For 96 years, the Mahad Satyagraha has represented a demand for the human rights of Dalits and the rejection of the caste system’s repressive impositions on their communities.
Illustration by Ajinkya Dekhane
The Mahad Municipality, which was then part of the Bombay Province reaffirmed this resolution in 1924.
Dr Ambedkar had gone to Mahad to preside over a two-day conference organised by Kolaba District Depressed Classes on March 19–20, 1927 on the invitation of Ramachandra Babaji More. The conference was attended by thousands of delegates. The main agenda of the gathering was to raise awareness about the civil rights of Dalits. During the conference it was decided that the attendees would march to the Chavdar tank and the depressed classes will assert their moral and legal right to access a public water body.
On March 20 1927, Dr Ambedkar led a procession of 2,500 Dalits to march through the main streets and towards the Chavdar tank. He demanded that Dalits be allowed access to water as it is their moral and legal right to do so. Dr. Ambedkar took water from the tank and drank it. Others followed suit in a historical act.
The story of the Mahad Satyagraha led by Dr Ambedkar is a story of great courage, resistance and victory over oppression. The act of thousands of Dalits drinking water from the public lake – a forbidden act owing to the persecution of the caste system for hundreds of centuries – is an act of assertion and fearlessness by Dalits. For 96 years, the Mahad Satyagraha has represented a demand for the human rights of Dalits and the rejection of the caste system’s repressive impositions on their communities. Every year, March 20 is observed as Social Empowerment day in India to commemorate the Mahad Satyagraha.