October 2014 Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra in Madhya Pradesh
Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra travels through Madhya Pradesh
After travelling through Bihar in September 2014, the second phase of the Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra reached Chinndwara district in Madhya Pradesh on 1 November. While the first phase of the yatra in March this year focused on sexual violence and challenging the impunity, the second phase of the yatra aims at building Dalit women leadership. It also aims at establishing linkages between violence and larger community assertions for land, water and other resources, including access to political power. Madhya Pradesh has more than 22% tribals in the state and their fight is about land, forests and caste discrimination.
The yatra began from Kubdi village in Amarwara block of Chhindwara district. A public meeting at Singodi village was held where Rajeshwar Paswan (AIDMAM Bihar Coordinator) spoke about the SC/ST ( POA) Act, while Nirmal Mankar from DAAA talked about SCSP/TSP and the gaps in its implementation. He also spoke about Dr BR Ambedkar’s contribution towards Dalit rights and freedom. Dalit and tribal women shared their problems and issues at the meeting. A street play on caste based discrimination was performed by the AIDMAM Haryana cultural team.
The first day of the yatra came to a close in Chhindwara with a pledge to take forward the karwan for justice. A moment of silence was observed in memory of the Jadhav family and others who lost their lives at the hands of casteist murderers.
At a public meeting in Sonera, Dalit women spoke about their struggles, and how they were trying to overcome those. Rekha Gujre from Pradeepan led the yatra in Betul district.
Village level and district level public meetings were held in Sehore district too. Dalit leaders and Ambedkarites shared stories about how Dalits in Sehore are still not served tea at tea stalls despite the district being CM Shivraj Singh Chuhan’s constituency. They further added that untouchability was still prevalent in the villages of Sehore. In Raisen district, community members spoke about the lack of electricity in villages. Partner organization KSS pledged to take up the issue with local auithorities.
In Sagar district, there was a village meeting in Hafsili village where women shared their stories of success. AIDMAM General Secretary Asha Kowtal spoke about Dalit women leadership, while Anju Singh of AIDMAM told the audience about atrocities on Dalit women in Madhya Pradesh. In Silera, villagers welcomed the yatra with folk dance and songs. They also shared their success stories about how they changed the situation of Dalits in their village. Earlier, Dalits were not allowed to wear caps and drink tea from tea stalls, now it is different, and Dalits are able to move about freely.
The Madhya Pradesh leg of the Dalit Mahila Swabhiman Yatra ended in Bhopal with a public meeting in Hindi Bhawan where people from eight districts gathered and joined the yatra. Women participants and leaders, who were part of the yatra, were given certificates.