I am not going to comment on the article but on the use of word "Harijan". I am sorry for using names.
The word Harijan was abhorred by all Dalits. It is as bad to Dalits as an "N-word" to blacks. Can anyone dare to say an "N-word" in US? I am sure everyone knows that Dailts do not like it. Still this reporter used it very liberally.
I remember an incident a year ago. I attended a series of lectures of South Asian conference along with Dr David Blundell. One of the lectures was by Prof Ramdas Lamb of Hawai. I knew him as he was one of our early donors. I delighted to see him in the conference and I wanted to hear his lecture.
His lecture was on Santals (Dalits) of Jharkhand. He is a white man, but more Hindu than any Indian can be. He had a pigtail. He has a Ram tattoo on his arms, and Ram picture on his laptop and he is very enthusiastic to display them publicly.
I have no problem with it. But what surprised me was his lecture. The audience is mostly Indians except a couple of whites. He started his lecture saying that he preferred to use (or only use) Harijan rather than another word to refer Dalits. He said calling Dalits by any name other than Harijan was a conspiracy of non-Hindus i.e Christians and Muslims. He started telling all accusations on Christians and Muslims stating Santals love to be Hindus, called to be Harijans though non-Dalits are trying to corrupt their minds and erasing their glorious Hindu culture. He went on explaining how close their culture is to Hindus, how they consider Sita as her own and blah..blah..blah. Sitting among the audience I could not control my emotions every time he was using the word Harijan deliberately and provocatively. I controlled my emotions till the lecture was finished.
I caught him after the lecture and questioned him why he used the word. Working in India, he must have known how hurtful Dalits (with mind of their own) feel when they hear that word. His immediate question to me was, "What is your name again? Are you a Christian?" When I said yes, he immediately said to me, "That's why you don't like the word. But, my people (Santals) love it and so I am using it." I told him, "If your people like it use it in front of them, but how dare you use it on an International forum to refer the same people who abhor it." I questioned if he dared to use N-word in America. He had no answer.
I asked his peoples' education level. He had no answer. When the argument is getting heated, he went away saying he had another engagement. I took his visiting card, to write to him, but later I thought that it was a waste of my precious time to argue with such a "professor" (in quotes). Ofcourse, I have seen and confronted a number of such "professors" whenever I attend South Asian Conference, thank to Dr David who takes me along with him whenever he attends.
As a person who knows the origin of the word, every time I read this word, I feel angry. Why there was no agitation in India to make the use of the word criminal? We sought from roof-tops for trivial things. But, no agitation on such issues.
Some say Gandhi used it with a good intention. In fact he was asked not to use it when he was alive. But, he never cared the feeling of the very people he said he loved so much and continued to use it till his death. After him, Gandhians followed in his foot-steps , ofcourse with less intensity now.
What I say is, "What right anyone has to call me 'Ben', why I say I do not want to be called 'Ben' and prefer to be called by something else?"
I see this word always in the print media. What does it mean? Are they ignorant? Don't they care if someone hurts? Are they bent to use it till some large agitation takes place? Or they know Dalits are not fit for any substantial agitation?
Let us see.
October 23, 2010 7:46:32 AM
PTI | Pernem (Goa)
Passing the interior road of Tuem village in Goa's Pernem taluka, one cannot miss a tiny house located amongst the cluster of houses. This small-time shelter has a biggest human interest story to tell.
Kale family's saga speaks the tale of how untouchability still shamefully rules the roots of rural Goa despite 40 years of liberation. Sadashiv alias Shambhu Kale, his wife and three minor children were literally stoned out of Poraskaden village in Pernem taluka. Their fault: Blessing the wedding of a Harijan couple.
Kale, who was eking out a living by performing puja at Shree Mauli Devasthan, had to abandon his house in Poraskaden and run for a cover. Entire village was against him. He was thrown out of the temple and later was forced to leave the village. Shattered, his wife committed suicide. Kale was forced to take up rented accommodation in the nearby village and faced social stigma. He has two girls - 12 and 9 years each and a four-year-old boy.
The issue hogged limelight in after local MLA Jitendra Deshprabhu raised it in the State Legislative Assembly forcing the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to given an assurance of help to this family. Seven years down the line, the same Harijan community because of whom he lost his house and was declared social reject, joined hands to give him another house in the nearby village of Tuem.
It took several years for this financially unsound community to move forces and get Kale a House. A social movement was built up giving justice to Kale. Right from getting piece of Government land sanctioned to raising funds, the Harijan community stood firm with the Brahmin.
This month, the house was completed and formally handed over to the family. Kale's own society, Purohit community, too contributed for this shelter, which was handed over to him, this month.
"Untouchability still exists in Pernem taluka. When we realised that Kale is left to fend for himself, many felt that he should be helped out to rise from the injustice," said Nivrutti Shirodkar, a journalist and social activist.
Harijan community, Purohit community, social workers and Goa-based Dhavalikar Trust came together for the project. "Any politician would have been ready to construct shelter for Kale family but we decided that only non-political contributions would be entertained," Shirodkar said.
Former Deputy Superintendent of Police Apa Teli, who was the part of fund raising team, said that unprecedented help poured in for Kale. "Pernem Shetkari Sanghatna gave electricity connection to the house while Parsem citizens' forum took responsibility of paying for the roof," Teli said.
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