Bhim Yatra concludes at Jantar Mantar after four months of campaigning across India
(with inputs and photos from Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Solidarity Group)
Bhim Yatra 2016, that began in Assam on 10th December 2015 reached Delhi on 13th April 2016 in time for 125th Birth anniversary of BabaSaheb Ambedkar. “STOP KILLING US” ran the slogan of over 100 yatris who went across most of the Indian states in their efforts to end the scourge of manual scavenging, which remains the most vicious form of casteist oppression yet an enduring institution of ‘modern India’. Hundreds of members of Safai Karamchari Andolan, and members of civil society descended upon Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to demand an end to this epidemic of casteist, institutional murder. They sought an unconditional apology from the Indian State for having failed to abolish this inhuman practice and protect the most vulnerable Dalit population that suffer the most as a consequence of this practice. They have demanded speedy and effective implementation of the new legislation and an enhanced social and financial support to rehabilitate workers. The leaders declared that while the yatra concluded in Delhi, the fight goes on in every state and district to destroy dry toilets, rescue manual scavengers, rehabilitate them and procure just compensation for the families of those who have lost their lives.
Many hundreds have been killed as direct consequence of this practice since the latest legislation to abolish manual scavenging and rehabilitate manual scavengers was passed by the Indian parliament in 2013. Even as the Yatra was proceeding many scavengers perished in cleaning septic tanks and sewers in many parts of India. On the very day the Yatra left Chennai to Kanyakumari, there was a pathetic incident in which three workers from Kannaginagar were killed while cleaning a septic tank of a restaurant. That the practice continues and deaths and permanent disabilities occur at such regularity is a very disturbing fact. The workers express their sincere hope that in a country with such technological capability as to send satellites to Mars, solutions to every day problems can be found and humans can be liberated from this inhuman practice. Yet, after decades of struggle, there has been no effective solution, making many lament that the problem does not lie in engineering and infrastructure, but in our social conscience that de-humanises vast sections of our society through caste. Many believe that only if the majority of the people in this country rise up to demand a social transformation, will this ever end.
Find below the demands of the Safai Karamcharis