Bezwada Wilson, a Dalit Christian from the southern Indian state of Karnataka, and a member of the Church of South India, was July 27 announced as one of the six recipients of the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Ramon Magsaysay Award winner for 2016, Dr Bezwada Wilson as a 10-year old boy grew up listening to the derogatory word ‘Tothi’ (bhangi in Hindi, sweeper) caustically aimed at him by others at school and in the society. When he moved out of his native – Kolar Goldfields township in Karnataka to Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh to attend his middle school, nothing changed. He was made to believe that since he belonged to a family of manual scavengers, even if he wasn’t pursuing the profession, he was no less than an untouchable and an outcaste. Wilson, who was born in a Dalit family and was the first in his family to pursue higher education, chose to channelise his seething anger to a crusade to eradicate manual scavenging.