By Kunda. Pramilani
30 December, 2003
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
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.
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.
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
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 PMs
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.