Swaeros

All Images: Facebook/Praveen Kumar Swaero

"The hands which beat Dappu (drum) should earn dollars! The hands which held sickles should write coding!!" With these words, Praveen Kumar Swaero IPS ended his speech amidst loud cheers at Swaero's fourth congregation held in Alampur town in South Telangana's Jogulamba Gadwal district. 

The gathering brought together thousands of alumni from social welfare schools across the state and included inspirational speeches, performances that went past midnight this Sunday.

Ramon Magsaysay awardee Bezwada Wilson, ex-DGP Prasada Rao and former Chief Secretary Kaki Madava Rao, along with a few other young achievers such as young mountaineer Malavatah Purna, Darshanala Sushma were present. 

The six-letter word "Swaero" is not alien to Telugu states or on social media. In short, it is a "social assertion revolution for Dalits" – a campaign launched by senior IPS officer and secretary of the Telangana Social Welfare Residential Educational Institutions Society, RS Praveen Kumar.

Many say that Swaero is a word which represents the aspirations of marginalised communities who were suppressed and kept away from the mainstream for thousands of years in the name of caste.

French political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, who spoke on “Dr Ambedkar and His Legacy” recently at Jaipur Literary Festival, said that the stigma of being a Dalit still exists in 21st century India.

This is the stigma which Swaeros wants to challenge and dismantle through the government's institutional support.

The “sw” in Swaero stands for social welfare, while the word “aero” refers to the sky, suggesting that sky is the limit for them, and they have the tagline "No reverse gears".

Civil Services faculty, Prabaker Chouti, a Swaero himself, speaking to TNM says, "We want to kill the inferiority among students and our approach is working well."

Prabaker says there is an increase in civil services aspirants unlike in the past.

The movement has helped hundreds of students to get through IITs’ and other prestigious institutions, while some have gone to USA as part of study exchange programmes.

What’s in a name?

Praveen Kumar, who is an alumni of Harvard University, believes that discriminatory identities were imposed on the oppressed and wanted to see a change soon. It started by appending Swaero as suffix to names and now it has reached a stage where the so-called Dalit, Harijan colonies are being named "Swaeroes' Colony".

Starting a new trend, educated men have started using the word “Swaero” on their wedding cards, newborns are being given this name at birth while business shops, bikes and cars are also featuring the name "Swaero".

Several social scientists and scholars point out that names and surnames especially of lower castes have always been a subject of humiliation and bullying.

Dr Gopani Chandraiah, Assistant Professor at Allahabad Central University said, "These changes reflect the aspirations and want for reaching spaces which were inaccessible for generations".

He observes that "for any social transformation, the cultural base is important and Swaero is contributing its best".

An organic pedagogy 

Social welfare schools have a range of curricula, including summer Samurai courses such as Humbanage Karodpathi, Creative Writing, Young journalist, Water Sports and Western Music.

As part of the practical approach, the school children can be seen in the fields or in their kitchen gardens once in a while. 

Posting one such picture from the fields on social media, Praveen Kumar stated, "Empathy is the key, we hope that such exposure make them sensitive to the pain of farmers and farm labourers".

Many educationists are appreciating the schools for adopting "an organic pedagogy".

Looking ahead, Prabaker says "Swaero's are going to be the pioneers of regeneration of society as Dr BR Ambedkar dreamed".