Today in Dalit History we focus on Purna Malavath, an Adivasi girl from Telangana, and Anand Kumar, a Dalit boy from Khammam, who in a historic feat for Indian mountaineering became two of the youngest climbers to scale Mount Everest.
13-year old Purna, along with 16-year old Anand, reached the world’s highest peak after an exhausting 52-day expedition up the Tibetan side of the mountain, known to be the most difficult route. On reaching the peak, Purna and Anand unfurled not just India’s flag, but a picture of our leader Dr. B.R Ambedkar. At a time when Dalit children in India are systematically marginalized, excluded, and deprived of educational opportunities, Purna’s and Anand’s victories are truly epic. Their achievement is testament to the potential every Dalit child possesses, and if provided with resources, will accomplish what they aspire to.
On their victory, Purna said, “The aim of my expedition was to inspire young people and students from my kind of background. For a tribal like me, opportunities are very rare and I was looking for one opportunity where I could prove my caliber”. During tough times of the expedition, Purna narrates that she kept herself motivated, by thinking of her parents, whose words, “you can change your life if you put your mind to it” kept her going.
Purna’s parents are agricultural laborers from Telangana; her co-climber Anand’s father is a cycle mechanic. “My father is my hero. He never once complained about his work at the cycle shop and always encouraged me to work hard, no matter how big or small the task,” says Anand.
The journey for both of them began at the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions. Purna and Anand was selected from a group of more than 100 students who were sent for training to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. In preparation for the Everest climb, they trained in the mountains of Darjeeling and Ladakh.
In June 2014, Purna and Anand were recognized for their achievement by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights in association with the All India Dalit Rights Federation, the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion, AP Bhavan Employees’ Welfare & Cultural Association, and AP Bhavan SC/ST Welfare Association.
“We believe that if Dalit children are given equal opportunities, they can excel anywhere. They only need support to utilize these opportunities effectively”, said Beena Pallical, National Coordinator for Campaigns, NCDHR. “We dream of an India where every child’s potential is realised so that they can be where Poorna is today. At the top”, added Annie Namala of the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion.