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Casteism and water crisis in Bhimayana

Bhimayana is a graphic novel based on the story of Dr B R Ambedkar and the ill custom of caste based discrimination that dominated in the Indian society. Through this book, the writers tell the incidents of casteism faced by Ambedkar in his childhood. Ambedkar belonged to the lowest class of the society known as Dalit. Dalits were regarded as untouchables and were prohibited from using the same things that the higher classes used. This included water from different sources too.

Water is a natural resource that is made available to all the people equally by the nature. However, some people that belonged to the upper castes had created some really nasty rules that were discriminatory towards the lower castes of the society. Dalits were prohibited from quenching their thirst from the pond that was used by the higher classes.

Inequality and Adversity, in Content and Form: The Indian Graphic Novel  Bhimayana by E. Dawson Varughese | Comics Forum

In Bhimayana, this water crisis is very aptly described. The first chapter titled ‘Water’ describes how young Bhim was denied water at his school, whereas other students had no such restriction. The peon in the school denied him water as he believed that Bhim who belonged to Dalit community would spoil the water. The graphic novel contains very accurate imagery that indicate the different parts of the story. The water pump is shedding tears, where young Bhim is seen pleading with his hands for a drop of water. Ambedkar’s thirst is represented in the form of a fish. As his thirst grows, the fish increases in size. Young Bhim notices animals drinking water from the pond where Dalits are prohibited. He is very ridiculed at such hypocrisy of the society where the caste system allows animal to litter the water but wont provide a thirsty Dalit a drop of water.

Such incidents of caste based discrimination are prevalent even in today’s India. However, it was much more serious at that time. The ill practice was slowly erased with the steps implemented by the British and some concerned Indians. But, unfortunately, this system is still not omitted completely, as it prevails in rural parts of India even today. In such places, if a Dalit drinks water from such a water body, they are reverted with physical violence, that often leads to murder. The Dalit community mostly lives on the outskirts of the main town, far from the living area of the upper caste people. They have to travel miles to fetch water even though water bodies are available in that area. Dr BR Ambedkar overcame all such hurdles to achieve a respectable position in the Indian society.

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