Hindu mythology tells the story of Ekalavya – the tribal youth who cut off his thumb on the demand of Dronacharya so that Ekalavya would not be a better archer than the kshatriya boys. Ekalavya, being a tribal, must have been a natural archer – but he was mutilated and robbed of his traditional skill and his right to self-defence and survival. Today, one gets the feeling that the story of Ekalavya is being played out again and again.
Two hands and a leg amputated. The remaining limb yet to heal, has turned gangrenous and may also have to be removed. His kidneys have been damaged due to excessive bleeding and he can hardly eat and digest any food.
And yet defiance still sparkles in the eyes of Bant Singh, a Dalit agricultural labour activist, as he lies in the trauma ward of a state-run hospital in Chandigarh where doctors are battling to save his only remaining leg and even his life.
It is precisely for this defiance, coming from a ‘lower caste’ Dalit, that Bant Singh from Jhabhar village of Mansa district in Punjab was beaten to pulp and left for dead by armed upper caste men around a fortnight ago.
Bant Singh is known in his village and among his comrades as a singer of rousing protest songs.
When his comrades met Bant Singh in hospital, they broke down – but Bant Singh told them, ‘They’ve only got my limbs, I’ve still got my voice – I can still sing!’
Full account here.