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Liberating Womanhood

By Kunda. Pramilani
30 December, 2003

At half past four in the evening on 25th of December, 2003, more than hundred activists representing several Dalit, Bahujan and feminist organisations assembled in front of the memorial of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar at Chaityabhoomi, Dadar and set aflame dummy copies of the Manusmriti, Bhagwad Gita and Ramayana, condemning these texts and thus celebrated the ' Bharatiya Stree Mukti Din' This surprise gathering focused the fact that there is a need to protest against violent Hindu Revivalist force manifested in Politics, Media, Art and Cultural forms of expressions.

Two activists Ms. Urmila Pawar & Ms Kunda P N of Dalit-Bahujan Mahila Vichar Manch (DBMVM) voluntarily gave the call for this symbolic action. There was tension because Sena Bhavan was just few yards away and Shivaji Park Police station was also at visible distance. The act of burning any religious book being against Freedom of Expression as argued by our Gandhian friend, we had decided not to ask Police and Municipal permission for this programme. However we had decided to gather as ‘Flash Mob’ and disperse very quickly by registering our protest against Brahmnical order. We have consciously used the term that “we are burning symbols of Oppressive Brahmnical Ideology. ” The presense of more than hundred activists belonging to twenty organisations boosted our courage because in spite of knowing all above mentioned possiblities everybody felt the need to protest against present day Hindu Revivalist trend.

Urmila Pawar, member of the DBMVM and Aakaar Konkan Dalit Mahila Sanghatana reminded the gathering of the historical burning of the Manusmriti by Dr. Ambedkar and his associates on 25th December 1927 to condemn the oppression of women and shudras. She explained the significance of the event and informed the gathering about the celebration of this day as Bharatiya Mahila Mukti Din over the last five years by several women's organisations in Maharashtra. Another activist of the DBMVM, Kunda Pramilani while speaking on the occasion argued that like the Manusmriti, the Bhagwad Gita and the Ramayana also support in a cunning manner the Varna order and slavery of women and these texts too must be condemned. The Bhagwad Geeta clearly states that violence and war are needed for protection of Dharma while the Ramayana consciously propagates the false myth of Sita being taken back into Mother Earth. It is possible, infact to conclude, she continued, that unable to bear her anger against the unjust order, Sita may have committed suicide.

Vandana Gangurde, a firebrand activist of the Tejaswini Mahila Mandal of the Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar spoke about how just the burning of the Manusmriti was not enough that there is a need alongwith this to rid minds of the deep rooted blind faith . This is a big task and all women will have to come forth and provide social leadership for this task of bringing to an end all inequalities in society. Lata. P. M. of NACDOR and Streekathi underlined the need and significance of symbolic programmes such as that of the burning of the Manusmriti for challenging the communal and fundamentalist forces and bringing in social reform in contemporary Indian society. Advocate Vidya Triratne of the Bahujan Samaj Party argued that the Constitution drafted by Dr. Ambedkar was an appropriate alternative to the Manusmriti and the need of the day was true socialist and democratic politics. Pratibha Shinde of the Punarvasan Sangharsh Samiti in her speech narrated a humorous incident from the life of Babasaheb, wherein his wife Ramabai once asked him to cure a patient since he had the title of a doctor. Dr. Ambedkar told Ramabai that he was not a doctor of patients but a doctor of books. Further, he explained to Ramabai that he worked towards bringing to end serious diseases like caste that had grasped texts like the Manusmriti. Pratibha Shinde argued that infact today the disease is not limited to texts and books but that the diseases of casteism and communalism had taken hold of the entire society and that the gathering should vow to cure society of these diseases.

Several male activists attended the programme and one of them Mr. Mulanivasi Mala an activist of the Bahujan Mukti Mahasangh argued that it was essential to condemn the Manuvaadi ideology that Dr. Ambedkar had talked about and also the new international Brahmanism that comes to us in the form of the IMF. Aruna Bhurte, an experienced activist of the women's movement said that Dr. Ambedkar had by burning the Manusmriti set into motion a struggle for human emancipation. This movement will gain momentum when combined with the programme for women's emancipation. Sandhya Gokhale of the FAOW argued that this programme should not be viewed as a programme against one particular religion but since all religions subordinate women, the burning of the Manusmriti represents the burning of all non-egalitarian thought. People of all castes and religions must therefore join in this programme. Kusumtai Gangurde , senior activist of the Republican Mahila Aghadi said that by burning the Manusmriti, Babasaheb had initiated the emancipation of women and that it was a welcome sign that several people were gathering in different places to carry forward this message. Usha Ambhore of the Buddhist Association of India said that a lot of Indian literature reflects Manuvaad and must also be condemned. Vandana Shinde of the Andh Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti said that alongwith the Manusmriti , blind faith must be set aflame or else the undue importance of 'Bapu- Bua and Bangali Babas’ ( fake religious men) will only increase in society.

The organisations present were 1.Dalit-Bahujan Mahila Vichar Manch. 2. Tejaswini Mahila Mandal 3. Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar mahila Mandal 4. Panchashil Mahila Mandal 5. Akaar Konkan Dalit Mahila Sanghathan. 6. Streekathi . 7. NACDOR . 8. Bahujan Samaj Party Mumbai. 9. RPI Mahila AGhadi. 10. Bahujan Mukti Mahasangh 11. Punarwasan Sangharsha Samitee 12. Nirbhaya Bano Andolan. 13. Forum Against Opression of Women. 14. Women Centre. 15. Phule Shahu Ambedkar Vichar Manch 16. Andhasharadha Nirmulan Samitee Thane. 17. Raada Sanghatan. 18. Budhist Association of India. 19. Dr. Babasahesb Rashtriya Smarak Samitee. 20 Filmmaker Anand Patwardhan & Simantini Dhuru.

This report was immediately faxed to all mainstream news papers in Maharashtra but no one wanted to give the space or coverage to this news . All the mainstream news papers are full of euphoria ! They want to cover news about PM’s birthday celebrations at various places, anouncements of all Carnivals, Youth festivals and New year parties and not the news about protest


Kunda . Pramilani, is film maker, writer and member of the Dalit- Bahujan Mahila Vicharmaanch.