Monday, December 13, 2010

Honouring India's Dalit

The still-controversial caste system of historical India, although outlawed for many years, continues to grate on the sensibilities of the untouchables who cannot so easily forget the past. It remains a grave insult to human rights that though outlawed, the practise of viewing a large segment of the Indian population's birthright as deficient and sub-human, continues the tradition of violating the human rights of the dalit.

It was however, a defining tenet in Hinduism, and as such difficult to condemn and outlaw, and traditions have a way of outlasting laws meant to ameliorate the harms done throughout historical precedence. The dalit, as they prefer to call themselves now, portray themselves as a people wronged, but a people determined to get on with their lives. The problem is, India's population, while emerging into a larger middle class, still is represented largely by extreme poverty. And the dalit in particular are represented by poverty.

Who tend still, to represent the bottom echelon of society. Living in dire poverty for the most part, as they have done traditionally, although exerting their rights to be recognized as equal to any others in society. The Brahman class would have it otherwise, however. And in a vast country like India, which bills itself proudly as the largest democracy in the world - certainly the most populous, and unfortunately also one of the most corrupt - the status of the dalit have not improved all that much.

They do, however, have the distinction of celebrating a leader some see adoringly as a goddess. A woman who acts as the chief minister of one of India's poorest states. She is also the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, representing India's dalits. As a leader she is held in extremely high regard. As a dalit, she owes it to her people to represent their interests fairly and with justice in mind.

Alas, as the chief minister of that vast state, which is also one of the poorest in India, with one hundred million people getting by on less than $2 a day, she is incurably corrupt, quite enamoured with herself and her position, aided and abetted by the fact that her supporters consider her to be a "living goddess", in whose honour a garland of $1-million in rupee notes was lovingly lavished about her neck.

As a "living goddess", she and her supporters felt it would be appropriate to build a monumental and eponymous statue park dedicated to her outside the capital of New Delhi, a 33-hectare park to be decorated with statues of her godlike personage. And so it has been done. India's Supreme Court in its great wisdom has seen fit to give permission to open the park with all those giant statues of Mayawati.

The cost of the park, dedicated to Mayawati and the party's founder, came in at $160-million. The giant statues which are artistically displayed around the park make it a truly unique celebration of this representative of her people. After all, considering that there are a hundred million indigent dalits, $160-million wouldn't go that far to helping them materially, would it?

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