Report of the Activities of COD 2006

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Phule Ambedkar Report

11th April 2006 at IPC, Nagpur
Jointly organized by NCCI Dalit Desk and IPC

The One-Day Seminar on “Phule and Ambedkar: Directions to the Liberation Movement Today” was held on the 11th day of April 2006 at India Peace Center, Nagpur. The seminar was attended by participants from different backgrounds. The students from Law College, students of Social work, from the SCM local unit, local Church participants, Church leaders, teachers, social activists and scholars. Nearly 60 participants attended this seminar.

Prior to the beginning of the seminar, few of the participants led by Bp. DK Sahu, the General Secretary of NCCI, garlanded the statue of Shri Mahatma Phule in the city of Nagpur.

Participants listeningDr. John Chelladurai, Director of IPC has given a formal welcome to all the participants to the seminar. Then Rev. Raj Bharath Patta, Executive Secretary for NCCI- Dalit concerns introduced the importance of the theme of the day. In his talk, he mentioned the importance of the day 11th April 2006, for this day happens to be the 179th janma jayanthi (birth anniversary) of Shri. Mahatma Jothirao Phule, the same day happens to be the Mahaveer Jayanthi (Lord Mahaveer’s birth anniversary, founder of Jainism), the same day happens to be Id-E-Milad (the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad, the founder of Islam), and the same day happens to be the Holy Tuesday for the Christians, remembering the passion of Lord Jesus Christ. No such day again in history with so many occasions may turn up, so having a seminar on such day, the organizers thought would be a historic one adding grace to all the occasions.  Both Phule and Ambedkar are the pioneers of Liberation movements in India, and their contributions to the Indian society have had an indelible impact, and so commemorating the birth anniversaries of both these liberators on 11th April and on 14th April, a one-day seminar has been organized to recollect the contributions of these two men and look forward for further directions to the modern day liberation movements. Both Phule and Ambedkar provide direction and method for our times in our today’s liberation journey, besides being the role models.

Rt. Rev. Dr. D.K. Sahu, the General Secretary of NCCI in his inaugural address, said that the commonality among all the Dalits today is not religion, but the dalitness that all share. Both Phule and Ambedkar have paved the way for all of us to stand united in our struggle for liberation of all that are oppressed. He further said that time has come now to widen the narrow boundaries, and create a new charter of salvation to the Dalits, i.e. Human Dignity. His address was thought provoking and was in the tone and tempo of a social activist.

Dr. Bhau Lokhande, Director, School of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Studies, Nagpur spoke on “the contributions of Phule and Ambedkar.” He has exposed various prolific contributions of Phule and Ambedkar in their times. Dr.Lokhande said that Jotirao Phule was the first Indian who revolted against the priest craft and the caste system, and started a social movement for the liberation of the lower classes, the under privileged, the down trodden and the Indian women. He agitated for the welfare of Indian peasants and workers, and the Indian labour movement is an offshoot of his social movement. It was Phule’s aim to reconstruct the social order on the basis of social equality, justice and reason. He challenged ‘brahminical patriarchy’ and was first to do so. He was the first Indian to start a school for the poor and subalterns, and a girl’s school in Maharastra. He was the champion who stood for the dignity of human being, religious toleration and human rights. For his untiring work in uplifting the subalterns, Phule was conferred with the title, “Mahatma” a high-soul personage by the common people.

Dr. Lokhande further said that, following the footsteps of Phule, it was Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who carried the saga of liberation. As a social reformer, Ambedkar ushered in a new era in India’s social-political history. He was bold in questioning the validity of caste system and made the Dalits aware of their rights and duties. He stood against religious oppression and towards the end of his life he embraced Neo- Buddhism so as to free his people from brahminical subjugation. He led the march at Mahad, Maharashtra to establish the rights of the untouchables to taste water from the Public Chawdar Lake’, traditionally prohibited to them. This marked the beginning of anti-caste & anti-priest movement. The temple entry movement launched by Dr. Ambedkar in 1930 at the Kalaram Temple, Nashik, Maharashtra is another landmark in the struggle for human rights & political justice. With the slogan of ‘Educate-Agitate-Organize’, the social movement led by Dr. Ambedkar aimed at Annihilation of Caste & the Reconstruction of Indian Society on the basis of equality of human beings. He was the architect of the Indian constitution.

The session ended in a lengthy and meaningful discussion.

Prof. Pradeep Aglave, HOD Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Thought, Nagpur and Dr. Kishore Mahabal, Department of Political Science, RTM, Nagpur University, Nagpur gave talks on “The Post Phule and Ambedkar Liberation Movement.” This session was moderated by Bishop. Naresh Ambala, the Bishop of CNI Eastern Himalayan Diocese. The two speakers have highlighted the liberation movements after Phule and Ambedkar. The Socialist/ Communist movements were strengthened after Phule and Ambedkar, the Gandhian Movement of Peace and Ahimsa went along, the feminist movements emerged, and finally anti-neo-liberalisation movements continued besides the Dalit and Tribal liberation movements. The speakers expressed the grief of not having the right role models today as that of Phule and Ambedkar. The speakers also called on the younger generations to carry on the legacy of those two pioneers for they strived hard not just for a section of a community but for the holistic development of the society.

This session also had a lengthy debate and discussion particularly in calling Gandhian Movement as the one carried along in tune with the Ambedkarite liberation movement.

In the post lunch session Dr. Krishna Kamble, Professor in Radiology in Government Medical College, Nagpur and Dr. Suresh Khairnar, Convener, Dharm Nirpeksh Nagrik Munch, Nagpur spoke on “An Appraisal of Present Day Liberation Movement.” Both the speakers brought out that today there emerged many liberation movements all around India, though fighting for a common cause, are divided and have become hostile to each other. They reminded that ‘unite we stand, divide we fall.’ The speakers also appreciated the efforts of various groups who are fighting relentlessly for the cause of liberation, transcending all the barriers of religion and region. Time has come now to be more inclusivistic rather than be exclusive and narrow. Networking among the several liberation movements need to be strengthened. Sharing and caring among the networking groups is required in our common journey. The speakers have given a clarion call to the young student participants to partake in the liberation movements actively, and strive for the liberation all that are oppressed both in-season and off-season. This session also had a healthy debate and discussion.

The final session “Directions for the Liberation Movement Today” was facilitated by Dr. John Chelladurai, Director IPC, Nagpur. This session was more participatory and was dialogical. The participants along with resource persons wrestled together to bring out certain directions for the liberation movements today. These were some of the directions that were discussed and brought out.

  • In our liberation movements today, it is no longer the fight between A and B, but rather both A and B together need to work for the liberation. Methodological exclusivism of the oppressed needs to be re-visited. 
  • Strong networking of the liberation movements in India is necessary 
  • Both Phule and Ambedkar’s strived for the reformation of the whole society, so also should be the liberation movements method and direction. 
  • Divisions among the liberation movements need to be eliminated.
  • Let no religious colour be given to liberation, liberation is liberation from bondage; let liberation be not qualified as Christian liberation or Buddhist liberation etc. 
  • Local liberation movements be strengthened and supported by the national liberation movements
  • Empowerment through education needs to be given priority. 
  • Liberation movements need to be strengthened politically. 
  • Lobbying and advocating for the rights of the people need to be strengthened at the local level.

These are certain directions that were drawn our for today’s liberation movements.  The seminar concluded with all the participants re-committing themselves to the cause of liberation in their own contexts. During lunchtime, students performed a street theater on today’s liberation movement, and it has attracted the participants, for it has folk song and dance along with meaning and message. All the participants gathered as a group with their smiling and cheerful faces for a group photo.

On a whole, the seminar was successful and was very meaningful for it has challenged and committed the participants to join in every effort of liberation in India and strive towards the transformation of our societies and communities.

Rev. Raj Bharath Patta and Dr. John Chelladurai thanked all the resource persons and the participants for making this seminar more meaningful and graceful.

Rev. Raj Bharath Patta,
Executive Secretary, Dalit Concerns,
NCCI, Nagpur

Commission on Dalits
Categories NCCI

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