Safai Karmachari Andolan and 150 Days of ‘Stop Killing Us’ Campaign
New Delhi: The 150th day of the 'Stop Killing Us' campaign of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) to stop the frequent deaths of sanitation workers in sewers and septic tanks was completed on October 10, 2022, in Gumla, Jharkhand.
The 50th day of the campaign also took place in Jharkhand, in its Ranchi district. Activists and sanitation workers are in the second phase of the campaign during which they are covering all the states one more time and sloganeering their simple and straightforward slogan - “Stop Killing Us.”
The day-to-day details of this campaign can be accessed from the Twitter handle of Bezwada Wilson, the national convener of the SKA, and the movement's Facebook page. If the daily tweets of Bezwada Wilson are carefully understood, then this campaign can be seen working at different levels.
First, it seems like the SKA, its grassroots workers and activists have realised that no one is ever going to come to save them, whether it is the people in the state government, the central government, or from their Panchayat or district office. And not just the government, but non-government bodies also seem to not care about their life. Therefore, they have to save themselves and their fellow sanitation workers. Hence, this campaign now, with the pledge to save the lives of sanitation workers in different states, has gone ahead one more time without stopping.
On completion of the 150th day of the campaign in Gumla, Jharkhand, Mr Dharamdas Valmiki, state convener for the state of Jharkhand, said that the aim of the campaign is to save as many sanitation workers as possible from dying in sewers and septic tanks. “It’s painful seeing our own men dying like this,” he said.
Second, this campaign at the grassroots level is not only making the sanitation workers aware of the hazardous cleaning but is also making the rest of the people of the country aware, of cleaning whose septic tanks these people die. Along with this, the campaigners also try to meet government officials and political leaders to make them aware of this campaign and remind them of their moral responsibility to ask contractors and municipalities to use machines to clean sewers compulsorily, so that the citizens of the country can be saved from death just to clean their cities.
If we look at the campaign at the ground level then it can be seen that people have reached the stage of understanding the seriousness of the issue and they are also joining the campaign. But, its effect seems to be negligible, because almost every week another case of such deaths is seen and heard.
The third and quite important work for the campaign is being done by Bezwada Wilson's tweets. Wilson, in his tweets, is not simply providing daily updates about the campaign, but he is also referring to the everyday social, economic and political events happening in the country, and the attacks and murders on Dalits, backward classes, Muslims and women. In his tweets, he is also commenting on these incidents from Ambedkarite and democratic points of view. He also seems to point at the caste system, communalism, and the patriarchal structure of the society as the main reasons for the steadily declining scientific temperament and the democratic behaviour among the people in the country. And that without putting constitutional values into everyday practice this decline cannot be reversed.
Some of his tweets are as follows:
22 vows of #BabasahebAmbedkar are as relevant today, as they were 66 years ago | It was his sense of equality that still guides us | It is day 150 of the #Action2022 campaign against sewer and septic tank deaths at #Gumla in #Jharkhand | #StopKillingUs #JaiBhim #DalitLivesMatter
Governments never invested in proper technology for sewers & septic tank cleaning | Had they, this would have perhaps worked better | #VandeBharatExpress #Action2022 campaign against sewer & septic tank deaths at Dhanbad in Jharkhand | #StopKillingUs #JaiBhim #DalitLivesMatter
Oct 7: No index for innocent lives lost! All the debates on #GDP are useless when you can’t give even basic guarantee of life to those going down the pits | #Action2022 campaign against sewer and septic tank deaths at #Jharkhand | #StopKillingUs #JaiBhim #DalitLivesMatter
Oct 6: Right inside the National Capital Region 4 people lost life in sewer pits & no one is even held responsible | Instead of giving justice victim families are harassed | #StopKillingUs #DalitLivesMatter | #Action2022 campaign against sewer & septic tank deaths at Koderma #Jharkhand
Sep 30: Bulldozers are never supposed to be justice! Plain truths! Let no one die inside a pit to understand the pain of families facing death daily | #Action2022 campaign against sewer and septic tank deaths at Chaudwar in Cuttack | #StopKillingUs #JaiBhim #DalitLivesMatter #Omaxe
Sep 29: Casteism and untouchability still decide the social structure in the larger part of the country | For them development is just a superficial myth | #Action2022 campaign against sewer and septic tank deaths at Pipili, Puri in #Odisha | #StopKillingUs #JaiBhim #DalitLivesMatter
Sep 22: जब देश में सामूहिक बलात्कार की शिकार सड़कों पर निर्वस्त्र दौड़ाई जा रहीं हों, कानून-व्यवस्था की धज्जियां उड़ रही हों #UPMoradabad, तब आवाज़ उठानी पड़ती है। #STOPKILLINGUS #ACTION2022 सीवर-सेप्टिक टैंक में हत्याओं को बंद करो, मांग गूंजी #जयभीम चुरु राजस्थान (when the gang-rape victim is forced to walk nude on roads, breaking law and order, then raising voice is required …)
Sep 5: #जयभीम दलित IAS का कानून सम्मत आदेश मानना भी दंबग जाति को मंजूर नहीं, जातिगत उत्पीड़न हर तरफ बेशर्मी से जारी है। सीवर-सेप्टिक टैंक में हत्याएं इसी कड़ी में हो रही हैं, जिनके ख़िलाफ हमारा अभियान जारी रहेगा #STOPKILLINGUS #ACTION2022 रामनगर, कर्नाटक (Even following the lawful order of Dalit IAS is not acceptable to the dominant castes, caste-based harassment continues everywhere shamelessly. The killings in the sewer-septic tanks are happening in the same episode, against which our campaign will continue ...)
At this point, it seems like this campaign is not only important to put an end to deaths due to sewer and septic tank cleaning, but also to the caste system, and to preserve and reinstall democratic values in the county. When democracy is survived in the country then not only sanitation workers but all other marginalised sections and minorities will be able to live a safe life.
Moreover, it must appeal to common people to succeed. If common people continue to think of this campaign as one of the untouchable sanitation workers and manual scavengers’ campaigns and continue to fail to recognise this issue as one of their issues, then this campaign might not achieve the goals it desires.
The author is a researcher with the Safai Karmachari Andolan; the views expressed are personal.
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