Wednesday, May 28, 2003

5 Dalits stripped, beaten up

GANGAVATHI (Koppal dt), May 27 (DHNS)

Caste Hindus allegedly forced five Dalit men to strip half-naked, tied them to a pole and thrashed them on Sunday at Marakumbi village, around 15 km from here. The five were accused of stealing paddy. The next morning, villagers who congregated at the Gram Sabha, also imposed a fine of Rs 2,500 on them, it is learnt.

The government has built a Samudaya Bhavan in the Harijan area of Marakumbi exclusively for the use of Dalits. A businessman and a farmer Tirumalappa used to store his paddy in this bhavan. The five youth demanded that the bhavan be cleared of all the paddy as it was meant for public use and did not belong to any individual. Dalit leaders expressed their inability to free the bhavan from the clutches of the businessman, sources said.

The five youth then approached Mr Tirumalappa and requested him to clear out of the bhavan. They told him that the bhavan was needed to hold functions and moreover the poor Dalits could sleep in the bhavan in the nights to escape the deadly bite of snakes and scorpions. Mr Tirumalappa did not budge. The youth later threatened to complain to the government. When the news spread, furious caste Hindus held a meeting. Later they accused the five youths of trying to steal the paddy stored in the bhavan. On Sunday, they rounded the youths up and thrashed them. The mothers of the youth were roughed up when they tried to give the youths some water.

Source: Deccan Herald, May 28, 2003

Monday, May 26, 2003

Dalits prevented from contesting polls

T M Veeraraghav

Monday, May 26, 2003 (Chennai):

Upper caste Hindus in south Tamil Nadu have ensured that a Dalit does not become president in the three panchayats reserved for Dalits'.

While the issue has even been raised by the SC/ST commission, the upper caste Hindus remain defiant and Dalit leaders blame the two main Dravidian parties for not protecting them.

Coercive tactics

For instance Saraswathi had tried to contest in the village panchayat election's in Nattarmangalam, but she failed.

Though it is a panchayat reserved for Dalits', and Saraswathi belonged to the community, she was threatened by the upper caste Hindu's. The threats have even left her scared to raise the issue in public.

For the last seven years, three panchayats near Madurai have not had a president as the caste Hindu's ensure that genuine Dalit candidates do not contest. And if they do, they are defeated by dummy Dalit candidates, who later resign.

In 1996, a Dalit Candidate was even murdered in Melavalavu, a nearby village. And this has left the Dalits even scared to talk of the elections.

"They are rich and powerful so what can we do," says Lakshmanan, local Dalit.

Defiant upper caste

The Commission for Scheduled castes and tribes has recently written to the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that polls are conducted in the region. It has even suggested stopping of development funds for these villages if the polls are not held.

But the caste Hindus, predominantly from the politically powerful Thevar community, remains defiant.

"Elections in the area will take place only when the panchayat is de-reserved," claims Vallachami, an upper caste Hindu.

Political bias

Dalit leaders blame the two main Dravidian parties for the current situation. They say both the DMK and the AIADMK have not taken a strong stand on the issue as it will anger their upper caste vote bank.

"Though the two parties are as different as a snake and a mongoose, when it comes to the issue of the Dalits, both are the same," claims Thirumalvalavan, Dalit Panthers Party.

And as yet another election date is soon be announced, the Dalits are skeptical and even the few who wanted to fight have now resigned. They say it will make little difference.

Source: NDTV, May 26, 2003

Monday, May 19, 2003

Dalit boy killed for sister's 'folly'

Monday, May 19, 2003 (Jalna):

The fight for water gets more savage by the day. In a small village in Maharashtra, a 22-year-old Dalit boy was burnt to death because his sister defied the power of the dominant caste and filled her bucket at the only tap in the whole village.

In a village in Jalna, a Dalit girl, 14-year-old Lata Shendge, had gone to fill water from the only water source - a hand pump.

She says she was stopped by some young men from the dominant Maratha community. As the quarrel escalated, they attacked her house and burnt her brother, Dilip, to death.

Their mother, who pleaded with the crowd to spare her son's life, was also severely burnt.

"They threw my pot away, then beat me up and burnt my brother alive when he intervened," narrated Lata.

Dilip was to get married on May 27, and the family had come back to their village for the ceremony.

Lata's mother is in deep shock and says she can identify those who burnt her son. "I pleaded with them to spare my son but they burnt him. God will not forgive them," said a disconsolate Shantabai, Dilip and Lata's mother.

While nine people have been arrested, police admit, rather shockingly, that the boy brought it upon himself by provoking the Marathas, who are the dominant caste in that village.

The Marathas themselves claim that the son and mother burnt themselves.

Source: NDTV, May 19, 2003