The following is a statement issued by the All India Secular Forum:
We strongly condemn the attack on Swami Agnivesh by communal forces in a meeting organized by Garima Abhiyan in Bhopal. The meeting was called to make the members of Balmiki community take a pledge that they will not be carrying the night soil (human excreta) on their heads. Swamiji was attacked when he came forward to touch the feet of an old lady from Balmiki Community. The gesture was to recognize the dignity of all the humans being equal. In a way it was to challenge the prevalent practices which derive their origin from caste system. The government has already come with legislation banning this dehumanizing practice, which takes away the dignity of section of society.
This attack was done by communal forces, led by VHP. This again shows the real agenda of VHP associates, the one of preserving the caste hierarchy and keeping the large section of dalits in their present subhuman conditions. VHP and affiliates, under the garb of protecting Hindu religion want to maintain the graded hierarchy of caste and so this attack on Swamiji, as he staunchly opposed this practice.
It also shows the failure of BJP led state Government’s to contain the communal forces. In MP communalism is being promoted through various schemes introduced by government. We condemn the act of VHP led forces and demand that the culprits should be punished as per the process of law. We express our solidarity with Swami Agnivesh’s continuing campaign to get dignity to dalits and Balmiki community in particular and to abolish the practice of carrying night soil on head.
We also urge upon the Indian government to ensure that the carrying of night soil should be eliminated all through the country.
Asghar Ali Engineer, L.S. hardenia, Ram Puniyani, Irfan Engineer
All India Secular Forum
C/o CSSS Santacruz Mumbai