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

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