Bezwada Wilson is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an Indian human rights organization that has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging.
Two Indians, human rights activist Bezwada Wilson and south Indian classical musician TM Krishna, have been conferred the Ramon Magsaysay Award for 2016. Other winners are Conchita Carpio-Morales from Philippines, Dompet Dhuafa from Indonesia, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and Vientiane Rescue from Laos. The Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual award, named after former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, to honour “greatness of spirit in selfless service to the peoples of Asia”, says the website of the foundation that selects the awardees. Who is Bezwada Wilson? Here is a short profile of him:
Bezwada Wilson is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an Indian human rights organization that has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging. He is well known as one of the leading figures of the Dalit movement in India. His work at SKA, a community-driven movement, has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation which has nominated him a Senior Fellow. SKA has grown into a network of 7,000 members in 500 districts across the country. Of the estimated 600,000 scavengers in India, SKA has liberated around 300,000.
Born in a community of manual scavengers in Kolar, Wilson saw his own parents clean toilets and carry human excreta as it was the only work they were ‘supposed to do’. Wilson decided not to follow suit and breakaway from the ages old boundations at the age of 17. According to reports, Wilson had his first direct encounter with manual scavenging in 1989 and that ‘he wanted to die’ while doing that.
Wilson has spent 32 years on his “crusade, leading not only with a sense of moral outrage but also with remarkable skills in mass organising, and working within India’s complex legal system.”