20 August, 2016

Breaking Caste Barriers, Women Scavengers Tie Rakhi To Vrindavan Pundits, Sanskrit Scholars

More than 200 Dalit women, who once earned their living from manual scavenging and have been traditionally dubbed untouchables, on Wednesday broke age old taboos and tied rakhi on the hands of more than 50 upper caste priests and Sanskrit scholars at a public ceremony at the century old Gopinath Temple in Vrindavan.

The move comes close on the heels of Gopinath temple earlier breaking the 400-year-old tradition by allowing widows to celebrate the festival of holi within the precincts of the temple in August this year. The 1000 odd widows had celebrated the festival of colours along with saints and Sanskrit scholars, who are among those progressive intellectuals of the temple town having acknowledged that the times had changed and such acts needed to be performed in public to set an example.

It was virtually a new dawn for these hundred odd so called "untouchable women", as they took part in the Rakhshabandhan ceremony, organised by a social organisation, in the temple town. Having faced humiliation and insult for years because of the nature of their work, the 200 liberated manual scavenger women from Alwar and Tonk districts of Rajasthan took part in Rakhi celebrations, where 800 widows also tied the traditional thread on the hands of the upper caste saints and scholars.

Talking to TOI, Acharya Ramanujam, a teacher at Srimad Bhagwaat Vidyalaya, Vrindavan, said there should be no differences between people because of caste, colour or creed. He said the dalit women, who tied rakhis on him were his sisters. "It is time to break the shackles of caste systems, which has been created by us and not God," he said.

Usha Chamour, who came to attend the function from Alwar, said, "this is unbelievable and unexpected." She said that she had never thought of tying a Rakhi to an upper caste "brother" and was initially sceptical about the programme.

She said it's an irony that till people don't know them, they are willing to accept anything from them. "Their attitude changes the moment they learn about the work we do and the treat us like untouchables," she said.

Another liberated manual scavenger, Reshma Sarsor, said, "seriously we feel that times are changing. People have treated us badly and we suffer from a complex. But today I feel like a human being", she said. She said she was now engageded in making of papad and achar and leading a better life.

Talking to TOI, Acharya Ramanujam, teacher at Srimad Bhagwaat Vidyalaya, Vrindavan, said that there should be no caste difference with sisters and mothers. "Charno ko shudra batate hai, phir bhi unhe chute hai" these are the way small minded people think. There is nothing small and big, we all are human being. "We feel good today to see smile on their faces," said Acharya adding that these all caste based system have been created by us only. All of us are creatures of God so there is no difference among them. 

According to Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, mentor of Sulabh International, which took the initiative for the celebrations, at least ten widows from Vrindavan and Varanasi would visit Prime Minister, Narendra Modi's residence in Delhi with the Rakhis on behalf of around 2,000 widows. Dr Pathak said the main aim for organising such celebrations is to change thoughts, behaviour and attitude of the people towards widows and the so-called untouchables.

"They are also humans like us and they don't need to be discriminated against or ostracised from the society because of the circumstance they are in," he told TOI.

Courtesy: Times of India

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