This rally will question why untouchability is prevalent in India

File photo of Dalit rights activist Martin Mcwan. | Photo: EDX Live

As India will celebrate the 75th year of independence this year, well-known Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan will lead a rally at the Indian parliament carrying a special brass coin with the inscription “Will the 1947 dream of untouchability-free India be a reality in 2047?”

Muhammed Nihad PV |

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NEW DELHI — India will complete 75 years of independence this year but for prominent Dalit rights activist Martin Macwan, the seven decades of freedom from foreign rule hasn’t ensured equal citizenship to over 200 million Dalits living in the country. 

Macwan, with the help of hundreds of his supporters, is preparing for a rally carrying a special brass coin with the inscription “Will the 1947 dream of untouchability-free India be a reality in 2047?” to Parliament in the first week of August. 

Macwan explains the reasons behind this initiative in this interview with Below are the edited excerpts: 

What inspired you to come up with the idea of “Brass Coin Yatra” against untouchability and caste inequalities?
Our inspiration to make this coin came from the legendary sacrifice of Megh Mahya in Patan of Gujarat who had sacrificed his life for the freedom of his community from caste slavery and untouchability. The coin has an image of Baba Saheb Ambedkar who strongly advocated the idea of annihilating the caste and incorporated the vision of eradicating the practice of untouchability in the constitution. On the other side of the coin, the Bhoomisparsh image of Buddha reminds us of his greatest message that the entire land of the universe is for the entire peoples to walk and live upon.

Special brass coin that Mcwan is planning to take to the Indian parliament. | Photo by arrangement

What do you wish to convey by adopting this symbolic way of protest?
This rally will be an effective way to raise the question “Why as a nation have we failed to abolish untouchability de facto?” in front of the public. In independent India, there was no data available on the atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis till 1974. From 1974 to 2020, 25947 Dalits got murdered, 54903 Dalit women got raped and the number of other cases of atrocities is above one million. The condition of Adivasis is not different. During the same period, 5356 persons belonging to the ST category were murdered, 22004 ST women were raped and the total number of atrocities crossed two lakhs. While we celebrate 75 years of independence as the largest democracy in the world, we are forgetting the ground reality that different forms of slavery including caste still exist in the country.

We wish to place this coin in the newly constructed Parliament house to remind us of our failure in building India as a nation free of untouchability. The glory and pomp of the new house will shine only when the untouchability is abolished in reality. We have written to the President of India, the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha to collectively accept the brass coin. A copper replica of the coin, weighing 72 grams and a diameter of 60 mm will be sent to all the members of Parliament, along with a letter asking them to support the cause.

Who is supporting you in this venture and who will be the participants in the rally?
Some people and organisations have extended solidarity, but it’s largely the community from villages our Navsarjan trust has been in touch with. They are spearheading this initiative. We have received donations mainly from Dalits from various states of India, consisting of brass and copper utensils. The brass coin has been made out of them. People have also contributed Re 1 per member per family as a donation to the Indian Parliament. The house belongs to every citizen of India. This donation is to strengthen its resolve to abolish untouchability. Thus far, about 25 lakh such coins have been collected, and more keep on pouring in from different parts of India. The coming generations of these families belonging to the oppressed communities will remember this historical gesture. 

The seven-day long march will begin on August 1, 2022, at 8 am from the Dalit Shakti Kendra in Ahmedabad and will reach Delhi on the evening of August 7, 2022. There will be 312 people joining the march in six buses. We are having six-night halts on the route holding several meetings in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi.

How do you see the targeting of intellectuals and activists who are vocal advocates of the rights of Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis and other minorities?
As defenders of human rights, we have extended our solidarity to all those who were falsely incarcerated for raising their voices against injustice. Whether it was the anti-CAA movement or the Bhima Koregaon case. It is quite disheartening that there is no proper trial taking place and as we know delayed justice is equal to the denial of justice. It feels like the government invests more in security agencies to hunt down vocal citizens rather than taking care of the welfare of the people. If this continues, the frustration of people will turn into anger and the consequences will be severe.


Muhammad Nihad PV is a sociology student at the University of Hyderabad. He tweets at @nihadbinnisar