Dalits feel suffocation in India just as the Blacks and the coloured people do in US

Human rights activist and founder, Navsarjan Trust, Martin Macwan, recipient of the prestigious Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Award for the year 2000, has drafted an open letter toPresident Donald Trump following the turn of events in the light murder of George Floyd.

Seeking signatures for the letter, Macwan asks people to light a lamp in the memory of George Floyd on June 10 at 7 pm, the day when his mortal remains will be laid to rest. Introducing the letter, he wonders by innocent people are being pushed behind the bars in India, charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, including scores of human right activists like Prof Anand Teltumbde.

Text of the draft letter:

You were very recently an honoured guest of India. Part of preparation to receive you in the city of Ahmedabad, the civic authorities had built a wall exactly opposite Gandhi Ashram to hide from your eyes, the presence of the slumdwellers. Earlier, during the visit of other international dignitaries, the slum was hidden by a green polythene sheet wall.

We do not know officially who paid the travel cost to bring a hundred thousand people in the stadium to greet you through a specially designed Program, ‘Namaste Trump’. Hundreds of state buses were arranged to bring people to greet you. Two months later, unfortunately, due to announcement of sudden lockdown due to Covid-19, several thousand people who lost their jobs, employment, accommodation and unpaid wages undertook a journey to walk hundreds of Kilometers on feet or on broken bicycles to reach their homes in other states because there were no buses or trains for them.

More than 800 people lost their lives due to accidental and other non-Covid-19 deaths including a 12-year-old tribal girl who collapsed and died on the road before she could reach home and a dozen people mowed down by the train as the laborers were sleeping on the tracts, beyond exhaustion.

There have been women who walked hundreds of kilometers on the road in the acute stage of pregnancy, gave birth to the baby on the road and walked remaining distance home with the new born baby.

Many died because they had no food. Whoever arranged those buses to bring people to greet you with unaccounted money, whether our State or the civil society, were not available with that helping hand to our own country citizens, the so-called Migrant laborers.

The wall of Ahmedabad, popularly nick-named as ‘Trump wall’, left a bitterness in the city with many, for it represented open insult and humiliation, as bad as the Racism in the US, for its citizens.

Today, this letter comes to you after having seen for a week the protests on the streets of 75 and more cities of the US, undertook by the Blacks, the browns and the whites together, following the daylight, public, gruesome murder of George Floyd, at the hands of the police. We can see your photo holding a bible in your hand before the famous church, but hear not a word of apology to the family members of George Floyd.

We also see that you have consciously used the phrases, ‘when the looting begins, the shooting begins’ and ‘unleashing of the vicious dogs’ and ‘ominous weapons’ on the protesters to remind them the days of civil rights movement, where vicious violence was unleashed on the Blacks, including the dogs unleashed on the women and children.

Caste discrimination shares another side of the same coin with racism. Dalits are the victims of caste prejudices and discriminatory policies after seven and half decades of independence. People of the same faith cannot enter the places of worship and drink water from the same well and after death cannot be cremated in the same cremation ground.

Martin Macwan

In the past, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution and the man who undertook a life-long epic war on the caste system which dehumanizes 20 percent of India’s population alone, Dr BR Ambedkar had correspondence with WEB Du Bois to struggle together with forms of discrimination such as race and caste.

Little later, Dr Martin Luther King was the honored guest of India to learn lessons of non-violence from the national Independence struggle of India. Having such great cultural heritage of India where we extended our support for the civil rights movement and even the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, we Indians cannot be a party to support Racism or be silent spectators to the daylight murder of George Floyd and hundreds of other Black men and women while we continue our battle here for freedom.

It was a moving scene that a white police chief came to pray at the place where George Floyd was murdered and removed his hat when he answered the questions asked by the brother of the deceased. There have been other white police sheriffs who have removed their hats and baton to march with the people in the protest.

We watch the scenes where the crowds of the white man and the women kneel down and apologize to the Black community for historical wrongs. But here you are as the President of the nation who threaten protesters with weapons and your military power.

Perhaps you are wrongly hoping to polarize the US voters on the line of racial identity for electoral gains. What better example can be other than this where there is promotion of politics of segregation based on hate and generation of wealth?

We extend our solidarity with the protesters who protest the dehumanizing conditions of the fellow citizens and segregation. We are doing this through re-wording the specially designed program of India in your honour, ‘Namaste Trump’.

The Indians who in India were the perpetrators of the caste prejudices on Dalits have, as migrants in US, been victims of racial abuse. Hence, just like Gandhiji who was thrown off the train in South Africa, there have been thousands of Indians who have been the victims of racial abuse in US.

As Martin Luther King had said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’, we want to say that, as Dalits, we can feel suffocation in India that the Blacks and the coloured people do in US, as expressed in the final words of George Floyd, ‘We can’t breathe’.

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