By Our Representative Taking its campaign to a new level, the Abhadcched Mukt Bharat Andolan (Untouchability Free India Movement): Mission 2047, launched by well-known Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accept the demand put forwand by Dr BR Ambedkar, made exactly 85 years ago, to provide separate electorate for Dalits.
Separate electorate, as demanded by Dr Ambedkar in early 1930s from the British rulers, was meant to allow Dalits (Ambedkar called them depressed classes) to choose their own elected representatives, with Dalits having two votes — one for the general candidate and another for the Dalit candidate. Ambedkar beleived this was necessary to remove the scourge of untouchability from India. Addressing a well-attended Dalit rally in Modi’s hometown Vadnagar in the symbolic presence Dr Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, Macwan recalled that Dr Ambedkar was “pressured” to give up his demand before Mahatma Gandhi on September 24, 1932, who had sat on fast unto death. “Called Poona Pact, an agreement was reached between Gandhiji and Ambedkar, under which Gandhiji, as representative of the dominant caste Hindus, assured Ambedkar, as representative of depressed classes, that caste Hindus under him take full responsibility for the abolition of untouchabily from India”, said Macwan.
However, Macwan regretted, “Even 70 years after independence and 85 years after the Poona Pact, untouchability has remained intact, and successive governments of India have failed to abolish it despite the existence of stringent laws. Hence the demand to revert back to the demand put forward by Ambedkar to provide separate electorate for Dalits.”
Macwan said, “Under the Poona agreement, while Ambedkar gave up his demand for providing separate electorate as he wanted to save the life of Gandhiji, who had gone on fast, an agreement was also reached to provide reservation to the depressed class — Dalit and Adivasi — candidates. We strongly feel that the electoral reservation system has failed to end untouchability.”
The demand from Macwan, who is founder of Gujarat’s largest Dalit rights organization, Navsarjan, comes following another campaign launched by him under the banner of the Dr Ambedkar Vechan Pratibandh Samiti, or Stop Selling Dr Ambedkar Committee, representing before elected Dalit representatives of Gujarat, MLAs and MPs of both the BJP and the Congress, to explain what they had done to end untouchability in their constituencies.
Preceded by a well-attended rally, during one such representation, BJP MP Shambhunath Tundiya, who heads the powerful Dalit religious seat (gadi) at Zanzarka, towards the south of Ahmedabad, was asked as to why did he not condemn anti-Dalit slogans at Saharanpur in UP, where Dalit houses were ransacked, or has stopped uttering a word against the cow vigilantes, who had attacked Dalits at Una in Gujarat and elsewhere. The Dalit rally at Vadnagar, situated in North Gujarat, will be followed by similar such rallies in at Shiyali village in Limdi taluka of Surendranagar district on September 25 and Dholka on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti.
Speaking on the occasion, Prakash Ambedkar, supporting the demand of separate electorate for Dalits, said that it was needed because MLAs and MPs of reserved constituencies are elected by all voters together (Dalits plus non-Dalits), pointing out, the number of voters who are against freedom of Dalits outnumber Dalit voters in reserved constituencies.
The result, he opined, is that the people who are thus elected work not for Dalits, but for people who elected them, i.e. people opposed to the freedom and development of the Dalits,adding, this is a major reason why the fight against untouchability on the part of the elected Dalit representatives fails to acquire strength