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Dalits decry present leadership

india Updated: Dec 04, 2006 21:25 IST

His fading eyesight and shaky legs didn't deter Pundlik Godbole (76) from taking a strenuous 1100-km journey to Mumbai from Kodadongari, a tiny village of Chhindwada district in Madhya Pradesh.

"My faith in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar has brought me here at the Chaitya Bhoomi (Dalit leader's Dadar memorial)," said Godbole, one among the one lakh Dalits who have arrived in the city from all over the country to pay respects to their messiah on December 6, on his 50th death anniversary.

"We had just one leader in Dr Ambedkar. The rest - living or dead - compromised with the respective governments for their own benefit. I don't give any importance to the so-called Dalit leaders any more," said a man who couldn't pursue studies beyond fourth standard.

"I wanted to visit this place before I die," added a frail farmer who's accompanied by wife Manjulabai (70), local friend Tikaram Guarkhede (77) and neighbour Krishnabai Jamgade. They will be staying in the state-provided tent at Shivaji Park before leaving home on December 7.

But why did he choose Mumbai to Nagpur where the Dalit leaders had organised a protests rally on Monday?

Before this reporter could ask them about the Khairlanji killings, Godbole himself dealt with it. "It is because of our hopeless leadership that our brothers are killed and their wives and daughters raped."

Godbole proudly stated that his two sons got the government jobs under reservation. "We all thank Dr Ambedkar for giving us reservations. My family could buy extra land in the village only because of my sons' employment."

Devidas Renale (45), a resident of Nagpur, supported Godbole's opinion. "Dr Ambedkar's teachings made us gather courage to rake up the government which acted against the culprits, although late."

No wonder, things haven't changed entirely despite some Dalits prospering economically and securing high posts in bureaucracy. "The upper castes still want us to live like the cattle and take orders from them," said Renale.

However, 55-year-old Siddha Kuwar from Badarbeliya in Uttar Pradesh was optimistic.
"We never feel as free as today. You know how infamous our country was for atrocities against the lower castes. But now they don't dares treat us as goats because we have learnt to raise our voice."

For someone like Nagpur's daily wage labourer Bhimrao Gedam (45) the trip provides a brief succor during hands to mouth existence. "Back home my family gets two-time meal only when I and my wife slog for a day. I came here to seek Babasaheb's blessings. I will also get a much-needed break."

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