Its Rakhsha Bandhan! A festival favorite from among the many that we Indians celebrate all year around, the significance of this occassion is an essential part of India’s traditional essence. The festival involves a sister tying a thread to her beloved brothers wrist, praying for his protection and good health. The brother in return vows to protect his sister from any harm that she may face and to be by her side through thick and thin. A festival concerned with strengthening the bonds of love among siblings, this festival is celebrated throughout the nation, regardless of racial and religious boundries, surpassing the need to be related by blood.
However, it is also at such times we witness the unfair caste system, prevalent hierarchical divides that weigh heavy on some sects in the Indian social structure. And so, to mark the festival celebrating the coming together of people in the spirit of brotherhood and love, an NGO is doing its bit to bring a change and end the stigma.
Manual scavenging has been assigned to a community, termed as untouchables, despite the incredibly important job they are responsible for doing. The treatment towards them by an average Indian is sadly very harsh. Left out of traditions, treated as insignificant and important only in the context of being used to portray a contrast to a higher caste, Sulabh International decided to turn the tables.
Sulabh International is an organization working towards improving sanitation and the general upliftment of the manual scavenging community and this year they are getting the women working with them to send Rakhis to Prime Miniser Modi. These women, mostly widows have been supported by the NGO and rehabilitated to work in better conditions, pursuing cooking, embroidery and painting. Manual scavengers have been considered unauspicious by society since time immemorial, but history records them tying the Rakhi to wrists of Hindu priests and scholars.
“Tying Rakhis to prime minister will be a major symbol against the existing stigma towards manual scavengers. It is a sad thing that widows have been considered inauspicious and manual scavengers as untouchables,” said Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International.
In this liberating move, a group of five women will hand over 1,000 rakhis to Modi, personally created by the widows from Vrindavana and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh who have been looked after by the NGO Sulabh International.