Saints and Sanitation Workers Pledge to End Untouchability
At Parmarth Niketan yesterday, hundreds of saints, faith leaders and safai karyakartas (sanitation workers) gathered to take a dramatic stand towards ending all forms of discrimination and untouchability. The historic event, led under the inspiration of H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Co-Founder of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Founder of Ganga Action Parivar, was a first of its kind in which a pointed statement of unity was made through the very act of dining side-by-side.
Said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji: “The very concept of untouchability should be considered an abomination. We all bleed red. We all live under the same sheltering sky and we all have been created by the same loving God. Let it be made clear today and forever more that we are all one family. Let us never again sin against our brothers and sisters through the delusions of untouchability. Instead, let us dine together and let us embrace one-another as true and graceful reflections of divinity.”
Attending the event were faith leaders including Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Founder-President of Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti, Acharya Dr. Lokesh Muniji, Head of Gurudwara Bangla Sahib New Delhi, Paramjit Singh Chandok, Shri Sushil Goswamiji from Sarva Dharma Sansad, and President of Divine Shakti Foundation, Dr. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji.
Said eminent Jain leader, Acharya Lokesh Muniji, “To consider one soul more valuable than another is an act against ahimsa (non-violence). If we are to realize a peaceful world, then the even the word, ‘untouchability,’ must be forever removed from our vocabulary.”
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji also added, “Today on the banks of Mother Ganga, in honour of Ganga Dussehra, we are celebrating the confluence of mediation and sanitation. Saints help us clean our internal world and safai karyakartas help us clean our outside world, both are vital for the progress of our self and our society. ‘Manav, Manav Ek Samaan, Sabke Beethar Hai Bhagawan’ we all are one one family…is the theme of this sahaboj bhandara (feast) of oneness and unity today.”
All participants were visibly touched by the sight of hundreds of beloved saints and sweepers enjoying the company of one-another. As Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji lovingly placed a sweet on the plate of one woman sanitation worker, her eyes filled with tears. “All my life, I have been avoided as if I am less than human,” she later said. “Yet today, I feel such great hope. Never in my wildest dreams could I have thought that I would ever have the opportunity to dine with great saints such as these, who see me for who I am: as a person of value.”
Said Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, “It is my prayer that all people embrace the beautiful spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam by opening our hearts, opening our arms and opening our doors to all. It can begin with a simple meal like this, and can end with great and tangible peace.”
Concluded Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, “Just as the River Ganga does not differentiate between those who worship her or those who pollute her but she keeps flowing for all. Just like she irrigates the fields of Shyam Lal, Shalim Mohhamad, Sohan Singh, or Sebastian, so to as her children and her people we must break free from these borders and boundaries. Let us all vow to be like the River Ganga, who nurtures and serves people of all castes and walks of life without discrimination or hesitation. Through such a determination, the flow of our lives will become holy, and our great nation will forever benefit from the friendship, love and peace that can be realized by all.”