separate electorate is to be given to them. Email :> --