Monday, May 31, 2004

Boycott move: Patiala Dalits forced to leave village

Monday, May 31, 2004:

Dalits in Patiala say they're being forced to leave their homes because an upper caste boycott doesn't let them buy food.

They say they're forced to work 18 hours a day and are paid as little as Rs 40 a day.

"They have boycotted us and don't let us buy food, groceries and even milk. Our family members are not being given work," said Sukhvinder Khan, labourer.

"We have been boycotted which is why we are selling and leaving our homes. They don't let us buy food," added Jeet Singh, labourer.

Denial mode

The upper caste villagers deny the allegation and in turn accused the Dalits of being lazy.

"Three to four people act as middlemen and keep most of the money for themselves. They are leading these people astray," said Hari Singh, landlord.

Even though this dispute has been continuing for the past ten days, the police has taken no action.

"Two separate enquiries have been marked, one by the district SSP and the other by the sub-divisional magistrate of Nabha. As soon as we get the report, action will be taken," held Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, additional deputy commissioner, Patiala.

And with the administration dragging its feet, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is finding himself in the dock, especially because Patiala is his home constituency.

Source: NDTV, May 31, 2004

Monday, May 03, 2004

Dalit beaten over water near Pune

Imtiaz Jalil

Monday, May 3, 2004 (Pune):

When a Dalit man demanded equal distribution of water among all villagers he was thrashed by upper caste Hindus in a drought- hit village near Pune.

Thirty-five-year-old Bhagwan Mahadeo Lad was beaten up by a group of seven upper caste men.

"When I told them that even Dalits have the right to draw water from the gram panchayat tank, they got angry and thrashed me. They claimed the water was not meant for lower castes," said Lad.

No breakthrough yet

Like many drought-hit villages in western Maharashtra, Nimone is dependent on water tankers for their daily supply. But the 100-odd Dalits in the area have to walk a kilometre to draw water from a well.

Although an FIR has been lodged, no arrests have been made so far as all the accused are absconding. An officer of the rank of DSP is investigating the matter, but the frightened Dalits are not sure whether justice will be done.

"They kept me in the police van when my uncle was being beaten up. They did not do anything," said Lad.

"We are frightened, they beat him up mercilessly and can do anything to us as well," said Kalubai Lad.

Ugly spectre

Caste clashes over water have become common in Maharashtra. During the past few months many such incidents have taken place in the Marathwada region.

Just a few months back, in Jalna district, a Dalit youth was reportedly burnt alive by upper caste Hindus over a water dispute.

The war for water may have begun in the state due to drought, but it is the caste twist that is making it uglier.

And when such incidents take place in a progressive state like Maharashtra, the question that needs to be answered is: are we really moving forward or backwards.

Source: NDTV, May 3, 2004