PERSECUTION: Dalit activists gear up their activities in Greater Vancouver

GURPREET SINGH
RADIO INDIA

Dalit activists

Dalit activists celebrated the 57th birthday of Mayawati, the former Chief Minister of the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, at a community centre in Vancouver this past Sunday. Submitted photo

The local Dalit activists who represent oppressed classes and groups regarded as “untouchables” in a caste-ridden Indian society have geared up their activities in Greater Vancouver. As Canada is witnessing angry protests by the supporters of Idle No More, an indigenous movement, Dalits, too, have started asserting themselves in the face of continued persecution within secular and democratic India in the form of physical violence and untouchability practiced in temples and public places.

On Jan. 27, the Dalit activists associated with Chetna Society are organizing a public discussion at Douglas College in New Westminster on sexual violence against Dalit and poor women, particularly in rural India. The organizers, Paramjit Kainth and Surjit Bains, believe that there is a complete silence over this continued sexual violence against Dalit and tribal women as it did not spark a similar outrage that followed the gang rape of a 23-year-old student in Delhi on Dec. 16, 2012. The victim of that rape later died. The discussion will be focused on class and caste prejudice against Dalit rape victims.

The leaders of the group also showed up at a rally that was recently organized in Surrey to protest against the Delhi gang rape. This point was raised at the rally, too, by the Chetna Association leaders, Jai Birdi and Kamlesh Ahir. Shital Kler, another activist, raised this issue at a separate gathering organized at Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha Temple to mark the birth anniversary of a towering Dalit activist, the late Mangu Ram Muggowal, on Sunday in Burnaby. He asked for how long Dalit women will continue to suffer sexual exploitation at the hands of the rich and influential? G.D. Gaddu and Subedar Ujjagar Singh also emphasized that discrimination against Dalits continues despite political independence of India from the British.

In the meantime, Dalit activists also celebrated the 57th birthday of Mayawati, the former Chief Minister of the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh, at a community centre in Vancouver this past Sunday. A special cake was cut on the occasion. Mayawati is the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) that mainly represents Dalits and was the first Dalit woman Chief Minister of a caste-ridden state. Speakers not only wished for her long and healthy life but also expressed their desire to see her as the future Prime Minister of India. One of the organizers, Paramjit Kainth, announced that they would soon float a Canadian wing of the BSP.

Her supporters, like Mohan Lal Karimpuri and Jai Birdi, said that due to a strong caste bias against her in the media her birth celebrations are often mocked in the press whereas the politicians belonging to socalled “upper castes” hardly get bad press for doing so.

Kamlesh Ahir said that Mayawati has been instrumental in raising the low self esteem of Dalit women like her who have been oppressed for centuries. Others who spoke on the occasion were Sita Ram Ahir, Malook Chand Kler, Surinder Ranga, Shital Kler, Anmol Preet, Ravi, Mohan Banga, Rattan Pal, Surjit Bains and Varinder Bangar.

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