Kasturi Devi is a female chief from the Dalit community. She is resident of village Bhattookala, District Fatehabad. She told those who came as part of the Dalit Jan Adrosh Yatra in her village on the July 14, 2014 that it is very difficult for her to fight for the rights of the Dalits when the dominant caste and community are strongly rooted. But she is working hard and struggling for the rights of her community. She is very happy to see the initiative taken by the Yatra. She appreciates, and also decides to financially support the Yatra. She asks the Yatra to visit her village again and to stay connected with her struggle in the future also.
Earlier, the Dalit Jan Akrosh Yatra visited District Sirsaon July 13. It is led by Satpal Singh Chauhan and Suresh Tank. The Yatra passed through Ghanta Ghar Chowk and had a meeting with the Mazdoor Union. The two leaders informed people about the purpose of the Yatra. There was a long discussion with union members regarding their problems. The workers mostly came from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and they shared their problems and the discrimination they faced. They stated that they were facing discrimination and oppression on the basis of their caste and the state they belonged to. They worked more than others but they were not given proper wages. They were being denied of medical services. They were facing continuous oppression and were denied their rights by their owners.
It was a huge crowd there and people marched from Ghanta Ghar towards Ambedkar Chowk. The Yatra got a positive response from people, as they were agitating for their rights and demanding to stop violence against Dalits. They supported the Yatra and promised to continue supporting the Yatra. The Yatra had another meeting with the Mazdoor Union memberts at Ambedkar Chowk. It first informed the people about their rights. People asked several questions. The Yatra was supported by the Majdoor Union as they marched from one place to another and the head of the union showed his interest to work with the National Coordination of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR) in future. The Yatra met about 100 people during the march and told people about their rights and how they could fight for their rights.
Then, the Yatra reached Fatehabad, and held one meeting there. It got support from villagers and sarpanches. They decided to discuss about atrocities that had happened in the past and also about the problems they were facing. The Dalit Jan Akrosh Yatra started from Palwal district on June 22, 2014. It was 22nd day of the Yatra, and the Yatra would culminate with a Dalit Jan Akrosh rally in Chandigarh. The Yatra is expecting a huge number of people in this rally about 5,000 people from different districts of Haryana.
Held in several states, and currently being held in Haryana, the Adhikar Yatras (Marches for Rights) are based on the idea of massive mobilization of primary stakeholders asserting their rights through a strategy of democratic assertion propounded by Dr BR Ambedkar. Dr Ambedkar said, “My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality.” This four-fold strategy essentially relies on the peoples’ action for themselves.
Adhikar Yatras assume that social-political education of right seekers (or beneficiaries) enable them to realizing their rights in a democratically run country. NACDOR, which is the chief organizer of the yatras, believes that the rights are never regained by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers, but by relentless democratic assertion. Mobilization processes involving active ownership of the rights seekers is the first step in claiming rights. The Adhikar Yatra is the strategy and a tool to create the ownership of the right seekers. It involves orienting and training of the committed social activists or leaders of the right seeking people or the affected community in such a way that they mobilize their own community for realizing their rights.
All Adhikar Yatras take the form of entourage of committed, well oriented and trained band of people trained in communicating messages in common community dialects, motivating the community to break its self-imposed silence, indifference and inertness and hence enabling the members of the community to actively engage, promote, participate and take leadership in realizing their rights. Adhikar Yatra teams are essentially trained in conveying the central and peripheral messages to the community orally and through cultural performances to build the stake of the community in desired outcomes.
*Programme officer with the National Coordination of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR)