Today’s Dalit History Month post focuses on the incredible participation of Dalits at the World Social Fourm of Mumbai.
Some background: originally the World Social Fourm (WSF) had been convened as an alternative to The World Economic Forum in Davos. Hosted for three years in Puerte Allegre, Brazil, the World Social Forum Mumbai was the first time it was held outside of Latin America. It marked the growing momentum of activists around the world who believed in the WSF slogan that “Another World is Possible” and that the WSF was the place to make those alternatives real.
To emphasize the centrality of caste to all movement questions and to demand attention to Dalit issues, four contingents of Dalit activists, started from four locations, Jammu-Kashmir (Bhim Marg), New Delhi (Buddha Marg), Kolkata (Kalinga Marg) and Kanyakumari (Tiruvalluvar Marg), to cover 20 states/union territories over 33,000 km across the country.
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Over the course of this historic 40 day caravan the four rally teams comprised of over thousands of marchers travelled more than 33,000 km by road and marched nearly 2,000 km in different villages, towns and cities. This totaled to over 500 public rallies on the way to the WSF that were attended by nearly 1 million people with an additional 500 cultural skits (nukkad nataks – street plays, etc.).
When the marches arrived triumphantly at the WSF, the marchers joined Dalits from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka to continue to break the silence on caste atrocity and discrimination through seminars, demonstrations, dance, singing, and poetry. Finally at every hour Dalit Drummers marched throughout the WSF MUMBAI, the Parai drums echoing the Dalit call of justice throughout the city. The impact of this march is still felt today as Dalits remain a key part of the WSF process and the intersection of caste has continued to be emphasized for movements all around the world.