An Ahmedabad-based human rights organization on Wednesday unveiled a 1,000kg brass coin with a message about untouchability engraved on it to its Dalit Shakti Kendra in the village of Nani Devti near Sanand.
The organization, Navsarjan Trust, plans to donate the piece to the government for the new parliament building next month after a week-long yatra.
The coin, which has images of Dr BR Ambedkar and Gautam Budhha engraved on both sides, was made from 2,450 kg brass utensils donated by people, mainly from the Dalit community, from different parts of the country.
The coin has a diameter of 2,047 millimeters and weighs 1,000 kg. It contains a Hindi and English message on untouchability: “Will the 1947 dream of an India without untouchability become a reality in 2047?”. The word untouchability has also been written in 15 Indian languages on one side. It was made by two artists – Vishwa Ranjan from Odisha and Ballu Jatav from Delhi.
The organization has also announced plans to travel to Delhi in the form of a yatra to donate to the government through the President of India.
According to Martin Macwan of the Navsarjan Trust, they thought of the initiative, dubbed Bhim Rudan (Cries of Dr Ambedkar), to remind the political class that untouchability still exists in the country even after 75 years of independence.
“It is a collective failure of all political parties. And we want to ask the country if it (untouchability) will be abolished when. Because without it, there is no sense of fundamental right,” Macwan said.
“We named the initiative Bhim Rudan because this (the abolition of untouchability) was the Ambedkarite dream of Babasaheb Ambedkar. And therefore, we had Article 17 in our Constitution,” he said .
Macwan said: “We want the coin to be kept in the new parliament building so that all parliamentarians can remember that they were unable to deliver their Raj Dharm of abolishing untouchability.”
On the organization’s plans to bring the coin to Delhi, Macwan said the brass coin along with a statue of Dr Ambekdar will be taken from Nani Devti village on August 1 in the form of yatra – two trucks and six buses with 336 people. It will reach Delhi on August 7.
Permission to perform the yatra has also been requested from the respective places from which it will pass.
“We wrote a letter to the president, the president of the Lok Sabha and the president of the Rajya Sabha saying that we were coming. We have stated in the letter that we will stay 24 hours in Delhi. After that, we’re not going to stay. We are worthy people. If you accept (the part), we will be happy. If you don’t accept it, we’ll come back with it.
Among other things, the letter mentions, “The glory and pomp of the new Parliament will shine only when it can ensure the implementation of its constitutional mandate to abolish untouchability.”
As part of the initiative, a small replica of the coin is also expected to be sent to all chief ministers of India. And a similar, but smaller, replica of it will be sent to all MPs and national political parties across the country.
In a related initiative, the voluntary organization also collected 20 lakh coins of Re 1 (weighing 7 tons) from people voluntarily. And he plans to donate the coins as a contribution from ordinary people to the country.
In the context of untouchability, Macwan said there was no authentic data available in the country on the total number of recorded cases of atrocities against Dalits and tribals since 1947.
He added that data of atrocities against Dalits are only available from 1974 and those of atrocities against tribals from 1978.
In response to a question about whether he is legitimizing the new parliament building by giving it the coins, Macwan said the expense “could have been avoided” when there is so much poverty in the country.
“Untouchability is a bigger problem than the (new) parliament building. If we are a 75-year-old democracy and untouchability is still prevalent and nobody, not the president or the prime minister, talks about it,” Macwan said.