Caste in Faith
Lord Rama higher than Guru Ravidass?
Guru Ravidas is widely believed to have been born in Varanasi in 1450 to a community considered low in caste working as they did with animal hide and leather. But, he grew up to be a thinker, philosopher and revolutionary, who spoke about an egalitarian society and envisioned a utopic city - Begumpera - where people were not divided along caste lines.
In his lifetime he attracted many followers, especially in the region around Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, usually belonging to the lower castes. During his travels, he is believed to have impressed Sikandar Lodi, the ruler of Delhi then, who gifted him a piece of land where a temple to commemorate him was built by his disciples. This now falls in the southern Tughlaqabad part of Delhi, in an area surrounded by forest.
Even though a case demanding the temple’s demolition for violating forest protection laws has been on-going for 27 years, it continued to be a sacred place for Guru Ravidas devotees, who visited it from near and far.
Like Hukum Chand who has been living and working in Singapore for twenty years but makes it a point to come every year to celebrate Guru Ravi Dass’ Mahotsava on April 14 every year.
( At the demonstration )
He echoes the sentiments of Subhashini Ali, Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and President, All India Democratic Women’s Association - ‘Seems like this is the only forest the government in the country wants to protect!’
Speaking at the demonstration, Ali urges participants to observe the larger situation unfolding - of the country’s institutions being subverted to impose a system that reveres the Manusmriti over the Constitution.
( Participants )
‘That is why the Guru Ravi Dass temple is an eye-sore (khatakta hai) for the government, they are uncomfortable with the idea of equality for all that the Constitution grants, framed by Dr. Ambedkar.’
She demands attention on the double standards being applied to how similar cases are treated so differently in the highest courts of law in the country.
( Participants )
The entire world was witness to the Babri masjid being demolished by a mob led by political leaders, she says, yet the Supreme Court has the patience and proclivity to hear the arguments of a lawyer representing the ‘kalpanik’ or imaginary Lord Rama claiming the place as his birthplace, but the same Court has no time to listen to lawyers wanting to protect a temple made in honour of a man who actually existed.
And coming to the environment, she challenged the Government to take bulldozers to demolish the Akshardham temple built on the fragile plains of the Yamuna - they wouldn’t as it is a symbol of their own faith.
( Ram Dayal, Social activist )
Ram Dayal, social activist, feels the same, ‘’It is our faith and beliefs being trampled upon, who challenge caste through revering Guru Ram Dass; it is our tradition and cultural wealth being attacked, but, it will only make us stronger, there we will find resistance from villages across the country.’’
The Dalit Shoshan Mukti Manch (DSSM) was another organisation that stands by the Ravi Dass followers against what they too perceive as a blatant caste-based conflict where the Government and highest Court are clearly displaying which side they are on.