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Ambedkar Mela 2014: A Report

Posted by chimeki on April 16, 2014

Ambedkar Jayanti Mela 2014

Ambedkar Jayanti Mela 2014

Every year on 14th April dalits from different parts of India hold the Ambedkar Jayanti Mela (fair) in New Delhi’s Parliament Street to commemorate Dr. BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.

Hundreds of dalit organisations, activits, individuals and social groups gather here to showcase their work and ideas. People, who are regular to the mela, tell that the event is expanding with every passing year. Twenty years back the mela was just a dot in the lane, today it is getting bigger than what the street can accomodate.

JP Nerala, Convenor of Caste Annihilation Movement says, “4-5 years ago the funfair would last for 3-4 hours but now people hang around till noon. Then there were few stalls, mostly of NGOs, publications and bank and other ST/SC unions. Now small businessmen from dalit communities too participate and market their products. Since past few years political organisations to have started to come to the mela to mobalise people around their political views.”

Manish, owner of Jai Bhim products, says, “today’s dalits not apologetic about their identity. The young dalits know what they want and how to achieve it.” His product, Jai Bhim premium tea and premium neel (whitener) are hit. However, this wasn’t the case in the beginning. Five year ago when he started the venture, people would blame him of using Dr. Ambedkar’s name for personal gain. Also, his own relatives and friends would hesitate to get associated with him. They feared that getting close to him might expose their identity.

The gathering has also evolved as a platform for exchange of ideas. For 2014 is an election year, the discussions this time were mostly centred around dalits’ role in election. Ramkesh, who had a book stall, had come from Muzaffar Nagar in UP, a city often in news for wrong reasons. He blamed both the BJP and the SP for the bloody riots. He says, “more people have died in riots than what the government had claimed. Fearing backlash from the Muslim community, the government refuses to acknowledge the fact that most of the missing people are actually dead.”

Rajesh of National Confederation of Dalit Organizations (NACDOR), who claimed 2100 affiliations across India, says that his organisation is instrumental in making this event grand. He claims that it is the part of his organisation’s vision to bring as many people and organisations working on dalits issues to single platform as possible.”

Next to NACDOR was the stall of the All India Backward (SC, ST, OBC) and Minority Communities Employees Federation (BAMCEF), the organisation founded by one of the tallest figures of India’s social justice movement Kanshi Ram in 1978.

Like last year, this year too Gautam Book Centre and Samyak Prakashan were the centre of attraction. People thronged to these stalls to get their copies of new titles. Gautam Book Centre has more than 400 published titles. Samyak too has similar number of publications.

This year there was also a stall of music cassettes and cds. The songs are based on Ambedkar’s and Buddha’s teachings and speak of fighting against discrimination based on caste, class and gender.

V.S.

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