THE FORMIDABLE ACTIVIST
As a student in class XI, Manisha Devi once called out her government school teacher for treating her differently from her prettier upper caste schoolmate. For her guts, Manisha, a Valmiki Dalit, was kicked and thrown out of the class by him. For many teenagers, this could be a defeat, or an end of their education. For Manisha it was just the beginning. Her motivation to stand up to her teacher stemmed from her growing inclination towards Dalit activism. Now, she has spent the last eight years travelling all over Haryana, working with different activist groups, to raise awareness against caste oppression at the grassroot level. A constant nomad, she can be found going to the most remote of villages on any given day. At any meeting, any dharna, hers is one of the loudest, most untiring voices agitating against the unrelenting atrocities perpetuated against the Dalit community in the state of Haryana.”
Born and brought up in Baradpur, Kurukshetra, Manisha is now completing her Masters in Women’s Studies from Kurukshetra University, where she works with student groups to protect the rights of Dalit students, who often have to hide their identities to get a place to stay in cities. She has worked with both National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR) and with the All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM). Her role lies in meeting the vicitm of the atrocity, counseling them, talking to them about legal aid, often helping them file their police complaints. Her presence, representing organised support for the victim,and her awareness of the law and of Dalit rights ensures the case gets registered and not dismissed by a notoriously callous police force. Another role, a hugely important one, if for her to mobilise young Dalit girls and boys into volunteer groups – making them part of the network of support for Dalits that is slowly making its way across Haryana.