According to a newspaper report, the Yogi government will celebrate Valmiki Jayanti on a large scale in Uttar Pradesh this time. The order issued to all the district magistrates from the level of Chief Secretary says that it should be organized on a large scale in all the districts. In this lamp should be lit up at all the places in the districts connected with Valmiki and Ramayana path and bhajans arranged in temples. The district administration will identify and organise local cultural troupes and artists and ensure public participation in it. The said order further says that the precautions related to Covid should be taken care of.
The first question about the above event would have arisen whether it is the duty of the State Government to organise the birth anniversary of a great man belonging to a particular religion at the government level and at government expense. Has the secular concept of the state abolished from our Constitution? Has our state become a Hindu state (Hindu Rashtra) rather than a secular state? If yes, it should be a big challenge and concern for all secular citizens. What does it mean in our Constitution to be a secular state? Earlier, the foundation stone of the Ram Mandir was officially laid by Narendra Modi as prime minister in Ayodhya on 5th August which was also a major step in this direction by the RSS/BJP. So, all citizens who believe in the Constitution and secular values of our country should seriously consider how much they agree with the RSS/BJP’s agenda to make India a Hindu nation? If not, then they will have to oppose the RSS/BJP agenda to form a Hindu state by standing in favour of the constitution-ordered secularism.
Now, the second question arises, why is the Yogi Government organising Valmiki Jayanti for the first time? Is it not connected with the intention of cooling the countrywide outrage in the Balmiki community caused by the recent incident of rape and murder and inhuman burning of a Balmiki caste girl by the district administration in Hathras? It is well known how the government at all levels in Hathras tried to deny rape and indulged in the character assassination of the victim. How the family members of the deceased were intimidated to change the statement and were allowed to be terrorised by the accused side. This has agitated not only the family of the deceased but also the Balmiki community all over the country. One of the responses is the boycott and demonstration of sanitation work by the Balmiki community in Agra. There have also been demonstrations against the incident and the anti-Dalit attitude of the government across the country and abroad. This outrage is further aggravated when the administration, in response to the incident of Hathras, begins a repressive action on the adoption of Buddhist Dhamma by 250 people of the Balmiki community in Ghaziabad.
However, if it is seen, Maharishi Valmiki has nothing to do with the present Balmiki community because he was neither a Shudra nor an Untouchable. He was a Brahmin, as he himself introduced himself in the Valmiki Ramayana as the son of The Sage Parcheta (Brahmin). Valmiki Rishi’s name being linked with the Balmiki community is also an interesting story. This story starts from Punjab. In the twenties, when a large number of Chuhar were becoming Christians in Punjab, it was reducing the population of Hindus. To prevent this, a Brahmin named Ami Chand Sharma in Punjab wrote a small treatise called Balmiki Prakash and propagated that Valmiki is the religious guru of the people of the Chuhra caste and the Ramayana is their religious scripture. He also said that the name ‘ Chuhra ‘ is disgusting and they should apply Balmiki surname with their name. He smartly did not call Valmiki their ancestor, but their religious guru, otherwise Balmikis could claim to be Brahmins because Valmiki was a Brahmin. Thus, the conspiracy of the Hindus to stop the exodus from Hinduism by discounting the Hindu trap in the name of Valmiki was successful and they were able to keep them trapped in the dirty profession of scavenging.
As is well known, most of the people in the Balmiki community are engaged in scavenging, which is considered to be the most hateful act. These people do scavenging work in cities, towns and municipalities. Because of this profession, they are also hated. It is the most difficult and dirty thing to pick faeces manually, carry it on the head and to clean the dry latrines. Though there is a law to prevent this, no government is interested in implementing it. Modi says that they have a feeling of spiritual happiness. A person dies every third day in gutter cleaning in cities and towns. They are not provided the safety equipment for landing in the gutter. Every Health Manual of the municipality has fixed the number of employees as per work but hardly the number is complete anywhere. In many places, Safai Karamcharis are not paid salaries for several months, which is why they are burdened with debts. Now, instead of regular appointments, contract labour practice has been introduced in which Safai Karamcharis are badly exploited.
On the one hand, Modi has run a national cleanliness drive (Rashtriy Svachhta Abhiyan) in which there is spending crore of rupees on advertisements, but there is no provision to improve the working conditions of Safai Karamcharis and give them a living wage, etc. At the same time, there is no agenda for modernisation and mechanization of cleanliness work. In the name of Swachhta Abhiyan, there is no account of where crores of rupees collected as tax from taxpayers are being spent. Gutter cleaning is done by machines in all civilized countries of the world as has been started to some extent in Delhi also. But there is no such arrangement in other cities of the country which results in one gutter death every third day. So, if the BJP is interested in the welfare of the Safai Karamcharis, it should show interest in improving their working condition instead of the gimmick of celebrating Valmiki Jayanti. At the same time, the Safai Karamcharis should also unite to agitate for their legitimate demands and should resort to strike etc.
It is also true that many people in the Balmiki community have been freed from the deceit of Valmiki and have adopted the Buddhist Dhamma by freeing from Hinduism and taking Dr. Ambedkar as their ideal. They have adopted new professions by leaving the dirty profession of scavenging. The adoption of Buddha Dhamma by Balmiki community in Ghaziabad by renouncing Hinduism is a measure of their liberation.
It has been observed that so far most of the Balmiki community is politically linked to the BJP, which has also been used in riots against Muslims. The riot of Moradabad is a vivid example. This community is considered to be a staunch Hindu. The Balmiki community becomes agitated about any kind of comment about Valmiki. It has a sizable population in Uttar Pradesh and other states also. Now, if the community is angry with the BJP over the issue of Hathras and gets politically detached from it, it will be a major setback for the BJP’s social harmony formula. So, the sudden wake-up of the Yogi government is not an unwarranted Valmiki love, but a vested political interest. So, it is to be seen whether the Balmiki community follows the path shown by Dr. Ambedkar for their liberation by understanding the deception made earlier in the name of Valmiki or allows themselves to be befooled again in the name of Valmiki Jyanti.
S R Darapuri, National Spokesperson, All India People’s Front