Bridging Social Divide
Crusade against untouchability has become a part of his, and his family-members' lives. During his school days, he felt it abhorring that his classmates teased some boys in the class by shouting “bhangi-bhangi” at them. Born in a mixed locality of upper as well as so-called untouchable castes, and sent to a school with a mixed spectrum of pupils, Chhavindra Saini of Meerut (54) realised at an early age how debilitating the scourge of untouchability was for those who were subjected to it.
His mother is the prime inspiration behind the cause. “My mother was and is a true lover of students of all untouchable castes, she showered natural motherly affection on them, and she has been a great influence on my thinking and psyche. But when I came in the contact of the RSS, I found a number of think-alike persons who had made social co-mingling with the untouchables a life-time habit. And this gave me a mammoth inspiration”, says Shri Saini. He came in contact of RSS in 1982. RSS Pracharak Shri Lalji Pandey exhorted him to work for cohesion between various Hindu castes. Saini chalked out for himself and his RSS Shakha, a programme aimed to bring about Samarasata (cohesion) between different castes.
Saini started inviting sweepers along with their families to his family functions such as marriage, birthday party, wedding anniversary, etc. He along with his wife dined on the same table with them. Similarly, he makes the sweepers invite him in their own family functions and takes wife and children with him. So far he has attended about a hundred matrimonial and other functions at various Valmiki and Jatav households. During the Navratras also he invites and fetches 51 Valmiki and Jatav girls by arranging for their transportation. At his residence, he, his wife and mother wash the feet of these little girls considering them as goddesses, feed them, and offer them new clothes while departing.
In 1982, he started annual Kanvar Yatra accompanied by a group of 30-35 youths, most of them Valimikis and Jatavs. This practice has been going on for the last 33 years uninterrupted barring a year when he was indisposed and unable to walk long distance. Besides Kanvar Yatra, he also arranges pilgrimages to Vaishno Devi, Kedarnath, Badarinath and other sacred place normally once every two years along with these people.
The result of these visits is that Pandits from Badarinath and Kedarnath visit the homes of Valmikis and Jatavs whenever they are in Meerut. Through all these efforts, Saini has been able to bring closer about a thousand families of all castes. They co-mingle, co-dine and take part in each others' matters of joy and sorrow. The darkness of inferiority complex engulfing the minds of the so-called low caste people among them has vanished. Many Pandits now happily perform puja at the homes of SCs while this seemed a far cry a few decades back. The process may be slow but the spirit of mission augurs extremely well for real national integration.
—Ajay Mittal, Meerut