The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation on Wednesday announced its awardees and Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna and Bezwada Wilson, the national convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan, both have found a place in the list.
Mr. Krishna will receive the award for “social inclusiveness in culture,” while Bezwada Wilson was named as an awardee for “asserting the inalienable right to a life of human dignity.”
“Fifty years old, Bezwada Wilson has spent 32 years on his crusade, leading not only with a sense of moral outrage but also with remarkable skills in mass organizing, and working within India’s complex legal system. 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. While Bezwada has placed at the core of his work the dalits’ self-emancipation, he stresses that manual scavenging is not a sectarian problem,” states Mr. Wilson’s citation.
T.M.Krishna’s citation says: “He saw that his was a caste-dominated art that fostered an unjust, hierarchic order by effectively excluding the lower classes from sharing in a vital part of India’s cultural legacy. He questioned the politics of art; widened his knowledge about the arts of the dalits (“untouchables”) and non-Brahmin communities; and declared he would no longer sing in ticketed events at a famous, annual music festival in Chennai to protest the lack of inclusiveness. Recognizing that dismantling artistic hierarchies can be a way of changing India’s divisive society, Krishna devoted himself to democratizing the arts as an independent artist, writer, speaker, and activist.”
Mr. Krishna, who is in Russia, has already been informed about the award. He is a student of late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The vocalist, who is also the author of A Southern Music – The Karnatic Story, writes regularly for publications across the country as well. He has been instrumental in organising the Urur Olcott Kuppam festival, where art forms of the fisherfolk in the area are performed as well as classical art forms. The musician has also spoken about the importance of not keeping carnatic music in the confines of the sabhas in the city and has also on many occasions , emphasised on the need to make the performing arts more accessible and without barriers. He had been vocal in raising reservations about the structure of a Carnatic music concert and the ticketing systems in place following which In June 2015, he had announced that he would not be performing in the December music season henceforth.
Among other Indians to win the award in the past are Sanjiv Chaturvedi (2015), Anshu Gupta (2015), Harish Hande (2012), Deepa Joshi (2009), P. Sainath (2007), V. Shantha (2005), Aruna Roy (2000), Kiran Bedi (1994), Ela Bhatt (1977), Baba Amte (1985) and Vinoba Bhave (1958).
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is one of Asia’s most prestigious awards celebrating leadership in Asia. The awardees are presented with a certificate and a medallion with an embossed image of Ramon Magsaysay, former President of the Phillippines after whom the award is named. The awards will be presented on August 31 at a formal ceremony in Manila.