BENGALURU: Child rights activist and Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi on Friday made an impassioned plea to outlaw the caste system. “I was made an outcaste, so I decided to outcaste the entire caste system,” he said. He was speaking at the inauguration of the three-day Dr B R Ambedkar International Conference 2017 on Friday.
He said to ‘cleanse himself,’ he was instructed to ‘bathe in the Ganges and wash the feet of 101 priests and drink that water.” At home, he was given a separate room, and was also asked to eat separately.
Satyarthi recounted how he was born a Brahmin but was ostracised by his own family at the age of 15 for offering upper caste villagers food prepared by Dalits.
He then decided to denounce his surname Sharma as it indicated his caste and named himself ‘Satyarthi,’ meaning ‘seeker of truth’. He narrated how he lay in a pool of blood when he led a group of Dalit men inside a temple and priests beat them up leaving him with a broken back.
“It is not just enough to remember Ambedkar, we need to live him,” he said.Playing on Ambedkar’s famous slogan ‘Educate, Agitate, Organise,’ he said social justice couldn’t be attained without education. He lamented that 16.8 crore kids in India were still working as child labourers.He recounted that Ambedkar was the first one to fight for the right to education to be made a fundamental right. He said,
“This was finally accomplished in 2009 through the Right to Education Act, and it marked a victory for Ambedkar.”
Speaking of Ambedkar’s vision for the country, Satyarthi said, “We have to introspect whether we have been able to fulfill his dreams. Millions of children don’t go to school, and millions of young girls are crying inside prostitute homes. And these are Ambedkar’s children.”
He said two practices which were punishable as per the Constitution - untouchability and trafficking of human beings, don’t get enough attention in the country. Speaking of some of Ambedkar’s works which weren’t well known, he said, “Did you know that Ambedkar was the first to fight for equal pay for women? He was also the first to raise the issue of making mandating eight hours of work per day.”