BANGALORE: Following the Lok Sabha elections in which he lost to BJP's Bangalore Central candidate P C Mohan, Ambrose D'Mello, Bangalore's silent (literally since he gave up talking about 10 years ago) crusader against commercialisation of water, has just found another cause to campaign for — atrocities committed against Dalit women.
Referring to the abduction and rape of four women of Dalit families in the Haryana village of Bhagana that took place in March, he writes on one of the pieces of paper he always has on him, "This case is different from Nirbhaya's. She was raped and fatally injured because she was a woman standing up to men, whereas these women were simply hurt because they were of a lower caste to that of the offenders."
Ambrose, or Mouni Baba as he was christened by a Hindi daily in Delhi recently, had already taken up one struggle of Haryana's oppressed. In 2002, when he heard that five Dalit men were lynched to death in Jhajjar, Haryana, because they skinned a dead cow, he stopped wearing footwear, a practice that he keeps up even today.
Ambrose in May met members of the Bhagana Kand Sangharsh Samiti, comprising 500 villagers who fled to Delhi following the incident, while he was at the capital in an attempt to get clearance to contest the elections from Varanasi.
Ask him why Varanasi, whether it's because he wanted to fight heavyweights Modi and Kejriwal, and it evokes a laugh.
"Who is big in a democracy? I don't support any party or candidate as they are responsible for the water corruption as well. Neither do I specifically oppose any of them, that just isn't me. Mine is movement politics, not power politics," he clarifies.
He shares that he was looking to take this struggle to a national level, in which he believes he has succeeded. "I have garnered many supporters. Some of them have even taken an oath that they will not buy drinking water, and many of them are from other countries," he communicates.
On the evening of the election here in Bangalore he decided that he wanted to ask people in North India too whether they were for commercialisation of water. "In the south, I was contesting from Bangalore Central. I wanted to contest from Delhi, but the next day (April 18), I realised that the polls there were over. So I thought, why not Varanasi, since it's not very far from Delhi. Honestly, until I reached there, I didn't even know who the other candidates were."
However, the election commission didn't accept his nomination as details of some of the 'proposers' weren't filled in. "According to the norms, they should have informed me why, and given me time to remedy it. But they even refused to accept a second list," he expresses indignantly.
He goes on to convey that he fell `2000 short of the required `25,000 deposit and had to pledge his mobile phone to make up for the difference. He showed City Express a note explaining the scenario, seeking people’s apology for not keeping in touch. “I only have a sim card now, no mobile phone. Hence I’ve not been able to keep in touch. Forgive me, please!” it reads.
Soon after he returned to Bangalore on June 3, he wanted to take off to Haryana to join the Dalit Jan Akrosh Yatra. The march started on June 7 at Jhajjar in protest of atrocities committed against the oppressed community in the state. “I wanted to take the chance to see Jhajjar, since I’ve been backing a cause connected with it for more than 10 years now,” he prints, but some paperwork related to election expenditure has kept him tied up here. He’s hoping to join the march, which culminates on July 14, soon after the thirteenth of this month.
He contested the elections hoping to take his cause to Parliament, but losing hasn’t dampened his spirit. He’s amused at the question, “Do you have to wait another five years to try again?” No, he pens, he won’t wait till the next Lok Sabha polls. Currently, he’s thinking of contesting in the by-elections at Vadodara and the Delhi Assembly elections. “At Vadodara, I’m planning to open with, “Were Gandhi alive today, he’d have been fighting commercialisation of water too. So if you support my cause, vote for me.” Maybe Gujratis have forgotten the great leader’s ideals and need a little reminding,” he smiles.
Yet the polls are not till the end of the year. So, for now, Haryana beckons.