Inheritance of Indignity
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As you enter the lawns of the British Council, the portrait of a child sitting against a blue wall grabs your attention. With a small steel bowl placed between his hands, this photograph — shot by documentary photographer Sanjit Das Lee — is the story of the son of a manual scavenger, who is discriminated at school during mid-day meals.
Part of the exhibition "Breaking Margins", inaugurated on Monday to mark the UN Human Rights Day, the displays feature visual narratives of such socially-excluded communities through photographs by Indian photographers Lee and Firoz Ahmad, and a humanitarian organization called Nologo. Co-organized by Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) and the British Council, the exhibition features nearly 30 photographs and text plates that emphasize the need for social inclusion of the communities engaged in manual scavenging.
"There was this woman named Savitri Bai who told us that she cannot eat yellow dal because it reminds her of the kind of job she is practicing. There was another man, a graduate who could not find a job because his wife was a manual scavenger. He ended up working as a sweeper," said Rajan Khosla, director at PACS.
Placed at the centre of the exhibition is the "Wall of Dignity", which contains portraits of 10 Dalit women dressed in saris. "Often, the task of cleaning dry latrines is passed on from the mother-in-law to the bride, almost like an inheritance of indignity. But these brave women challenged caste-based discrimination. Not only have they left the practice, they have also questioned it," he explains.
The exhibition is on display at British Council, 17, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, till December 22.