“In electing Thodur Madabusi Krishna to receive the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, the board of trustees recognizes 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,” reads Krishna’s citation. For Wilson, the jury noted: “The board of trustees recognizes 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.”
Krishna, 40, was trained from the age of six in Carnatic music under masters of the form. Though he earned a degree in economics, he chose to be an artist and quickly rose to become a highly admired concert performer. Recognizing that dismantling artistic hierarchies can be a way of changing India’s divisive society, Krishna devoted himself to democratizing the arts, it said.
In 2004, Krishna founded Sumanasa Foundation that identified gifted rural youth who lacked the opportunities to develop their talent, and brought them to Chennai to train under well known artistes, and in 2008, started the Svanubhava movement to bring together students of diverse social backgrounds to interact with renowned artists and learn about different art forms.
During the period 2011-2013, Krishna brought his passion and artistry to war-ravaged northern Sri Lanka, the first Carnatic musician to tour that region in three decades, and launched two festivals to promote “culture retrieval and revival” in that country, the citation said.
Wilson, 50, has spent 32 years in his crusade, his citation read
Born in a Dalit family in Karnataka’s Kolar, he was the first in his family, which had been engaged in manual scavenging for generations, to go for higher education. Treated as an outcast in school and acutely aware of his family’s lot, Wilson was filled with great anger; but he would later channel this anger to a crusade to eradicate manual scavenging, it said, adding he started by changing the mindset of his family and relatives - that being a Dalit is not their fate but a status imposed by society and that no human being should be made to do such demeaning work as scavenging. In 1986, he sent a complaint about dry latrines to the authorities of their town, and when he was ignored sent the complaint to the Prime Minister and threatened legal action. As a result, the town’s dry latrines were converted and scavengers transferred to non-scavenging jobs. Four other Magsaysay Award winners this year are Conchita Carpio-Morales from the Philippines, Dompet Dhuafa from Indonesia, Vientiane Rescue from Laos and Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. Instituted in 1957, the award named after the late President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines is bestowed on persons as well as organisations for “greatness of spirit and transformative leadership” in Asia.