Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Combating Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai

Dr. Hari Bansh Jha, Kathmandu

Many of the Dalit organizations in Nepal believe that the population of the Dalits in the country's total population of 23,151,423 is 20 per cent. However, the census report 2001 shows that the population of the Dalits is only 14 per cent (3,241,199) of the country's total population. A breakdown of the Dalit population reveals that the Dalits of the Terai origin like Dom, Dusadh, Halkhor, Chamar, Tatma, Khatwe, Musahar and Bantar is only 36 per cent (1,166,831) against 64 per cent population of the hill-based Dalits like Damai, Kami, Sarki and Gaine (2,074,367)

Studies show that violence against women is rampant all over Nepal. As much as 95 per cent of the women in the country are victims of one or the other form of political, economic and domestic violence. Yet the problem of violence against Dalit women of the Terai is more serious in nature as compared to other communities.

Even after the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nepal in 1990, there has not been any remarkable change in the socio-economic status of the Terai Dalits. Worse among these people is the condition of the Dalit women, who are triply oppressed by the so-called high caste people, patriarchal social system and the Dalit males. Most of these women are tortured mentally, physically and sometimes even killed on one or the other ground.

The Dalit women of the Terai fail to safeguard their interests and make protest for their rights as they are weak. Because of the caste system, the Dalits are divided among themselves. Education among the Dalit women is only 6 per cent or so. In certain Dalit caste such as Musahar the literacy rate is as low as 4 per cent. Drop-out rates among the school-going children is maximum among the Dalit girls. Representation of these women in administration and political bodies is almost nill.

As the Dalit women of the Terai are voiceless, their plight is often overlooked. The I/NGOs, government and civil society are least concerned about their problems. With this view in mind, the Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) conducted seminar on "Combating Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai" on October 28, 2003 at Janakpur to create awareness in the society to combat violence against the Dalit women. The seminar was a continuation of the support extended by FES to CETS for the Dalit cause in Nepal.

With a view to suggesting measures for combating violence against Dalit women, the seminar intended to discuss the general situation of violence against Dalit women, review the nature of economic exploitation with these women, assess the discriminatory practices against them in educational institutions, find out the factors that restrict them from attending the schools, and analyze the social problems, including the dowry system and witchcraft which add to the suffering of the Dalit women.

To achieve the above objectives, the seminar was organized at the seminar hall of Chamber of Commerce and Industries at Janakpur on October 28, 2003. The distinguished participants and resource persons of the seminar represented various segments of the society, including the Dalit women and men, academic institutions, media, political parties, NGOs, etc.

Opening of the seminar was made by the welcome speech of Hari Bansh Jha, Executive Director, CETS. In his speech, Jha welcomed all the guests and participants and highlighted the objectives and programmes of the seminar.

Among the galaxy of participants in the seminar, four papers were presented, which included Basant Kumar Vishwokarma's paper on Overlooking the Education of TeraiDalit Girls, Ram Chandra Sah's paper on Violence against Dalit Women of the Terai in Social Sector, Prakash A. Raj's paper on Violation of Political Rights of Dalit Women of the Terai, and Hari Bansh Jha's paper on Economic Violence against the Dalit Women ofthe Terai.

During the floor discussion, a number of intelligent questions were raised. Apart from the Dalit women, intellectuals from various walks of life also took active part in discussion. Sumitra Devi Mahara and Ram Baran Paswan from the Dalit community discussed in detail the different forms of violence against the women of their community. Namo Narayan Jha, Bishnu Kunwar, Lalan Jha and Roshana Khadka made useful comments and suggestions on different ways and means to combat violence against Dalit women.

It was concluded in the seminar that the concerned agencies should take effective measures to provide employment opportunities to the Dalit women, apart from improving their traditional caste-based skills. For a fixed period of time, they should be given reservation in jobs, educational institutions and political bodies. Dalit women of the Terai should also be given due representation in various Dalit-based organizations and National Dalit Commission. A separate data-base should be prepared on the Dalit women of the Terai and they should be given due focus in Human Development Report or any report prepared nationally or internationally. Pressure groups should be formed to impress upon the government to execute the Dalit-related programs of the 9th and 10th Plan.

Experts of the Janakpur seminar also added that the education of the Dalit girls and women should be promoted through poverty-eradication schemes. Religious movement should be started to enhance Dalit's role in the society. Legal machinery should be made effective to punish those who indulge discriminatory treatment with the Dalits in public places. All such people who torture the Dalit women on the ground of dowry, witchcraft or any such fake base, should be penalized. But more than all this, it is needed that certain seats should be reserved for the Dalits and Dalit women in the Parliamentary and local elections. There should be provision for certain reserved constituencies where only Dalits are eligible to become candidates, although all communities could vote for candidates for such constituencies.

Source: Nepalnews.com, November 26, 2003

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Haryana pays relief to Jhajjar victims' kin

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 19: More than a year after five Dalits were lynched by a mob at Dulina in Jhajjar district, the Haryana government has paid Rs 5 lakh each to their families and gave jobs to the victims' dependents.

The Haryana government's move comes in the wake of the National Human Rights Commission's (NHRC's) recommendations in the case.

Earlier, the state had paid Rs 1 lakh as ex-gratia relief to the families of the victims, who had been lynched in the presence of senior district and police officials on October 15, 2002.

The NHRC, while reviewing the action taken by the government on its recommendations, held that the state government had permanently stopped two increments to 11 police personnel and initiated disciplinary inquiry against five others.

These officials had apparently failed to act while the mob mistook the Dalits of having killed a cow and burnt them alive inside a police station. The Commission has asked the state to produce the inquiry report against the five officials. In a release issued by it on Wednesday, the National Human Rights Commission said it would continue to monitor the case.

Source: The Indian Express, November 20, 2003

Monday, November 17, 2003

Haryana: Dalits to hold 'Dignity Rally'

Chandigarh, Nov. 17 (PTI): To assert the dignity of all human beings, particularly of "principal discriminated" sections of society such as Dalits, the National Conference of Dalit Organisations, (NACDOR) and its partner organisation, Dalit Jan Kalyan Samiti, would hold a 'Dignity Rally' on December 6 at village Faral in Kaithal District in Haryana.

Dalits from Punjab, Himachal, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi will also participate in the rally, NACDOR national coordinator, Ashok K Bharti, said here today. A cycle rally has also been planned to mobilise masses for this rally, he said.

The Dignity Rally would be attended by prominent personalities from all walks of life including theatre personality and actress, Nandita Das, Subhasini Ali. He said to assert the dignity of all human beings, a Dignity Cycle Rally will start from Delhi on December 2 and reach Faral on December 6. About 50 men and women from Dalits, OBCs and minority communities from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi will participate in this rally.

Source: NDTV, November 17, 2003

Monday, November 10, 2003

Three shot dead after goats stray

Lucknow (PTI): Three persons were killed following an argument over grazing of goats in a village in Unnao district in the second such incident in less than a week, police said.

Goats belonging to villagers of the Raidas community, who are Dalits, allegedly entered the field of Ram Naresh Singh, a Thakur, in Adampur Bhasi village on Saturday night.

This led to an altercation between members of the two communities.

Both groups allegedly opened fire in which three people were killed - two Dalits and one Thakur - and three injured, the police added.

Senior police officials have reached the site and additional forces have been deployed to prevent any flare-up.

Last Thursday, seven persons were charred to death in another village in Unnao following a similar altercation.

Source: The Telegraph, November 10, 2003

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Three killed in UP over grazing lands

Sunday, November 9, 2003 (Lucknow):

Three people have died in a clash during a dispute over grazing lands in a village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.

Goats belonging to villagers of Raidas community, who are Dalits, allegedly entered the field of one Ram Naresh Singh, a Thakur, last night, leading to an altercation between members of the two communities, a police spokesman said.

Both groups allegedly opened fire in which three people were killed, two of whom were Dalits and one was a Thakur, while three were injured, he said.

The injured have been admitted to government hospital, he added.

Senior police officials have reached the site and additional PAC force has been deployed, the spokesman.

Incidently, on last Thursday, seven persons were charred to death in another village in Unnao district following an arguement over goats straying into fields.

Source: NDTV, November 9, 2003

Three killed in UP over grazing lands

Sunday, November 9, 2003 (Lucknow):

Three people have died in a clash during a dispute over grazing lands in a village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh.

Goats belonging to villagers of Raidas community, who are Dalits, allegedly entered the field of one Ram Naresh Singh, a Thakur, last night, leading to an altercation between members of the two communities, a police spokesman said.

Both groups allegedly opened fire in which three people were killed, two of whom were Dalits and one was a Thakur, while three were injured, he said.

The injured have been admitted to government hospital, he added.

Senior police officials have reached the site and additional PAC force has been deployed, the spokesman.

Incidently, on last Thursday, seven persons were charred to death in another village in Unnao district following an arguement over goats straying into fields.

Source: NDTV, November 9, 2003

Friday, November 07, 2003

7 members of Dalit family burnt alive

Friday, November 7, 2003 (Lucknow):

Seven members of a Dalit family were burnt alive, in their house in a village in Uttar Pradesh.

Their attackers were also Dalits, and the main accused in the incident was the village pradhan. The incident is believed to be a sequel to the dispute between the two groups over grazing of goats.

"My goat was missing and somebody else tied it in his field. They came to my house and beat up my family including my mother and then burnt them up," said Ram Sumer, the lone survivor of the family.

Turf battle

The people killed from the Kanjar caste. The Pradhan too is a Dalit but from the powerful Pasi community.

To prevent the issue from snowballing further into a clash between both communities, senior police officials were quick to arrive at the village.

"It's not a clash between castes but between Pasi and Kanjar groups. We are keeping an eye on the situation. We will take action," said Jagmohan Yadav, DIG, Lucknow Range.

Within a few hours, the Pradhan and his 10 accomplices were put behind bars. But they maintain that they are innocent.

"My home is very far from his house. It is not possible for me to have done that," said Bulai Ram, an accused. The state administration is maintaining a vigil in the village to avoid further clashes between the two communities.

Source: NDTV, November 7, 2003

Upper caste Hindus ban Dalits from temple in Bihar village

Imran Khan

Patna, November 7

In another instance of social discrimination in Bihar, upper caste Hindus have banned Dalits from entering a village temple for the past two months and no action has been taken despite complaints to the police.

The incident has taken place in Khirikare village of Bhojpur district, supposedly a Maoist stronghold since the 1970s.

The ban on Dalits, considered untouchables according to the rigid Hindu caste system, has led to tensions but administration officials have not punished those responsible.

The district magistrate sought a report from block and sub-divisional officials but they have not responded yet. The incident was reported in the media only this week.

A social activist said a police complaint has been lodged against four villagers but no arrests have been made.

The inhuman practice of being untouchability is still rampant in Bihar. This week, Vibhisan Paswan from Nugaon village in Buxar district was beaten up and not allowed to offer prayers at a ceremony by upper caste Hindus. A complaint has been lodged against 26 people, including the village headman.

"The upper caste Hindus asked him not to enter a 'yagna' (sacrificial fire) site because he was considered untouchable," said a police official. Paswan was seriously injured and has been admitted to a government hospital.

Ironically, he was actively involved in organising the yagna. But when he said he wanted to participate, he was told that it was impossible. A police official said Paswan was beaten up in the presence of police
officers.

In several villages, Dalits are not allowed to take part in prayers along with upper caste Hindus during festivals.

During Durga Puja last month, a 55-year-old Dalit man was shot dead after upper caste Hindus refused him permission to pray at the village marquee.

Dalit youths were beaten up in clashes following the incident in Kaimur district.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service, November 7, 2003

'BJP was trying to pit the Dalits against the Muslims'

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief Shankersinh Vaghela has decided to begin the countdown to the completion of a year of Narendra Modi's government on December 22 by demanding answers from the BJP for some of the problems of the people which are pending.

Lambasting the government for "keeping the communal cauldron boiling", he said that in the stabbing incident at Shah-e-Alam, "instead of investigating the VHP's involvement the police arrested some innocent Dalits."

Further, he said that "in desperate efforts to win the Jamalpur elections, the BJP was trying to pit the Dalits against the Muslims."

About his tirade clock Modi's completion a year, he said the Congress would raise an issue everyday from November 21 till December 22, demanding answers from the government.

"If they are going to advertise about their achievements, then let them also give answers to our queries in those ads," he said.

Elaborating on his plans for the 'Laathi Sena', he said the modalities would worked out in a few days after meetings with senior Congress leaders.

"The 'sena' would comprise baton-wielding uniformed soldiers who would fight for the oppressed people." Asked if he had the high command's permission this issue, he said, "that is between me and the high command."

Source: The Times of India, November 7, 2003

Dalits burn 7 tribals in feud over grazing land

MOHIT DUBEY

DAUSPUR SIWLI (Unnao): Seven members of a tribal family were burnt alive here on Wednesday night, when a mob of over 200 Dalits locked them inside their house and set fire to it.

The tragedy was the result of a spat between two neighbours - the Gangaram family, who were Kanjars, and Ramnath, a Pasi (a Dalit sub-caste) - over grazing land.

On Wednesday morning, some of Gangaram's goats strayed into Ramnath's sugarcane fields, ruining some of the crop. When Gangaram's wife went to get back her goats from Ramnath, some of his men roughed her up.

Later, according to Babulal (the only member of the Gangaram family who survived the fire), Ramnath's men and the village pradhan led a mob to Gangaram's house.

Armed with batons, sticks and axes, the group of Pasi men attacked the family, doused the walls and roof of the house with kerosene and set fire to it.

Gangaram, 55, his wife, Bitoli, 52, son Munni Lal, 24, and grand-daughters Seema, 9, and Neetu, 7 all perished in the fire. Two relatives who were visiting from Sitapur, Hori Lal, 55, and Teena, 1, also died.

The fire was put out by villagers at about 3 am on Thursday. By then, all that remained were some smouldering clothes, grocery and furniture.

The police arrested 11 people and booked them for murder. The hardest one to get was the pradhan, Mulai, who fled the scene of the incident and was only rounded up when the IG (zone) Lucknow and other senior officials camped in the village and led combing operations.

Mulai, Ramnath and the other detained persons, named in the FIR, denied having committed the crime. They said the house was in flames when they reached the spot. However, Babulal said Mulai had led the mob and had shouted that even the SDM and the district magistrate could not help the Gangaram family escape death.

Source: The Times of India, November 7, 2003

7 Dalits burnt alive because their goat strayed

Bodies of the seven Dalits who were burnt to death by other Dalits at a village in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, being taken for post-mortem examination on Thursday.

LUCKNOW: Seven Dalits from the Kanjar sub-caste were burnt alive by members of another Dalit sub-caste, the Pasis, in a remote village in Unnao district, 55 km from Lucknow late on Wednesday night.

Among the dead were three children. Another six, who sustained severe burns, were in a critical condition in a local hospital.

The police have arrested 11 accused, including the village pradhan.

Preliminary reports suggested that it all began with a fight over a goat _ it belonged to a Kanjar _ straying into the fields of the main accused, Ram Nath Pasi.

According to Home Secretary D Diptivilasa, the incident involved Kanjars and Pasis of Dostpur Shivli village. Twice on Wednesday afternoon, there was an altercation between the goat's owner, Babu Lal, and Ram Nath.

But matters did not end there. Ram Nath and 10 other Pasis, including the village pradhan, raided Babu Lal's house around 10 pm. After assaulting his family members, they put the bolts on the door to the house and set it ablaze. Later, they torched an adjacent house, belonging to a relative of Babu Lal.

The Home Secretary said seven persons were charred to death. On the basis of an FIR lodged by Babu Lal, the police arrested Ram Nath and the other 10 involved in the attack.

Source: Newindpress.com,
November 7, 2003

Unnao incident (burning of 7 dalits) engineered: Mulayam's brother

By Vinay Krishna Rastogi in Lucknow

Shiv Pal Singh Yadav, younger brother of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yagav alleged that "evil political forces" were behind the blood-curdling incident in Unnao district in which seven Dalits were burnt alive.

He alleged that the incident has been engineered to defame the government of his brother.

It may be recalled that seven Dalits were roasted alive on the night of November 5/6 at Dostpur village under Fatehpur Chaurasi village in Uanno District about 70 km from Lucknow. Before they were roasted alive they were beaten with lathis, canes, and leather belts.

The seven who were burnt alive included three children- Neetu(7), Seema (4) and Reena(1). The appeal of the victims to at least spare the children fell on deaf ears.

Others who die are Ganga Ram (55), Munni Lal (24), Bitaulia(57).

Shiv Pal, who is the Agriculture Minister of the state said that the Bahujan Samaj Party could be behind the incident. An inquiry would be set up soon to unravel the truth.

Shiv Pal warned that the government would come down with a heavy hand on those who are trying to foment trouble in the state in order to engineer the fall of Mulayam Singh government.

"Ham Aise Logo Ka Parda Faash Karenge Aur Unhe Nanga karenge" (we shall expose such forces) Shiv Pal said in anger.

Shiv Pal also blamed "certain political forces" for the recent communal violence in Bareilly, Agra, Meerutand Varanasi.

On the other hand the state unit of the BSP alleged that Dalits were being systematically attacked in the state ever since Mulayam Singh government has come to power.

State general Secretary of BSP lashed out at Mulayam Singh Yadav for directing district magistrates not to use the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes(Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

Even the issue of last rites of the dead is mired in controversy the state unit of the BSP lashed out at the district administration of Unnao including District Magistrate Ajai Kumar Singh Yadav for exerting police pressure on the relatives of the deceased to throw the bodies in the Ganga instead of taking them to their native village for burial.

There is a custom in the tribal Kanjar community to bury the dead instead of cremating them.

Te district administration fear that if the bodies are taken to the village there might be a fresh spate of violence and retaliation.

Source: Sify news, November 7, 2003

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Seven Dalits burnt in UP village

Thursday, November 6, 2003 (Lucknow):

Seven members of a tribal family, including four women, were severely beaten up and burnt alive in their house by some Dalits in a village in Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh today.

Ten people belonging to Pasi (Dalit) caste raided the house of Ganga Ram Kanjar in village Fatehpur Chaurasi in the wee hours and after beating up the inmates set the house ablaze.

The incident is believed to be a sequel to the dispute between the two groups over grazing of goats.

Senior police officials have reached the spot.

Source: NDTV, November 6, 2003

Seven tribals burnt alive in Uttar Pradesh

Seven members of a tribal family were on Thursday burnt alive inside their house by people of another caste in a Fatehpur Chaurasi village in Unnao district.

The dead included four women. Five others received burn injuries.

Armed men, who belonged to the Dalit community, raided the house of one Ganga Ram Kanjar, a tribal, and severely beat up the inmates and set their house ablaze, according to the FIR lodged with the police.

Ten of the 11 people named in the FIR have been arrested while Bholai, chief of Doshpur Shivli village in the same police station area, who is believed to be the main accused, is absconding, the police said.

Two of the seriously injured were hospitalised while the bodies were sent for post-mortem.

The incident is believed to be the sequel to a dispute between the two groups over grazing of goats.

Extra police force was deployed in the area as a precautionary measure and senior officials were camping there.

Source: Rediff.com, November 6, 2003

Seven Dalits killed in UP

PERVEZ IQBAL SIDDIQUI

LUCKNOW: Seven persons, including three children, three women and a man were burnt alive while over twelve others injured when a group of miscreants set Dalit houses ablaze in Unnao district late on Wednesday night.

The gruesome incident was an outcome of a group clash, sources said.

On Wednesday afternoon a group of Nut community members entered into an argument with members of Kanjhard community—both Dalits—over the issue of goat grazing in Danpur Sibli village under Fatehpur Chaurasi police station of Unnao district about 60 kilometers from the state capital.

The issue was later resolved by the village elders.

Despite the compromise, one section managed to set their rivals’ homes ablaze. From among the dozen odd houses engulfed by flames, nearly a dozen occupants managed to run to safety and escaped with minor burns.

However, later it was discovered that three women, three children and a man were roasted alive, reports reaching the state capital said.

Top officials of Lucknow Range, which covers Unnao, are camping at the site to supervise subsequent action in this regard. Further details were awaited.

Source: The Times of India, November 6, 2003

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

BJP dharna resents atrocities on Dalits

PATNA: The Patna Mahanagar unit of the BJP staged a daylong dharna near the Income-tax roundabout here on Monday in protest against the recent rape of a Dalit woman and the killing of a Dalit youth, Om Prakash Paswan, in the Rukunpura locality.

While addressing the dharna, state BJP chief Gopal Narayan Singh called upon the people to fight out the anti-Dalit Rabri regime. He said that his party would launch a powerful movement against the Rabri regime. He demanded an independent probe into the aforementioned incidents of rape and killing. Former state BJP chief Nand Kishore Yadav said that crime against Dalits had increased during the present regime. Others who addressed the dharna included BJP's chief whip in the state assembly Navin Kishore Prasad Sinha.

Meanwhile, a central committee member of the CPI(ML), K D Yadav, gave a 15-day ultimatum to the state government to take action against the "RJD goons" and police inspector who were allegedly responsible for the atrocities perpetrated on the Dalit woman of Mahuabag in Rukunpura.

Source: The Times of India, November 4, 2003

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Dalits a victimised lot, says BJP

PATNA: The alleged murder of a Dalit, Om Prakash alias K B Paswan, on October 28 by the police and the rape bid on two Dalit women on October 30 in Patna took a new twist on Saturday with the BJP claiming that they were victimised as they had not voted for the RJD nominees during the last Lok Sabha and assembly elections.

They said that the situation had come to such a pass that the Dalits were being killed and assaulted even on the occasion of Chhath festival. Five senior leaders of the BJP, including Union small scale industries minister C P Thakur, leader of the opposition in the state assembly Sushil Kumar Modi and leader of the opposition in the legislative council Ganga Prasad, who on Saturday met the kin of Om Prakash at his Rukunpura residence, held the officer in-charge of Danapur police station, Pramod Kumar, responsible for his death and demanded lodging of a criminal case against the police official.

Referring to the alleged rape bid on two Dalit women of Chhotki Rukunpura, falling under the Gardanibagh police station, Thakur said that the criminals involved in the crime had threatened the two women and their family members with dire consequences if they did not withdraw the named FIR lodged with the police in connection with the incident. The BJP leaders alleged that the people involved in the crime were supporters of Prabhunath Yadav, the younger brother of the state chief minister.

The BJP leaders also visited the residence of the two Dalit women. The chief whip of the BJP in the state assembly, Navin Kishore Prasad Sinha, said that the affected Dalit families could not offer "arghya" to the Sun God on the morning of October 31. Modi said that there were enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that Om Prakash had died due to merciless beating by Kumar.

Source: The Times of India, November 2, 2003