The body that Dana Manjhi is seen carrying on his shoulders is not of his wife – it is the body of Bharat Mata. It is the funeral procession of our deadened social and political system. Dana Manjhi’s wife hasn’t died, Bharat Mata has. But what difference does it make? What is new about it? These kinds of things keep happening. Manjhi is a Tribal. The Tribals, the Dalits, the EBCs – this is their destiny. I harbour no hopes from this society. These kinds of videos routinely go viral on social media. You must have already forgotten the anti-Tribal riots of Odisha; the Una atrocities must have been already relegated to the back of your mind. But atrocities against Tribals-Dalits are not only of kind that was witnessed in Una. They take myriad forms and shapes. You may be deprived of your country, you may be pushed into grinding poverty, you may be stripped of your self-respect. The Tribals were deprived of their country and called “vanvasi” (forest dwellers). Now, their water, forests and land are also being snatched from them. They are now the residents of nowhere. No, don’t see this just as the failure of the system. This is the ugly face of the brahmanical system.
The government has come out with the statement that Manjhi did not wait for the ambulance. Those who have been waiting for centuries for you to become human beings, you are asking them to wait longer still. How easy is to mouth such explanations! First, they should wait for death, and then for the ambulance. The dead woman was a TB patient and the government personnel were wary of contracting the disease. You were protecting yourself from an infectious disease, but do you realize that Brahmanism is a much more infectious disease than TB and it has been afflicting this nation for centuries? What India needs is protection from this affliction. Babasaheb Ambedkar had said, “Brahmanism is poison.” But you drank it, thinking it is the elixir of life. You even fed the society on it. For you, Brahmanism is not poison; the Dalits, the Tribals and the EBCs are. No one ever had any hopes from this brahmanical system. Its victims figuring on social media at least get some moistened eyes, even though the tears dry up soon. Others do not get even that. The Dalits and the Tribals not only witness but also undergo such horrors every day.
You brought together lakhs at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to protest against corruption. But when it came to protesting against atrocities against Dalits, you did not get leave from your office. Had you risen for them, we would have acknowledged that rose up for the nation. You are worried about human rights violations in Balochistan but not about the social, political and economic atrocities against the Dalits. And why should you be? These people are not in the ambit of your nationalism. The Prime Minister says that his party is a party of nationalists. What about those who are not in his party? You are free to decide whether Pakistan is hell, but one thing is for sure: you have made India a hell for Tribals, Dalits and EBCs. On the one hand, you say that you do not believe in caste, on the other hand, you appoint a commission to probe the caste of Rohit Vemula. You are the king of Machiavelli’s Prince, who has to appear generous, without being sensitive.
The Dalits, Tribals and EBCs form 80 per cent of the population of Odisha and 100 per cent of its poor. Most of them live in the southern and eastern parts of the state. The upper castes, on the other hand, are concentrated in the coastal areas, where the poverty levels are much lower. According to 1992-2000 figures, 90 per cent of the inhabitants of the southern and eastern parts of the state were poor. The figures of Odisha government say that 39 per cent of the state’s entire population live below the poverty line. The fact is that the Tribals, the Dalits and the EBCs of the state are living in absolute poverty. These are official figures and have been published by the Odisha government in its Economic Survey for 2014-15. More importantly, these figures show that there has been no significant change in the poverty levels of these sections over the last many decades. A survey of rural families conducted by the Panchayati Raj department of Odisha Government in 1992 said 80 per cent of the state’s residents lived in the rural areas that lacked basic facilities like roads, schools, hospitals and banks. Micro-financing facilities are also not available to the people of these areas. And who are these people? They are Dalits, Tribals and EBCs. Clearly, the brahmanical government is not interested in making them a part of the mainstream.
Note that the eastern, western and southern parts of the state are exceptionally rich in mineral wealth. If roads have been built in these regions, it has only been to give trucks of private companies access to mines located in deep forests. The invaluable mineral resources belong to the people but they are leading miserable lives. You keep branding them as Naxals and looting their resources. If your temples throw up gold worth millions and billions, it is not national wealth but the property of the temples. But the minerals excavated from mines in the neighbourhood of the abodes of Tribals and Dalits are national wealth – in other words, your wealth. And you keep boasting about your commitment to justice! Sometimes, one feels that the concept of nation is also an elaborate farce. Whenever the Dalits or Tribals raise their voice against you, you promptly declare them Naxals or traitors and rain bullets on them. Your talk of merit is a big fraud. Your government is manned by meritorious persons who have been educated abroad. The reality of your character and merit had been exposed long ago. Now, only the voices against you are getting shriller. Stop conducting surveys to determine the socio-economic and political status of the Dalits, the Tribals and the EBCs. Instead of splurging money on surveys, spend it on them. Famous American columnist Bill Vaughan wrote, “It would be nice if the poor were to get even half of the money that is spent in studying them.” Where is the need for an elaborate exercise to locate the poor among the Dalits, the Tribals and the EBCs. When everyone is poor, what will a survey find out? Who is selling the country’s previous natural resources for a song? Our resources are being sold to buy Italian chandeliers for your homes. How do you become the owner of the land on which we have been living for thousands of years?
When incidents like Dharmapuri, Una, Laxmanpur Bathe and Odisha take place, you do not consider them a national calamity; you do not announce national mourning. You will not do that because you are singularly deprived of national and human consciousness. You can impose President’s rule in states on flimsy grounds. Why should atrocities against the Dalits, the Tribals and the EBCs not be considered “a breakdown of Constitutional machinery”? The Constitution does but you don’t follow the Constitution at all. I am still trying to figure which Bharat Mata you talk about – the one seen in pictures? For me, Dana Manjhi was carrying Bharat Mata on his shoulders.