Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Upper caste jailbirds strike against sharing kitchen with Dalits

From J P Yadav
PATNA, Sept 9

In a grotesque case, the district jail of Arra is witnessing a non-violent agitation by its upper caste inmates for restoration of their “superior” caste status. Around 100 such prisoners identified as members of the outlawed private army Ranvir Sena are on a hunger strike, not willing to share food from the kitchen used for the dalit inmates.

The upper caste members belonging mainly to the Bhumihar caste have been agitating since September 5. It was on this date that the district administration cracked down to enforce the jail manual, thereby introducing a single kitchen for all prisoners. Earlier, the upper caste inmates ran a separate kitchen for themselves which was closed by the administration.

“Everyone is equal before the law. Meals for all inmates from now on will be prepared in the same kitchen irrespective of the caste and political affiliation of the prisoners,” the district administration declared.

The order was apparently unacceptable to the upper caste prisoners, who by dint of their economic and political power always managed to get special arrangements made for themselves in the jail. To press their demand, around 100 prisoners owing allegiance to the Ranvir Sena went on a hunger strike. They urged the jail superintendent to restore their separate kitchen making it clear that sharing the food prepared in the kitchen used by the dalits was unacceptable to them.

The jail superintendent refused to accept their demand stating that it was against the jail manual. Talking to Deccan Herald, District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar said around 97 upper caste prisoners were on a hunger strike for a demand which was untenable to the administration. He pointed out that talks were on with the agitating prisoners and efforts were on to make them understand that it was not possible for the administration to run separate kitchens for different groups.

Apart from the “superiority” the caste system affords the Ranvir Sena inmates, the dalits happen to be supporters of the ultra left party CPI-ML (Liberation), the arch enemy of the Ranvir Sena in the district.

The banned Ranvir Sena has carried out several massacres of dalits in the region after they raised their voice over the issue of minimum wage and dignity of labour.

Source: Deccan Herald, September 10, 2002

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