Jaipur, Jan 22: Dalits need to unite and fight the unjust system rather than taking their own lives, says Bant Singh, a Dalit activist from Punjab who lost his arms and leg in an attack by upper caste members.
"Committing suicide is not a solution. We need to fight against the system. I never succumbed to attempts to give up my fight, though there were many," said Bant Singh, referring to the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula of the Hyderabad University which sparked outrage in the country.
"I am ready to take my struggle to Hyderabad along with the students. My fight will continue till I am alive. My disability is not a hindrance. I would have lost my arm and legs even in an accident," said Singh.
His biographical book - The Ballad of Bant Singh: A Qissa of Courage - was released on the inaugural day of the Jaipur Lit. Fest.
He belongs to the Burj Jhabbar village in Mansa district of Punjab.
His struggle began in 2002 when his oldest daughter was raped by a group of upper-caste youth.
Singh refused to be just a victim and became the first Dalit to secure a conviction in the case against people belonging to the dominant castes of the area over the course of two years of fight for justice.
That victory was the beginning of a new struggle. In 2006, he lost both his arms and a leg when some men attacked him with iron rods.
Despite the trauma in his life, Singh continues to be a powerful voice for the poor and the oppressed in the state.
"There is a perception that Punjab is a rich state. However, the state has the largest population of Dalits and the farmers are in dire straits," Bant Singh said.
He said the farmers in Punjab are committing suicides and Dalits are ill-treated.
"We are here to tell people what happens at the grassroot level."
Also a singer, Singh hopes to be the voice of the oppressed.