Artistes Sanjay Rajoura and Sheetal Sathe talk about the need to rise against caste discrimination

Popular Dalit bands and artistes will be performing in Delhi on the eve of the march to the Parliament, organised by various Dalit organisations and workers’ associations. Called “Article 14: Stand Up For Equal Rights”, Sanjay Rajoura, Sheetal Sathe, Ginni Mahi and Sujat Ambedkar will perform to highlight and reiterate the discrimination and outcomes that our caste system brings. For thousands of years now, we Indians stand divided on grounds of caste and religion. Though Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees the Right to Equality, the concept of caste is so hard-wired in our system that in our households we have different people to wash our utensils and different people to clean our toilets. We have people getting murdered, raped and abandoned for reasons as bizarre as drinking water from the same well or entering a temple. Instead of feeling proud and staying united for being the only thinking species in this universe, we are affected and discriminated due to the colour of our skins, human-made surnames, passed-on privileges and inherited judgements.

In times where we are busy discriminating and seeing minorities, Dalit people and students suffer, will this event or more events like this bring about the required change?

“Nothing is going to change, not today, not tomorrow and not any time soon. But what I want is for us to continue raising the voice. To, at least, make sure that opinions exist. There is oppression, injustice and discrimination but there should also exist the need to demolish these curses,” says Sanjay, noted stand up artist and member of Aisi Taisi Democracy, which creates political satire.

“We give our opinions on 9/11, Palestine, racial issues in the US, Indians being discriminated in Canada, UK, Australia, etc but what about the things we do to our own people? Does that not affect us? If it doesn’t affect us, there is something terribly wrong with us as human beings,” says Sanjay.

Sanjay asks when India is considered to be one of the upcoming superpowers, does it not make us powerless to stand so divided. “Does it not make us powerless when we lose our students because they were born Dalits? Does it not make us powerless when people around us, in the name of caste, won’t shake hands?” Suggesting a way to eradicate this inequality, Sanjay says, “This revolution will be successful only when Brahmins and Dalits shake hands.”

Sheetal Sathe, noted folk singer and Dalit rights activist from Maharashtra, whose protest songs strike an instant chord with the audience, believes that this is a cultural way of expressing our sincere views on caste discrimination. “We need to voice our opinions and bring to notice the ill effects of discrimination. Annihilation of caste can be achieved only when the higher castes and lower castes stand together on an equal platform. Otherwise this revolution will go nowhere. Unless the ego and hatred in people towards those of lower castes, doesn’t go away, this country won’t see the light of day. We need to treat human as human,” says Sheetal. Discussing her personal experience, Sheetal relates, “I had an inter-caste marriage and we were separated from the system, considered as untouchables and were not accepted. It has been a hard journey and I know for a fact that this is not the way to live life.”

When asked about his personal experiences, Sanjay opines, “It doesn’t have to be personal. It is not always necessary to get hurt yourself to experience pain. Will you not act if you see someone die in front of you? People who are born with privileges do not understand what others go through. We need to open our eyes and ears to acknowledge and change what happens in front of us. For me, I have seen it so much in front of me that even though it’s not personal, it is very personal at the same time.”

Commenting on the youth of the country, “I don’t think our youth understands or cares about what goes on in this country in the name of caste. If the youth did really feel strongly about this, then Rohit Vemula would have got justice by now. You ban porn and the youth is on streets fighting against it. It is in the hands of the youth to carry this movement forward but I don’t know if they will.”

(To be organised by Shamat on September 15 at Mavlankar Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi from 6.30 p.m. onwards)