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


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