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Mahad Satyagraha - The first battle of Dalit Liberation was launched by Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar

 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar led the Mahad satyagraha – for drinking water from the Cavdar tank at Mahad

Mahad Satyagraha - The first battle of Dalit Liberation was launched by Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar

on March 20, 1927, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar led the Mahad satyagraha – for drinking water from the Cavdar tank at Mahad.  This was the “foundational struggle” of the dalit movement, a movement for water – and for caste annihilation.

In his statement at the time, Dr. Ambedkar put the movement in the broadest possible context.  Why do we fight, he asked.  It is not simply for drinking water; drinking the water will not give us very much.  It is not even a matter of only of our human rights, though we fight to establish the right to drink water.  But our goal is no less than that of the French Revolution.  This was fought for the reconstruction of society, for the eradication of the old society based on feudal inequality and the establishment of a new society based on liberty, equality and fraternity.  Similarly, we want to end the old inhuman caste society based on inequality and reconstruct the world, reconstruct society on the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity.  This is our goal!

And so dalits went to drink the water at Mahad.  They were met with ferocious repression: at attack by caste Hindus followed.  The dalits retreated, came back several months later on December 25 for a renewed struggle, and since the collector had given an injunction against any further  attempt, Ambedkar decided to honor this and instead burned the Manusmriti.  A fitting climax to the first battle of dalit liberation!

Background to Mahad Satyagraha

In 1926, Municipal Board of Mahad, Maharashtra passed orders to throw open the famous tank of Mahad city to all communities. Earlier, untouchables were not allowed to use water from Mahad tank. High caste Hindus opposed this order of Municipal Board. In response, Ambedkar organised a conference of ten thousand untouchable delegates at Mahad on March 20, 1927 to support the decision of Municipal Board. Ambedkar, in his presidential address, stressed the necessity of rooting out ideas of highness or lowness and inculcating self-elevation through self-help, self-respect and self-knowledge. After the conference all delegates marched to the tank and asserted their right to drink and take water from the tank. A Satyagrah Conference was organised at Mahad on December 25, 1925 which demanded that Hindu society should be organised on the basis of equality and absence of casteism. It was also resolved to burn Manusmriti, as according to Ambedkar, it perpetuated the social, economic, religious and political slavery of the untouchables. As per the resolution, Manusmriti was burnt on December 25, 1927.
Flyer published before Mahad Satyagraha in 1927
Flyer published before Mahad Satyagraha in 1927

Legacy of Mahad Satyagarah 

Mahad Satyagraha was first collective protest of untouchables under the leadership of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar. This movement was although withdrawn but gave confidence to the untouchables to fight against social disability. Every year, March 20 is observed as Social Empowerment day in India to commemorate the Mahad Satyagrah.

References- Wikipidia, FII, Forwordpress, gktoday, sabrang india.

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