Monday, September 30, 2002

Survey calls Naidu's Dalit bluff

Ashok Das

Exactly a year ago, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu led a group of Dalits into the Laxmi Bhavani temple in Peddareddypet village of Medak district. It was a symbolic gesture - touted as the government's attempt at breaking the social barriers of untouchability.

And so for the next 10 days, ministers, officials and TDP functionaries herded Dalits to village temples. With this, the government boasted, it had brought about the "empowerment" of Dalits � something that could not be achieved for centuries.

But all that "empowerment" seems to have been nullified. A recently-concluded study by the Committee Against Caste Discrimination (CACD), a non-governmental agency, proves that the government had talked too loudly and too soon. Nothing had changed for the Dalits.

* Almost all temples, which Dalits entered, have been "cleansed" and whitewashed;

* Caste Hindus, in connivance with revenue and police officials, are foisting false cases against the Dalits;

* Many of them are being denied work in the government's food-for-work programme and are forced to migrate to other villages in search of jobs;

* They are barred from entering temples in 110 villages. In remaining villages, Dalits either had their own places of worship or were are simply not interested in angering upper castes by asking for worship rights.

* Dalits are not allowed to share the same bus shelters with upper castes in 226 villages; are not allowed haircut by local barbers in 76 villages; are not allowed to cremate their dead on the village land in 74 villages; and are denied access to the drinking water wells and taps in 34 villages.

"The Dalits were quietly forgotten after the 10-day campaign was over," CACD president Poturi Ramaiah said. Ramaiah said the findings were being sent to NHRC and the National SC/ST panel.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 30, 2002

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