When prime minister Narendra Modi washed and wiped the feet of five sanitary workers—most of them were Dalits—to express his gratitude for their service in maintaining cleanliness in Kumbh Mela last year, he connected with the last person in the queue. The image of a prime minister, despite immense power at his command, seated on a low stool and washing and wiping the feet of sanitation workers seated on chairs above him conveyed not only a strong message of inclusivity but hammered the evil of casteism.
While complying with the judgement of the Supreme Court, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah, announced that the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra, set up by the government for construction of a temple in Ayodhya, will have 15 trustees and one of them will be from the Dalit Community, government reached the last person in the queue.
Kameshwar Chaupal, who had laid the first brick of foundation stone in the Ram temple in 1989, is representative of Dalit community in 15 members of trustee. Chaupal was born in a village in Supaul district in Bihar’s Mithila region. Mithila is home to Goddess Sita, God Rama’s wife. He says, “When we were growing up, we believed that Rama was our relative.” Chaupal came in contact with RSS during his school days. He says, “the Sangh had a silent network to uplift downtrodden in the society.” Sangh played a pivotal role to shape up his life.
Kameshwar Chaupal was deeply shaken when he heard about 800 Dalits converted to Islam in Meenakshipuram village in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district, in protest of the discrimination on 19 February 1981. That is the moment the seed of reclaiming Ayodhya germinated in Chaupal. The rest is history.
Caste may be an identity, but casteism is a curse which came into Indian society sometime around late medieval period. RSS is pulling out all the stops to root out casteism. Within RSS, no one is ever asked what his caste is.
Sanatan Dharma has always offered enough space to reform. Including one Dalit member among 15 trustees is tribute to God Ram, in whose kingdom casteism didn’t exist or he would not have eaten used berry from Sabri Mata and he would not have honoured boatman (केवट).
Inclusion of Kameshwar Chaupal among 15 member trustees has heralded a new era where equality would be essence of nation to root out evil of casteism, as Sanatan Dharma always permits reforms to take place within itself.