Rohini Pawar is a feminist, self-help group leader, onion farmer, juice stall owner, ASHA (health) worker, and a Community Correspondent. This woman of boundless passion and open-hearted courage dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her dreams were curtailed when she was married at 15. “I felt like all my dreams would crash and end there,” she says. “I was scared,…
Temple in Beed district, Maharashtra follows archaic customs demeaning to basic human dignity.
About the Video: The Hindu god Shani finds embodiment in the planet Saturn and is regarded as a kind of dark God who can cast an ill-omen on the unsuspecting devotee. Devotees attempt to propitiate this moody deity by bathing its idol in sesame oil mixed with turmeric, kumkum, pulses and flowers. The oil offered to the idols is collected in a receptacle behind the temple.
When IndiaUnheard Correspondent Rohini Powar was visiting a Shani temple at Rakshasbhuvan village, Maharashtra she witnessed the dalits of the village scooping up the dirty oil from the pool and carrying it home in containers. They would later use it to cook their food. When she asked the dalit women why they were clearing the temple’s dirty oil, they replied that this was the custom. The Brahmin’s worked within the temple, while they carried out the remains.
The Community Correspondent says: “My husband was born and brought up in Rakshasbhuvan so I am very familiar with the place. Ever since I first visited the temple I had noticed the dalits carrying out the oil. I realized that there was something intrinsically wrong in the way the system was working. I spoke to the dalits themselves but they were uneducated and most had never travelled outside their village. They seemed resigned to the roles conferred upon them by religion and society. I wanted to make the video so the dalits of Rakshasbhuvan village reflect upon their situation. Against hundreds of years of oppression and indoctrination, opening their eyes to their own realities seemed to be the first logical step towards change.”
The Rights of the People: 1956 was a landmark year for the dalits and dalit movements scross India. Under the guidance of the great dalit leader and intellectual Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the dalits in India and especially in the leader’s home state of Maharashtra, protested against scriptures and teachings of Hindu religion and society that propagated the idea of a caste system. En masse, they renounced Hinduism and converted to Buddhism. The act was at once a reaction, a protest, a symbol, an astute political move, a rejection, an affirmation and a step away from darkness into enlightenment. More than 50 years have passed since the act and Maharashtra continues to record some of the worst statistics for caste based discrimination and violence.
Article 17 of India’s Constitution, framed by Dr. Ambedkar, seeks to abolish “untouchability” and its practise. Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1995 and its previous avatars have all tried to root out all forms of caste discrimination and violence but very little has translated into reality. But in places like Rakhsasbhuvan, cut away from the mainstream, underdeveloped and undereducated, reigned over by the presiding deities of orthodoxy, superstition and ignorance, neither law nor enlightenment can seem to find a way through. The shadow of Shani blacks out the sun.
Call to Action: “My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle, not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality." - - B.R. Ambedkar
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