Today, 6th of December, among other things, is the death anniversary of Dr. BR Ambedkar. Most Indians regard him as the father of the Indian Constitution since he was the Chairman of the Constitution draft committee. Dr Ambedkar is regarded as a messiah by the Dalits as he himself was one and spent much of his years battling the cruel social discrimination practiced in Hindu society.

On his death anniversary like his birth anniversary, Dalits take out processions, hold rallies, etc. almost akin to how upper caste Hindus celebrate their festivals or anniversaries of saints and other luminaries. It is quite common for offices, schools, city services, etc. to be affected because all the Dalits who work there take the day off to observe the day.

In a small locality in Chembur where I stay, which I was passing through while returning home, there was a small group of 30-40 people who had organised a small celebration. (Instead of mourning, most Dalits use this day to remind themselves that it is possible for them to challenge the upper castes) In another corner of the lane, there was another group. And so on. However, all these groups were tightly clustered in their small spaces when right across the lane was a huge playground. This playground is a hub for the community there with regular activities ranging from cricket matches, weddings, Diwali parties, etc. organised there. It was quite striking to see these Dalit groups hold their celebrations in their corners instead of going over to the playground.

On closer observation, the truth revealed itself. The community, a local gaothan (a village which is now part of the urban space but retains the same architecture and layouts as well as the original inhabitants or their descendents), was primarily upper caste (albeit economically backward). The playground was like the village square. The lower castes, as is the norm in traditional Hindu communities, were not allowed into the playground even if they had the money to pay. They had to do their bit in the limited space that the awning of their houses overlooking the lanes allowed them.

The Hindu exclusion principle was at work even today.


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