Thursday, October 31, 2002

Dalit woman raped in Uttar Pradesh

A dalit woman was allegedly raped by three men in Ghatampur police circle in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday night, police said on Thursday. According to the police, the woman, a midwife in village Chaja was approached by one Raj Kumar of the same village to assist his wife's delivery.

While going with Raj Kumar, two of his associates accosted them on the way and dragged her to the fields where all the three men are reported to have criminally assaulted her in a drunken state.
The woman informed the incident to her husband who lodged a case with Ghatampur police station. While no arrest has been made so far police is investigating the case.

Source: Press Trust of India, October 31, 2002

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Why I Decided To Convert The Dalits Of Jhajjar

UDIT RAJ

If you had visited Badshahpur, Akhlimpur, or Tikli with me on October 22 and seen what I saw, you would have decided right then and there to give a call to all the Dalits of the area to convert to Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. Anything but Hinduism.

These three are the hamlets of the five Dalits who were lynched to death on October 15 in Jhajjar district for hiding a dead cow. In Badshahpur village, Budhram, the father of Dayachandra, one of the five victims, wept bitterly. He kept telling me, We worshipped the gau mata, why did they kill my son? He, and Ratanlal, the father of another victim Virendra, also converted to Buddhism on July 27. Under pressure from the authorities, they are now being forced to claim that they tonsured their heads in protest, not to convert.

In neighbouring Akhlimpur lives the widow of Totaram, another of the five victims. She has four little children between the age group of two months and four years. There is no hope for me or any of these children, I wish the killers had killed all of us, she mumbled.

In the other villages, I heard accounts of how local Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders had held a victory procession after the public lynching, how they had decided to reward the killers and claimed that they had burnt Ravana. VHP leaders in Delhi such as Giriraj Kishore had already claimed that the life of a cow was more precious than that of a human being.

I decided right then to convert whoever wished to, to Buddhism. Five Dalits have been killed in Jhajjar, not because of personal enmity or political vendetta. The prevailing system, which believes in the hierarchy of individuals, in the duality between purity and pollution, is responsible for their killings. I resolved to teach that system a lesson. Conversion was the only fitting reply to the guardians of Hinduism. It was a tribute to those who were killed.

On October 27, when I along with my Lord Buddha Club and All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations, went to Gurgaon in Haryana to carry on the planned conversions, I found that several other organisations of Muslims, Christians and others had converged there as well. People began converting spontaneously in big numbers. Almost 80 people converted to different religions on that day alone. Many more wanted to, but could not due to the problems of logistics.

Conversion is the only justice for the relatives of those who were killed. No amount of compensation will help the victims families. It is the only justice for Dalits all over the country. Babasaheb Ambedkar would have decided to do just that.

The cow is not the monopoly of any one community, as poor old Budhram rightly pointed out. Imagine killing fellow human beings on behalf of the cow! Its like killing children in the name of their mother.

Have you not seen old cows being mistreated daily on the streets? Those who consider the cow as their mother should, instead of killing fellow human beings, instead of letting cows starve on the streets and forcing them to feed on garbage, help provide comfort to them in their homes. Why are cows regularly sold after they stop producing milk? Why do they wear shoes made of cows hide if they regard her as a mother?

Why is the Sangh Parivar so afraid of conversion? What is conversion other than a change of ideas, attitudes, and a mindset? It is nothing but the freedom to change your opinion, your belief. And I thought the Constitution guarantees you such freedom of opinion under the chapter of fundamental rights. If you are so afraid of conversion, make Hinduism caste free, get rid of the age-old varna hierarchy and conversion will automatically stop.

Under the present system of inequality, conversion for Dalits is much more than a mere change of opinion, it is a necessity in order to survive, to live a live of respect. It is emancipation from a social order, which treats them worse than animals. Conversion is the only solution for millions of Dalits all over the country if they are to live with human dignity. I have taken a firm resolve: whenever and wherever Dalits are subjected to any kind of humiliation or injustice, all of us will protest by renouncing Hinduism and converting to other faiths.

If the Sanatan Dharam is sincere about reforming Hinduism of caste discrimination, heres a suggestion: appoint the four Shankaracharyas of the four Peeths one from each varna: Brahmin, Kshtriya, Vaishya and Sudra. Conversion will become history. In this age of globalisation, let there be free competition between various religions. People will choose the religion they prefer the most, perhaps one which is more in tune with freedom and equality than others.

(Udit Raj is chairperson of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations)

Source: Outlookindia.com, October 30, 2002

Dalit beaten up, paraded in Sivaganga

By R. Ilangovan

Sivaganga Oct. 29. A Dalit farm worker was ``thrashed and paraded half naked'' when he resisted the use of machine, instead of human labour, for desilting a village tank at Satharasankottai in Sivaganga district.

The revolting act was allegedly enacted before the entire village community by a powerful few, who resented the Dalit interference in desilting works in the traditional water holding system.

Velu was brutally attacked when he raised objections to village labour not being engaged. ``The councillor (M.S. Sahabudeen of the AIADMK) and his men beat me with wooden logs and dragged me to the village bus stop,'' he said. The village, with a strong caste Hindu population, remained a mute witness. Velu was rescued by his brother's son, who promised the assailants that he would henceforth keep silent.

A spate of complaints, has, however, forced the district administration to suspend the desilting works pending further enquiry.

Water was brimful in the Nainappan Servai tank when the works were undertaken. ``We asked them not to empty the tank and to carry out desilting in summer. But they refused,'' claimed a Dalit labourer in the village.

Desilting was being done under the `Sampoorna Gramma Suya Velai Vaippu Thittam', which ensures water-user participation, enlisting the services of those who live below the poverty line. The work order was issued in the name of Gnanakkan, a village Dalit. But the work, according to villagers, was being ``executed'' by Mr. Sahabudeen, Kalayarkoil union councillor (ward 16), and his men with an excavator.

The villagers of surrounding hamlets, both Dalits and caste Hindus, are the major user-groups of this water body, which has remained silted up for four decades. ``We entirely rely on this tank for bathing and other purposes. Cattle also drink water from the tank, which has a five-acre water spread,'' said Velu, who is now undergoing treatment in the Sivaganga Government Hospital for ``multiple injuries.''

Rift in district AIADMK

The issue has caused a rift among senior AIADMK leaders of the district too. M.P. Arjunan, district deputy secretary (Farmers' wing), claimed that desilting had not been done properly. He accused Mr. Sahabudeen of flouting all norms for ``obvious reasons'', and demanded an enquiry into the whole incident.

The district CPI (M) secretary, M. Arjunan, has submitted to the Chief Minister a report on the desilting scandal.

But Mr. Sahabudeen denies all charges. Talking to The Hindu, he justified the use of the machine as ``the tank bed was of hard rock, with wild bush. Human labour would never yield the desired result.'' The charges against him were ``malicious and politically motivated.'' Velu was being ``instigated'' by some vested elements within the party, he said.

The police have registered cases against Mr. Sahabudeen and four others under Sections 147, 342 and 323 of IPC and Section 3 (1) (10) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Mobs dispense vigilante justice in Haryana

Sutapa Deb

Monday, October 28, 2002 (Jhajjar):

When Rajpal, a youth from a Dalit family eloped with Sushila, a Jat girl from Talaaav village in July, it unleashed the fury of a mob that wanted 'avenge' the insult.

Rajpal's house in the center of the village today lies vandalized, a monument to a criminal collective rage that seeks legitimacy from its numbers and a medieval instinct of honour.

Three months have elapsed, but no one from Rajpal's family has been able to return. Two educated Dalit youth, who spoke out against the terror tactics used against their community, were publicly humiliated in the village.

One of them, Sundar, who works in the court at Jhajjar, says that after the elopement, Dalits in his village were targeted by the majority Jat community. A number of them were forced to flee.

"Only people from the Scheduled Caste category were rounded up by the police. The message that went out to the village was that all those who belonged to the Chamar caste had a hand in the elopement," said Sundar.

Sundar went to the police and the press with an application signed by 12 Dalits, alleging that they faced threats to to their life from the Jats in the village.

Mysterious deaths

One of the applicants was Poonam, a common friend of the lovers who eloped, is a particularly vulnerable target. Unable to bear the pressure from the Jats, she committed suicide.

"I wasn't there. I had gone to cut grass, so I don't know whether the Jats scared her. But she must have got scared because the police would come daily and question her," said Poonam's mother-in-law.

Yet the police took no notice of either the application or the circumstances leading to Poonam's death. More deaths followed with the return of the lovers.

While the Dalit boy, Rajpal, was arrested, the Jat girl he had married and her sister both died hours after they returned to their parental home.

Another Dalit man, Hari Singh, committed suicide. Behind the trail of death and destruction, there were signs that the Jats were meting out their own version of justice.

Police inaction

The police claim to be unaware that Rajpal's family has been punished for the elopement.

"If they want to come back, they can come to me any time. I'll place a guard there. I'll take action (against those who vandalised the house) also, if they come to me," said Muhammed Akil, Jhajjar's Superintendent of Police.

As the administration remains inactive, vigilante justice by groups who are powerful because of their caste and community, appears to have become the law of the land.

Source: NDTV, October 28, 2002

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Families of lynched dalits embrace Buddhism, Islam

The families of the five dalits who were lynched by a mob on October 16 after being accused of skinning a cow in Jhajjar district of Haryana, on Sunday converted to Buddhism and Islam along with about 100 other families.

One dalit, Veer Shankar Lal Khairaliya, who converted to Islam, was given the name Saddam Hussein.

The families of Tota Ram, Daya Chand, Virender, Raju and Kailash embraced Buddhism.

The conversions were organised at Guru Ravidas Mandir by the All India Confederation of SC and ST Organisations and the Lord Buddha Club headed by Udit Raj.

Many people tonsured their heads to register their protest against the incident.

Bollywood director and producer Mahesh Bhatt and Joseph D'Souza, president of the All India Christian Council, were present on the occasion.

Source: Rediff.com, October 27, 2002

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Behind Jayalalithaa's Ordinance

ASHA KRISHNAKUMAR

The anti-conversion Ordinance is suggestive of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's strategy of moving closer to the Bharatiya Janata Party at a critical point in her political career.

"If you want to gain self-respect... equality... independence... change your religion... Because we have the misfortune of calling ourselves Hindus, we are treated thus (like untouchables). If we were members of another faith, none would dare treat us so. Choose any religion which gives you equality of status and treatment. I had the misfortune of being born with the stigma of an untouchable. However, it is not my fault; but I will not die an Hindu, for this is in my power... ''
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, October 13, 1935.


IT is this "power'' to convert to another religion just to be free from humiliation and oppression, that the recent Tamil Nadu law, the Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2002, seeks to take away. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government has announced its determination to bring a Bill to get legislative sanction for the measure.

Promulgated just three weeks before the start of the Assembly session, with no immediate provocation or theoretical basis, this new law, which prima facie contravenes the fundamental right of all citizens "to freely profess, practise and propagate religion,'' as ensured by Article 25(1) of the Constitution, has attracted criticism all-round. The objection is that it is regressive, draconian and biased against the minorities, the socially oppressed and the economically disadvantaged who are among the main converts.

According to Section 3 of the Ordinance: "No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either directly or otherwise, any person from one religion to another by the use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means.'' Contravention can attract a jail term up to three years and a fine of Rs. 50,000. If the convert is "a minor, a woman or a person belonging to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe,'' the jail term can be for five years and the fine Rs.1 lakh.

On the face of it, the stated objective of the Ordinance - to put an end to force, allurement or fraud in conversion - appears unexceptionable. But it does raise serious issues of what constitutes allurement, and who is to determine whether fraudulent means have been used. Given the ambiguity in the definition of the terms "allurement'', "force'' and "fraudulent means'', the apprehensions of minority religious bodies, mainly from the Christian community, about the new law seeking to put an end to genuine work among the sick, the poor and the illiterate - in which Christian missionaries have a long and enviable record in the country and in the State - are real. While Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is at pains to emphasise that it is "not directed against any particular religion,'' it does appear to have a bias against the Christian and Muslim communities.

Important in this context is Section 5 (1) of the Ordinance. It requires that anyone who converts by "himself'' or takes part in the conversion ceremony "as a religious priest'' or who "takes part directly or indirectly in such a ceremony'' has to intimate the local magistrate within a specified period. Failure to do so can attract a jail term of one year and a fine of Rs.1,000. This, according to the critics of the Ordinance, opens the door to intimidation, harassment and even persecution, particularly when the converts are from the socially and economically depressed sections, as is often the case.

In banning the so-called "forcible'' religious conversions, the Jayalalithaa Government is taking the sectarian route of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In some sense, it is seeking to outdo the BJP-ruled States that have not enacted a similar law that is anti-minority and anti-Dalit. Even Gujarat, for long a hotbed of communal tension, has not thought up such a draconian piece of legislation.

According to the critics of the Tamil Nadu law, neither "religious conversions'' nor "threats of conversion'' are new for the State. Also there has been no immediate provocation.

The Ordinance is widely seen as part of a series of initiatives that Jayalalithaa has taken, from 1991, to move closer to the BJP, which was virtually a non-entity in the State till then. The BJP, which put up a dismal show in the 1991 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the State - polling less than 2 per cent of the total votes, winning only 10 Assembly seats and losing its deposit in the rest of the 90 Assembly and 10 Lok Sabha seats it contested - has made inroads in the State. It has done this sitting on the shoulders of the Dravidian parties which, in their quest for political gain, appear not averse to abandoning the plank of secularism and rationalism to join hands with Hindutva forces. Also, changes in the dynamics of caste in the State have provided space for the BJP's entry.

According to the critics of the Tamil Nadu law, Jayalalithaa may be trying to get closer to the BJP for political and personal reasons. Jayalalithaa is perceived to have a sympathy for Hindutva. Swings in the country's political mood also influence her on-again, off-again relationship with the BJP.

IN June 1991, one of Jayalalithaa's first decisions soon after becoming Chief Minister was to launch a temple renovation scheme. She initiated a move to start Vedic colleges to train young men to become temple priests. She brought forward an ordinance that allowed the government to interfere with minority-run educational institutions, but withdrew it under pressure. Then, in November 23, 1992, at the National Integration Council meeting in New Delhi, she came out in support of allowing kar seva in Ayodhya. She was one of the first Chief Ministers to come out strongly against the dismissal of the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition. She allowed the Hindu Munnani - essentially a South-based outfit with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh leanings - to hold its State convention in Coimbatore, even though the RSS was officially banned. No wonder that at a meeting organised by the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas Manch - a body formed on January 25, 1993 and consisting mainly of sadhus to canvass support for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya - in Chennai on March 21, 1993, Hindu Munnani chief Rama Gopalan thanked Jayalalithaa for "being with us like god''. She allowed AIADMK cadres to collect 20 lakh signatures in support of the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, and the BJP to hold in Chennai a "national awakening'' meeting in which L.K. Advani participated.

And, now, during her second stint as Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, apart from providing money for temple renovation and pension for temple priests, started an `Annadanam' scheme to feed poor Hindus in temples and spiritual classes in over 150 Hindu temples. She also arranged a grand marriage ceremony for a number of Hindu couples. Significantly, she refused to condemn Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the communal riots post-Godhra and even spoke in favour of the Hindu population.

It is well known that an anti-conversion law has been high on the agenda of the RSS. Only last month RSS Sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan wrote on the need for an anti-conversion legislation in Panchajanya, the organisation's mouthpiece. Last year, the Tamil Nadu unit of the Hindu Munnani passed a resolution at its annual conference demanding such a law.

Politically, the Ordinance is suggestive of an AIADMK strategy of moving closer to the BJP leadership. Jayalalithaa's out-of-the-blue attack on Congress(I) president Sonia Gandhi's "Italian origins'' must be seen in this context. The critics also suggest a larger game plan of not letting the Dalits and minorities come together to become a potent force at election time. This is also a critical political time for Jayalalithaa since the Supreme Court's judgment in the TANSI cases are awaited (see following story).

The State government has a pious explanation for the Ordinance. It is supposed to act "as a deterrent against anti-social elements exploiting the innocent people in the depressed classes'' and to "stop communal tensions under the garb of conversions''. If conversions are seen as dramatically changing the composition of the population, thereby causing great social tension and upheaval, a demographic study would be required. Further, economic conditions would need to be researched to understand why conversions happen and who the converts are. A large proportion of Hindus who embrace Christianity or Islam belong to a Scheduled Caste or Tribe. What information exists suggests that conversions happen for social, rather than economic, reasons. But the State government does not seem to have attempted any objective study before promulgating the drastic Ordinance.

For, if the "allurement'' theory is true, there would have been large-scale conversions, particularly to Christianity on account of its excellent record of missionary service. This would be reflected in the percentage of Christians in Tamil Nadu's population. The simple fact is that this percentage has remained steadily around 5 per cent from the time of Independence (5.23 per cent in 1961 and 5.78 per cent in 1991). This is true also of the Muslim population, which has also been around 5 per cent of the State's population since Independence (4.63 per cent in 1961 and 5.21 per cent in 1991).

Another myth the Sangh Parivar tries to promote demagogically is that Muslims are poised to overtake Hindus in the population. According to Census figures, while India's Muslim population rose from 4.2 crores in 1941 to 7.6 crores in 1981 - an increase of 81 per cent - the Hindu population went up from 23.8 crores to 55 crores, a jump of 131 per cent. It will take 390 years for Muslims to become a majority, assuming the same annual compound growth rate of 2.71 per cent that prevailed between 1971 and 1981.

The ridiculousness of the Sangh Parivar claim becomes evident from the fact that if the same growth rate continues for 390 years (from 1981) there will be 5,000 billion Indians or roughly 5,000 times the population today. This is absurd. According to demographers, when the population reaches its stationary limit (every population group is bound to reach this limit with development), some time in the near future, the Muslim population is likely to be no more than 13 per cent of the total (India: Population, Economy, Society by R.H. Cassen).

Also, if the compound annual growth rate of Muslim population (2.71 per cent) is higher than the Hindu growth rate (2.19), it is primarily because of the higher fertility rates among Muslim women. These reflect poor socio-economic conditions, including a lack of education, a lack of access to health care services, low income and so on, as revealed by the recent NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation) Reports 438 and 468. In terms of income, 40 per cent of the Muslim population (double that of the Hindu population) belong to the bottom 20 per cent in towns and cities. If the "allurement'' theory were true, Hindus would certainly not be tempted to embrace Islam, a community whose socio-economic indicators are hardly alluring.

To demolish the "allurement'' theory further, we can look at the well-known1981 mass conversion episode in Kanyakumari district's Meenakshipuram village where nearly 200 Dalit families embraced Islam. All of them cited social reasons: harassment, ill-treatment and humiliation they had to face from `caste Hindus'. Socially oppressed and humiliated, the Dalits led a dismal life, worse than "animals''. Interestingly, of the three most socially oppressed castes in Tamil Nadu, the poorest, the Chakkiliyans, did not convert. However, Pallars, the best placed among them economically and in terms of education, did so.

The fact that people belonging to the Scheduled Castes were barred from entering temples (this unconstitutional social ban operates even today in many places), were discriminated against in eateries by the two-tumbler system, were not allowed to wear shirts and footwear, were denied access to common wells, and even streets where caste Hindus lived, were humiliated at work places and had their women exploited, led them to convert to Islam.

The hope was that conversion to a religion that did not preach or practise untouchability would change their social status. That a change in status happened is borne out by subsequent studies (Frontline, December 1, 1995; and Religion in South India:Religious Conversion and Revival Movements in South Asia in Medieval and Modern Times edited by G.A. Oddie; Manohar, New Delhi, 1991) two decades ago in Meenakshipuram now live with self-respect and are addressed as "bhai'' or "attha'' and have also risen to respectable positions in the local Jumma (mosque). Enthused by the improvement in the social status of those converted, 50 more Dalit families embraced Islam at Meenakshipuram subsequently.

Dalits continue to face the same kind of humiliation and oppression in Tamil Nadu even today. Recent shocking incidents in Tiruchi district's Thinniyam village where two Dalits were forced to eat human faeces by Thevars, and in Dindigul, where a Dalit was forced by Gounders to drink urine, are but the tip of the iceberg. Dalit Murasu editor Punitha Pandiyan comments: "These incidents are real issues that `force' the Dalits away from the Hindu fold.'' Peace activist Valson Thampu observes that "if at all `force' plays a role in the conversions of the S.Cs, S.Ts and Dalits , it is not by those who `propagate' their faiths but by the oppressive caste system and the humiliation they face from caste Hindus.'' According to him, the social oppression has to be dealt with if conversions are to be stopped.

Most often, Dalits have used the `conversion' threat as a last resort to draw the attention of the administration to the unfair treatment meted out to them by caste Hindus. The conversion threat was famously used by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in 1935 to draw attention to the plight of the S.Cs and S.Ts. He eventually led nearly a million Dalits into another faith, Buddhism, in 1956. It is this powerful moral weapon that the new law tries to take away from Dalits and the poor. For example, in Koothirambakkam village of Tamil Nadu's Kancheepuram district, Dalits have successfully used from 1979 the "conversion'' threat to get their rightful dues - a cement road, an overhead water tank, access to the temple road and a common well, and a ration shop - from the district administration. The 58 families living in the Dalit colony of the village ask with anger and disappointment: "Even as the government is unable to ensure that we are not treated like inferior animals, it is coming up with an anti-conversion law. We are all going to embrace Islam. Let the government arrest all of us.''

Tamil Nadu's move needs also to be seen in the larger political context of the bogey of "forcible conversions'' being raised time and again by the Hindutva forces when it suits their agenda. This became clear in 1998 when churches and missionaries came under attack in Gujarat and some other parts of the country. Instead of acting to put an end to this targeted anti-minority violence, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called for a "national debate'' on conversion by missionaries.

It was at the Mumbai Conference of Hindu religious leaders in 1964 that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad was formed as the militant arm of the Hindu Right. Its primary task, to "consolidate and strengthen the Hindu society'', was to be achieved by taking on systematically Muslim clergy and Christian missionaries "who had launched intensive activity to convert Hindus, especially the S.C. and S.T., in various parts of the country''. The conference identified Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Gujarat as areas of heightened Muslim activity. Christian missionaries, the conference observed, were dangerously active in the northeastern region, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat.

The VHP systematically resorted to propagating myths against the minority communities (Frontline, October 12, 1991). In 1981, the VHP journal, Hindu Viswa, stated that "in Bharath, religious conversions pose a grave threat to national security and integrity'' and "reconversion'' of Muslims and Christians was identified as the major aim of the VHP. Interestingly, several studies, including media reports, show that while there was no communal tension "prior to, during and after conversion'', there appears to be some tension during the "forced'' reconversion activity. In fact, in most cases, the "allurement'' of economic benefits, including reservation and benefits guaranteed under the Constitution to the socially-depressed castes, is used for "reconversion''. The Tamil Nadu Ordinance seems to fit perfectly into the Sangh Parivar's game plan.

One other justification is offered for the Tamil Nadu Ordinance. It is that a comparable law has been in place in Orissa (since 1967), Madhya Pradesh (since 1968) and Arunachal Pradesh (since 1977), and that they have survived challenges in the Supreme Court (notably Stanislaus vs the State of Madhya Pradesh, 1977) for violating Article 25 of the Constitution that ensures the freedom to propagate religion.

Jayalalithaa has clearly won the admiration of the Sangh Parivar. VHP leader Ashok Singhal has hailed the Ordinance as "a bold step and an eye-opener for the other States''. Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati is enthused and wants a similar law for the whole country.

Virtually the entire Opposition, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress and the two Communist parties have joined forces against the Ordinance. Christian, Muslim and Dalit organisations and human rights and social activists have condemned it. A joint struggle committee with the widest representation is actively mobilising support to get the Jayalalithaa government to withdraw the obnoxious new law.

While DMK president M. Karunanidhi has come out strongly against the Ordinance as going against the principles of C.N. Annadurai and Periyar, the pillars of the Dravidian movement in the State, Communist Party of India (Marxist) State secretary N. Varadarajan pointed out that if Jayalalithaa seriously wanted to do something, she should address the root cause of the problem, that is, social ostracism and humiliation of the Dalits by caste Hindus. His view is that the Ordinance can easily be misused against minorities and Dalits.

Demanding the withdrawal of the Ordinance, the joint struggle committee has chalked out a programme of mass protest including fasts and marches throughout Tamil Nadu.

Source: Frontline, October 26, 2002

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Ambedkar In The Times Of Hindutva

Five dalits are lynched by a Hindu mob. Their alleged crime: skinning a cow. The reporters and analysts who express shock and outrage do not go beyond stating that the dalits were doing what they have been traditionally doing: selling the dead cow's hide to make a living.

S. ANAND

Five dalits are lynched by a Hindu mob. Their alleged crime: skinning a cow. The reporters and analysts who express shock and outrage do not go beyond stating that the dalits were doing what they have been traditionally doing: selling the dead cows hide to make a living. There are few who want to explore the historical relationship between the cow, the brahmin and the origins of untouchability.

The caste Hindu common sense is that eating beef is a taboo for the Hindus. The common sense also takes untouchability for granted, as something sanatan (permanent, eternal). For the Hindus, the cow is sacred. And what is daubed with sacredness is beyond the pale of argument. Then what about those who eat beef, the dalits? Are they Hindus? When did they start eating beef? Why did the brahmins for whom every day was probably a beef-steak day in the vedic period give up beef and meat altogether?

In 1948 Bhim Rao Ambedkar sought some serious answers to these and other questions, answers which have been neglected by the mainstream academia and intelligentsia. Here, we present the answers that Ambedkar sought in a context where at one end (Tamil Nadu) dalits today are being forced to eat shit and drink urine, and at another (Haryana) dalits are being forced to pay with their lives for doing what they have been condemned to do - eat the meat of the dead cow and use its skin for making leather products.

(In Thinniam, a village in the Tiruchi district of Tamil Nadu, on May 21 two dalits were forced to eat dried human shit when they insisted on the right to a house for which they had paid money to the caste Hindu village panchayat president. The news was under-reported. Within a few months a dalit in Nilakottai, Dindigul district, was forced to drink urine in public. At the other extreme the hindutva lobby is delighted to get cow-urine therapy patented in the US.)

Even Ambedkar would not have visualised such a scenario. He records several crimes against dalits but not ones where they were forced to eat shit or lynched for skinning a dead cow. His investigations into the origins of untouchability bear a lot of significance on how we understand what happened in Jhajjar or in Thinniam. In the preface to his work The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables? -- from where we have excerpted much of what is featured here - he dwells at length on why brahmins and caste Hindus have neglected this area of research:

"Notwithstanding the attitude of the Brahmin scholars, I must pursue the task I have undertaken. For the origin of these classes is a subject which still awaits investigation That the Hindus should not have undertaken such an investigation is perfectly understandable. The old orthodox Hindu does not think that there is anything wrong in the observance of untouchability. To him it is a normal and natural thing. As such it neither calls for expiation nor explanation. The new modern Hindu realises the wrong. But he is ashamed to discuss it in public for fear of letting the foreigner know that Hindu Civilisation can be guilty of such a vicious and infamous system or social code as evidenced by Untouchability

"This book may, therefore, be taken as a pioneer attempt in the exploration of a field so completely neglected by everybody. The book, if I may say so, deals not only with every aspect of the main question set out for inquiry, namely, the origin of Untouchability, but it also deals with almost all questions connected with it. Some of the questions are such that very few people are even aware of them; and those who are aware of them are puzzled by them and do not know how to answer them. To mention only a few, the book deals with such questions as:

"Why do the Untouchables live outside the village? Why did beef-eating give rise to Untouchability? Did the Hindus never eat beef? Why did non-Brahmins give up beef-eating? What made the Brahmins become vegetarians, etc. To each one of these, the book suggests an answer. It may be that the answers given in the book to these questions are not all-embracing. Nonetheless it will be found that the book points to a new way of looking at old things."

That Ambedkars work did not get the attention and the follow-up it deserved is something he seems to have anticipated. He wrote in the same preface:

"If any non-Brahmin were to make such an attempt the Brahmin scholars would engage in a conspiracy of silence, take no notice of him, condemn him outright on some flimsy grounds or dub his work useless. As a writer engaged in the exposition of the Brahmanic literature I have been a victim of such mean tricks."

And today, as we seek to correct this historical neglect - which partly makes us responsible for what happened in Jhajjar and Thinniam - we can only hope that reading Ambedkar will offer us a way to understand and fight not only the fundamentalism of the obvious kind around us (in the form of VHP/ RSS/ BJP), but also the fundamentalism in us.

Source: Outlookindia.com, October 22, 2002

Monday, October 21, 2002

Dalits blame saffron surge, set 15-day deadline for Govt action

SUMANT BHATTACHARYA & MUKESH BHARADWAJ

BADSHAHPUR\CHANDIGARH, OCT 20: One message emerged loud and clear from a mahapanchayat held today to protest the lynching of five Dalits in Jhajjar district last week: the increased activities of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal were increasing tensions in the area. With not a single arrest being made almost a week after the lynching, the mahapanchayat gave the Government 15 days to take action, failing which another mahapanchayat would be held.

Representatives and sarpanchs of 36 castes and 100 villages took part in the mahapanchayat in Badshahpur village. Four of the five victims-Dayachand, Virender, Raju and Totaram-were from this area while Kailash belonged to Karnal.

Speaker after speaker voiced the view that the lynching was directly connected to the increased activities of the VHP and Bajrang Dal in the region. The organiser, Ranjeet Singh Yadav, sought a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for each of the families of the victims, action against the police officers under Section 302 of the CRPC, government jobs for one member of each of the families of the deceased, and the retraction of the charge of cow slaughter against the five victims registered in Dulina police station. Sohna MLA Rao Dharam Pal, advocate Khazan Singh and Captain Shamsher Singh of Lok Jan Shakti were among those who said the VHP and Bajrang Dal have been trying to raise the issue of cow slaughter for the past few years, leading to increasing tension. ''That's why a rumour ignited the whole incident,'' Janata Dal leader Ved Prakash Vidrohi added.

Strangely, despite visits by several senior leaders-Congress President Sonia Gandhi, accompanied by former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal, visited the victims' families today-Om Prakash Chautala has stayed away. While the Haryana CM was in Jhajjar district today, addressing rallies, inaugurating projects and attending the 'Sarkar Ap Ke Dwar' programme, he stayed clear of Dulina. However, Chautala did say that ''stringent punishment'' would be given to those involved in the lynching. ''Nobody will be allowed to disturb communal amity and peace in the state and those found guilty for heinous crimes will be dealt with sternly,'' he said, after inaugurating two water supply schemes. Mohinder Kumar, Deputy Commissioner of Jhajjar, confirmed that Chautala hasn't visited the lynching site. ''The site is only a police chowki. What is there to visit?'' he asked. ''The CM was in Jhajjar today, but to inaugurate two water supply projects. His schedule didn't include a visit to the site. He may decide to add it to his itinerary. People can also come to meet him at the resthouse in Jhajjar,'' Rishi Raj, his senior secretary, added.

Source: Indian Express, October 21, 2002

Meenakshipuram Redux

Inhuman, exclusionary treatment goads Dalits to embrace Islam

Seventy-five km from Chennai, 58 Dalit families of Koothirambakkam village, near Kanchipuram, are openly challenging the government's anti-conversion ordinance. "Let Jayalalitha use it against us. We'll convert to Islam en masse and get arrested," the Dalits led by V. Madurai told Outlook. The Dalits of Koothirambakkam have been threatening to "recreate Meenakshipuram". The conversion of Meenakshipuram Dalits to Islam in 1981 sparked nationwide interest.

In Koothirambakkam, trouble began in 1979 when the Dalits were abused for fetching water from the village pond. Since 1995, the Dalits have been demanding spiritual rights as well from their 250-family-strong Vanniyar (MBC) tormentors. "They collect Rs 100 from each Dalit family for the Mariamman temple festival but refuse to let the procession into our street. Hinduism only excludes us," laments Karunanidhi, a local resident. According to him, Dalits stopped making the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala in 1997. When the Dalits were contemplating conversion, they were advised by the Hindu Munnani to visit Jayendra Saraswati. But they got no relief.

Last month, when it was Mariamman festival time, tension gripped the village as Dalits stuck to their demandthe procession must pass their streets or they would embrace Islam. Handloom minister V. Somasundaram, the collector and the tehsildar tried to convince the Dalit villagers to back off. "The minister offered us a separate Mariamman temple and asked us not to convert," recalls Madurai. Clearly, the coercion here has been against conversion, from a cabinet minister at that. "Each time we try to convert, government officials descend on us and promise amenities. Some amenities have come, but respect within Hinduism eludes us," says Madurai.

Says Ghulam Mohammad, editor, Vidiyal Veli, a Tamil Islamic publication: "If conversions were to be forced, the Koothirambakkam Dalits would not have waited for six years. Untouchability is the root cause. And the government hasn't addressed this." Says Punitha Pandian, editor of : "In July, two Dalits in Thinniyam, Tiruchi district, were forced to eat dried human faeces by Thevars. Last month, a Dalit in Dindigul was forced to drink urine by Gounders. These are the real issues that drive the Dalits away from the Hindu fold...."

Source: Outlook, October 21, 2002

Zero Convertibility

The conversion ordinance brings Jaya closer to the Sangh, while enabling her to settle a few scores

S. ANAND

After chief minister Jayalalitha Jayaram got governor P.S. Rammohan Rao to sign on Ordinance No. 9 of 2002 on the night of October 5, the question being asked in Tamil Nadu is what is it that got the AIADMK chief so worked up about conversions? Was it a spurt in the number of Dalits shifting to Christianity and Islam? Or was it her proximity to the Sangh that made her go in for an ordinance to warm the cockles of the saffron brigade?

That the proposed law is stringent is an understatement. The Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Forcible Conversions Ordinance prohibits "conversion from one (religion) to another by use of force or allurement or fraudulent means". It says a person who converts using allurement or fraudulent means shall be subjected to three years imprisonment and Rs 50,000 fine. In case the convert is a Scheduled Caste (SC), woman or minor, the term would be four years and the fine Rs 1 lakh. Whoever participates in such a conversion has to inform the local magistrate within a stipulated period.

The ordinance was pushed through, even though the assembly session was only 20 days away. One reason being cited in the AIADMK circles is that Tamil Nadu has seen a sharp rise in the conversion of Dalits and women to Christianity and Islam in the past two years. Last month in Madurai, 200 Dalits embraced Christianity and in several villages Dalits have been embracing, or threatening to embrace, Islam (see box).

While Christian and Islamic outfits seem obvious targets of such a law, what could've also precipitated the ordinance was the October 3, 2002, order of a two-judge bench of the Madras High Court. Chief Justice B. Subhashan Reddy and Justice K. Govindarajan stayed a letter dated September 19, 2000, of the Karunanidhi government, according to which a person born to Christian converts, on reconversion to Hinduism, shall not be eligible for an SC certificate.

The stay order was passed in pursuance of a petition filed by I. Ilangovan of Vellore. His plea was that a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court had observed in 1976 that it is open to such a person to become a member of the scheduled caste to which his parents originally belonged. The only condition, imposed in order to weed out fraudulent cases, was that on reconversion the caste should admit him or her.

The DMK regime had issued the letter as an administrative response to the large number of 'reconversions' happening for the sake of reservation benefits. That the AIADMK was using this for other ends was clearone unwitting political victim of the letter was Ashok Kumar, the principal sessions judge who admonished cops about the manner of M. Karunanidhi's arrest on June 30, 2001. He had famously asked them: "Is your heart made of mud?" Kumar was born a Dalit Christian who converted to Hinduism and availed of reservation benefits during education and employment. Currently, a case is under way against him where it's claimed, based on the September 2000 order, that his scheduled caste certificate is invalid.

"After the high court's stay on the government letter, Ashok Kumar and thousands like him can breathe easy," says Ilangovan, himself a potential victim of the letter. But the petitioner's happiness was shortlived. Within two days of the stay order, the government came out with the ordinance that has the potential to not just prohibit the conversion of Dalit Christians to Hinduism, but also prohibit all "forced conversions" to Islam, Christianity or Buddhism. The ordinance is a double-edged swordit pleases the Sangh by clamping down on conversions from the Hindu fold on the one hand, and can be used selectively, on the other, against irritants like judge Ashok Kumar.

The ordinance, however, isn't exceptional. Similar laws are already in place in Orissa (1967), Madhya Pradesh (1968) and Arunachal Pradesh (1977).These laws have survived being challenged for violating Article 25 that ensures freedom to propagate religion. Efforts at similar legislation at the Centre were made twice. In December 1978, the Jana Sangh's Om Prakash Tyagi introduced the Bill on Freedom of Religion in the Lok Sabha; and in July 2001 Shiv Sena MP Anant Geethe moved the Prohibition on Religious Conversion Bill. Both the private member bills fell through.

However, an anti-conversion law has always been high on the rss agenda. Only last month, sarsanghchalak K.S. Sudarshan wrote on the need for an anti-conversion legislation in Panchajanya. With her ordinance, Jayalalitha has won admirers in the rss. The 'Annadaanam' (free lunch) scheme and spiritual classes in over 150 Hindu temples, a marriage mela for Hindus, her refusal to join other CMs in condemning Narendra Modi for Gujarat, her support for pota, and most recently, her raking up of Sonia Gandhi's Italian origins, have won Jayalalitha the admiration of hardcore Sanghis.

VHP leader Ashok Singhal hailed the ordinance as a "bold step and an eye-opener for other states". Kanchi Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati is enthused and wants a similar law covering the entire country. Last year, Tamil Nadu's Hindu Munnani had passed a resolution at their annual conference demanding such a law.

The ordinance also comes at a time when Jayalalitha's future is to be decided by a Supreme Court bench hearing the TANSI cases. The point is will it redeem her?

Source: Outlook, October 21, 2002

Dalits defy upper caste wrath, harvest first crop

Sandeep Bhushan

Monday, October 21, 2002 (Sehore District, Bhopal):

Across Madhya Pradesh, lakhs of Dalits who were allotted land by the state government have harvested their first-ever crop.

For the people here, who had worked as landless labourers for years, harvesting their own land is a completely different experience.

Santosh Malviya, a local villager, described it as: "We are feeling very happy. It's the first time we have been able to harvest our own crops and it feels great."

Police intervenes

Of a total of 36 Dalit families in village Satpipaliya, 30 have harvested their crop. Yet there's a feeling of fear and apprehension among them.

Just last week, a group of upper caste farmers had tried to destroy their soyabean crop. The police were called in and the harvesting was done under police protection.

Harvesting under fear

Lakshmi, who proudly displays her stock of soyabean, says she fears they may be prevented from harvesting their standing bajra crop. "I think they are not going to let us harvest the next crop. They will feed it to the cattle but not let us harvest it," she said.

The Madhya Pradesh government's land redistribution scheme was announced four years ago, but large-scale opposition and practical difficulties of allocating nearly 2.5 lakh hectares of land to nearly 3.5 lakh people meant actual distribution took place only a year ago.

Even then, there have been killings and violence. In Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's Rajgarh constituency alone, 56 cases have been filed by the district police.

The government, however, maintains it is determined to meet its targets by the end of this year. A V Singh, Chief Secretary, Madhya Pradesh, said, "The task would be approximately 70,000 to one lakh hectares of land more to be distributed. That is what remains on our minds."

With the BJP openly opposing land redistribution, the political fallout of this decision can only be gauged in elections next year.

Source: NDTV, October 21, 2002

Sunday, October 20, 2002

Dalit raped in Haryana

Narnaul
A Dalit girl died after she was allegedly abducted and raped by some unidentified persons in a village in the district, police sources said today.

The six-year-old girl was abducted while she was sleeping with her grandmother at her house in Dongra village last night and raped, they said.

She died before being taken to a hospital, the sources said, adding that “the cause of the death is not immediately clear.”

Angry villagers blocked several roads and shouted slogans demanding immediate arrest of the culprits.

Source: The Tribune, October 20, 2002

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Holy cow, holy war

By Swami Agnivesh and Valson Thampu

The lynching of five Dalits Virender, Dayanand, Kailash, Raju Gupta and Tota Ram in Jhajjar in Haryana, reportedly by a frenzied mob, for skinning a dead cow, is yet another pointer to the criminality that marks mob behaviour, thanks to the communal manipulation of mass religiosity by those who wish to thrive by it. The brutal massacre of five citizens is bad enough. What is absolutely shocking is the fact that they were hijacked from police custody and lynched. It raises a host of questions that cry out for answers.

The disturbing trend, however, is that the truth about events coloured by communalism can never be known.

There are at least three aspects to this gruesome event that must engage our attention. The first is the sickness of religion it portends. The sanctity that the cow enjoys in Hindu sentiments is well-established. Even Babar in his memoirs laid special emphasis on respecting it.

The cow has both ritualistic and symbolic implications for Hindus. Ritualistically, it is entwined with the intuition of the divine, especially at the meeting point between the physical and the metaphysical. Symbolically, the cow points to the sanctity of the non-human part of creation, without which human beings tend to vandalise the rest of creation, as in materialistic cultures. A commitment to develop a caring attitude towards creation as a whole is hence integral in the reverence for the cow.

That caring attitude must be evident in caring for cows in India. The disturbing truth is that a 5,000-strong mob, allegedly led by VHP leaders, could collect at the drop of a hat to lynch those who skinned a dead cow. But it is doubtful if there would be even five among them willing to take care of living cows that desperately need care and protection. It is a sign of religious sickness that the eagerness to kill and destroy in the name of religion far outweighs the willingness to live up to its positive ideals.

We do not know how the cow in the present episode died; whether someone other than the five victims killed it or whether it died of starvation, a street accident, old age or sickness. It is almost certain that no one among the murderous mob asked these questions. Nor would it have occurred to them that being a friend of cows involves much more than being enemies of the enemies of cows.

What this event points to is a problem endemic in religion: the negative definition of religious sentiments. Even those who condemn others for their atheism or irreligious attitude could actually be living a life completely devoid of the ethical and spiritual core of their religious tradition.

The plight of the cows that are seen roaming our streets, thousands of them feasting mostly on plastic bags and dying with extreme pain after consuming these synthetic and deadly delicacies, should intensely distrub a devout Hindu than the sight of someone skinning a dead cow. But who cares?

The second major issue this event raises is the increasing legitimisation of organised crime camouflaged in communal sentiments. It is now a matter of settled public perception that the perpetrators of even the most heinous crimes will enjoy immunity if they parade themselves in communal costumes. This has been so for a long time. Sadly, we do not have a respectable track record of dealing with communal atrocities according to the law of the land.

The additional note to this symphony of institutionalised mayhem is the trend among politicians and law-enforcing agencies to use the excuse of mob frenzy to justify lawlessness and the clear dereliction of duty on the part of the State in such situations. Atal Bihari Vajpayees excuse in Parliament for the destruction of Babri masjid is a case in point. He explained it away as an eruption of irresistible public sentiments, as though mob frenzy is a talisman that shifts crime to the zone of legitimacy.

What is beyond any dispute is that no civilised society can afford to entertain such notions and excuses. Public statements like these, from the highest functionaries of the Indian State, complement the communal bias that is created by vested interests and subvert the rule of law. Going by the ghastly Haryana event, even the police now seem to have no qualms in excusing their culpable inaction on the alibi of irresistible mob frenzy. That was also heard, with distressing regularity, after the post-Godhra State-sponsored genocide in Gujarat.

The seed for this may well be hidden in a gross misunderstanding and abuse of the provisions in Article 25(1) of the Constitution, which reads: Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this part... There can be no doubt about the foresight and fairness of the intention behind these words in a multi-religious democracy. But events in recent times speak aloud of the extent to which the conditionality of public order can be communally misused against those who are powerless.

Those who can mobilise and incite the masses can subvert the life and liberty of others by contriving threats to public order. The creation of public disorder then becomes a convincing proof that the activity involved whether it is propagating ones faith or skinning a dead cow is illegitimate. What is grossly overlooked in this process is the duty of the secular State to maintain law and order and to defend the rights of all citizens equally, and at any cost.

We had a taste of this reality recently. The peace and communal harmony yatra we were organising was banned in Ayodhya on the pretext that it would disturb the law and order situation there, whereas those who enjoy political clout under the present regime in Delhi and openly preach vitriolic communal violence enjoy full freedom of movement and speech.

The third issue here is that of the wilful collapse or paralysis of the State. Increasingly, the readiness of the State to invoke legal provisions against those who spread communal hate and disturb peace and harmony is being dictated by the clout of the offenders. People like Bal Thackeray, Abdullah Bukhari, Ashok Singhal, Praveen Togadia, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Narendra Modi simply dont care for linguistic or social inhibitions. They can make the most inflammatory statements, defy the rule of law, and rest assured of their immunity from all consequences. The political culture of this country is taking a tragic turn by which the mettle of ones leadership is proved by defying the rule of law publicly.

This is where Tehelkas exposure is a turning point. It proves that it is those who violate the law who are glorified; those who expose their corruption are hounded.

The lynching of the five Dalit youths in Haryana is not, thus, a local event. It is a symbolic pointer to the degeneration that is overtaking the country. This descent to de facto anarchy must be arrested forthwith. Allowing the law to take its course and bringing the criminals, irrespective of their clout, colour or creed, to justice is the first step towards national regeneration. If we fail to do this, then the nation is doomed.

Source: Hindustan Times, October 19, 2002

Dalits lynching: Parties rush in as VHP puts cow before hearse

NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH, OCT 18: The lynching of five Dalits in Jhajjar in Haryana is fast acquiring a political hue with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), under fire from the Left parties for ''celebrating'' the killings, ruling out its involvement but quoting the scriptures to point out that ''the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being.''

''We have to ascertain whether the cow was killed by the five men or was already dead. This is why the state Government has also reserved its comment. Reports said the Dalits were lynched by a mob. But can anyone discipline a mob?'' VHP senior vice-president Acharya Giriraj Kishore said at a press conference in New Delhi.

He then quoted the scriptures to say that ''the life of a cow is more precious than that of a human being.'' In Chandigarh, VHP Haryana unit chief Ram Pal Gaur maintained that a cow had been slaughtered in Jhajjar.''The area has a history of such incidents,'' he said.

The Congress, in the meantime, is dispatching a team to Jhajjar to obtain first hand information. Party president Sonia Gandhi today asked R K Dhawan to visit the site. He will be accompanied by Haryana PCC chief Bhajan Lal, CLP chief Bhoopinder Singh Hooda and two AICC secretaries Krishna Tirath and Selja.

Condemning the incident, Congress sought a thorough judicial probe. ''It is inconceivable that the lynching took place in the presence of a magistrate and large number of policemen. We also demand action against all officials guilty of dereliction of duty. It is abundantly evident that these officials were partially paralytic in their approach,'' Congress spokesman S Jaipal Reddy told mediapersons.

He also pointed a finger at the VHP for allegedly mounting pressure on the state Government to go soft on the culprits.

The Haryana Government, on its part, has ordered a fresh inquiry. Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala announced that the second inquiry, to be conducted by Rohtak Commissioner R R Banswal, will supersede the special investigative team set up two days ago, said Muhammed Akil, Superintendent of Police, Jhajjar.

''The orders have come today and we will try and get to the bottom of the truth. Though in a mob-like situation, it is difficult to identify the guilty, the need is to get to know the truth,'' Banswal, who hasn't started the inquiry yet, said. The government will also award Rs one lakh as compensation to the next of kin of those murdered.

While Chautala said some culprits had already been identified, the VHP denied its cadres' involvement in the incident. Kishore said organisation secretary Surendra Jain had been sent to Jhajjar for an on-the-spot inquiry.

The BJP, on the other hand, played it cautious today. In New Delhi, BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri, while condemning ''any kind of killing,'' said, ''We hope the Haryana Government goes into the depth of the matter.'' In Chandigarh, BJP legislature party leader Krishan Pal Gujjar criticised the Haryana government for heaping the blame on the RSS and VHP.

''They have this fickle mentality of shifting the blame on the VHP for all such activities,'' he said.

But the CPI and CPI-M state secretaries, who returned to New Delhi from Jhajjar after a fact-finding trip, said that VHP activists not only incited the mob to kill the five Dalits but also took out a procession to ''celebrate'' the gruesome incident.

Raghuvir Singh (CPI) and Inderjit Singh (CPI-M) said that the police were putting out ''a dubious and false version'' of the killings. ''They are yet to identify the person who sold the dead cow or find the instrument that could have been used for skinning the cow,'' they said.

''The involvement of VHP is further corroborated by the congratulatory procession organised the following day in Jhajjar in defence of the killings and the demand that no arrest be made,'' they said.

Source: Indian Express, October 19, 2002

Friday, October 18, 2002

Action on Dalit murders: cow sent for post-mortem


SP says this will prove if cow was dead or alive! How does this affect the case? 'It will explain the mob's anger'


By SONU JAIN

Action on Dalit murders: cow sent for post-mortem

BADSHAHPUR/ JHAJJAR, OCTOBER 17: Two days after five Dalits are lynched barely two hours from the heart of the nation's capital, this is the status report: Not a single arrest, a few statements of outrage, the local VHP justifying the murder. And if you thought this was shocking, consider this: the administration has sent the carcass of the cow for a post mortem.

To ostensibly find out if the victims were skinning a live cow or a dead cow!

''Final conclusion will be drawn after the report comes,'' says Muhammad Akil, Superintendent of Police, Jhajjar, ''the viscera has been preserved for further investigation.'' The Indian Express questioned Akil:

Have you identified any suspects?
No, today the priority is to maintain law and order, dousing the inflamed passions of the people.

Given that the five were murdered, how is the postmortem of the cow relevant?
It will show how the mob got emotional when they saw an act like this.

The victims' families say they have been doing this for generations. Why will they stop in front of a police station to skin a live cow?

It is unusual. It was their maut (death) that forced them to stop.

All this is a cruel joke for Ratan Singh, father of 27-year-old Virender Singh, one of those burnt alive. A resident of Badshahpur village in Gurgaon, Ratan Singh says that this is nothing but a cover-up.

''We have been doing this for three generations. There is no question of them skinning a cow by the side of the road. They worked on contracts which they got from Municipality auctions,'' he says.

''The truck the five Dalits were travelling in had hides and would never carry a carcass.''

According to him, his son and his nephew Dayachand hired a truck, picked up hides from Farruqnagar and were going to Karnal to sell it. A trader from Karnal, Kailash, was with them.

Dayachand, in his early 30s, has left behind his young wife and two children.

Dayachand's father Budhram alleges that as per his inquiries, the police stopped the truck and asked the five Dalits for a bribe.

''When they refused to pay, they were beaten up and a case registered under the Cow Slaughter Act. Since one of them got seriously injured, they had no option but to spread the story that they were killing a cow.''

Totaram and Raju were the driver and the conductor of the truck. Raju was only 16 and his father Ram Pal is a sweeper in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.

''We were told at three in the morning that here had been an accident and that our sons were admitted in the Jhajjar Civil Hospital,'' says Ram Pal.

''When we rushed there, it was difficult to identify the bodies. They were half burnt, their eyes gouged out.''

In the FIR, the police claim that they tried protecting the victims but were helpless. ''4-5,000 strong mob that had gone mad and was armed with stones and swords attacked us (police),'' says the FIR.

Despite several eyewitnesses and officials admitting they were there, no one has been named in the FIR. ''When the City Magistrate met us, he told us that 10 faces were in front of his eyes right through the night and he could not sleep, why can't he identify them and catch them,'' asks Raju's father.

A special ''investigative team'' has been set up under DSP Jhajjar Narender Singh. But this has made no headway in the case for, as Akil himself admits: ''We have been busy explaining the circumstances of the case to maintain law and order. The ramifications could spread to other states.''

Meanwhile, the usual suspects have come rushing in. Ram Vilas Paswan is going to visit the victim's families. Today, Brinda Karat with other Left leaders met authorities. On Sunday, 50 village panchayats are meeting in Gurgaon. Social organisations demanded that Rs 10 lakh be paid to each victim's family along with a government job.

Source: Indian Express, October 18, 2002

Road to conversion: the Chakwada detour

UDIT RAJ

Hindutva organisations are outraged over conversions, and their outrage prevents them from entering into negotiations with Muslim and Christian leaders. But have they ever bothered to understand the plight of Dalits?

Dalits and backwards consider themselves Hindus, but Hinduism does not respond to them; otherwise, there would be normal social behavior, such as marrying and dining, amongst followers of the same religion.

Whenever a Hindu inquires about other Hindus, what he actually wants to know is their caste. This isn't the case with other religions.

The Gujarat earthquake proved beyond doubt that even in that hour of crisis, the so-called upper castes didn't want to share their food and shelter, let alone joy and sorrow, with the Dalits.

This dispels the doubt that crores of Dalits converted to Islam and Christianity because of coercion and allurement. The process of conversion is on and whenever it happens, the Sangh Parivar resists by hurling brickbats at Christian and Muslim leaders but they don't ever attempt to know the circumstances which compel Dalits and others to convert.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has also said that there must be a debate on conversion, but he never talked of having a debate on Hinduism.

One good place to understand the compulsions of conversion is at Chakwada village, 60 kms from the Rajasthan capital Jaipur.

Here, as was reported by the media, the upper castes have not allowed the Dalits to use the temple and pond. Dalits cannot buy goods from 'upper caste' shops.

Some human right organisations tried to defy the whip on September 21, but they were terrorised by the strong-arm tactics of the upper castes. The event adequately exposed the helplessness of the police as well as the machinery of the Congress government.

Are Dalits worse than even street dogs and cattle who are free to use the water of 'upper caste' tanks? According to the standard definition, all religions essentially have the same attributes and elements, but such incidents mark Hinduism as different from all other religions.

When the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations and Lord Buddha Club were organising a Buddhist Diksha ceremony on November 4, 2001, at the Ramlila Ground in New Delhi, Giriraj Kishore of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad tried to get the function cancelled, but had to bow to the masses who wanted to embrace Buddhism. The question the Hindutva outfits didn't ask is: why were all those people embracing Buddhism?

When it's the Dalits who're embracing other religions, how can Christians and Muslims be blamed?

Isn't it time Hindutva outfits did something that will prove that Dalits are also Hindus? Recently 40 Balmikis of Gurgaon in Haryana embraced Islam, which was condemned by VHP leaders. In fact, the Balmikis were not being allowed to draw water from the well by the upper castes, and the Muslims taunted them about this. Pained and humiliated, the Dalits embraced Islam.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi used Dalits and backwards against minorities while exhorting them that the Hindu religion was in danger. After the riots, weren't they treated as untouchables and outcastes all the same? If the Dalits of Chakwada had been treated as Hindus, the protest would never have broken out.

So is there any justification in saying that it's because of Islam and Christianity that Dalits are facing barbaric times?

(The writer is National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organizations)

Source: Indian Express, October 18, 2002

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Twelve die of starvation in Rajasthan

At least 12 persons, most of them children under ten years of age, have died because of hunger in the past four weeks in two blocks of this remote district adjoining Madhya Pradesh. Villagers say the number of deaths in the past two months could be even higher.

With employment and local income dwindling, hunger is rampant and chronic in this area, which is located about 350 km from Jaipur.

Family members of the victims say none of them have had had a square meal in weeks. They say they are managing on a meal consisting of a roti every two days. Families of each of the victims have stories to corroborate this claim even though the authorities say the deaths were caused by disease.

A medical team that went there claims to have found some foodgrains in the victims' houses that an accompanying local reporter did not see. MLA Hiralal Sahariya denies there were starvation deaths. He agrees most people are surviving on less than one square meal a day, a meal of one roti made from a grass, which is harmful to health. But if someone dies due to this, you cannot call it death due to hunger, he says. He has in his file a written statement from the people, according to which the children died because of vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and stomach ache over a prolonged period.

However, no medical facility is available in the village despite official claims that the deaths were caused by disease. The villagers allege that the patwari and later the ADM, scolded and threatened them for saying that their children starved to death. There is no source of livelihood, and because of drought there is no food. Labourers are facing starvation and some tribals have no foodgrains left in their houses, said a joint statement by the villagers. Will Jaipur respond to the SOS?

Source: Hindustan Times, October 17, 2002

5 Dalits lynched in Haryana, entire administration watches

By Sonu Jain

JHAJJAR, HARYANA, OCTOBER 16: Less than two hours from the capital, this was the scene today outside the Dulena police post in Jhajjar district: patches of blood on the road, a pile of smouldering ashes.

This is where five Dalits, all in their 20s, were beaten to death last night, two of them torched. They were doing what they have been doing for years: skinning dead cows to sell the hide. This time, however, ''someone'' spread the word that the cow was alive.

So a mob, returning after the Dussehra fair, dragged them out of the police post where they had taken refuge and lynched them to the cries of Gau mata ki jai. Watched by the City Magistrate, the DSP of Jhajjar and Bahadurgarh, the Municipal Corporator's husband, the Block Development Officer and at least 50 policemen.

Says City Magistrate Raj Pal Singh who saw the lynching: ''We tried stopping them but got hurt ourselves in the process. I was dragged a few feet away, otherwise I would have been killed.''

One FIR has been registered against ''unknown people,'' while a second has been filed against the victims under the Cow Slaughter Act.

Local office-bearers of the VHP and the Shiv Sena have submitted a memorandum to the local police asking them not to take any action against the guilty.

The Indian Express spoke to several eyewitnesses and district officials to reconstruct the incident. And they suggested this was no impulsive act, the frenzy built up over a good three and a half hours-the Dalits were first ''spotted'' at 6.30 pm, beaten and dragged to the police post and then battered to death between 9 and 10 pm.

* Five Dalits had bought what they claimed was a dead cow from Farooqnagar and were on their way to sell the hide-something which they traditionally do here to earn a living.

* They were first seen 500 m from the police post by a group of men returning from Dusshera festivities.

* This group reached Jhajjar, 15 minutes away, and informed the local Dharamshala that ''cow slaughter was going on.''

* Within minutes, two vehicles with the District Magistrate, two priests from the temple and some local VHP leaders left for the spot.

* By then, the five had sought refuge at the police post. The word spread in at least 10 nearby villages, and in an hour, the crowd swelled to 2,000.

''Local VHP workers and some anti-social elements were spotted at the scene,'' says District Commissioner Mohinder Kumar, who claims he reached late because of a traffic jam. ''The word spread by telephone, word of mouth and of course a tractor full of people returning from the fair stopped.''

Local VHP office-bearers dare the police to take action. ''If they can kill our mother then what if we kill our brothers who kill her,'' says Mahendra Parmanand, the priest of the local temple. ''I will say it in front of the police that what they were doing was wrong and they deserve to be punished,'' says Ramesh Saini, VHP office-bearer.

Shishu Pal from the local Shiv Sena unit says that whatever happened was wrong but ''could not have been helped.''

Source: Indian Express, October 17, 2002

AIDWA on dalit lynching

REPORT OF THE LEFT PARTIES DELEGATION TO DULEENA, JHAJJAR DISTRICT HARYANA ON OCTOBER 17 IN PROTEST AGAINST DALIT LYNCHING ATROCITY.

Following the report of the killings of five dalits, namely Sri Dayachand, Sri Virendra, Sri Tota Ram, Sri Raju and Sri Kailash between 9 and 10pm on October 15, in the police chowki of Duleena in the district of Jhajjar, Haryana a joint delegation of the CPI(M) and the CPI visited the affected area on October 17 along with leaders of the All India Democratic Women's Association to express solidarity with the victims and to register its strong protest and condemnation of the ghastly crime. It was the first delegation that visited the families. Shockingly, other political parties in Haryana have preferred to remain silent on the crime. The members of the delegation were Inderjeet Singh and Raghbir Singh Choudhary (Haryana State Secretaries of the CPI(M) and CPI respectively) Brinda Karat (Central Committee member CPI_M and G.Secy of the AIDWA) Dr. Harnam Singh (former MLA-CPI) Jagmati Sangwan, (President, AIDWA Haryana), Balbir Dahiya and Ram Chandra (CPI-M). The delegation visited the site of the killings and met the Superintendent of Police Md. Aqil, his deputy Narendra Singh, the SHO Rajendra Singh and other police personnel. The Deputy Commissioner Mahendra Singh was in Bahadurgarh and therefore unavailable to meet the delegation. The delegation met the family members of two of those killed, Dayachand and Virendra, in the village of Badshahpur and also a large number of people in the village. The delegation also attended a meeting of the residents in the village chaupal.

The reported incident:
On October 15, an animal skin trader, Kailash came to Badshapur village in Gurgaon district to collect a consignment of skins of buffaloes and cows from a licensed skinner Devendra. As is the usual practice some advance was given and the rest of the payment was to be made on delivery. Devendra's brother Virendra and his cousin Dayachand (both skinners) hired a vehicle to take the skins to Karnal and accompanied the trader so as to be able to collect the rest of the payment. The driver of the vehicle was Tota Ram and the conductor was Raju and they left the village at around 11 am. The first stop was in a place called Farroukhnagar where another consignment of skins was picked up. The Duleena chowki was en route to their destination. It is here that the killings took place. According to the police, the trader bought a dead cow from Farroukhnagar. The vehicle was stopped coincidentally quite close to the chowki and the cow was skinned on the main road. A group of people from a neighbouring village reacting to the sight got off their vehicle and started beating up the dalits accusing them of killing of cow slaughter and then dragged them badly injured to the police chowki. This was around 5 or 5.30 pm. At that time there were about five or six police personnel present. Later news spread that a cow had been killed and mobs returning from a Dussehra celebration, some of them drunk, surrounded the chowki, set up road blocks to prevent the dalits being taken out by the police and then beat them to death. According to the police the mobs numbered 4000-5000. The killings took place before three sub-divisional magistrates, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, the SHO and about 60 to 70 police personnel who had been sent there after urgent wireless messages from the chowki. Subsequently an enquiry committee has been formed comprising entirely of police officials, including those present at the site of the killings. At the time of writing this report there have been no arrests.


The preliminary findings of the delegation are as follows:

1. The police version and role is suspect and dubious. There have been earlier occasions when the personnel in the chowki had demanded bribes from animal skin traders, on the pretext of implementing the anti-cow slaughter laws in operation in the State. The charge made on the basis of past experience by the family members of those killed that it was the police personnel present who first beat the dalits because they refused to pay the police requires consideration and investigation.

2. There are many unresolved questions regarding the skinning of the cow that ostensibly triggered the violence. The police version that a dead cow was bought in Farroukhnagar by Kailash the trader and then skinned on the open road is highly unlikely. The trader was interested in getting his consignment valued at about Rs. 40,000 to the delivery destination, the two cousins were more keen to collect the payment and get back home, why should they suddenly buy a dead cow worth Rs. 200 and then stop in the middle of the road to skin it, that too near a police chowki ? Till today the police do not have the name of the person who supposedly sold the dead cow to Kailash. If the cow was being skinned then why do the police not have the knife that was being used? All these issues require investigation.

3. It is possible that a vehicle standing near the chowki filled with animal skins attracted the attention of passersby. It is the Viswa Hindu Parishad members and associated organisations who were directly involved in the spreading of rumours that a cow had been slaughtered and skinned on the open road by Muslims. The background is an ongoing "gou raksha' (cow protection) campaign in the area reminiscent of the one run by the notorious Dara Singh in Orissa, that is blatantly communal and directed against Muslims. The VHP was also directly involved in inciting mob violence as also in mobilizing their members to come to the chowki. They even tried to scratch out the name of a Muslim police officer on the board outside the chowki..VHP members rang up the police and warned them not to release those who had killed cows. A telephone call also came from Delhi from someone claiming to be a "Shankaracharya" to the police with a similar warning.
The involvement of the VHP is further corroborated by the congratulatory procession organised by it the following day in Jhajjar in defence of the killings and demanding that no arrests should be made. It is also necessary to investigate whether there are any links between this killing of dalits to the reported conversion to Islam of 33 dalit families sometime in August in two villages in Mewat.

4. The numbers of those mobilized however requires further corroboration. It is possible that the police is exaggerating the numbers to justify their lack of action. The chowki is a very small one open from all sides and it would not be possible for a small police force to protect it in the face of aggression from a large mob. However the police is unable to explain why it permitted the build —up for four hours and why they did not remove the dalits from the station before the situation became as ugly as it did.

5. The most shocking and disturbing aspect is the complete lack of concern of the state government. Not a single Minister has visited the site. No compensation has been announced for those so brutally killed.

6. It is very clear that the main concern of the police at present under orders from the Government is to "defuse' the situation, a euphemism for not taking action against those involved since it would cause a law and order situation. Thus the new code being set is that the protection of law and order is not by arresting those guilty of a heinous murder, but by not arresting them and bowing before threats of communal criminals.
It is our conviction that there has been a complete suspension of the law of the land as far as this case is concerned. If there have been no arrests in spite of ample evidence of those guilty, it is because of the Government's and the administration's soft approach towards the communalists as also because of the culpability of the police. We demand immediate arrest and prosecution for murder against all those guilty. A timebound CBI investigation into the atrocity must be ordered. The incident provides one more reason why the VHP with its highly provocative slogans and anti-national activities should be banned and its leaders arrested. Action should be taken against all those officials present who utterly failed in their duty to protect the innocent lives of the five dalits. Compensation of Rs. five lakhs should be given to the families of those killed.

Detailed report of the delegation

Solidarity with the families
The delegation visited Badshahpur in Gurgaon district where two of the victims, Dayachand and Virendra had lived. According to the large number of people who we met at the houses of the victims, the families had the support of the entire village regardless of caste. We also met people of different castes at the village who were angry at the incident. They all had the highest praise for the victims, as being extremely hardworking, helpful. There is a large jatav community in the village. Some of them, like the two victims, earn their living by skinning dead animals. The contract for such work is given on tender by the Block Development Officer. In this case it was Virendra's brother Devendra who had got the year long contract for Rs. 35,000 in April this year for 40 villages. The delegation saw the receipt number 035 issued by the BDO. The family were very particular to show the delegation the papers to establish that the entire profession was legal and there was no question of ever skinning a cow in the area outside the jurisdiction of the license, least of all near a police chowki like Duleena, an hour's drive away from their own area. Devendra also has the license for skinning dead animals from the Goushala. He told the delegation that he had accepted the work on a very low payment as a sort of donation to the gaushala. The dead animals are picked up by his team of workers, brought to the land allotted for skinning by the village panchayat, the carcasses are buried by the workers after skinning, the skins are treated with a salt-based mixture and then sold. It is hard, unpleasant work and it provides a crucial service to the community with low payments and even less in terms of social recognition.

Dayachand was working with Devendra for a meager amount. We met his old parents, his wife Saroj and his four children. It was very moving and sad to see the older daughters, Minu and Pinky aged eight and nine, helping their mother and grandmother, carrying their young brother and sister, even while wiping their own eyes that would constantly fill up with tears. This is an extremely poor hardworking family now bereft with the cruel killing. The victims brother Dulchand and his father Budhram, spoke of when at 3.30 in the morning of the 16th the police came knocking at their door to inform them of an "accident' that had involved their son. They as well as Devendra's family were informed that the young men had been admitted to the Jhajjar Civil hospital. No means of transport were provided to take the families to the hospital. Once they managed to reach there they shuttled between the chowki, the thana and the hospital, as there was no official to meet them and inform them of what had happened. Ultimately they were directed to the morgue. Stunned, grieved, shocked they saw the brutalized, wounded bodies of their loved ones. Describing the terrible injuries his brother suffered, Dulchand broke down again and again. The police refused to arrange for a vehicle, leave alone an ambulance to take the dead bodies back to their village. "They treated us as though we were the families of the criminals not the victims", said Jogendra who was present with the other family members. The police did not give them any papers, no copies of the FIR filed.

The savagery, the cruelty of the caste system, the inhumanity, the arrogance of the "pure upper castes" against the "polluted dalits" was brought out in every word spoken by this young man, desperately trying to control his grief. "They gave us his body–naked. We are poor dalits that is why they did not think it necessary to cover my brother even with an old sheet." Young men in the crowd sitting next to us speak out. "These Hindus they make us do their dirty work and then deprive us of even a minimum of dignity" Another speaks "if they love their animals so much let them pick up the carcasses and bury them with full rites", yet another voice " we know this is the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Why don't they arrest those who brought out the procession yesterday". There is anger expressed, there is protest. Talk moves to organising demonstrations, there is quick agreement. Among those present is Smt. Ramashree, Zila Chairperson. She is distantly related to the victims. She speaks of other cases of atrocities against dalits where the guilty escaped any punishment. She urges the women present to join the protests being planned. The delegation met Virendra's family. His father Rattan lal, his aged mother Ramvati, broken by grief, his wife Lakshmi Devi and their two young sons, his brothers Devendra and Rajesh. The mother kept repeating, but my son was so tall, so strong how could they kill him? She has not been told, that her beloved son was surrounded and beaten to death and his head smashed in by big stones.

No Government official has visited the village, no Minister. For the Government and administration, the incident might never have occurred, these young men might never have lived. The delegation joined a meeting taking place at the chaupal organized by local youth. They were planning how best to help the families and to ensure that those guilty are arrested.


Meeting with SP
Earlier the delegation had met the Superintendent of Police Mr. Md. Aqil in Jhajjar. He had not been able to reach the chowki because of road blocs. His assessment is that the dalits were actually "presumed to be Muslims" and that is why they were attacked. This was the opinion repeated by almost all the police personnel we spoke to. He gave us details of the police version, quoted in the earlier sections of this report. and admitted that has been no investigation about the reported buying of the cow in Farroukhnagar. He said that the police spent time trying to ascertain the truth from the dalits and then in trying to convince those villagers who had brought them to the chowki about the facts. According to him, the police at the chowki were not biased as it was the ASI Dharmendra who first stated that no crime had been committed by the dalits since it was a dead cow being skinned. He also said that the dalits had been beaten by the villagers and then brought to the chowki, but had no answer as to why they were then not taken to the hospital? He said he was first informed about the developing situation at around 7pm when he was at the residence of the Dy. Commissioner, Sri Mahendra Singh. They were both monitoring the situation and informed the SDMs and other police personnel to go to the chowki. Shri Aqil received a call from a VHP leader shortly thereafter informing him that "some cow-killers" had been caught and that the police should not release them. The delegation took this as a threat to him, but he said he took it at its face value. He also received a message from a "Shankaracharya" in Delhi but could not answer the call due to his preoccupation with the developing situation. When asked why the police had not protected the dalits by using their firearms against the mob, he said they were heavily outnumbered and it would have worsened the situation. He expressed concern about the congratulatory demonstration organized the following day. However on being asked what his instructions are from the Government he said to "maintain peace". We asked him directly if this meant no arrests: he indicated that at present his first priority was to defuse the situation, and the arrests would follow after proper investigation.

Clearly he is under tremendous pressure not to take action against those responsible for the violence. Others told us that the mobs were shouting slogans against him and accusing him of helping those who slaughtered cows. Perhaps it was this type of propaganda against him that prompted him to inform us that he had taken action against those responsible for a case of cow slaughter just a few months ago. He went out of his way to defend the police personnel and their version. He described how the SHO had tried to protect the dalits and got badly injured on his arm, but when we met the SHO and made it a point to look for the injury, it was barely a scratch. For whatever reason, he too is involved in trying to cover up the criminal negligence of the administration and police to prevent the killings.

At the chowki
The delegation went to the Duleena chowki where the incident occurred. This is a small brick building of two rooms in an open area. We took in the dreadful sight on the road just outside the chowki, of two separate big patches of dried blood that must have flowed from the bodies of the innocents as they were being brutally beaten to death. Present at the chowki were the SHO Rajendra Singh and other constables, Shri Naseeb Singh who owns a petrol pump in the area and who is the President of the Jhajjar Bar Association Later the Dy. Superintendent Narendra Singh also came to the chowki.

They repeated what the SP had already stated. They added that they kept telling the growing crowd that "the men are not Muslims but Hindus." This was stated by them several times. Finally we had to ask them "do you mean of they were Muslims the behaviour of the crowd would be justified?" There was no answer. However the statement does reveal the anti-dalit attitude of the VHP leaders masterminding the incident. We asked if they had identified any of the killers. 'It was too dark" the SHO said. The delegation was shocked at this answer because it spells freedom for the killers. It is an ominous indication that there will be no witnesses to identify the killers. We questioned him further " but surely the police recognize those who had beaten up the dalits in the first place. Have you filed FIRs against them?" No we have not was the reply. What about the others? It was not a sudden hit and run incident, the crowd was here for several hours, how could you not know at least some of them?" He remained silent. Naseeb Singh then spoke " I was here too. I can tell you it was a very difficult situation to control the crowd. The police also were attacked." So the police have enough witnesses to substantiate their theories, but none who will speak out for the murdered men.

Interestingly, the SHO and others present made some rather scathing comments about the cow-protection platform. They said that there are at least 2000 cows abandoned in the area, that wander around "eating polythene bags"–why don't those who shout about cow protection protect these cows, they asked.

The police took us around the chowki pointing out marks on the walls made by stones thrown by the mobs. The wrought-iron window bars have also been damaged However in our opinion if a mob as large as the one described by the police had really been aggressive then the damage would have been far greater. The Dy. Superintendent who has recently been the recipient of a police award further elaborated on the theory of big crowds. According to him if the police had fired they would all have been killed in retaliatory violence by the mob. But was not firm action the only chance to save the dalits, we asked. We lathi-charged them twice he answered, eight of our men got injured. We did not see a single injury on him or any of the others present. As far as arrests are concerned, we were told, "information is being gathered" from the villages to identify the guilty.

In discussions with those present at the chowki, it was clear that the main concern was to "defuse" the situation. We were informed that five teams of police had been deputed to visit villages to "gather information." The inquiry set up by the administration consists of police officers under the leadership of DSP Narendra Singh whose own role was questionable. There is absolutely no chance of justice for the victims families unless an impartial timebound investigation under the CBI is not set up.

Conclusion

The silence of mainstream political parties in Haryana and indeed at the national level against the terrible atrocity against dalits shows how the communal agenda of the VHP has so distorted politics that the concern for vote banks takes precedence over the defence of minimum human rights. In Haryana, since the "mandir movement" did not get the response sought by the sangh parivar, the symbol for communal mobilisation is "cow protection.' The incident and the subsequent activities of the VHP provide more evidence of its deeply manuvadi, casteist, anti-dalit outlook and actions. We call upon all sections to express their anger, their protest against this terrible atrocity against dalits and to espress solidarity with the families in every way possible.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Dalit beaten to death in UP

Bahraich
A dalit was lynched by irate villagers of Bhawaniapur Banghusari near the Indo-Nepal border for allegedly poisioning a buffalo, area Superintendent of Police, PP Srivastava said on Tuesday.

Source: Press Trust of India, October 15, 2002

Dalits' conversion threat to test TN ordinance

G.C. Shekhar

Just a few weeks after the Tamil Nadu ordinance against religious conversion came into effect, the new law would be put to test as Dalits of a village were ready for conversion.

Victims of social outcast for decades, over 50 Dalit families of Koothirambakkam village near Kancheepuram are ready to brave the new law to embrace Islam. "What we need is human dignity and if becoming a Muslim would give us this dignity then we would convert even if we are thrown into jail," said Ezhumalai a Dalit youth.

Recently, the local police foiled a conversion function at the village. It remained to be seen if Moulvis would be prepared to convert as the new law could send them to jail if they do not inform the district authorities about it.

"The Dalits and the Moulvis could also be prosecuted under the 'inducement' clause of the ordinance just to prevent other Dalits from resorting to conversion as a social protest. The mandatory registration of conversion would be a further deterrent against even genuine conversion," argued People Union for Civil Liberties activist and lawyer S. Suresh.

The immediate provocation for the Dalits has been the refusal of the Vanniyars to bring the deity from the Amman temple to their area.

"The Dalits were compelled to donate money to renovate the temple and for the festival but now they cannot even have the deity pass through our streets.

Similarly, a few years back the Dalits were denied access to the village pond, attached to the temple," explained Dalit Panthers leader M. Thirumavalavan.

Even attempts by the Jana Kalyan volunteers of the Kanchi Mut to persuade the Vanniyars to relent have proved futile. Tamil Nadu has had a history of Dalits embracing Islam to escape torment from powerful backward classes. In 1980, all the Dalits of Meenakshipuram village in Tiruneveli district became Muslims to escape ill-treatment by the Thevars.

Source: Hindustan Times, October 15, 2002