“Untouchability and Article 19 cannot co-exist”: Bezwada Wilson3 min read
Manipal: Bezwada Wilson, National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolar, underlined the need for sensitivity towards manual scavenging while also reiterating his demands for eradicating the practice, in an explosive speech that kicked off Article-19 on February 8. Later in the day, drag queen Alex Mathew delivered a talk on media reportage of LGBTQ in India.
The two-hour long session with Magsaysay award winning Wilson put the focus on manual scavenging in India and its deep-rooted entanglements with untouchability and caste. “The mindset of the society is such that, we’re of the opinion that no matter how degrading the job is, as long as someone’s getting paid, it shouldn’t be a matter of concern,” stated Wilson while adding that inequality continues to prevail in the society. His main demands centered around the eradication of the practice of manual scavenging as people are still being reduced to the level of cleaning human excreta, solely on the basis of caste. “Scavenging is not a personal choice. It is a desperate measure undertaken, to bear the burden of sustaining a family, and getting two square meals a day,” he emphasised.
Discussing the dichotomy of the Indian society in allowing untouchability, he laid emphasis on the freedoms enjoyed by individuals. “We have not understood freedom. If the protests by these people does not gain enough support, If untouchability is still prevalent, the right to freedom of expression, freedom of forming unions, freedom to choose your own job, nothing holds importance,” he added.
The Magsaysay award winning speaker also criticized the implementation of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. “Posing in front of the camera with broomsticks and, broadcasting it all over the nation, is of no use when, there is still, not one city, that is fully covered with sewage system. You call us ganda, when we are the ones cleaning your litter. Aapka ganda mere upar daal ke, mujhe ganda bulao, ye mujhe manzoor nahi!”
The Drag Queen with a Malayali Twist
Drag queen Alex Mathew shared his views on Indian media’s coverage of LGBTQ+ news in a light-hearted talk at the afternoon session. Better known by his stage name Mayamma, he is one of Kerala’s first drag queens.
Discussing media coverage of LGBTQ+ stories, Alex advocated for a growing need for stronger and consistent stories on issues related to the community. “Reporting on a parade is not enough. News organisations should cover stories on the LGBTQ+ throughout the year. There are so many stories that needs to be discussed openly”, he said.
Alex blended the seriousness of the talk with impromptu renditions of popular songs including Barbie Girl, Cheap Thrills, all in the Mayamma character.
Alongside the talks, the first day of Article-19 2017 also played host to the Quiz, Monoacting and Mad-Ads competitions. The four-day fest is set to conclude on February 11 with a total of nine distinguished speakers discussing a variety of media-centric topics.
Edited by Anirban Paul