Sunday, March 07, 2004

Tensions simmer in Shinde village

Yogesh Pawar

Sunday, March 7, 2004 (Mumbai):

Tensions continue to simmer at Shinde village in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra after violent attacks by the dominant Maratha community on Dalits left over 29 seriously injured.

Village elders pointed out that traditionally there was been no animosity between the dominant Marathas and Dalits until three years ago when the upper castes cut off access to a Dalit crematorium and tried to take over their separate well, triggering tension.

"First they took our crematorium and when we protested shops and flourmill became out of bounds for us," said Tulsabai Shinde.

"When we complained that they were taking over the crematorium they had promised they will teach us a lesson and they have," lamented Buddhaba Shinde.

Ironically, Shinde draws its name from a traditional Dalit clan. But in the past few years, the Dalits find themselves excommunicated. Their children cannot attend the local school and shopkeepers refuse to sell them groceries. Matters only worsened when some educated Dalit youth challenged this boycott.

"The better off homes were targeted. They didn't like it that we were educated and could match their lifestyles and kept asking whether we think we were upper caste," said another resident of Shinde village.

Unless casteist agendas make way for development villages like Shinde will always be on the road to nowhere.

Source: NDTV, March 7, 2004

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Caste violence erupts over land dispute

Ruksh Chatterji

Saturday, March 6, 2004 (Karnal):

A small property dispute in a village in Karnal district of Haryana, flared into violence over caste issues.

On Wednesday night, Rajput men had allegedly attacked Harijan's who'd settled on land given to them after the local court had ruled in their favour.

"The plots had been allotted to the Harijans, and they put up their huts. But at night a large group of men came and knocked them down," said Pawan Kumar, Harijan.

And the victims in Salvan village are clearly shaken. "I was asleep in my hut, suddenly there was noise, and the walls had been broken on both sides and I was trapped below the bricks," said Chattra, a victim.

Counter blame

However, women, whose husbands have been picked up in connection with the attack, claim that it was the Harijans, who'd cut the power to their homes.

"These people wanted to have a few electric poles out of the way. They wanted to knock them down, but our men stopped them. That is why the fight erupted," said Sunita, wife of accused.

The root cause of caste related violence is often economic and it's no different in Salvan village, where the division of a few plots has left the villagers alienated from each other.

No police action

While the case has been registered, the police say that no arrests have been made because the dispute is a civil matter.

"They have decided to hold a panchayat on the 9th to sort out the problem. They have asked us not to get involved," said Sibash Kabiraj, SSP, Karnal.

But the administration fears that ahead of the elections, politicians can play up matters like these to garner votes.

"The fight in Salvan is due to politics at the panchayat level. That is the root cause," said Ranbir Singh Doon DC, Karnal.

And the administration is likely to have it's hands full in the next few months as more such situations are likely to arise.

Source: NDTV, March 6, 2004

Caste violence grips Maharashtra village

Saturday, March 6, 2004 (Mumbai):

On Thursday, a group of Marathas attacked 80 Dalit homes in Shinde village in Maharashtra, 150 kilometres from Mumbai.

22 Dalits, including children were badly hurt in the attack.

The Dalits in the area have traditionally owned small plots of land and their own cattle and haven't ever had to depend on the rich Maratha farmers for their livelihood.

Caste war

And that's the big reason why the Marathas have repeatedly attacked Dalits and have tried to throw them out of the village.

Ironically, the latest round of violence comes just when a compromise had almost been worked out. It was even going to be signed by village elders on March 4. But the Marathas say a prominent Dalit leader, Meera Ambedkar put a spanner in the works.

"Meera Ambedkar refused to allow the compromise to go through. She insisted that we first arrest the Marathas under the Atrocities against Minorities Act and the Marathas fearing they may be prosecuted under a false case, resorted to violence," said RM Katke, Additional Superintendent of Police of Ahmednagar.

Fear of reprisals

In fact, it was the local police who first tried to broker peace between the two communities. But now they too have got caught in the caste-wars.

7 police officers were injured when a group of Dalits turned violent outside the local police station.

"They attacked the police station. The ACP tried to control the situation, but we had to fire 6 rounds in the air to disperse the mob," added Additional SP Katke.

There is fear of reprisals in the Maratha areas of the village as well. Doors are shut and everyone is staying indoors. Now the police fear that things could get worse as caste politics takes centrestage ahead of the elections.

Source: NDTV, March 6, 2004