Friday, October 31, 2003

Tension grips Patna after atrocities on Dalits

Patna, October 31

Tension has spread across Patna after some upper-case men allgedly assaulted Dalit women and tried to rape them on Thursday evening.

The death of a dalit man, R Paswan has also componded the situation with the locals blaming the police for it. The man died after falling into a manhole while some people were collecting money during the Chhath festival.

The angered Dalits shouted slogans against the police and demanded action against the officer in charge of the Danapur area where the incident took place. They even complained to RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav and other top officials demanding action against the police.

Source: Gunaah.com, October 31, 2003

Dalit cooks for mid-day meals - Aiding the process of socialisation

Mid-day meals contribute to socialisation, in a caste and class-ridden society. It has been noted that the experience of sharing a common meal helps erode caste prejudices and class inequities.

The survey found little evidence to suggest that caste discrimination was prevalent in the context of mid-day meals. It found no cases of separate sitting arrangements, or of preferential treatment being given to upper-caste children.

Most parents too welcomed the arrangement. Teachers confirmed that parents rarely objected to their children sharing meals with children from other castes. And, among disadvantaged castes, very few parents felt that their children had ever experienced caste discrimination in the context of the mid-day meal.

The survey found that there does seem to be upper-caste resistance to the appointment of dalit cooks. In Karnataka, although half the cooks in the sample villages are dalits, there seems to be wide social acceptance of this arrangement. In Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, dalit cooks are largely confined to schools with no upper-caste children. The survey reported instances of active parental resistance to the appointment of dalit cooks, as in Kolu Pabuji (Jodhpur district, Rajasthan) where a Rajput parent threw sand into the mid-day meal because a Meghwal woman had cooked it. However, these are stray instances.

Source: Infochangeindia.org, October 2003

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Dalits bear the brunt of dominant caste oppression

PONDICHERRY: The lives of the members of 50 Dalit families of Bhim Rao Nagar at Sompet village in Manadipet Commune run at the whims and fancies of the 'upper caste' Goundars.

They have to put up with several forms of humiliation every time they step into the Goundar-dominated areas. Interestingly, Goundars, are a backward caste themselves according to government classification.

There are about 1200 Goundar families and the Dalits live in a colony in the periphery of the village. They work for the former in sugarcane and paddy fields.

The unwritten code of conduct prescribed for the Dalits goes like this. They have to stand up if a Goundar walks by and when they venture out of their 'Pet' - as their colony is referred to by other castes - they should go barefoot and without a shirt.

"We have to bow while receiving the day's wages," says Raju, a resident of the Pet explaining the humiliation they have to face on a regular basis.

Though the 'two tumbler system' is not in vogue, the Goundars never give water or food to the Dalits in utensils or plates. "Even drinking water is not given in a cup; instead, it is poured into our cupped palms," said Kumar, another resident.

Earlier, the Dalits were are not allowed to enter the local temple though it is located quite close to the Pet. However, "after vociferous demand, they (Goundars) have decided to place the idol outside the temple for sometime during festivals for us to worship," Raju added.

"Unable to bear the oppression, the youths have formed an association called Vettri Tamilargal Ilanjar Narpani Mandram (VTINM) to voice their demands with the authorities," Raju said.

Things have improved slightly after this, but there has been a backlash too. Most of the Dalits are now jobless as Goundars have switched over to floriculture and they are unwilling to engage the Dalit menfolk.

"They employ women and children to pick flowers," said a member of the VTINM. The residents of Pet are entitled to one third of the revenue obtained from selling the produce from of the commune owned trees. This has been denied to them.

They have to bear the brunt of official apathy too. Though the 50 families live in patta land granted by the government, the colony is neglected by the local administration. The narrow streets of Pet have no street lights and the sewage drains remain uncovered despite repeated pleas with the commune panchayat.

A path to the cremation ground is also a long-pending demand of the Dalits. "Consequently, we carry our dead through the fields to the cremation ground," says Kumar.

Contacted, M D R Ramachandran, local MLA, claimed that he had provided all facilities to the residents of Bhim Rao Nagar. "I have taken all steps for the development of my constituency," he added. He refused to comment on the oppression faced by the Dalits.

Source: Newindpress.com, October 26, 2003

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Caste politics: Dalits resign after oath

Madurai: Peculiar caste politics prompts Dalits elected to some Panchayats in Madurai to put down their papers immediately after taking oath to satisfy the dominant backward class Thevar community.

Elections to three Panchayats -- Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam -- could not be held since 1996 due to deep-rooted caste sentiments in this communally-sensitive district.

All the three seats had been reserved for Dalits, evoking vehement protests from the Thevar community forming a majority in these areas.

Last year, the Government undertook the Herculean task of conducting elections to these seats by even using ''coercive'' methods, only to find that the winners, all puppet candidates fielded by caste Hindus, put in their papers immediately.

This year, the authorities managed to find a ''willing'' candidate to contest the election for Pappapatti Panchayat union, forcing the Thevar community to field their own puppet candidate.

As expected, K Azhagar, the candidate of the caste Hindus was elected with a thumping majority in the October 9 byelection at Pappapatti village. He took the oath at the Chellampatti panchayat union office in the morning and put in his papers within minutes.

When the official refused to accept his resignation, Azhagar posted it to the District Collector, thus bringing the situation back to square one.

The by-election was necessitated following the resignation of the previous President who quit office after taking the oath last year.

However, elections could not be held in other two Dalits seats as no one came forward to file their nominations.

Source: Sify news, October 21, 2003

Monday, October 20, 2003

Bihar Dalits fight losing battle in temples

VARGHESE K. GEORGE

DHOB DIHA, NALANDA, OCTOBER 19: When it came to laying the foundation stone in 1989 for the controversial Ram temple at Ayodhya, the BJP had picked a Dalit from Bihar, Kameshwar Chaupal, to do the honours. But even as the BJP again raises the pitch on the issue ahead of polls, Dalits are excluded from Hindu rituals in most parts of Bihar.

In almost all village temples in the state, scheduled castes are barred, often violently. Recently, Ramal Ram, a Dalit, was shot dead after his son Khelaw Ram insisted on offering Durga Puja on October 4 in Baheri village of Kaimur district. ''Changing the mindset of the people is a tall order. We are often helpless,'' admits Chaupal, a BJP state general secretary and a legislator now.

In several other villages across the state, where temple entry for Dalits has become a controversy in the past five years, tension dropped only after Dalits withdrew their claims.

Six years ago in Nalanda's Dhob Diha village, a few Dalit boys claimed their right to worship in the village's Devi Sthan, the shrine of the village deity who is worshipped on occasions like marriage or festivals. Traditionally, Dalits were allowed to worship without touching or stepping inside the shrine. After clashes, the administration intervened and declared that the Dalits could enter the shrine. But nothing has changed in the village. ''The police can protect us for one day. Once they are gone what will we do?'' asks Tetri Devi.

Ironically, while Dalit men dispose of dead cattle in Dhob Diha, the women in many cases double up as midwives. But the Yadavs of the village consider the very women who assisted their births impure. ''We had threatened to stop our services as midwives if we were not allowed to enter the temple. But how can we do that? We will starve,'' says a woman. Each delivery gets them 20 kg of wheat. ''We sell part of the grain to buy potato and salt,'' she says.

But there are some tangible changes. Paswans, the more militant among the Dalits, do enter the shrine now. Even Yadavs skin dead cattle sometimes, earning Rs 500 each. ''They said we are impure because we skinned cattle. Now they do it and still enter the temple. Is there any logic to it?'' asks Samudri Devi, more sarcastic than angry. The other ''dirty job'', of midwifery, is also increasingly being performed by nurses at hospitals.

However, Upendra Prasad Yadav has another logic. ''After they staked claim to enter the Devi Sthan, curse fell upon the village...We are not stopping the Dalits from worshipping. We only say that they worship from outside,'' he says.

From village to village, the story is the same, only the dominating side may change. Ramal Ram was shot in the Baheri village of Kaimur by Brahmin youth; in the Kobil village, also in Nalanda, it is the Rajputs who stops Dalits. In many villages, Yadavs oppose Dalits entering temples.

In Dhob Diha, both the Yadavs and Dalits officially owe loyalty to Laloo Prasad Yadav's RJD, but the latter say they don't get to cast their votes. The Yadavs cast their votes as well. ''But we consult them beforehand,'' offers one of them as explanation.

''Laloo's claim that he has given honour to the Dalits is a lie,'' says opposition leader Sushil Modi, who visited Baheri last week. ''Not a single person has been arrested for killing Ram and no RJD leader visited the village.'' Modi also promises that the BJP will help Dalits enter temples, if required by force. But this is one issue Modi's upper-caste voters and Laloo's middle-caste voters will unite to oppose.

Source: The Indian Express, October 20, 2003

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Dalits in Rajasthan seek equal rights

JAIPUR OCT. 18. Dalit organisations of Rajasthan have released a 20-point agenda and demanded its inclusion in the manifestoes of all political parties for the forthcoming Assembly elections, saying it would provide them with an opportunity to prove their commitment to the cause of welfare of Dalits.

The convenor of the Centre for Dalit Human Rights (CDHR), P.L. Mimroth, releasing the agenda here today, said no Government in the State had treated the Dalit issues with the seriousness they deserved. "Despite forming 30 per cent of the State's population, Dalits have been the victims of the worst forms of injustice, persecution and exploitation since independence,'' he lamented.

The Dalit organisations -- including CDHR, Dalit Jan Samajik Nyay Samiti, Dr. Ambedkar Nyay Sangharsh Mahasangh and the SC/ST Advocates' Association -- have called upon the ruling Congress (I), Opposition BJP and others to declare publicly their stand on the atrocities against Dalits and whether they wished to protect Dalits.

Mr. Mimroth said the intention of various parties would be revealed by the way the agenda is incorporated in their manifestoes. The agenda has been forwarded to the State units of Congress (I), BJP, CPI (M), CPI (ML), Samajwadi Party, Indian National Lok Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Janata Dal (Secular) and Bahujan Samaj Party.

The principal issue to which the attention of all political parties has been drawn is the violation of Dalits' right to equality by encroachments on their land and denial of remedies available under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. "The upper caste people have illegally occupied huge tracts of land after illegally evicting Dalits,'' Mr. Mimroth said.

The Dalit bodies have demanded that the "principle of diversity'' be applied for improving the social and economic conditions of Dalits and the natural and other resources for their income be protected. They also regretted that the Land Ceiling Act was not being implemented effectively in the State.

"The test case for the next Government in Rajasthan will be about changing the mindset of those in bureaucracy in favour of giving equal rights to Dalits. At present, the administrative and police officials as also the politicians feel no qualms about trampling on Dalits' rights,'' Mr. Mimroth affirmed.

Two of the specific points in the agenda pertained to the State Government's failure to make public the report of the Lodha Commission of Inquiry that had probed into the infamous massacre of Dalits in Kumher in 1991 and a recent decision to close the Ambedkar Coaching Centre for SC and ST students which was serving the Dalit candidates preparing for civil service examinations.

Source: The Hindu, October 19, 2003

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Yr after Jhajjar lynching, accused roaming freely

SONU JAIN

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 15: A year ago, five Dalits were lynched in Jhajjar. Today, when one of the victims' 82-year-old father came up to former PM I.K. Gujral and said ''they were waiting for justice'', he did not know where to look. ''I have been a PM, but when they say this, I don't have the courage to look them in the eye. They hold the mirror of truth to me and I am embarrassed,'' said Gujral at a meeting organised by Dalit activist Udit Raj's Indian Justice Party.

The reason for Gujral's embarrassment was the fact that even after a year, all the accused are out on bail. The victims' families, who had come to Delhi for the meeting, said they had given up hope. ''We are scared to approach anyone, they (accused) have godfathers right at the top,'' said Ratan Singh, father of 23-year-old Virender who was killed.

The topic of discussion was 'Dalit versus cow'. On October 15 last year, Virender and his friends Kailash, Dayachand, Totaram and Raju were en route to Karnal with a cow carcass. They were stopped outside the police station at Dulina and word spread that they had ''slaughtered and were skinning a cow''. A mob gathered and under the nose of police, they were beaten to death. Though the victims' kin have been given Rs 5 lakh in compensation and their families given Class IV jobs, they say they cannot rest in peace till they see the accused behind bars.

Source: The Indian Express, October 16, 2003

Going to gallows on the basis of caste?

ARUN KUMAR

PATNA: It is unbelievable but irrefutable. That barring Kare Singh, out of 36 prisoners waiting on the gallows in Bihar's Bhagalpur Central Jail, 35 belong to OBCs, dalits and Muslims.

Bhagalpur happens to be the lone jail in twin states of Bihar and Jharkhand where prisoners sentenced for capital punishment are sent for their execution.

Kare, a Bhumihar, is the lone exception. This caste has been categorised among forwards in the official list. He comes from Ramdiri village under Begusarai district.

The list of 24 other condemned prisoners includes the names of Hariballabh Singh, Bhumi Mandal, Binod Mandal, Indradeo Mandal, Arjun Muni, Dukho Sharma, Jagdish Shahni, Shivesh Mandal, Baidyanath Sharma, Bindeshwari Mandal, Upendra Mandal, Jalim Mandal, Ramshagun Mahto, Singheshwar Rai, Binod Prasad, Mithilesh Thakur, Manoj Rai, Raghunath Shahni, Ashok Kumar Gupta, Prabhat Kumar Rai, Mahendra Yadav, Durga Mandal, Manoj Singh and Naresh Yadav are among those convicts who all come from the OBC group.

Bir Kunwar Paswan, Krishna Mochi, Nandlal Mochi, Dharmendra Singh and Shobhit Chamar are among 5 convicts who come from dalit section of the society.

Funo Shah, Md. Ehsan Shah, Sheikh Shamshul, Sheikh Gyash, Md. Gayasuddin Khan and Naushad Alam are among those 5 convicts who are Muslims.

According to a survey conducted by a social activist, Prabhat Kumar Shandilya out of all these 36 condemned prisoners all 5 dalit convicts figure among those prisoners whose capital punishment have been confirmed by the supreme court. Rest 31 prisoners figure among those whose appeals are pending either at the high court or the Supreme Court.

Four out of total five condemned dalit prisoners namely Bir Kuer Paswan, Krishna Mochi, Nandalal Mochi and Dharmendra Singh have been sentenced to death by the TADA Court, Gaya. Their punishments have been confirmed by the Supreme Court. Shobhit Chamar was sentenced to death by 1st additional district and sessions judge, Rohtas and this has been confirmed by the apex court.

Source: The Times of India, October 16, 2003

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Blinded brothers blame caste rivalry


Giridhar Jha

Patna, October 15

THE TWO brothers who were blinded on Sunday for 'robbing bus passengers' have alleged that the incident was the outcome of caste rivalry. Refuting the robbery charge, Dayanand and Adhik Yadav told the Hindustan Times that upper caste men of the Mehush village had wanted to settle scores with them.

The victims, who are being treated at the Patna Medical College Hospital, said they were returning from Barbigha where they had taken their mother for treatment. "Our mother was with us when the incident occurred. As the bus reached Mehush chowk, some passengers dragged us out and assaulted us," said Dayanand. "First they drove a screw driver into our eyes and then poured acid."

Adhik said they had once refused to pay a penalty imposed by the Mehush village panchayat. He allleged that he and his brother were blinded to avenge their refusal to pay. They did not say why they had been fined.

The duo hails from the Yadav-dominated Samastipur village, which is adjacent to the upper-caste dominated Mehush village. Doctors attending on them said Dayanand's left eye was badly damaged while Adhik was relatively better off. But it was difficult to say whether their vision could be restored, the doctors said. The brothers are being treated with handcuffs on. The police had on Tuesday claimed they were members of the Kapil Yadav gang.

The brothers' relatives have accused the police of callousness. "Despite their condition, the police kept them at the railway station for six hours, waiting for a train to Patna," their uncle said. The relatives had to hire a truck to reach the hospital, he said.

Source: Hindustan Times, October 15, 2003

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Dalits converted to Buddhism in Bangalore

Bangalore, October 14: Coinciding with this day in 1956, when the architect of Indian Constitution, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, hundreds of Dalits from various parts of karnataka, on Tuesday converted to the same religion, after taking a pledge to renounce Hinduism.

They took the 22-point oath that Ambedkar administered at "dharma" initiation to embrace Buddhism at Nagpur in 1956, at the function organised by the Boudha dharma deeksha committee, including different Dalit bodies and international Buddhist youth organisation.

In their oath, they renounced Hinduism and said that they "firmly believe that Dharma of Buddha is the only true religion".

The number of conversions fell very much short of the claims of the organisers who had projected that 50,000 would embrace Buddhism.

The exact number of people who embraced Buddhism at the gathering, where there were participants from various districts of karnataka, was not available. Organisers said that they were in the process of compiling the number of registrations.

Speakers at the function claimed that Dalits were suffering because of the caste hierarchy in Hinduism and Tuesday's move was to restore their self-respect.

Source: The Indian Express, October 14, 2003

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Police Repression on Dalit Rally

An Undeterred KVPS Marches On

M Venugopala Rao

WHEN hundreds of dalits responding to the call of the Kulavivaksha Vyatireka Porata Sangham (KVPS - which translates to 'Struggle Committee Against Caste Discrimination') marched to the state assembly on September 29 to press their long-pending demands, the Chandrababu Naidu government received them with indiscriminate lathicharge and arrests.

One of the main demands of the dalits was setting up of a state-level commission on SCs and STs - for which demand the leaders of the KVPS had undertaken an indefinite fast at Indira Park from September 25.

The dalits coming from different parts of the state gathered at Indira Park on September 29 to take out a procession to the legislative assembly to represent their demands to the government. With the police obstructing them, they held a dharna there and later went in a procession to Basheerbagh, where heavily deployed police did not permit even their delegation to go to the assembly to submit a memorandum to the chief minister. Irked by this, the rallyists tried to proceed towards the assembly. The notorious brutality of the Andhra police was in full display. They resorted to indiscriminate lathicharge and beat the rallyists black and blue, not sparing even women and children. KVPS leader Bhupal, APAWU leader B Venkat, CITU leader P Bhaskar and Pandavulu of East Godavari district were severely beaten up. When P Madhu, CPI(M) state secretariat member and G Ramulu, KVPS vice president, went there to see the injured leaders, the police did not spare even these two leaders and used lathis on them. The injured leaders were admitted in a hospital.

There was a huge outcry over the police repression on dalits. The lathicharge and arrests were strongly condemned by state leaders of KVPS, CITU, All India Lawyers Union, AP Rythu Sangham, Congress Legislature Party leader Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and CPI(M) floor leader in the assembly N Narasimhaiah. Deputy leader of CLP Dr P Sankar Rao, MLA B Venkateswarlu and CPI leader Jelli Wilson visited the camp of hunger strike and extended their support to the struggle of KVPS.

Later, a delegation comprising KVPS leaders, G Ramulu, Gangadhar and Mallesh, CPI(M) leader P Madhu and AIDWA president, S Punyavathy, met the chief minister and represented the demands of KVPS. Though the chief minister expressed his willingness to constitute the SC, ST Commission, he did not specify any time limit.

The proceedings of the assembly were stalled for nearly 40 minutes on the same day, with Dr Rajasekhara Reddy and other members of the Congress repeatedly insisting on a discussion and a statement by the government on setting up the Commission. When the speaker disallowed the adjournment motion notice given by them the House plunged into chaos. Next day, on September 30, the issue of police lathicharge on dalits was raised by the CPI(M) through an adjournment motion notice. With the speaker disallowing the same, CPI(M) members N Narasimhaiah and S Rajayya rushed to the podium and argued with the speaker. With heated arguments, the proceedings of the House were stalled for half an hour. The chief minister intervened to say that he wanted some time to appoint the SC, ST Commission.

On September 30, rasta rokos were conducted across the state and effigies of the CM burnt to protest this brutal attack on dalits. In Hyderabad, hundreds of dalits and others took out a procession and a public meeting was held at RTC cross roads, which was addressed by the CPI(M) state secretariat member, Y Venkateswara Rao.

In the early morning of September 30, a large posse of police arrested the fasting leaders of KVPS and shifted them to the Gandhi hospital where John Wesley continued his indefinite fast. Later, CPI(M) MLA, S Rajayya, Congress MLA, P Lakshmaiah, and TDP MP, Dr M Jagannadham, came to the hospital and gave lemon juice to Wesley to give up his fast, conveying that the government has agreed to the demand of the KVPS.


KVPS STRUGGLES YIELD RESULTS


Having led several struggles over the years on the issues of dalits, supported by the CPI(M) and mass organisations, KVPS could achieve some results and extract assurances from the government on certain issues. The setting up of Justice K Punnaiah Commission and following its recommendations enactment of Prohibition of Atrocities on SCs and STs Act was a result of the KVPS struggle. However, the government's failure in curbing growing attacks by upper caste people on the dalits and tribals is continuing. Though the government gave an assurance to set up 94 mini, medium and mega leather parks, no land has been acquired so far for the purpose. Though the government gave an assurance to set up SC, ST Commission two years back, and the Act came into effect from June this year, it has not initiated any action to set up the Commission. Contrary to the assurance given earlier to distribute endowment lands to dalits, the government is auctioning the same. The state government continues to fail to implement its assurance to conduct inquiry into the massacre of dalits in Chundur village and to give land and employment to the families of the victims. The KVPS has been making several demands, including distribution of 3 acres each of endowment lands to dalit families, announcing and filling up of backlog vacant posts in the government reserved for SCs and STs, implementation of Justice Punnaiah Commission's recommendations and Prohibition of Atrocities on SCs and STs Act, financial assistance to couples of inter-caste marriage and employment to either wife or husband, employment to one member in the family of a victim of rape and murder, etc.

Despite repeated requests by the KVPS on all these issues, no response is forthcoming from the government. It is against this background that the KVPS decided to conduct a 15-day campaign against caste discrimination and on all these issues. The KVPS delegations represented to leaders of various political parties and requested them to discuss the issues of dalits and STs in the assembly.

John Wesley, state secretary of KVPS, Simhachalam, Srikakulam district secretary and Venu, Warangal district committee member, began an indefinite fast from September 25 at Indira Park in Hyderabad for achieving the above-mentioned demands. Inaugurating the fast, P Ramayya, KVPS state president and CPI(M) central committee member, explained that representations were submitted to all the district collectors on the issue of discrimination against dalits, but no action has been taken by them. Though the government issued a G O directing Mandal Revenue Officers and Sub- Inspectors of Police to visit villages once in a week as a part of efforts for eradication of untouchability, the order is being observed in breach only. Ramayya told that so far 240 attacks were made on dalits this year and that not even in one case the culprits were punished. K Santa Rao, state secretary of Handloom Weavers Association, I Mysayya, state secretary of Ambedkar Youth Association, B Venkat, state secretary of A P Agricultural Workers Union, P Asayya, state secretary of Washermen Association, Chennayya, state secretary of Dailt Sena, J B Raju, BSP leader, and leaders of several mass organisations expressed their solidarity to the struggle of dalits and to the fast undertaken by the KVPS leaders. CPI(M) MLA Sunnam Rajayya, CPI(ML) New Democracy MLA Gummadi Narsayya, state president of Mala Mahanadu, P V Rao and R Sriram Naik, state general secretary of A P Girijana Sangham, visited the camp of fasting KVPS leaders and extended their support. Every day some of the leaders of mass organisations - AP Agricultural Workers Union, A P Rythu Sangham, AIDWA, SFI, DYFI, Construction Workers Union, etc - participated in the fast in solidarity. AP Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, Beedi and Cigar Workers Union, AP Medical, Health and Vaidya Vidhana Parishath Employees Union extended their support.­

Source: People's Democracy, October 12, 2003

Whip hand in cow belt

AMIT SHARMA

Sunday, October 12, 2003

''Meri sarkjar ne Raghuraj Pratap aur unke sambhandiyon par se POTA hatane ka nirnay kiya hai (My government has decided to withdraw POTA cases against Raghuraj Pratap Singh and his relatives.''- Mulyam Singh Yadav, minutes after being sworn in as chief minister on August 29

By the time Mulyam said his piece, Raghuraj Pratap alias Raja Bhaiyya had already been moved to Lucknow's Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute (SGPGI) after seven months in Kanpur jail. ''Jail ka phatak tuta, Raja Bhaiyya chhutha (Jail gates have opened, Raja Bhaiyya is free.'' The slogan rent the air as Thakurs in their thousands thronged to the SGPGI. MLAs across party lines queued up to congratulate Raja Bhaiyya.

Thakurs in Uttar Pradesh are not a formidable number - six to seven per cent of the electorate as compared to Dalits (22 per cent), Yadavs (nine per cent) and Brahmins (eight per cent) but they wield considerable muscle and monetary power. They also have an enviable clan loyalty.

This explains why Mulayam is set to reap a political harvest. Dalits, former chief minister Mayawati's vote bank, and Thakurs are traditional antagonists. That Mayawati ''went after'' Raja Bhaiyya emboldened Dalits in villages and caused Rajputs to close ranks. Now the tables have turned.

The BJP has the maximum Thakur MLAs, 29, in the 405-strong state assembly. This is a reflection of the community's blanket support for the party in the 2002 election. As Mayawati sought to attack Thakurs, the BJP squirmed but continued to back Mayawati's government. No wonder it gave away Rajput loyalty to Mulayam and his man Friday, Amar Singh.

''Not only Thakurs, a majority of BJP MLAs are not happy with their party leadership for its silence on the autocracy of Mayawati,'' Raja Bhaiyya told The Sunday Express while ''recuperating'' in a Lucknow hospital.

Rajputs are reaping a political bonanza. They are the single biggest caste group in Mulayam's 98 member ministry, with 17 ministers. Akhand Pratap Singh retires from the IAS in November. Never mind; Mulayam deemed it appropriate to appoint him chief secretary. In the districts too, Rajput DMs and SPs are grinning away.

The days are reminiscent of the Congress chief ministries of V.P. Singh and Veer Bahadur Singh in the 1980s. About the only one feeling left out is Sanjay Singh, former MP from Amethi. In a remarkable display of bad timing he jumped ship from the BJP to the Congress, just as the rest of the Rajputs were gravitating towards Mulayam.

Rajnath too must be ruing his luck. Despite despite cultivating his community, despite ''arranging'' support for Mulayam, he could not emerge as the numero uno Rajput leader. His party's studied neutrality on the Mayawati-Raja Bhaiyya issue has hurt him.

The most influential Thakur in the Samajwadi Party, Amar Singh, has just been appointed chiarman of the Uttar Pradesh Industrial Development Council. But he is known more as a drawing room politician, rather than one schooled in the grime and sweat of the cow belt.

That leads to the question: who is the pan-Uttar Pradesh Thakur leader, like V.P. Singh was a generation ago. Rajnath is handicapped by his party, Amar Singh by his grassroots (in)experience and nobody seriously believes Raja Bhaiyya is a mass leader in the making. Oh these complicated Rajputs...

Source: The Times of India, October 12, 2003

Friday, October 10, 2003

Bihar's record poor in Dalit atrocities

MANISHA PRAKASH

TIMES NEWS NETWORK [FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2003 02:43:10 AM]

PATNA: Bihar occupies the third position as far as the number of Dalit atrocities cases is concerned. The first two positions are held by UP and Rajasthan, said Vijay Sonkar Shastri, chairman of National Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commission, here on Thursday.

The record of Bihar in this regard can be said to be poor as 18% of the cases of inhumanity against the Dalits are reported from here. UP accounts for 23% and Rajasthan 20% of such cases, he said while talking to mediapersons.

He said that this was his first visit to the state with the objective of activating the Bihar directorate of the commission, which is in need of improvement. He stated that since morning he had already received 50 complaints here.

He regretted that proper utilisation of the funds for the development of the SCs and STs allotted by the Centre to the Bihar government is not done. As a result, the amount lapses or is carried over for use in the following year. He cited the example of Madhya Pradesh saying that when a financial review was made, an amount of Rs 1,600 crore meant for the SCs and STs was found lying idle. A similar review would be conducted in Bihar soon, he added.

He also said that the awareness among people has increased and the commission receives almost 250 to 500 applications per day from all over India. This is a positive sign. He said that the commission is facing problems in its functioning as there is a severe staff crunch. While there are 350 sanctioned posts, 100 are lying empty.

Answering a question, he said that whenever crimes against Dalits are reported in the media, the commission takes cognizance of the fact and initiates suitable action accordingly. His visit to Bihar is to send the message that such crimes in the state would not go unnoticed, he stated.

Shastri said that extremism in central Bihar is the result of resentment of the backward classes towards the indifference of the government. If the government takes measures for their upliftment, the violence would automatically stop.

Replying to a question about Vijay Choudhary, a member of the commission who has filed cases against almost all the media houses and against whom the governments of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have lodged complaints, he said that the complaints against him have been forwarded to the ministry concerned and also to the Prime Minister and the President. It is up to them to decide on the issue.

Source: The Times of India, October 10, 2003

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Concern over Dalit killing

PATNA: In an emergency meeting on Wednesday two organisations - the Bihar Pariwartan Morcha and All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaj - expressed concern over the killing of a Dalit in Bahera village of Kaimur district.

They said that there was a conspiracy to spread social and communal tension in the country in general and in Bihar in particular.

Referring to the brutal killing of a Dalit by upper caste men for attempting to offer puja to Goddess Durga, the two organisations expressed both anger and surprise that such an incident could occur even after 55 years of independence.

"According to newspaper reports the upper caste people were not against taking donations from the Dalits for the Puja but they did not allow them to offer prayer to the Goddess," they said and added, "as many as seven Dalits and backward Muslims have been killed in Kaimur district alone during the last six months which is a matter of grave concern." They also congratulated the people of Ara for restoring communal amity. Those who attended the meet included Prem Kumar Mani, Ali Anwar and Uday Kant Chaudhary.

Source: The Times of India, October 9, 2003

Dalit killed for praying to Durga

By Amarnath Tewary in Patna

Thursday, 09 October, 2003

The caste-conscious society of Bihar has once again taken the life of a Dalit over the question of offering puja and prasad to goddess Durga.

According to reports reaching the State capital, Ramlal Ram of Bahera village under the Karam Chat police station of Sasaram's Kaimur district was allegedly killed by upper caste villagers on Saturday evening when he along with some of his caste men tried to offer prayers to goddess Durga.

The upper caste villagers had banned Dalits of the village from offering puja to the deity.

An FIR has been lodged against 17 upper caste villagers, including three police personnel posted outside the district in this connection. The district Superintendent of Police, G S Gangawar has confirmed the incident.

Though, the district administration has deployed additional forces in the village, the situation has become volatile and any further incident of retaliatory violence could not be ruled out.

According to reports, the Dalits of the Bahera village are barred from entering the lone Shiva temple of the village and Durga puja has been organised in the village for the last five years with the same ban in place.

Significantly, in the upper caste dominated village the Dalits have been making their representation to the Puja committee for the last five years. Besides donating money for organising the village Durga puja, the Dalits have been making the idols for a long time.

But ironically, except these Dalits, all other castes of the village are allowed to offer Puja to goddess Durga.

When Ramlal Ram along with his son Khelaw Ram and five others reached the puja pandal and tried to offer puja on Saturday evening, upper caste villagers were furious and started beating them mercilessly.

Later, when the Dalit elders tried to intervene into the scuffle, their houses were attacked by the upper caste villagers with stones and sticks. Even children, women and cattle were not spared by the violent upper caste mob.

"The upper caste villagers stormed our house and started beating us mercilessly and later shot my father-in-law Ramlal Ram from close range when he resisted their beating," Kaushalya Devi said.

The Bahera village dalits said that they have never been allowed to offer puja in the village temple by the upper caste villagers. "Its an age old phenomena and we had come to live with the terms but unfortunately Ramlal Ram was killed while defying it," some of the Dalit villagers of Bahera have said.

The district administration, meanwhile, has announced Rs 10,000 as an ex-gratia payment to the family of Ramlal Ram and also a house under the Indira Awas Yojna.

Source: Sify news, October 9, 2003

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Declare sept 11 as BC and dalit awakening day

Chennai,September 8

Puthiya Tamizhagam, a dalit party on Monday demanded that September 11, as the day of backward classes and dalit awakening day, in memory of the late Immanuel Sekaran, who lost his life in an agitation against untouchability a few years ago. P T president Dr K Krishnasamy, in a statement, said even DMK founder C N Annadurai, had praised the sacrifice made by Immanuel.

Both the central and Tamil Nadu governments should declare September 11, Immanuel's death anniversary, as backward classes and dalit awakening day, he said.

He said PT would conduct a silent march to Immanuel's memorial at Paramakudi at Ramanathapuram district on that day.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 8, 2003

Dalit dares puja ban, shot dead in temple

TAPAS CHAKRABORTY

Patna, Oct. 7: Two things were wrong with Ramlal Ram: one, he was a Dalit; and two, he had wanted to offer puja to the goddess on Mahanavami like everyone else.

In Lalooland, this is a deadly mix and no one gets away with it. As puja festivities peaked last Saturday, the 55-year-old man was abused, thrashed and then shot dead because he dared to step inside a pandal graced by upper-caste landlords.

Accompanied by son Khelaw and three other family members, Ram had headed for the Shiva temple in their Bahera village, about 250 km from here, hands loaded with sweets and flowers for the goddess. There was no reason to fear, he had kept telling himself, so what if Dalits were banned from pandals in the village dominated by upper castes.

Besides, local leaders had assured him there would be no trouble and that Dalits deserved the same rights as anybody else. All would be well, thought Ram, as his family neared the pandal rigged up inside the temple. All he had to do was get permission and walk in.

Drawn by the sound of the aarti and the strong scent of incense, Ram had looked around for the organisers. But before he could spot anybody, a volley of abuses hit him like a bolt from the blue.

Then angry revellers got off their seats, and began pushing and shoving him and his family members out.

The cries of outrage grew louder as Ram, his 20-year-old son and another youngster, Sipahi, stood their ground and kept moving closer to the goddess. Finally, a group of about 25 revellers pounced on them and began raining blows on Khelaw and Sipahi.

Some grabbed Ram's daughter-in-law, Kaushalya Devi, and pushed her to the ground. Others began pelting stones. A while later, someone whipped out a rifle and opened fire. A bullet pierced Ram in the chest and bleeding profusely, he died within minutes.

According to a statement given by Kaushalya to police, the upper castes had asked them to leave the pandal immediately. "When we refused to budge, some Dalit villagers came to defend us. Then they began to hurl stones. And then, they opened fire," she said.

Kaushalya said that instead of the blessings of the goddess, all they had got was ignominy and death for the head of the family.

"We only demanded that we be allowed to pray. It is the people of our caste who build the deity with mud, ink and colour. But when it comes to offering puja, we are left out," said Muneshwar Chamar, a villager.

G.S. Gangwar, Kaimur superintendent of police, said 17 people had been named in an FIR filed yesterday, of which five had been arrested.

As caste tensions simmered, the police insisted the killing was a one-off incident. But villagers claimed Dalits were not allowed to enter temples in most of Bihar's northern districts.

A section of the upper castes, however, blamed the Dalits. "The Dalits backed by Naxalites created the trouble," Vanbasi Dubey said.

Source: The Telegraph, October 8, 2003

Women face injustice in Jaya land

Chennai, Oct. 7: Tears rolling down her cheeks, 38-year-old Muthumarai, a Dalit woman from Keezha Urappanur in Madurai district, accused Raja, a 40-year-old upper caste Hindu, of molesting her. When she threatened to take up the issue with the panchayat, Raja and his wife, along with others, threw "human faeces-mixed water" on her.

"What happened to me should not happen to any other woman in this entire world," Muthumarai said, sobbing.

But it happened again, to Suganthi, a junior telecom officer and mother of two. Mediating in a marital dispute, seven members of the Valayappatti panchayat in Tiruchi district forced her "to prostrate before the panchayatdars countless times and then pay a fine". They directed Suganthi to hand the children over to her husband and pay a fine of Rs 50,000 for "seeking a divorce". The panchayat also threatened to excommunicate her along with her mother.

The incidents affirmed the findings of the first Human Development Report on Tamil Nadu, prepared with help from the United Nations Development Programme. The report said urbanised and literate districts like Chennai, Kanyakumari and Nilgiris showed "high values" for gender development vis-à-vis the overall human development index. But in rural districts with high levels of female illiteracy, like Dindigul, Pudukottai, Tiruvannamalai and Villupuram, the "gender inequality" is more pronounced.

Source: The Telegraph, October 8, 2003

Monday, October 06, 2003

10,000 Dalits Convert To Buddhism

VADODARA: Thousands of Dalits converted to Buddhism in Gujarat on Sunday, ignoring threats by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal to disrupt the ceremony, organisers said.

Nearly 10,000 Dalits attended the mass ceremony meant to free them from a system of social discrimination, said Bhagvesh Jha, the top local administrator.

Organisers on the other hand claimed attendance was higher. Bhante Sangh Priye, head of the All India Buddhists Association in Gujarat, said at least 30,000 people took part.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal oppose such conversions, accusing non-Hindu religious organisations of luring the Dalits through offers of money or jobs.

However, Sunday's three-hour ceremony went off smoothly as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal didn't carry out their threats to obstruct the conversions.

Gujarat was the first state to introduce an anti-conversion law that bans religious conversion by force or through inducement.

But the anti-conversion law doesn't apply to people wishing to convert to Buddhism, said Priye. In India, Buddhism is not considered a separate religion from Hinduism.

Authorities in Vadodara deployed more than 200 policemen Sunday at the venue of the mass conversion ceremony to maintain security. Vadodara is 100 kilometers north of Ahmadabad, Gujarat's commercial capital.

``By December 2004, we will target conversion of 100,000 Hindus in Gujarat state only,'' Priye said. ``We are planning similar programmes in other parts of the country as Buddhism is the only religion which teaches one to get one's rights without recourse to violence and respect all people, irrespective of their caste and creed.''

Source: The Times of India, October 6, 2003

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

'Police conniving with accused in atrocities against Dalits'

BANGALORE, Sept 30

Social Welfare Minister A Krishnappa today said that it has come to the notice of the Government that police were conniving with the accused persons in cases of atrocities against the Dalits and he had already wrote to Home Minister to take disciplinary action against such police officers and personnel.

Talking to reporters here, Mr Krishnappa said that persons having political influence and "muscle power" were harassing Dalits. Later, in a bid to escape from the clutches of the law, such persons were also influencing police to twist details on attacks on Dalits while preparing the first information report (FIR). Mr Krishnappa also said that he had requested Home Minister Mallikarjuna Kharge to plug the loopholes in the law. Admitting that there was a delay in the distribution of compensation to the Dalits in cases of atrocities against them, Mr Krishnappa said that steps were being taken to distribute compensation within a month.

COMPUTERS: Mr Krishnappa said that the government has taken a decision to supply computers, LPG and television sets to 3,500 Backward Classes, SC and ST, and Minority students' hostels in the State at the cost of Rs 70 crore.

The government has already released Rs 10 crore for the purpose, he added. This step was taken after finding out that hostels on Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have better facilities than that those in State, the minister said. Mr Krishnappa said that the Government has suspended 4 officials and 132 employees attached to these hostels on the charges of dereliction of duty.

Source: Deccan Herald, October 1, 2003