Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Dalit woman forced to drink 'excreta' in Madurai village

P. KRISHNASWAMY

MADURAI, SEPTEMBER 29: A 38-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly forced to drink excreta mixed with water in front of her husband and children after she spurned the advances of an upper caste villager in Keela Urappanur village in Thirumangalam block of Madurai district recently.

Muthumari, wife of a labourer, Pitchai, told mediapersons yesterday that a group of ''high caste'' people also splashed human excreta on her family. Muthukumari said she was on her way home on September 22 when Raju, who had been making advances, grabbed her hand. She managed to run home. When Pitchai learnt about the incident, he told her it was too late to go to the panchayat and that they should postpone it till the next day.

But a group of 15 people barged into their house, Muthumari said. After abusing her, they allegedly tried to outrage her modesty. Raju's wife accused Muthumari of trying to insinuate her husband and allegedly threw a bucketful of human excreta. She reportedly forced Muthumari to drink excreta mixed with water. Sources said the accused are still roaming freely even after police complaints were filed.

Source: The Indian Express, September 30, 2003

Dalit woman forced to drink 'excreta' in Madurai village

P. KRISHNASWAMY

MADURAI, SEPTEMBER 29: A 38-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly forced to drink excreta mixed with water in front of her husband and children after she spurned the advances of an upper caste villager in Keela Urappanur village in Thirumangalam block of Madurai district recently.

Muthumari, wife of a labourer, Pitchai, told mediapersons yesterday that a group of ''high caste'' people also splashed human excreta on her family. Muthukumari said she was on her way home on September 22 when Raju, who had been making advances, grabbed her hand. She managed to run home. When Pitchai learnt about the incident, he told her it was too late to go to the panchayat and that they should postpone it till the next day.

But a group of 15 people barged into their house, Muthumari said. After abusing her, they allegedly tried to outrage her modesty. Raju's wife accused Muthumari of trying to insinuate her husband and allegedly threw a bucketful of human excreta. She reportedly forced Muthumari to drink excreta mixed with water. Sources said the accused are still roaming freely even after police complaints were filed.

Source: The Indian Express, September 30, 2003

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Caste Hindu-sponsored Dalits pull out of Keeripatti fray

MADURAI SEPT. 24. With both the Dalit candidates, who filed their nominations for Keeripatti panchayat president opting out today, the State Government's efforts at conducting by-elections for four reserved village panchayats - Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam in Madurai district and Kottakatchiyendal in Virudhunagar district - on October 9 have suffered a setback.

According to official sources here, B. Atharmalai and P. Setty, who alone filed their papers with the backing of the majority Piramalai Kallars, withdrew from the contest. Accompanied by some caste Hindus, the two Dalits this morning went to the Usilampatti panchayat union office and withdrew their nominations.

In the Nattarmangalam and Kottukatchiyendal panchayats too, there will not be any by-election, as nominations were not filed for the panchayat president. In none of the four panchayats, nominations were filed for ward membership too.

In all likelihood, a by-election will be held in the Pappapatti panchayat, where Dalits of Karayampatti fielded their candidate, K. Muthan, against the nominee of the caste Hindus, K. Azhagar, for presidentship. With one more day to go for withdrawal of nominations, a final picture would emerge only on Thursday.

During the recent visit by the Government-appointed high-power committee to these villages, in a bid to create an atmosphere conducive to the conduct of the by-elections at least after seven years, the locals, particularly Piramalai Kallars, assured the panel members that they would arrive at a `good decision' in consultation with the elders.

Mr. Azhagar and Muniandi filed their nominations for president of Pappapatti on September 20. Both of them are backed by the caste Hindus. Of them, Muniandi is a `dummy' candidate.

Protesting against the high-power committee's "failure" to visit their colonies and listen to their grievances, the Dalits of Karayampatti decided to put up their own candidate for panchayat president. Mr. Muthan filed papers on September 22. The same day, the caste Hindus, made their nominees, - Mr. Atharmalai and Mr. Setty - file papers for Keeripatti panchayat president.

In the last by-election held in April 2003 also, the Dalit candidates sponsored by the Pirmalai Kallars - Thanikodi of Pappapatti and Karutha Kannan of Keeripatti - resigned their posts despite winning with an overwhelming majority, defeating their DPI rivals.

The caste Hindus have been demanding that the four panchayats be dereserved.

Source: The Hindu, September 25, 2003

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Top marks, yet Dalits still struggle

Prachi Jatania

Mumbai, September 23: Sagar Shinde (16) was felicitated by the Harijan Sevak Sangh on Monday. But the tears in his eyes were prompted by frustration, not joy.

'Harijans' are now included in the Dalit category. Dalits include scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, other backward classes, women, minorities and other marginalised sections of society.

Yet even with a caste certificate and a score of 80 per cent at the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination, Shinde is having difficulty gaining admission into the Science stream. And the story is the same for many other accomplished Dalit students like him. ''We too have to work towards our goals. Nothing comes easy,'' says Sagar sternly.

The felicitation ceremony was organised to honour the achievements of harijan students with a first class and above in the SSC and Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) examinations. The S K Patil Sabhagriha at Congress House saw a full house, with almost as many tales of ongoing struggle.

Being a painter's son and aspiring to be a doctor, Vinod Penkar (15) worries every day about his seemingly unattainable goal.

''Although we have progressed, it's mostly been in terms of high-profile government jobs. Others like us still struggle to make ends meet,'' laments Vinod's father, Chandrakant. His frustration is also fuelled by his inability to pay Rs 70,000 for his eldest son Rajan's engineering degree. ''He'll have to quit in his second year. I simply can't afford the fees,'' he says.

Many Dalit parents believe that although the stigma of belonging to the caste has gradually diminished, the community has to work twice as hard to prove its abilities.

''Even getting a decent job requires connections,'' says Meena Bhilde, mother of Sheetal, who scored 71 per cent in her HSC.

''And that's if you manage to obtain the caste certificate,'' adds a rueful Laxman Jadhav, another parent. Jadhav ran from pillar to post for six months to get his granddaughter Geeta's caste certificate. Nevertheless, over 50 students, with parents in tow, beamed with pride as they walked up to the stage to receive their eagerly awaited prize-a clock.

''I'm glad my community appreciates students' achievements like other communities do,'' chirped Shilpa Shindhe, who cleared her SSC exams this year. As Sagar, accompanied by his uncle Suryakant, accepted his prize, he had a message for his fellow mates.

''I never gave up because I was confident about my capabilities. Don't let anyone restrict your dreams within caste or class barriers,'' he said. Earlier in the day, he received a revised mark sheet that read 90 per cent. The SSC Board had initially erred in the calculation of his marks.

Source: The Indian Express, September 24, 2003

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Dalits still live in fear at Anand village

BHITASI, Anand: A month after a Dalit, Raman Vanker, died after receiving a severe beating from some Darbars, fear is still lurking in the Dalit households here. They say Suresh Bhoi, Bhikha Chiman Raj, Mahendrasinh Raj and Asha Rama Bhoi allegedly beat up Raman on July 25. The victim succumbed to injuries on August 8.

The events took a new turn when Raman's family embraced Buddhism last week. But that has only compounded their woes. Raman's sister Vimla says, "We feel virtually cut off from the village. Even our livelihood is threatened. We used to work in farms owned by upper castes. But after we complained against them we are not called for work."

Raman's family also claims that the police are too soft on the accused. "They are not arresting the accused though the case is clear. We are not given details of the forensic report. They call us any time and then say that full report has not been prepared. Of course, we know that the police have indeed discussed the report findings with the accused," says Vimla.

"We do not know about tomorrow, if SRP protection is removed then they will burn down our houses," adds Kusum, her sister-in-law. But the police say the threat perception of Dalits is unnecessary.

In-charge investigating officer Sayed says, "We cannot arrest anyone till the cause of death is known. I have informed them of the FSL report but they want the full report. It can be given only after one of the panel doctors comes back from leave."

Anand DSP Narasimha Komar says, "We are not going to remove the SRP protection. Also we had started peace efforts by holding meetings between both the groups. The FSL report rules out any poisoning or signs of beating. One of the doctors on the panel is on leave and once he arrives things will be clear."

Most of the villagers are tight-lipped on the cause of Raman's murder. Some who do speak make contradictory statements. "They have unnecessarily turned their personal fight into a Dalit-Darbar issue," says one resident.

Source: The Times of India, September 21, 2003

Saturday, September 20, 2003

The 'Dalits' of Japan come calling

By Radha Venkatesan

Chennai Sept. 19. They are the Dalits of Japan - the Burakus. And they have come calling on the Dalits of Tamil Nadu. They have come to tell their story of "discrimination" and learn about the tales of discrimination in India.

In the hierarchical society of Japan - it was so at least until a few decades ago - the Burakus were engaged in handling animal carcasses and scavenging. They were sub-divided into the "eta" (filthy) and the "hinim" (inhuman).

"Though we are natives of Japan, we were discriminated against in various forms. And the discrimination continues even now, in subtler forms," says Isao Takeuchi, secretary-general of the Miyoto council of the Buraku Liberation League. He heads a four-member Buraku delegation which is on a visit to Tamil Nadu.

For centuries, the Burakus bore the discrimination in silence, "believing they were born lowly." An article written by a local government official sneering at their "filthy living conditions" spurred them into organising a protest. The effect was a Special Measures Law enacted by the Japanese Government to provide financial help and improve the living conditions of the Burakus.

Nearly five decades later, 90 per cent of the three million Burakus are literate and several among them have found their way into the higher echelons of the bureaucracy and the Diet, the Japanese Parliament. Nonetheless, the techno-marvel that is Japan is yet to drive out social discrimination. Isao says: "Even now it is difficult for the Burakus to get jobs. Business houses maintain a directory of Buraku towns and reject candidates from those towns. In schools, derogatory slogans are scrawled on the walls. On the website, statements such as `Death to Burakus' pop up quite often."

It is difficult even now for a Buraku man or woman to marry outside the community. Even in death they suffer. Buddhist priests often give a new name for the dead, sometimes that of an animal, he claims.

Source: The Hindu, September 20, 2003

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Animal sacrifice benefited only upper castes: PT

Chennai Sept. 17. The Puthiya Tamizhagam president, K. Krishnasamy, has said the practice of sacrificing animals in temples benefited only the upper caste and not Dalits.

Disputing a recent survey finding that the recent ban on animal sacrifice in temples removed one of the few remaining rituals, which brought together the Dalits and backward classes, Dr. Krishnasamy said the practice only benefited the upper castes as they took away the meat.

At Sennagarampatti, near Melur, two Dalits were killed after they had protested against the upper caste men grabbing a major share of the animal sacrificed at a temple run by a Dalit priest.

Villagers dissuaded

Our Ramanathapuram Staff Reporter reports:

A police and revenue team today dissuaded villagers from sacrificing goats and birds during a festival at the Sathru Yuga Valli Amman temple, near Sayalkudi.

According to sources, the Sayalkudi tahsildar, Soundarajan, Inspector, Rajan, and other officials arranged a meeting with nine members from various communities.

Source: The Hindu, September 18, 2003

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

TN: stir against *two-tumbler system* to be intensified*

Kumar Chellappan

CHENNAI: The demand to do away with the *two-tumbler system* prevailing in various places in Tamil Nadu is getting stronger with many organisations coming out in the open against the heinous practice.

Many village tea shops in Tamil Nadu supply tea to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe customers in steel tumblers while people belonging to upper caste are served in glass tumblers.

Asianet News Crew which went on an assignment to Cuddalore district had a first hand experience to this disgusting system.

The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe customers are not allowed to sit in the chairs or benches marked for the upper caste patrons.

The SC/ST customers are afraid to make any complaint to the concerned authorities because of fear and a violent backlash from the strong upper caste lobby.

We even came across a policeman deputed by the Government to ensure such practices do not occur standing in the roadside watching the goings on silently.

Now, the Puthiya Thamizhagam Party has decided to begin an agitation on October 2, Gandhi Jayanti day, demanding that the Government introduce a legislation banning serving of tea to Dalits in separate tumblers.

Party president told in Chennai the other day that the party would take out a rally to Raj Bhavan on October 15 and submit a memorandum to Governor P S Ramamohan Rao highlighting the alleged atrocities and human rights violations against Scheduled Castes and backward classes in Tamil
Nadu.

Source: Asianet Communications, September 16, 2003

PT rally against two-tumbler system on Oct. 2

Chennai Sept. 15. The Puthiya Tamizhagam will take out a rally in all district headquarters on Gandhi Jayanthi (October 2) demanding a law banning two-tumbler system in Tamil Nadu.

Untouchability was being practised in several parts of the State at teashops by serving beverages in two different sets of tumblers for Dalits and the upper caste. The State Government should immediately enact a legislation to prohibit the discriminatory practice, as the existing laws were not effective to curbing it, the party chief, Krishnasamy, told mediapersons here.

The party would also organise rallies on October 15 to protest the continuing human rights violations.

It urged the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, to convene an all-party meeting and enlist the views of political leaders, farmers associations and social organisations before attending the Cauvery River Authority meeting. "The Chief Minister should not walk out of the meeting, but stay on and fight for the rights of the delta farmers," he urged.

Source: The Hindu, September 16, 2003

Police turning a blind eye to atrocities on Dalits: AIDWA

THENI SEPT.15. The All-India Democratic Women's Organisation and Dalit women have urged the Government to constitute a committee to review the performance of the Protection of Civil Rights wing of the police and the Adi Dravida Welfare department to enable the Dalits to get justice.

Speaking at a regional conference at Andipatti today, the general secretary, U. Vasuki, said peace committees formed in any village to solve any Dalit-related issues were so far used only to suppress the basic rights of the Dalits.

It was an open secret that untouchability, the two-tumbler system, prevention of the Dalits from wearing chappals, entering temples and drawing water from wells were prevalent in most southern districts. How come the PCR wing and the Adi Dravida Welfare department were unaware of them, she asked.

In many cases, the departments informed that they did not receive any complaint. The Government should ask for reports from them, which could be monitored by the committee.

Speakers urged the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, to take steps to eradicate untouchability, a practice prevalent in 19 villages in her own constituency.

A survey conducted by the AIDWA alleged that untouchability and atrocities against the Dalits were rampant at Thimmarasanaickenpatti, T.V. Ranganathapuram, Bomminaickenpatti in the Andipatti constituency and Iyyampatti, Margayankottai, Pallavarayanpatti, Kondamanaickenpatti, Pulikuthi and Narayanathevanpatti.

Not even drinking water was being served to Dalit children studying in a government school at T.V. Ranganathapuram, she said.

The Dindigul MLA, K. Balabarathi, said the Government demanded detailed reports on Dalit issues raised in the Assembly. Therefore, it was the duty of the officials to give detailed report on complaints lodged by people.

The AIDWA vice-president, Mythili Sivaraman said the Chief Minister should eradicate untouchability in her constituency before she converted it into `Arasipatti'.

Many Dalit colonies in the constituency did not have proper approach roads, drinking water or shelter.

The conference condemned the failure to take action against those who assaulted a panchayat president with chappals during Independence Day celebrations at Sivaganga. She criticised the ban on animal sacrifice in temples.

Source: The Hindu, September 16, 2003

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Inter-caste love forces Dalits to flee village

HARSOLA: Seven months after they fled their homes, hundreds of poor Dalits have been living in the open following tensions sparked by an inter-caste love saga in this village.

Many of the nearly 270 Dalit families are living in shanties they set up along a highway in Kaithal district, 150 km from state capital Chandigarh.

Others have sought refuge in a temple.

They all worry about their homes, crops and animals that they left behind in haste in February-March. The place where they now stay is 20 km away from their village.

Trouble started when a Dalit girl started living with a boy of the upper caste Jat community in Harsola.

The Dalits, who claim she did not marry the boy, asked the girl's parents to complain to the police. They claim the girl's father refused because he thought she had moved up the social ladder.

Alleged Balbir Singh, a Dalit farmer, "We asked the girl's father to lodge a police complaint as the girl was being forced by the Jats to stay with that boy. When the girl's father refused, we boycotted him socially."

"Then an angry mob of armed Jats attacked us during one of our meetings, and we had to flee with our family members."

Added another Dalit farmer, Bidama Singh, "After the attack in February, in which 19 Dalits were seriously injured, police arrested 14 upper caste men and some of us were told to return to Harsola.

"But the arrested men came out on bail in March and attacked the village again. That's when most Dalits had to flee."

They fled their homes, leaving behind their crops, which were ready for harvesting.

Bidama Singh said, "We were about to harvest the wheat and mustard that we cultivated as sharecroppers. The rich landlords harvested the crops, depriving us of our share. Our animals either died or were taken away by the Jats."

Ladoo, an 85-year-old Dalit woman, said she and the others were now forced to long distances to fetch water.

"Being women, we cannot sleep in the open and at least 15 of us take shelter in small shanties at night. It's unbearable when it rains and water trickles in."

Another woman, Nanni, who has five sons and four daughters, said tearfully, "I do not know how long we have to stay here and how to feed my children. How long can the temple afford to feed us?"

Nearly 30 children of these families are also suffering because they have not been able to attend school for seven months. Said Sushil, a Class 8 student of Government High School, Harsola, "I could not appear for my yearly test. We left our books when we fled and cannot study here." Some Dalits are trying to make leather footwear, while others look for work on farms. But the going has not been easy.

Said Pritam, "There is hardly a market for footwear here. Getting casual jobs at farms is also difficult as we are considered outsiders in this area."

The villagers said the district administration was turning a blind eye to their plight.

Complained Karamveer, president of the Haryana unit of the Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes: "Officials blames the Dalits for leaving their homes, but is not prepared to ensure their safety."

A police official, however, said, "We have repeatedly tried to convince these villagers to return in vain.

"The situation in Harsola village is totally peaceful now. During the last seven months no untoward incidents were reported.

"Many villagers are willing to go back but their leaders, who want to politicise the issue, are preventing them."

Source: Newindpress.com, September 16, 2003

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Alleging Govt insensitivity, Dalits embrace Buddhism

Vadodara, September 9: THE family of Raman Vankar Solanki, the Dalit youth who was allegedly killed by upper caste residents of Bhetasi village of Anklav taluka in Anand district, embraced Buddhism on Tuesday to protest against the insensitivity of administration and government.

About two dozen other Dalits of the village accompanied the family in embracing Buddhism.

Raman, who was beaten up by men from Darbar community of the village on July 25 for allegedly sitting inside a temple, had died on August 8. And though the post mortem report said that he died of dry drowning, family members claim that he was murdered by upper castes.

Raman's sister, Vimla Solanki, said that the murder took place a day after she filed a police complaint on August 7, naming four Darbars for beating her brother on July 25.

''They had not only beaten him, but chased him inside Dalit quarters of the village. After that we received regular threats and a day after our complaint, my brother was killed,'' she said.

Calling the conversion a step in desperation, Vimla said that faced with threats to life they were left with no option but to leave the Hindu religious fold. ''When being a Hindu we cannot sit in a temple, why continue to take the abuses?.''

Vimla, a post graduate, used to work in fields as agricultural labourers along with her brother. Tuesday's conversion was carried out by Vishwa Boudha Sangh, a Dalit right's body involved in conversions in the state. Its national general secretary, Bhante Sanghpriya, said that the conversions were carried out to show the anger of oppressed people against the unjust social order.

''The Dalits in the village are angry. We helped them to come out of the morass. Twenty two pledges of Buddhism were administered amidst chants of Panchsheel mantra,'' said Sanghpriya.

The family claims they continue to live in danger. ''On September 3, I again received a letter, threatening that I would be killed. We are so scared that we do not move out of our house too often. People in the village do not come to meet us,'' says Vimla.

Her cousin Shantilal Vankar, who also embraced Buddhism, says that the divide in the village is so complete that not even the sarpanch is coming towards Dalit quarters of Vankar Vas. ''If this continues, then all Dalits in the village would embrace Buddhism. The case is being hushed up and the killers roam around freely, threatening us,'' says Shantilal.

Interestingly, police still sticks to the drowning theory as the reason behind Raman's death. Contesting it, Vimla says that if that had been the case, how come Raman died at the residence? ''On the day he died, he returned to home gasping for breath, and died immediately. He just uttered the words mar dala before succumbing,'' said Vimla.

Deputy Superintendent of Police J G Saiyad, who is the investigating officer, when contacted said, that the FSL report of viscera has come but is yet to be studied in detail. ''The reason as the doctors have explained is that Raman died of dry drowning, a condition which occurs when a person takes water in asphyxiated condition,'' said Saiyad. He also denied that there was any tension prevailing in the village.

About the recent threat received by Vimla, Saiyad said that he has taken the writing samples of the suspects and sent them to hand writing experts. But Vimla still feels that nothing would come out as some political hand is behind hushing up the case. ''I am in danger, scared, don't know what to do and how,'' she says. Four SRP constables have been posted outside the Dalit quarters for security.

Source: The Indian Express, September 10, 2003

Attack on Dalit triggers mass conversion

BHITASI/ANAND: A month after a 28-year-old Dalit, Raman Vankar, was allegedly beaten to death by upper caste persons in the Vankar Vaas village, 25 Dalits embraced Buddhism on Tuesday.

The Dalits who included Vankar's family members, adopted Buddhism on Tuesday. The conversion was organised by the Vishwa Boudh Sangh.

Residents of the Vankar Vaas say they are still slaves of the upper-caste Darbars who dominate the village.

''If we continue to follow the same religion, we will be beaten to death even if we make the mistake of sitting on the verandah of a temple,'' says Nirmala Solanki.

Raman Vankar was allegedly beaten to death on July 25. Though the medical officer had issued a certificate saying his injuries were not serious, Raman succumbed to his injuries on August 8. Dalits have sought police protection as they still fear for their lives. Four state reserve police constables have been posted at the Vaas.

''Why should I continue to follow a religion which does not allow us to freely worship in a temple?'' asks Raman's sister Vimla.

''Converting to Buddhism is a bliss. At least, we will earn some respectability in the society,'' adds Vimla.

She alleges the police are not taking any action against the accused even though she has received letters threatening to kill her. ''They are moving around freely and threatening us.''

Raman's father Valjibhai Vankar says, ''We can't assert our right for freedom. The atrocities have been going on for ages now and it's high time we got out of this rut. Now the upper castes will not have any say in our lives.''

The same sentiment is echoed by Jetwa Vankar, another resident of Vankar Vaas.

''I have been trying to start a business of my own to earn a living. But I refrained from it fearing the backlash from the members of upper castes. Now, I have sought for a loan to buy an autorickshaw,'' he says.

Even 65-year-old Dayabhai Harkhabhai Vankar has adopted Buddhism.

Source: The Times of India, September 10, 2003

Monday, September 08, 2003

Judeo to cleanse temple visited by Jogi

Sanjay Basak

New Delhi, Sept 7:

If Gangaajal for Prakash Jha, is a "metaphor signifying the act of cleansing," the BJP Union minister Dilip Singh Judeo intends to put this into practice by using the holy water to "cleanse the Hindu shrines, where a non-Hindu had set foot " in Chhattisgarh. Mr Judeo wants to sprinkle India's holy water on some Hindu shrines, where a non-Hindu Christian chief minister Ajit Jogi visited to seek divine blessings. The Jogi camp, on the other hand, countered by claiming that the chief minister "is a practising Hindu and a son of the soil." They then targeted the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee saying that he is a "chicken eater," who has not done anything for Chhattisgarh. However, the move to cleanse the shrines, awaits clearance from the BJP high command, which is not certain, whether the use of gangajal, would be proper in this particular context. The Judeo camp, on the other hand is apparently firm about beginning its cleansing operation from October, a month before the state goes to Assembly polls. As for Mr Judeo's plan, he would set on a to "purify" the Danteshwari, Bamleshwari and Mahamaya Devi temples and atone for the chief minister's "sins." The hardcore Hindutva brigade feels that Jogi has "polluted" the three temples where non-Hindus are discouraged from entering. It was further added by the camp that the error has been "compounded," as Mr Jogi had taken the "other Christian," Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to some of the temples.

A section of liberal BJP leaders are apparently sceptical about the yatra, as they felt that such a move would "damage" the party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu's call for "social expansion of the outfit." A senior party functionary said that the BJP has been desperately trying to rectify its image among the Muslims, after the Gujarat carnage. "We already have problems with the Christians over the conversion issue. The fight should remain confined to that. The cleansing operation could just boomerang," the functionary said. Another senior BJP leader acknowledged that Mr Judeo has sought permission from the high command for the use of an air-conditioned Swaraj Mazda-rath to help him transport Gangajal across Chhattisgarh. If Mr Judeo's gangajal has put the BJP in a dilemma, the party was finding its going somewhat "tricky," in certain tribal pockets of tribal belts. In these areas, the BJP was hit by, what the leaders described as "identity crisis." In remote tribal belts of Bastar, Dantewala, Kankar, the BJP is identifying itself as "phoolwala
(lotus) Congress." As senior functionary explained, "In certain tribal pockets, people are unaware of BJP. They know only about Congress and Indira Gandhi." The BJP leaders in these pockets explaining that the fight is between "phoolwala Congress (BJP) and haathwala Congress (Indian National Congress with hand as its symbol)." The saffron appeal, therefore, is, "Vote phoole pe, haath mein nahin."

Source: Asian Age, September 8, 2003

Sunday, September 07, 2003

FIRs lodged against 40 dalits

LUCKNOW: The police have registered a case against 40 Dalits and five others on a court directive, in connection with last month's caste clash at village Tojpur in Mau district.

Forty-nine Dalits had been injured in the clash with Thakurs, over a land dispute on August 13. Initially, the police had refused to lodge a case against the Dalits following the violence which took place, when Mayawati was the chief minister. At that time, the police had arrested 31 of the 39 people, from the upper castes, who were named in another FIR.

Sources said that the cases against the Dalits were registered on September 3, a few days after Mayawati lost power.

Deputy superintendent of Police (DSP) of Mau Arun Kumar, said that they had registered FIR against 40 Dalits and 5 others.

Sources said that Thakurs lodged in jail had moved to the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) for an FIR against the Dalits.

According to the DSP, the Court instructed the police to entertain the complaint and register a case in this connection.

Source: The Times of India, September 7, 2003

Driven out by Jats, Harsola Dalits too scared to return

RAJENDRA KHATRY

KAITHAL, SEPTEMBER 6: Chased away from their homes by Jats seven months ago, the Dalits of Harsola village are too scared to return, preferring to live on alms within the Guru Ravidas Mandir here.

Assurances from the administration and the newly set up police post at Harsola have not changed their mind. ''We dare not go back or else the upper castes will maul us,'' says Pritam.

Interestingly, the government's official position is that what happened at Harsola wasn't a caste dispute. Denying that the Dalits were attacked by upper caste people, a Haryana government official says: ''It was an internal fight that led to the situation.''

Balbir Singh, who has also taken refuge at the temple, has still not forgotten what happened. ''We had gathered at the chaupal to discuss preparations for the coming Guru Ravidas Jayanti last February when we were attacked by a gang of upper-caste people from our own village, apparently over a previous dispute with one of their youths. Many of us were mercilessly beaten up, our houses ransacked and shops destroyed. We had no option but to flee to Kaithal,'' he says.

Another Dalit from the same village, Birbhan, a daily wager, says: ''Our crops were ready for harvest...we fled the village leaving everything, including our wages. Later we heard the Jats had taken possession of the crops. We have no hopes of ever recovering our money,'' he laments.

For children of the Harsola victims, it has meant an end to school as their parents don't have the resources to get them re-admitted. ''Sometimes we feel guilty for spoiling the future of our children, but we are helpless,'' says Balbir.

A few of the Dalits have set up a shoe-making workshop behind the temple, but they find it difficult to market their products. Others are still struggling for an occupation.

Haryana Congress president Bhajan Lal, former Union home minister Buta Singh and ex-Haryana minister Kripa Ram Punia have submitted a memorandum to the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission demanding rehabilitation of the 270 Harsola Dalit families, and punishment for the culprits. The National Commission for SCs/STs had called for a report from the Kaithal district administration and compensation for the Dalits for their damaged property.

The Dalits, however, say they have not been provided any relief. ''Living in perpetual fear, they have little or no hope of ever returning home,'' regrets Karamvir Singh, president of the Haryana unit of the All India Confederation of SC/ST/BC Organisations. Pritam nods: ''We don't want to die.''

Source: The Indian Express, September 7, 2003