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NEW DELHI: Acknowledging that little was done to eradicate untouchability over the years, home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was a 'movement' to end this discrimination. 

Speaking at an event 'Untouchability No More', organized by Sulabh International where members of Dalit community and Pandits from Varanasi had food together, Singh said, "Mahatma Gandhi had started the campaign against untouchability. Our prime minister (Narendra Modi) too has started the campaign for cleanliness. It (Swachhta campaign) is not just about keeping our cities clean, it is a movement against untouchability." 

Singh, along with BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi and Domariyaganj MP Jagdambika Pal, had food with members of the Dalit community, who used to work as manual scavengers, and Pandits. "I'm very emotional today. It is a historic movement and a big step towards ending untouchability… There is no difference between people. We all are part of one big family,'' Singh said. Social justice and empowerment minister Thawar Chand Gehlot, who was the chief guest, was conspicuous by his absence. 

The event was attended by members of Dalit community from Alwar and Tonk in Rajasthan and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh. "They were all manual scavengers. But we have been successful in abolishing the practice and have successfully rehabilitated these people. Today, we have taken a big step towards eradicating untouchability. These people had lunch with Pandits from Varanasi. They also offered sweets to BJP members and Union home minister," said Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International. 

For members of the community, it was a big moment as they were having food with people who once shunned them. Lalita, who used to work as a manual scavenger in Alwar, said she sat next to the priest of a temple in Alwar where Dalits were not allowed. "Earlier, they didn't let us enter their homes or temples. But now the mindset is changing,'' said Lalita. 

But many admitted that untouchability was still practiced in large parts of the country. "It will take time to end this practice completely. It took us some time to convince other priests to have food with Dalits,'' said Radha Shyam Shukla, a Pandit from Varanasi. Though lunch was arranged by Sulabh International, many Pandits were seen having food in cafeteria at the venue. 

While addressing a large gathering Singh admitted that a lot needs to be done to "completely end untouchability". "We have to accept everyone who is friend and acquaintance as family not just those who are in blood relations… Untouchability should end completely and a lot needs to be done," he said.

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