A rag picker and his wife near Rajkot district’s Shapar town were beaten to death by five people. Sitaram Valmiki was assaulted and humiliated by four upper caste men of his village in Badaun. Dr Vinod Sonkar was made to wash his glass at a teashop because he belongs to a lower caste.
These are just glimpses of what India has been witnessing for a long time now. While the country has been striving to eradicate caste discrimination, it continues to prevail as one of the major issues. With caste discrimination deeply embedded in the society, India still has a long way to go.
Article 17 of the Constitution of India banned the practice of untouchability. However, it still exists, especially in the rural areas. It was only six months ago, when a horrific episode took place in a village in Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh.
A Dalit man was prohibited from using the crematorium grounds in the village to perform the last rites of his father. As a result, he had to cremate his father’s body on the government land near his house.
Likewise, a Dalit man in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh was denied entry to the cremation ground to perform the last rites of his wife. Since the access route to crematorium ground was meant for ‘upper caste’ people, he had to cremate his wife’s body on the roadside.
The incidents depict the brutal truth about India’s societal divide, where the lower castes are discriminated not just when they are alive, but also after they die. In an attempt to give the Dalits the right to bid their loved ones a respectful adieu, Nitin Agrawal, MD of Swadesh Builders Bhopal, constructed a Sankhedi crematorium in Kolar. Madhya Pradesh’s largest and most well-planned, the crematorium is in the vicinity of the region.
Despite the countless complaints and protests of the people, no attention was paid to this grave issue. However, Nitin Agarwal from Bhopal constructed the largest crematorium of Madhya Pradesh, through a private-public partnership (PPP) model.
Apart from Kolar itself, the Sankhedi crematorium is going to benefit the residents of Gulmohar, Shahpura Rohit Nagar, Chuna Bhatti, and Hoshangabad Road localities of Bhopal. It has a large prayer hall, a capacity of 12 pyres, and a separate burial ground for children.
As per the sources, the builder from Bhopal, Nitin Agarwal has constructed the project as a gesture of goodwill, without charging a single paisa. Since the project is for public welfare, the entrepreneur considers it morally and ethically incorrect to charge any fee for it.
The crematorium was opened to the general public, for performing the last rites of their friends or family. By constructing the Sankhedi crematorium, Nitin Agarwal has broken the walls of caste discrimination, at least for the dead.