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

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