TM Exclusive: Canadian City Honors Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Designates April as 'Dalit History Month'

This initiative follows in the footsteps of British Columbia, which became the first province in North America to observe April as “Dalit History Month” last year. Furthermore, Burnaby, a city in British Columbia, recently added caste to its list of protected categories, effectively prohibiting caste-based discrimination.
Dr. Ambedkar
Dr. Ambedkar

New Delhi- In a testament to the increasing influence of Ambedkarites globally, the city of Burlington in Ontario Province, Canada, has declared April as “Dalit History Month” and the 14th of April as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Day of Equity.

Dalit History Month, observed throughout April, presents an opportunity to raise awareness about the systemic oppression faced by Dalits and advocate for their rights and dignity. It also seeks to challenge stereotypes and prejudices associated with caste, fostering solidarity among marginalized communities in India and worldwide.

The proclamation issued by Marianne Meed Ward, Mayor of the City of Burlington, reads:

"Whereas April holds significant importance for Dalit communities, encompassing the birth and death anniversaries of pivotal Dalit leaders and social reformers in the movement against systemic discrimination based on caste, such as Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Jyotirao Phule. Therefore, I, Marianne Meed Ward, Mayor of the City of Burlington, do hereby declare April 2024 as “Dalit History Month” in the City of Burlington. I commend its thoughtful observance to all citizens of our municipality."

Additionally, Mayor Meed Ward released another proclamation, announcing that April 14, the birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, will be celebrated as “Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Day of Equity.”

The City of Burlington boasts a sizable population of Ravidasia (SC community among Sikhs) and is home to the Guru Ravidass Gurudwara Sahib.

Last year, the province of British Columbia in Canada made history by becoming the first province in North America to designate April as “Dalit History Month.”

In a similar vein, Burnaby, a city in British Columbia, took significant strides by adding caste to the list of protected categories, effectively prohibiting caste-based discrimination within the city. This move came just two months after the city council of Seattle in the neighboring USA did the same.

In an interview with The Mooknayak, Vijay Puli from SADAN (South Asian Dalit Adivasi Network) said Leena Sharma from the organization Mending the Chasm played an instrumental role in advocating for the observance of ‘Dalit History Month’ and ‘Dr. Ambedkar Day of Equity,’ with support from SADAN, Canada.

He further mentioned that the proclamation was issued at the Mayor's office during an event attended by several prominent Ambedkarites of the Ontario province, including Anand Balley from Dr. Ambedkar International Coordination Society (AICS), Nitin Duphare, and Vaishali Duphare from Ambedkar Mission Toronto.

South Asians in Canada: Carrying Caste Across Borders

Dalits constitute the lowest stratum of the caste system, an entrenched social hierarchy in India. For centuries, Dalits have endured social discrimination, including the pervasive practice of untouchability. However, Dr. Ambedkar spearheaded their emancipation by enshrining fundamental social, educational, economic, and political rights in the Constitution of India. Despite these strides, caste-based practices and atrocities persist in India to this day.

Remarkably, the proliferation of South Asians beyond the Indian subcontinent has extended the reach of this social malady beyond Indian borders. Dr. Ambedkar astutely predicted that "If Hindus migrate to other regions on earth, the Indian caste system would become a global issue." While rooted in Hinduism, the caste system also prevails among people of other South Asian religions, such as Sikhism and Islam.

As per the 2021 census, Canada is home to approximately 2.3 million South Asians, with Indians constituting around 1.3 million of the population. Ontario boasts the highest concentration of South Asians, predominantly Indians, with a significant number adhering to the Hindu faith.

The official recognition of Ambedkar Jayanti as Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Day of Equity, alongside the designation of April as Dalit History Month, signals a promising future for the Ambedkarite movement not only in Canada but also across the globe.

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