'Article 19 and untouchability cannot co-exist'

 Magsay-say award winner and convener of National Safai Karmachari Andolan Bezwada Wilson opined that Article 19 and untouchability cannot co-exist.

Speaking after inaugurating ‘Article-19,’ the four-day communication fest organised by School of Communication (SOC), Manipal University, the activist said manual scavenging shows how Indians have gradually destroyed the humanity in the society.

A situation is created to confine humans in a particular caste even if the person resists doing so. “We never recognise the resistance. Manual scavenging is not by choice,” he said.

Stating that the question of livelihood loomed high as the system compelled them to the task, he urged the society to try to understand that no human beings are happy to clean someone else’s faeces. Untouchability is a threat for Article 19, he said. Understanding untouchability is the need of the hour. Universities have failed to understand the context. The rights of manual scavengers, where more than 93% are women, are destroyed. 

Maintaining that Article 29 (1) is equally important, the activist said the Constitution should rule the land and not the decisions and ideas of an individual. Coming down heavily on the present law makers who impose the dress code and decide over food pattern, Wilson said freedom is the core of human existence.

He said claims asserting that dressing is responsible for sexual assault are ridiculous. He said the manual scavengers community feed on dead carcasses of animals as there is nothing to eat and as government also has washed off hands to rehabilitate the manual scavengers. He called upon the youths to speak out and fight for the rights.

About 41% of the population is unable to have two square meals a day. There should be equal opportunities in terms of food to all.

He said untouchability has been passed down through generations and today, not a single village is democratic in nature. The country is patriarchal and cruelty has been increasing every day. Caste system and patriarchy have been ruling the country. He said Swacch Bharath Abhiyan, which proposed the construction of 12 crore toilets is waste, as there is no mechanised sewage system existing anywhere in the country. The manual scavengers have been dying due to the infections and malnutrition.

He said that if one demands ‘Azadhi,’ he or she is termed as ‘Deshadrohi.’ Universities are attacked. He advised students to be understanding, to express their views openly and to be just, to eliminate barriers.

He lamented that some years ago, Rs 560 crore was earmarked to rehabilitate the women manual scavengers. Last year, the amount was reduced to Rs 10 crore and to Rs five crore this year.

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