Thursday, July 31, 2003

Mother, daughter sentenced to 4 years for 'burning' Dalit girl

THANJAVUR: A woman and her daughter who were found guilty of dousing a Dalit girl with kerosene and setting her afire were sentenced to four years imprisonment each by the Sessions Court here on Wednesday.

According to the prosecution, Chitra (18), daughter of Selvaraj, a Dalit of Rettakudi in Sembanarkovil police limits, was employed as a domestic servant in the house of Fauzia Begum (55), wife of Sheik Allaudeen in Arangakudi village. Suspecting that her son Thameem Ansari might be having illicit relations with Chitra, Fauzia had been quarrelling frequently with Chitra.

On March 13, 2002, Chitra had collected her belongings and was getting ready to go back to her parental home, when Fauzia and her daughter Pappa Kani (22) attacked Chitra. Fauzia had poured kerosene on Chitra and set her alight. Chitra sustained serious burns and even after the wounds had cured, could not move about freely.

Mayiladuthurai DSP filed cases against Fauzia Begum and Pappa Kani under the Protection of Civil Rights Act and on charges of attempted murder.

Principal Additional Sessions Judge S Chandrasekaran who tried the case found both the mother and the daughter guilty and sentenced each of them to four years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 each. He also ordered that Rs 90,000 of the amount be paid to Chitra as compensation.

Source: Newindpress.com, July 31, 2003

Monday, July 28, 2003

Talhan clash: panel's terms for Dalit nominee

Varinder Singh

Talhan (Jalandhar), July 27

The much-publicised June 14 peace pact, is virtually lying defunct due to the non-inclusion of one of the two Dalit nominees by the Jat Sikh-dominated Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh Gurdwara Management Committee as a regular member at its weekly meetings. Mr Amarjit, one of the Dalit nominees, attended today's meeting but would not be allowed to attend future meetings on account of his inability to attain "Sikh saroop" (Sikh appearance) according to the clauses of the pact.

The committee which discussed the issue at today's meeting has directed Amarjit, one of the two Dalit nominees who were inducted into the committee, that if he wanted to attend weekly meetings as a regular member he would have to either partake 'amrit' by Wednesday or wait for another one-and-a half month till his beard grows full length.

The closed-door meeting was held in the presence of Mr Amarjit and Mr Rajinder Singh, DSP, and a duty Magistrate, who had taken Mr Amarjit along from his house with the promise that the administration would ensure his participation in the meeting as a regular member. Mr Jang Bahadur Singh, a member of the committee said Mr Amarjit would be allowed to attend the meeting as a regular member only after he had fulfilled either of the conditions. "He has been told to either partake amrit by Wednesday, or wait for another one and half months, till his beard grows full length," said Mr Jang Bahadur Singh. He, however, added that Mr Amarjit had not cut his hair after the pact and he had never consumed tobacco.

Mr Rajinder Singh, DSP, maintained that Mr Amarjit was allowed to attend the meeting and said, we give you a good story within a day or two. Mr Vijay Sampla, the Vice-President of the BJP, refuted this, saying that Mr Amarjit was not allowed to sit in the meeting as a regular member.

Mr Chanan Ram Pal, president of the Dalit Action Committee (DAC), maintained that the condition of partaking of amrit by Amarjit was not acceptable to the DAC. "It can be a personal choice or decision

of Mr Amarjit to partake 'amrit', but as a condition it is not acceptable to us. There was no such condition in the pact except that the members would have 'Sikh saroop' which has been fulfilled by Amarjit, who regularly wears a turban and who has not cut his hair since the signing of the pact".

Mr Vijay Sampla, expressed concern that the truce was not taking the shape as was envisaged. "The payment of an additional compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Vijay Kumar Kala, who was killed in the alleged police firing at Buta Mandi, has not materialised though it was a clause of the pact. Moreover, the magisterial inquiry has failed to make headway despite the assurance of the Chief Minister that the inquiry would be completed within 15 days," said Mr Sampla.

Meanwhile, four Dalits, whose houses were damaged in the June 5 Dalit-Jat clashes, have refused to accept the government compensation after dubbing it as 'grossly inadequate'. Four of the six members of the Dalit community whose houses were damaged have refused the government compensation. The total number of people whose houses or other property was damaged in the violence was 13.

When contacted Mr Ashok Gupta, Deputy Commissioner, said though the assessment committee on compensation had both Dalit as well as Jat members apart from PWD officials, the administration has ordered reassessment following objections by four of the total 13 violence-affected persons. He alleged that the peace pact violated by the Dalits as apart from their failure to ensure 'Sikh saroop' of their members they had not withdrawn a civil suit according to the agreement.

Source: The Tribune, July 28, 2003

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Dalit burnt to death in Maharashtra for using handpump

BHUTEGAON (JALNA): On the edge of Mumbai, in the Damupada slums of Kandivli where Dilip Shendge (25) grew up, the first one in the queue always had the right to use the water tap first. No one asked him what his caste was.

But on May 14 when the Dalit labourer used his cosmopolitan sensibility to get around Bhutegaon, his native village in Jalna in central Maharashtra, the upper-caste Patils allegedly burnt him to death.

A drought-prone village of 1,200 inhabitants, remote Bhutegaon is home to 20-odd Dalit families who, for a daily wage of Rs 50, provide labour to tend fields of bajra, cotton and jowar through rain and winter. In summer, amidst water scarcity and parched earth, they reap a harvest of atrocities.

Caste barriers run deep here and the Patils' writ dictates that it's their privilege to use handpumps first. On the day of the incident, the Patils reportedly tried to get fresh with Lata Shendge (17) for questioning their privilege. Her brother Dilip intervened only to be accosted by a group of belligerent Patils in the evening, who allegedly set him, his sister and his mother ablaze right outside their mud-walled hut.

"We put the three in a bullock cart, then on a bus for Jalna district hospital," says Ramesh Shendge (35), Dilip's brother. It was a three-hour journey through a rough terrain with the temperature at 41 degree Celsius. Dilip died in a hospital five days later, with over 90 per cent burns.

For Indumati Shivaji Bhavare (35), the irony was inescapable _ she is the first Dalit sarpanch of Bhutegaon. The incident confirmed her belief that some things never change.

Nearly 450 kms to the north-east of the village, a little over two months later, the state's first Dalit chief minister echoed the very same thought as detractors and supporters alike criticised his government over the kidnapping and murder of three Dalit girls from Aurangabad recently.

In the Marathwada region, comprising eight districts in central Maharashtra, Jalna tops with 19 of the total 46 crime cases involving attacks on Dalits registered in the last six months. "39 out of 76 talukas in the Marathwada region have been declared drought-prone with an average rainfall of 780 mm. Almost all the crimes have to do with handpump fights," says an official from the Jalna District Collector's officer. But this particular obscure village, whose only link to the district HQ is a 40-km-long power line, has now turned a political battleground. A ten-feet wide asphalt road has been laid, thanks to the steady stream of cars carrying ministers.

A new handpump has been installed outside the Shendge residence although it does not yield water as yet. And last week, the Superintendent of Police drove down and led Dalits for the first time into the local temple. "But it happened only one day when the police presence was strong. We are scared to go there now," says Ramesh Dhongde (28).

As for the Patils, 16 of them were arrested for Shendge's murder and booked under the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs Act. Their clan has sought to defend the outrage with talk of emotions running high in the face of acute water shortage.

"Four years back, the only source of water was the Dudhna river, which was a 40-minute walk from here. We got the government to install these two pumps and now it's only a five-minute walk. These Dalits can't even give us the right to use it first," says Damodar Patil (50), a land-owner. Obviously, regret and reconciliation are still missing.

Source: Newindpress.com, July 22, 2003

Monday, July 21, 2003

Cop suspended for not filing rape complaint of Dalit woman

MEERUT: A police official has been suspended for failing to lodge the rape complaint of a Dalit woman in Badhi village falling under Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's constituency of Saharanpur.

The head mohrir of Nakur police station was suspended over allegations that the matter was ignored for two days while the SSP was on leave and the complaint was lodged only after the victim's family met the DM.

The victim's family are the only Dheenvars in the village dominated by Jats. On July 16 evening, there was an altercation between the two groups reportedly over throwing of cowdung. Now the Jats allege that the victim's family is blowing the incident out of proportions.

"Maar peet ki ghatna ko badha chadha kar balatkar ka aarop laga diya hai (It was the case of a fight but they have gone ahead to allege rape)," they told police. Police are questioning the victim's family while seven men have been arrested in this connection.

Preliminary reports say the victim didn't mention rape initially and the charge was added only later. Victim's medical examination also could not shed light on the charge. The woman is married and has several children which makes it difficult to say anything with certainty, official sources said.

Source: Newindpress.com, July 21, 2003

Saturday, July 19, 2003

CM Shinde humbled but Dalit colony pays the price

MANJU MEHTA

AURANGABAD, JULY 18: As night falls in the Dalit colony of Ambedkar Nagar in Aurangabad, the tension among its 10,000-odd population is palpable. This settlement has seen 18 arrests in the last 24 hours - all young men in the age group of 15-25. Any knock on the door raises the same question: Whose son will it be tonight?

The murder of three minor Dalit girls from the locality within a month has snowballed into something more. Caste tension, which residents say was not there earlier, has reared its ugly head. The latest incident, the murder of 11-year-old Mangal Dabadhe, sparked off rioting by an angry Dalit mob in the upper-caste CIDCO colony on Tuesday leading to the subsequent rounding up of Dalit youths by police.

Ambedkar Nagar and CIDCO colony - two settlements separated by caste, class and the 60-ft-wide Jalgaon road. One is a clutch of rented 60 sq ft chawls filled with large families of daily wage Dalit labourers. The other, with more affluent pucca structures, has upper-caste Hindu and Jain residents. The only time these two connected was on Tuesday. Police and CIDCO residents say it was the Dalit boys. Dalits insist the mob consisted mainly of rickshaw drivers who were on strike on Wednesday. And in the ensuing blame game, the murders take a backseat.

The victims, Mangal Dabhade (11), Asmita Hanumante (8) and Ratnamala Shelke (9), are all Dalit minor girls from Ambedkar Nagar who had been kidnapped. While Mangal's body was found on Monday, the other two were found dead on June 16 in Vaijapur, 70 kms from the Dalit colony. Police have arrested a 35-year-old Dalit woman, Padmabai Jadhav, for the crimes. ''She has confessed to all three murders,'' says Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Parushuram Pawar. Her reported motive being black magic.

Padmabai, who was Mangal's neighbour, became the suspect after she informed the Dabhade family about their missing daughter. Says 30-year-old Kailash Dabhade, Mangal's father: ''On the day my child disappeared, she said she saw Mangal leaving in a rickshaw with her uncle. But when Mangal did not return by 10 pm, we filed a complaint.'' The next day Padmabai was arrested.

Through all this, no finger of suspicion was pointed at the upper castes. ''All those things have a political angle. We don't have the kind of caste conflict that is present in rural areas,'' says Dabhade. But Tuesday changed all that. For the first time, pent-up emotions were released as Dalit boys, outraged by the murder of three children, targeted those living on the other side. A few hours before Mangal funeral, 500-600 boys went on a rampage in CIDCO area. Although no loss of life was reported, there was considerable damage to property.

''It was a fallout of the third murder. We don't expect more incidents of the kind here,'' says ACP Pawar. ''Three boys were arrested. Some of them were identified from the photographs carried in local papers the next day,'' he adds.

As for the rest, they are being picked up at random. The Express team which was in Ambedkar Nagar on Wednesday at 9.30 pm was witness to this. When policemen got hold of 18-year-old Ram Bangde, Dr Sunil Takayade rushed to intervene. He said the youth, who had been ill for the last few days, had come to his dispensary and hence was innocent. However, another 18-year-old, Ravi Kale, was not so lucky as there was no such intervention. His mother Raibai says her son was having lunch at home when the rioting took place. ''At 2 am, police came and took him away. We are waiting for him to come back.''

It has been a trying week for all. While Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde offered to resign, the state government announced it would invoke provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) to deal with such incidents. Minister of State for Home Rajendra Darda went on a tour of the area on Wednesday, when an all-party bandh was being observed. Assurances and promises flew thick, but woes re-visit Ambedkar Nagar after dusk as midnight knocks are heard.

Source: The Indian Express, July 19, 2003

Thursday, July 17, 2003

From water dispute to dalit uprising

Mumbai/Aurangabad, July 16

In the beginning it all seemed like a simple water dispute in a severely drought prone district of Maharashtra. But then the water burst into flames, shaking the entire political establishment in the state and waking them to the reality of a possible Dalit uprising in various parts of Maharasthra.

* On May 13, 2003 a Maratha family in Bhutegaon village of Jalna district burnt alive a Dalit youth, Dilip Shende, after a fracas over filling up buckets with water at a public water tap. Shende's mother and sister also sustained severe injuries in the incident.

* Bhutegaon was soon followed by Anvi Bangala in Banaour tehsil and Gunjmurthi in Ghansavanagi tehsil in Jalna district.

* Then came the beating up of some Dalits in Beed last Sunday.

* On Monday the police in Aurangabad recovered the body of a 11 year old Dalit girl earlier reported missing.

Dalit activists went on a rampage in the district and no one could ignore the atrocities on one section of society anymore. The state's first Dalit Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde is at pains to state that he is considering applying the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and Prevention of Terrorists Act (POTA) to the perpetrators of atrocities against Dalits. This is a dead giveaway of the extent of the problem facing the Chief Minister, considering these offences are already punishable under an equally draconian Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes act.

But the Chief Minister knows more than he is publicly letting on. He has been quite disturbed to notice the pattern in the attacks, which have so far not invited much protest from the otherwise pro-active Dalit leaders in the State. That is because every one of the Dalits attacked in the past few weeks comes from the Matang community who are not untouchables. Their traditional function in society has been that of water carriers and they have held themselves aloof from the "republican'' Dalits - followers of Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar - considering themselves a notch above the untouchables on the social ladder.

But now they are interested in a little bit of social engineering and have been increasingly raising their voice for an exclusive share of the reservation pie ? they abhor being clubbed and included with all other Dalits.

It is also not a coincidence that the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra has recently launched a fight for the Dalit vote which is a substantial 15 per cent in Marathwada, around 25 per cent in Vidarbha and between ten and 15 per cent in the rest of the State. The Sena has been disturbed by the ascent of Shinde to office in Maharashtra. The Chief Minister is a Hindu Dalit and Bal Thackeray has always claimed Hindu Dalits for his own. Now he is no longer certain which way the pendulum will swing and is afraid of a split in the Hindu Dalit vote. The substantial neo-Buddhist Dalit vote is with the Congress-NCP combine but it is the Congress which stands to lose the most if Dalits were to swing away from the party ? the NCP can compensate itself with the Maratha vote. And in all of the recent atrocities, Dalits have been pitted against the Maratha supporters of the NCP.

Not surprisingly the three major Dalit factions in the State (Ramdas Athawale, MP and ally of the NCP, Dr Prakash Ambedkar, MP and ally of the Congress and Gangadhar Gade, once minister in the Vilasrao Deshmukh cabinet and most recent friend of the Shiv Sena) are all blaming each other and doing little for the victimised matangs.

Noted Dalit intellectual Dr R Pantavane sees the Sena's latest Shiv Shakti-Bhimshakti experiment behind the unrest among Dalits in the state. But their attempt at social engineering might all come to nought, he says. "While in power it was the Sena which withdrew over 1000 cases of atrocities against Dalits and stalled an equal number of investigations under the prevention of atrocities law. They also bitterly and fiercely opposed the renaming of the Marathwada university after Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar." He thinks the atrocities law has failed in letter and spirit and is all out for the CM's move to bring a POTA like law to fight the problem.

But according to Gade violence against Dalits has been largely reported in areas where the earlier cases of atrocities were not properly investigated or tried. Gade believes there is no need for a POTA like act as the prevention law has enough teeth. "But before any of that, we have to try to establish social equality."

A tall order? But at least he is trying. Unlike other Dalit leaders he does not want a share of power just at the top, he wants it filtering down to the grass roots at the zilla parishad level so that Dalits can be universally empowered. But none of the major political parties is prepared to pay the price. A Dalit uprising might yet happen.

Source: Hindustan Times, July 17, 2003

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Atrocities against Dalits on the rise in UP

Rahul Shrivastava

Sunday, July 13, 2003 (Lucknow):

When Mayawati became Chief Minister, many believed things would get better for Dalits in Uttar Pradesh � her party, the BSP, depends almost entirely on their votes.

But nothing really has changed on the ground. Dalits say they are still abused and face caste prejudices.

Last year, Dalits in Unnao's Bhaktakheda village refused to work in fields owned by upper castes. They were assaulted � one person was killed and even women were not spared. Since then, Dalits are refusing to return to their homes.

In Shravasti's Badhai ka Purva village, the Dalits wanted ration cards. The Block Development Officer collected Rs 10 per person as bribe from Dalit families, but till today none of them have been issued the cards.

Alarming statistics

Atrocities against Dalits are, in fact, increasing every year.

"The number of cases hasn't gone down. Our figures tell us that the number of cases of atrocities and discrimination have gone up. Every year about 1,200 to 1,400 more complaints are being received. There has been an increase of almost 30 per cent," said Sriram Arun, Chairman, UP SC/ST Commission.

According to figures provided by the SC/ST Commission, in the year 1999, the commission received 2,850 complaints of atrocities and discrimination. In the year 2000, 4,000 complaints were received, while in the year 2001, 5,300 complaints were registered.

Already in the first six months of the year 2003, 4,000 complaints have reached the commission.

The state government maintains that this is because of increasing awareness among Dalits, which makes them willing to report problems that would have earlier been ignored. However, many experts disagree.

While Dalit votes command great political power, but as individuals, they still face intolerance. They take consolation from symbols like the Ambedkar Memorial in Lucknow and celebrate their leader Mayawati's birthday. However, in villages and mofussil towns, they really have very little to cheer about.

Source: NDTV, July 13, 2003

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Digvijay balances 'caste card' in MP

Sandeep Bhushan

Tuesday, July 8, 2003 (Village Satpipaliya, Madhya Pradesh):

The sowing season has just begun in Madhya Pradesh, and at least a dozen incidents of rural violence have already been reported.

These are mostly clashes between Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Dalits, who have been allotted land under a government land redistribution scheme.

And the increasing incidents have put a question mark over Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's re-election possibilities.

Land for Dalits

A police picket was set up after bitter caste clashes in Satpipaliya village, in Sehore. The feuding parties�the Khatis on one side and Dalits on the other�are fighting over the village grazing land.

The 120 acres of grazing stretch is supposed to be common to everyone, but for the past few years it had been controlled by the Khatis�a powerful OBC group.

And the brunt was borne by the Dalits. Out of the 36 families in the village, males from 25 families landed in hospital.

The Digvijay Singh government then intervened. The village grazing land, which was earlier illegally occupied by the OBCs was transferred to Dalits, under a government land redistribution programme.

Now there's hope and optimism and Singh's popularity has suddenly shot up. "When the government is giving us the means to live, we will depend on it whether we live or die," said Kusumbai, a Dalit.

Cong workers unhappy

But it's a move, which hasn't gone down well with the OBCs in the area. And the pro-Dalit tilt of the state government has got some Congress workers in the villages worried.

"We made a mistake. There should have been some percentages reserved for the OBCs as well," said Jaspal Singh, leader district panchayat.

While it now remains to be seen whether the chief minister can get equal support of both Dalits and OBCs, the Congress still hopes that the chief minister's new policy of increasing reservations for OBCs will act as a balancing factor.

Source: NDTV, July 8, 2003

Monday, July 07, 2003

Dalits, Jats clash; traffic blocked

Kanchan Vasdev

Bhattian Bet (Ludhiana), July 6

The simmering tension between Jats and Dalits for the past one week over the election of a Dalit sarpanch finally came to the fore today when the Dalits tried to intervene when some Jats refused to let their women answer the call of nature in the latters' fields.

This irritated the Jats and led to a clash. A Dalit, Om Parkash, received an injury on his head as he was attacked with a sickle by a Jat.

Another person was injured in the clash following which the agitated Dalits blocked traffic on the Ludhiana-Jalandhar highway, leaving commuters stranded for over three hours.

The Jats of the village had not been allowing the Dalit women and children to answer the call of nature on the land acquired by the government for sewerage board for the past one week.

Another Dalit Chaman Lal was attacked and injured. The police rounded up Joginder Singh along with three others from the spot while another suspect Ranjot Singh had absconded.

Dalit women and men accompanied by the villagers from Hazoori Bagh village sat on a dharna on the G.T. Road. The sarpanch of Hazoori Bagh village, Mr Des Raj Bhatti, and Mr Hans Raj, a councellor, also joined them.

The dharna was lifted at around 10.30 a.m. after the SDM (W), Mr Malwinder Singh Jaggi, SP, City-II, Mr Pritam Singh, and the DSP, Mr Manjit Singh Dhesi, assured the Dalits of strict action against the guilty.

Talking to TNS, Mr Hari Ram, father of the elected Sarpanch, Mr Sarwan Kumar, said the Jats were not able to digest the victory of a Dalit and were irritated over the fact that Dalits would rule over the village.

He added that 80 per cent population of the village was of Dalits and the rest were Jats. Mr Hari Ram also said the Dalits had agreed to elect a Jat unanimously to receive a grant of Rs 2 lakh from the state government. The Jats, however, did not like the candidate nominated by Dalits and they filed the nomination papers of another candidate. Following this, the Dalits also fielded Sarwan Kumar.

Bholi, wife of Chaman lal, who was injured in the clash, alleged that the Jats had been harassing them for the past many days. She said a similar clash was averted on the election day also. "Today's incident could have been prevented had the SHO of Salim Tabri taken some steps to contain the tension as we had been complaining him for the past many days about the excesses of Jats. But he failed to do anything."

The Dalits gathered on the spot demanded action against the SHO. Mr Narinderpal Singh, SSP, Ludhiana, said a case has been registered against four persons under Section 7 of the Civil Protection Act, Section3 of the SC Act and Section 324/34 of the IPC against Ranjodh Singh, Joginder Singh, Jaswinder Singh and Sarvpreet Singh.

Source: The Tribune, July 7, 2003

Friday, July 04, 2003

Dalit farmer tortured in Malwa, Punjab

Vishal Malhotra

Friday, July 4, 2003 (Chandigarh):

Following the green revolution in Punjab, the economic conditions of Dalits may have improved but their social status remains the same.

It is men like Baldev Singh, who have brought prosperity to Malwa in Punjab by tilling the land, but they are still shackled by their social status.

After his employer Paramjit Singh accused him of stealing diesel, Baldev says he was tied up and beaten incessantly for two days and then had acid thrown on him.

"Two nights ago they beat me, then again last night. They injured my arm and threw acid on it," said Singh.

"My brother works as bonded labour on the landlord's farm. They picked him up the night before, beat him up and threw acid on him. They also threatened to take him to the police station," added Jagdev Singh, Baldev's brother.

He is now being treated for his injuries and the police has only registered a case.

"We have filed a case against the employer. We now need to take Baldev's statement on what happened," said Kabul Singh, Lambhi police station.

Baldev's story is one of many Dalits', who have been abused and exploited by their employers simply because the law enforcement machinery takes a lenient view of offences like these.

Source: NDTV, July 4, 2003

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Parents 'caste' aside mid-day meal

H M ARAVIND

MYSORE: Swallow this: parents are refusing to allow their children to partake of mid-day meals in government schools. Reason: the meals are prepared by dalit cooks.

The Karnataka government's 'Akshara Dasoha' initiative, which got off to a wholesome start on Tuesday, has now turned sour because of an odious social prejudice. The objective of the mid-day meal scheme is to provide nutritious food to children and to reduce school dropout rates.

When the government hired dalit cooks, it was merely honouring the reservation policy guidelines. However, parents of at least three government schools in Kirangur, Haravekallahalli and Tattekere in Hunsur taluk and two government schools in Doddahinduwadi in Kollegal taluk of Chamarajanagar district would have none of it. And they made sure their children had not a morsel.

Incidentally, agriculture processing minister Raju Gowda hails from Doddahinduwadi village. On Tuesday itself, many children were forced to return home hungry by their parents.

“The number of children who had food in school increased on Wednesday as compared to Tuesday,” Kollegal BEO Mahadevamma told this paper. She said the authorities had visited the school and discussed the problem with the management and teaching faculty.

Parents of an Urdu school in the village also took back their wards, because Dalit women had dished out the food. The BEO admitted that the authorities will have to make alternative arrangements if the scheme is to continue.

Authorities of three schools ran into a similar problem in Hunsur taluk. Hunsur BEO Kamaraiah said several parents had prevented their children from having lunch. However, he said officers will interact with parents and try to convince them.

Deputy commissioner Kumar Naik was rather tactful. While agreeing that “parents should be careful about hygiene”, he said “the problem has not come to my notice”.

He, however, said the government has to follow the reservation policy in the recruitment of cooks.

Union minister of state for public distribution V. Srinivasa Prasad has deplored the incidents. He called for a concerted effort to tackle the “social evil of untouchability, still being practised in rural areas”.

He told reporters here that contrary to the government's claims, untouchability is still in practice. He said the Akshara Dasoha scheme should be implemented in earnest.

Source: The Times of India, July 03, 2003

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

BSP rally: Mayawati eyes Talhan vote bank

Shikha Trivedi

Wednesday, July 2, 2003 (Talhan):

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is to hold a massive rally later this month in Chandigarh for the first time ever.

The rally comes in wake of the Talhan incident where Jat Sikhs and Dalits clashed over the running of the shrine of Sufi Saint Baba Nihal Singh.

The rally is being seen as a symbol of Dalit assertion and is a serious attempt to mobilise the constituency in Punjab.

Talhan is the only village in Punjab where panchayat elections were not held and ironically has a panchayat dominated by Dalits.

Gurudwara battle

But now the Dalits in rural Punjab are readying themselves to fight for an equal share of the village wealth.

"Talhan marks the beginning of a phase in Punjab. For the first time, Dalits have staked claim over community resources in the village. They now want the same rights that the Jats enjoy," says Surinder S Jodhka, Professor, JNU.

The most powerful political and religious symbol in Punjab is the gurudwara. And although Dalits have always been free to enter them, they have seldom been allowed to participate in the management.

To resist the discrimination they started building their own shrines. Now the Dalits of Talhan are determined that their gurudwara will be bigger and better than what the Jats have.

"We have become their equals in education and are also earning as much as them. When we have our festival it is more grand than theirs. They are uncomfortable with this," said a local Dalit.

Swords crossed

In Talhan there are three gurudwaras apart from the controversial shrine. One for the Dalits or Ad-dharmis, another for the Jheevars�a backward caste�and the third where the Jats pray.

While earlier people from different communities visited each other's gurudwaras, after the recent violence, they prefer to worship in their own.

"They have divided the Granth Sahib on caste lines. The holy book kept in the Ravidas Mandir belongs to the Ad-dharmis and the Jats have their own," says a local.

Not slaves forever�

Across Punjab the Dalits are also spawning their own network of preachers. Several dissident religious sects have emerged in recent times.

Notably that of Piara Singh Bhaniyarawala, who was jailed last year and his ashram destroyed after he authored an alternative Granth Sahib and declared himself the next Sikh guru.

The controversial God-man says he has been hounded because of his caste.

"They got afraid of my popularity. They cannot accept a Dalit as a religious leader, so I was jailed. But we will not live like slaves forever," warns Bhaniyarawala.

And with the BSP now hoping to re-emerge in Punjab politics, it is apparent that caste and religious equations in the state could undergo a gradual transformation with control of Sikh gurudwaras becoming the immediate battleground.

Source: NDTV, July 2, 2003

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Dalits beaten up in MP district

Tuesday, July 1, 2003 (Sehore District, MP):

In Madhya Pradesh's Sehore district, over 20 Dalits have been brutally bashed up by upper caste men.

There are 34 Dalit families of village Satpipaliya, all of whom received some land under a government land redistribution programme two years back.

Under this, the village's common land, previously occupied by village landholders was allotted to Dalits, who harvested last year's crop under police protection.

Today was the last sowing day for them when they were assaulted. The Dalits' demand for police protection was refused by the local administration.

Source: NDTV, July 1, 2003