Two Indians have been figured in the prestigious list of awardees announced by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna and dalit activist Bezwada Wilson have been named in the list for 2016, published by the foundation on their website.
Wilson is one of the founders and National Convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA)—the organisation that campaigns for the eradication of manual scavenging. The award, the website states, is a recognition for "his moral energy and prodigious skill in leading a grassroots movement to eradicate the degrading servitude of manual scavenging in India, reclaiming for the dalits the human dignity that is their natural birthright."
The website cites Wilson's struggles against manual scavenging and the inequality faced by dalits in India. "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: “You are addressing all members of society, because no human being should be subjected to this inhuman practice.” Society itself has to be transformed," reads the citation on the website.
Thodur Madabusi Krishna is being honoured for "ensuring social inclusiveness in culture", according to the website. The foundation states that it "recognises his forceful commitment as artist and advocate to art’s power to heal India’s deep social divisions, breaking barriers of caste and class to unleash what music has to offer not just for some but for all."
The website cites, "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."