Saturday, September 25, 2004

Ambedkar's memorials in a state of neglect

Yogesh Pawar

Saturday, September 25, 2004 (Mahad ):

While Ambedkar's legacy is used by several parties to garner votes, almost all memorials of the Dalit leader in Maharshtra are in shambles.

The 17-crore Dr Ambedkar Memorial in Mahad in the Konkan belt of Maharashtra is a testimony to the treatment, which the memorials have received in the state.

While opening the memorial to the public last month, Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had called it the biggest archive of the Dalit leader's legacy, including his books and personal belongings.

However, unfinished empty rooms dot the memorial. While on paper all are welcome but even for a peek special permission from Mumbai is required.

Dalit leaders angry

Meanwhile, the Dalit party leaders are furious and are blaming each other for the state of affairs.

"This is playing with the feelings of lakhs of Dalits. All these leaders should remember that people will not forgive us for this,'' says Babu Shinde, State Secretary, BSP.

The famous Chawdaar Lake from where Dr Babsaheb Ambedkar launched his movement against untouchability on March 20, 1927 too is lying neglected.

The monument from where Ambedkar had led over 10,000 Dalits to drink water from this public lake, which was till then only used by the higher castes is today coming apart.

The Dalit community is rather upset at the fact that while they had been promised preservation of the place as a national monument, the reality if far from it.

Source: NDTV, September 25, 2004

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Pay up for the wheat ... then starve (upper caste thuggery in Madhya Pradesh)

Santosh Singh in Bhopal

Sept. 22. – "Gokul villages" and such schemes as Panch-J may showcase rural development in Babulal Gaur’s MP. But the chief minister isn’t even dimly aware of the fact that a Saharia tribal and his family in Shivpuri district are on the verge of starvation because of exploitation in the hands of an upper caste Thakur.

A tribal named Brijlal has had to part with 16 bighas of land, his family’s only source of income, as a form of repayment for do paseri (10 kg) of wheat he had borrowed eight years ago to perform the last rites of his father. And incidentally, Shivpuri is represented by the Gwalior princess, Yashodhara Raje Scindia.

Brijlal’s ordeal had started since the day he borrowed the wheat from Thakur Babu Raja. To settle the dues, all eight members of his family were made to work in the Thakur’s fields for a whole year. But even that wasn’t enough to settle the Thakur’s claim. He then forced Brijlal to hand over the 16 bighas he had inherited.

Faced with death threats, Brijlal had to leave Bapawali village with his family. They have sought refuge in the neighbouring Himmatpur village and are wholly dependent on the pittance of relatives and friends.

In a desperate attempt to seek justice, Brijlal has approached the sarpanch, patwari, thanedar, even the collector. As misfortune would have it, he has drawn a blank at all levels of the district administration.

Quoting the rulebook, the police post at Bhiti registered a complaint, but not an FIR on land usurpation. The village sarpanch didn’t have the nerve to confront the Thakur. When the then collector, Mr Muktesh Basne, wanted to know the details, the maximum the patwari could do was to produce a copy of Brijlal’s complaint letter. As yet, the present collector, Dr M Gita, has not been able to go through the details of the case. “I got to know about it only four days ago. I have asked the sub-divisional magistrate to submit a report within a week,” she said. She declined comment, stating that the case would come under the purview of Section 420 of the IPC.

Source: The Statesman, September 23, 2004

Break caste system by inter-marriage

Lessons on how to eradicate prejudices of caste system in your perspicuous editorial “Lessons in caste” (4-5 October) are sound in theory. But it is well-nigh impossible to carry them into effect. It is the caste Hindus who strongly oppose “lessons in inculcating awareness” and Dalit elevation by holding to the sacredness of caste order with divine belief.

Take Brahmins for instance. Can the teachers/ parents of the Brahmin caste ever be crusaders against caste conflicts? They are responsible for their innocent children who “imbibe these values and grow up bigoted”. How? Their boys who reach the age at 9, 11 or 13 are sacramented with holy threads.

Then these chaste boys bear a new identity of higher caste. Isn’t it a practice of caste-distinction? Thus seeds of the caste system are sown into these tender young minds and children of today become bigots of tomorrow. These young children would have acted as tools to fight casteism had they been given scope to study Dr BR Ambedkar and social reformers like Raja Rammohan, Vidyasagar, etc through their text-books at schools. Under the Directive Principles of State Education Policy, Life and Works of Dr Ambedkar may be brought into curricula at school and colleges to achieve the purpose. But it will not happen because all political and educational powers are under the control of caste Hindus who cherish the caste system. Conscious efforts are politically subdued in order that the youths do not try to raise any question against inequality and oppression.

Dr Ambedkar also advocates that inter-caste marriage is one of the best lessons to eliminate the baneful caste system. “The real remedy for breaking caste is inter-marriage. Nothing else will serve as the solvent of caste,” says Dr Ambedkar in his great speech “Annihilation of Caste”.

Source: The Statesman, September 23, 2004

Justice eludes Dalits in Madurai


Sam Daniel


Thursday, September 23, 2004 (Madurai):

A case of suicide by a Dalit woman, who was allegedly gang raped by upper caste people, has come to light after four months in Madurai.

In May, 24-year old Indira hanged herself the very day she was raped by three upper cast men.

While the local police refused to register his complaint, the upper caste people destroyed the evidence of rape by forcibly cremating her body even without a post mortem.

"The police refused to accept my complaint. They asked me to take up the matter with the village panchayat and abide by their decision. When I got back to the village, the upper caste people forcibly cremated the body. They threatened me and I was scared all these days," said Mathiazhagan, the victim's husband.

Justice denied

According to 34-year-old Mathiazhagan, the village administrative officer has given a false certificate claiming Indira died of heart attack.

The police finally registered a case four months later only after Mathiazhagan approached the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

"I have instructed the DSP to personally take up the investigation and submit a report within a week," said Sundaresan, SP, Madurai.

Threatened and ostracized, Mathi has left his village. And the worst affected are his three little children, who are with their grandmother waiting for their dad's return.

The case illustrates just the tip of the iceberg. Justice is still out of reach for Dalits in police stations. While Mathialagan has taken four months to get the courage to report the matter, many more such atrocities against Dalits go simply unreported.

Source: NDTV, September 23, 2004

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Upper castes protest Dalit empowerment

The people of Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam panchayats in Madurai district and Kottakatchiyendal panchayat in Virudhunagar district are again boycotting the election by not filing nominations to the panchayat president and ward member posts. This was in protest against the Government's decision to reserve these panchayats for Dalits.

Ever since the last local body elections, these panchayats are going without elected nominees. Every time when by-elections are scheduled in these panchayats, either there has been no nomination or those who filed papers have been forced to withdraw.

Last year when some Dalit outfits put up their candidate for the president post in the Papapatti panchayat, local caste Hindus fielded their Dalit nominee who won the election. But immediately, the president resigned.

Source: Sun News, September 22, 2004

Monday, September 20, 2004

Three Dalits made to sit separately

Hamirpur

Mr Onkar Bhatia, Vice- President of the Dalit, OBC and ST employees’ Federation, has taken a strong notice of the incident in a boy’s primary school, Nadaun, in the district yesterday in which three Dalit students were made to sit separately by teachers when they were being served their mid-day meal.

The meal scheme was started in the state under the direction of the Supreme Court. Mr Onkar Bhatia has demanded the registration of a criminal case against the teachers concerned . In a statement, he said it was a serious issue that Dalits were still discriminated against in the state.

Vijay, Monu and Vipan, class fifth students of the school, told reporters that they were asked by their teachers that from tomorrow onwards they would have to sit separately. Balbir Singh, Sarla Devi, Veena Devi, Bhandari Ram, Mansa Devi and Chhotu Ram,their parents, were very upset over the step motherly treatment being meted out to their children in schools. They said they would meet the local MLA, Mr Sukhvinder Singh Sukhoo, and the Chief Minister, Mr Virbhadra Singh, in this regard.

However, Mr Ishwar Parmar, Headmaster of the school, said students sat in a separate row on their own and it was wrong to say that they were made to sit separately by the school staff. Mr Onkar Bhatia, alleged that there were many cases of atrocities on Dalits in Mandi, Kullu, Sirmaur and Shimla districts but the state government was sleeping over the situation. He warned the state government that the federation would hold dharnas at all district headquarters if no action was taken against those discriminating against Dalits. When contacted,Mr Devesh Kumar, Deputy Commissioner, said that if this incident had happened it was most unfortunate. He said he would direct the Deputy Director of Education (Primary) to inquire into the matter. The Deputy Director of Education was not available for comments. The Nadaun police visited houses of Dalit students to seek their statement.

Source: The Tribune, September 20, 2004

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Tamil Dalits await political empowerment


Sam Daniel


Saturday, September 18, 2004 (Chennai):

Four panchayats, reserved for Dalits in Tamil Nadu, have been waiting for presidents for as long as eight years.

The reason behind it is the upper caste community in the region, which does not allow Dalits to contest in the local body elections.

By-elections for these panchayats are scheduled to be held on September 27, but so great is the fear that not a single Dalit has come forward to file nominations.

Fear factor

One such case is the Papapatti village, which has not had an elected panchayat president for the past eight years. Although few Dalits did manage to contest the polls in the past, the upper castes thwarted this by making their puppet candidates win and forced them to resign.

While the ritual of holding election is conducted every six months, this time round not a single Dalit has filed nomination. Dalits say they are scared of the repercussions.

"If I contest in the elections, the upper caste people will attack my children and husband. They will ransack and destroy my house. This is what has been happening over many generations. So we do not contest," said Karuppayee, Dalit woman.

A similar situation prevails in four other panchayats of Tamil Nadu. The Dalits are a minority in these areas and they depend on the upper castes for their livelihood.

Mockery of democracy

The upper castes, on their part, say they cannot accept a Dalit as their president. They in fact want these panchayats to be declared as general constituencies.

"Either you declare our community as a scheduled caste or make this panchayat president's post open for all," said T Krishnan, upper caste man.

Development work in these villages has come to a standstill. And even after eight years, the government has not ensured that the Dalits are politically empowered.

Successive state governments have gone soft against the upper castes for political reasons. And as the objective of empowering Dalits lies unachieved, grass root democracy is turning into a mockery in these panchayats.

Source: NDTV, September 18, 2004

Dalit farmers face harassment in MP village

Saturday, September 18, 2004 (Mundla):

Close to 20 Dalit farmers in Madhya Pradesh have returned home after harassment by upper caste thakurs forced them to flee their villages.

The farmers had left their homes in Mundla village a month ago and returned only after the local sarpanch backed them against the thakurs terrorizing them.

Dalits boycotted

The trouble began in 2002 when the state government distributed over 35 acres of land to Dalit families. The thakurs, afraid the Dalits would no longer work as labourers, began boycotting the community.

"On August 13 the upper caste thakurs of this village held a meeting in the temple and decided to boycott the 19 families, which got land," said Kailash Patel, the sarpanch.

"They stopped using them for work. Anyone who associated with the Dalits faced a fine of Rs 5000. There was a lot of tension after that," Patel added.

"The villagers decided in the temple and said they would beat up the Dalits. So I thought my life was in danger and ran away from the village," said a Dalit farmer, Babulal.

But after the village sarpanch stepped in, he forced the local police station to file an FIR against the thakurs and asked the Dalit men to return home.

Fear runs high

While the Dalits have returned to the village, fear still runs rampant within the community.

"I am very afraid. If they kill my husband why should I live? I have small children. Who will look after them?" lamented Teju Bai.

The district administration admits there is fear in the village, but maintains it can do little to intervene.

"This is basically a problem between the Dalits and the thakurs. The administration has nothing to do with it," said Sheela Deshpande, SDM, Sihor.

The Dalit villagers got their lands under former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's Dalit agenda. They dreamt of social equality, but changing social and political dynamics have left their dreams in tatters.

Source: NDTV, September 18, 2004

Friday, September 17, 2004

What if Periyar had not been born?

By P C Vinoj Kumar in Chennai
Friday, 17 September , 2004

It is that time of the year when political leaders in Tamil Nadu remember Periyar E V Ramasamy Naicker, one of the world’s all time great social revolutionaries. September 17, 2004, is the 126th birth anniversary of Periyar, the founder of ‘Dravida Kazhagam,’ the parent party of all Dravidian parties.

Periyar spearheaded a movement that had such a revolutionary impact on society, which could be understood better, if we imagine for a moment that this man was never born.

What if Periyar were not born? Would it have changed the way we live, eat and sleep in the 21st century?

“Definitely,” says Periyar Dravida Kazhagam (PDK) leader Viduthalai Rajendra, “If Periyar had not been born, non-Brahmins would still be in bondage. Education, human rights, and self-respect would have been a distant dream to us. The three percent Brahmins would have completely dominated all spheres of life.”

He points out that Brahmins had separate hotels, and even special wards in hospitals in the State, before Periyar got into action.

“There was total discrimination against non-Brahmins. They were denied education, and according to government rules, one had to know Sanskrit to even apply in Madras Medical College. And remember, at that time non-Brahmins could not easily study Sanskrit,” recalls Rajendran.

The situation has changed today, he says. According to him, in admissions to medical colleges in the State, students from backward classes, most backward classes, scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes have got 73 percent of the seats in the open category. “This situation has come about only because of Periyar,” he says.

Not just that, if Periyar had not been born, “Hindi may be the State language today. Attempts by leaders like Rajaji to impose Hindi would have been successful and Tamil may have become extinct. Also, Rajaji would have successfully implemented his controversial education policy against non-Brahmins,” says Rajendran.

Rajaji introduced certain reforms in education in 1952 when he was CM in the erstwhile Madras Presidency. It was widely perceived as encouraging caste system. According to the plan, schools were to function till forenoon. In the afternoons students had to compulsorily learn the family vocation.

A carpenter’s son would learn carpentry, and a barber’s son had to go to his father’s saloon to learn the art of cutting hair! The DMK dubbed it the Kula Kalvi Thittam (Hereditary Education Policy) and called for scrapping it at once.

Dalit leader and Puthiya Thamizhagam leader Dr. K Krishnasamy pays glowing tribute to Periyar. “All his life he fought against Brahmin domination. If he were alive today, he would have fought for Dalits. Periyar supported Dalits in the 1957 caste clashes. His correct stand made Kamaraj take the right kind of action against the oppressors,” he says.

Editor of Dalit Murasu, Punitha Pandian, asserts that if Periyar were alive today, he would have continued to oppose Brahmins.

“Their domination has not been completely uprooted. It is not backward castes that are against Dalits. It is the Brahmins who created caste system, and it is they who want to protect it,” he argues.

All said and done, nobody could deny that Periyar did his bit to achieve an equal society. Periyar encouraged inter-caste marriages and promoted self-respect marriages, which were conducted without priests.

Indeed, the situation has changed considerably and a modicum of equality achieved. Today, many Brahmin women are married into powerful Dravidian families, wielding influence and political clout. Some of the politically influential families have Brahmin daughters-in-law today. This would not have happened if Periyar had not been born.

Source: Sify news, September 17, 2004

Thursday, September 16, 2004

18-yr-old raped, killed in Raghopur

Thursday, September 16, 2004 (Raghopur):

Sharda Devi is shattered. Her 18-year-old daughter was strangled to death by village goons.

A Dalit from Raghopur, which is Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi's constituency, Sharda's family did not have the political clout of the men who first allegedly raped her daughter Manju on August 17.

When the family lodged a complaint with the police, they were threatened by the accused, who are related to Bhola Rai, an RJD MLC. Nine days later, Manju was killed and her body dumped in a field.

"They threatened us. They said neither the girl nor the case will remain," says Shila Devi, victim's sister.

Political clout

Sharda Devi's family says the police have been no help either. The investigation has not progressed an inch and the man they hold responsible, Bhola Rai, says he has nothing to do with it.

"They are not my close relatives. My in-laws live there, these people are my in-laws' relatives," says Rai.

Manju's family says her rape and murder is just another example of how justice is unavailable to the common man in Bihar. It seems, if you want the law to intervene you need to be politically connected!

Source: NDTV, September 16, 2004

Dalit discrimination mars MP school


Rubina Khan Shapoo

Thursday, September 16, 2004 (Bhopal):

In the Purankhedhi village of Shivpuri district of Madhya Pradesh, members of the dominant Lodhi community have stopped sending their children to the sarkari school after they found out that the mid day meal at the school was being cooked by a Dalit.

They would rather keep their children uneducated than have them eat food cooked by a Dalit. This has further aggravated the rift between the Dalits and the non Dalits.

There was a time when three rooms could barely accommodate the 130 students enrolled in the primary school.

For the last two weeks, however, one room is empty and attendance is poor as many children have been withdrawn from school.

Ensuring equality

The practice of Dalits cooking midday meals for schools was a plan started by Chief Minister Uma Bharti, who herself is a Lodhi by caste.

Till a fortnight back, however, the mid day meal was cooked separately for the Dalits and the upper caste children, a fact that was reported in the local media.

This led to government officials taking stern steps to ensure everyone ate food cooked by the Dalit cook.

"We will try to improve the system and if anybody does not cooperate we will take legal action against them," said Geeta, Collector, Shivpuri.

Move backfires

This move on part of the government however, backfired with most of the non-Dalits withdrawing their children from school.

Only 40-50 students attend school regularly and the upper caste children bring their food from home.

Caste conflict evident in Purankhedhi is not an exception. Bharat seems to be frozen in time while India moves ahead and talks about becoming a super nation.

Source: NDTV, September 16, 2004

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Undiagnosed Illness Kills 10 Dalit Children in Bihar

Sep 14, 2004 - An undiagnosed disease that causes high fever has killed at least 10 children in a Bihar village of India. The deaths occurred in Herpur village of the Vaishali district over the last month. Most children were below 10 years of age and suffering from malnutrition. According to a physician who treated some of the children, the children died of high fever and blood dysentery. The children belonged to the Musahar community of Dalits. Musahars and are considered among the poorest in the nation.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 15, 2004

Social boycott of Dalits in Ichawar village


NINETEEN DALIT families in Moondla village of Ichawar sub-division are living under fear of social boycott by upper caste villagers for the last one month. This has allegedly been done out of resentment against allotment of prime government land to them under Charnoi Bhoomi Yojna about two years back. A village panchayat held on August 13 took the boycott decision that includes denial of services of barber and flourmill. Local unit of the co-operative milk society has also reportedly stopped purchasing milk from the Dalits.

19 Dalits of Moondla village were allotted government irrigation land two years back under Charnoi Bhumi Yojna. Lately, SDM Ichawar Sheila Deshpande while accepting an application from some villagers cancelled the allotted pattas. Moti Lal, a patta holder, alleged that the action of SDM was hasty and opinionated. “We shall continue to occupy the land and fight for it,” he added. Meanwhile, DSP AKJ SK Jain is investigating the boycott complaint filed by the Dalits.

Source: Hindustan Times, September 15, 2004

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Dalit Mom sells baby to feed family

New Delhi - An Indian woman sold her infant son for 6 000 rupees (R900) so that the rest of her family could eat, news reports said on Tuesday.

The two-and-a-half-month-old baby had not yet been named.

His mother Dhiran Devi recently saw her other son Manish, 2, die of a damaged liver caused by malnutrition, a Hindu newspaper reported.

Her only surviving child is a seven-year-old daughter who doesn't go to school.

Most of the money from the sale of the child was meant to clear the family's looming debt, buy food and maybe some medicine for her tuberculosis-afflicted husband, according to the Indian Express newspaper.

Devi's husband Lal Babu Paswan said he thrashed her for her "sin", and so did the neighbours. Devi is now missing.

The Paswans live in Hajipur in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar, among the country's most backward and lawless states.

Half of Bihar is affected by floods and the rest by drought, but in both cases tens of thousands of people are starving.

The Paswans are also dalits (broken people), who are at the bottom of India's insidious caste ladder.

Desperately poor, dalits are usually denied access to land ownership and compelled to work in degrading jobs such as bonded labour, sweeping and manual scavenging who clean toilets and remove dead animals.

Seven years ago, Paswan lost his municipal job and pulled a cycle rickshaw, earning 50 rupees a day.

Tuberculosis allows him now to work only one in three days.

The family didn't have access to the state government's schemes for free tuberculosis medication or food, which local officials said they would immediately rectify.

Two doctors have also volunteered to adopt the Paswans for a year.

Police promised to take no action against Devi and claimed they wanted to find her in order to get the baby boy back.

Source: News24.com, September 14, 2004

Monday, September 13, 2004

No reservations about this Dalit couple’s merit


AHMEDABAD, SEPTEMBER 12: Amid all the clamour for job reservation in the private sector, a Dalit couple has proved their point by clearing an exam for government jobs in the general category.

Prakash Majumdar and his wife Sujata Solanki, who learnt on Wednesday that they have passed the Gujarat Public Service Commission examination, said they wanted to prove that Dalits can make it to the top even without reservation.

‘‘We had decided from the beginning we would not mention in the application forms that we belonged to the Scheduled Castes,’’ says Prakash.

And prove they did: Sujata ranked 39th, and hopes would be made a Deputy Superintendent of Police; Prakash came 110th, and hopes for a section officer’s post.

Sujata says Prakash was her inspiration. ‘‘He was supporting and provided guidance, having trained for GPSC exams at the Sardar Patel Institute for Public Administration.’’ About ranking well ahead of her husband, she says, ‘‘Prakash had his job at the Employee State Insurance Corporation. That cut into his studies.’’

And Prakash adds, ‘‘The GPSC exam is in Gujarati, in which Sujata is stronger, having studied in Gujarati medium.’’ Both belong to middle-class families in Ahmedabad. The couple now awaits their postings.

Source: The Indian Express, September 13, 2004

The title reads, No reservations about this Dalit couple’s merit. Alas, we can't say the same about most of the upper caste people who succeed for they owe much of their success to their upper caste lineage and the prestige and fortune they thereby inherit at birth. Besides, exceptions don't make the rule! A couple of dalits succeeding without the benefit of reservations cannot be an argument against reservations. The question one should ask is: Do dalits face any discrimination on account of their caste? On an average, is a dalit equally likely to succeed as a brahmin, or is he/she hamstrung by virtue of his low caste? Sure, reservations hardly compensate for the myriad hurdles dalits face. Cast off casteism and reservations, in that order.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Chamars gird loins to win basic rights

Kathmandu, September 12:

In an era when every Tom, Dick and Harry is shouting himself hoarse demanding equal rights for all, this community of Dalits, numbering around 350,000, still does not possess citizenship certificates. Baldev Ram, a leading member of the Chamar community of Siraha and Saptari, told journalists here today that they have vowed to wage a war and win some basic rights denied to his community for so long. Their demands include issuance of citizenship certificates to Chamars and that ownership of land they are tilling be transferred to their names, and reservation. But they have not been able to say what exactly they want under ‘reservation’. They insist that they be given 25 per cent reservation for 100 years in every walk of life including foreign employment, constitutional bodies, judiciary, legislature and education, among others.

According to Nepali law, citizenship is needed for a person to acquire and possess land.

Baldev Ram, who is the chairman of the action committee of Chamars, said that no one from his community possesses even an inch of land as they do not have citizenship certificates. Hence, they have also demanded that they be allotted one bigha of land. “We are not birds or monkeys. We cannot live in nests on trees. We, too, need to own land so as to build our homes,” he said. Laments are unending. Vice-president Guthi Ram said: “The authorities allege we must have come from across the border in India if we apply for citizenships.” They have also demanded that the state declare untouchability a crime tantamount to homicide. Members of the Chamar community have from time immemorial been involved in the removal of animal carcasses. They complained that though they have been doing their job, the so-called upper castes say they have not. But this is nothing compared to Guthi Ram’s narration of a harrowing tale of arrest, intimidation and torture at the hands of government authorities, alleging him of being a Maoist sympathiser. “They framed me and charged me with harbouring Maoists on the run,” he said. The Chamars will hold a 48-hour hunger strike in Rajbiraj, Saptari, from September 29-30, which will culminate in a mass rally on October 1.

Source: The Himalayan Times, September 12, 2004

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Self help is the best help, says Governor (because government help won't be forthcoming?)


Kharar, September, 11:
PUNJAB Governor Justice O. P. Verma (retd) today hailed the efforts of self-help groups formed by landless labourers, Dalits and women belonging to the Jat-Sikh community at Doomcherri village, about 25 Kms from here.

Calling these groups as ‘agents of change and development’ for the state of Punjab, the Governor said the experiment of self-help groups has been a great success in Bangladesh also.

He said the Micro Credit Plan adopted by the self-help group can change the face of the country.

‘‘It is surprising that the success story of these villagers is not known in the state,’’ he said, while asking the state government and the district administration to encourage such self-help groups.

Verma, while appreciating the Manager of Regional Rural Bank (RRB) for adopting a visionary approach in educating the people regarding the new self-help scheme launched by the bank and becoming a catalyst in the new scheme, said such approach, if adopted by other banks while delivering their credit, will ensure that money will percolate to the right beneficiaries.

Governor, while exhorting the people to act as watchdog on the working of the administration, said people should assert their rights themselves.

Source: The Indian Express, September, 11, 2004

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

13 years after the Tsundur carnage, dalits still await justice

HYDERABAD, SEPT. 7. Dalits from Tsundur met the Home Minister, K. Jana Reddy, at Secretariat this evening, seeking speedy disposal of the case relating to the carnage of SCs that took place at the village in 1991.

They submitted a memorandum addressed to the Chief Minister, Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, saying that seven of the 219 accused were yet to be arrested. Even 13 years after the incident, the Government had failed to fulfil its commitment to rehabilitate the affected 552 Dalit families. They demanded appointment of a special officer for overseeing the court work paving way for quicker clearing of the case, a pucca building for the residential school set up at the village, and protection to the 130 witnesses.

Source: The Hindu, September 8, 2004

-----

Justice denied [ http://www.pucl.org/Topics/Dalit-tribal/2003/tsundur.htm ]

Prosecutions in the case of 8 dalit victims of Tsundur, Andhra Pradesh stalled for 12 years

-- By K.G.Kannabiran, National President, PUCL
People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
128, Hanuman Temple Street, East Maredupalli, Secunderabad- 500027
Phone: 27730632

&

JaladiI Moses, President, TCVA
Tsundur Carnage Victims’ Association (TCVA)
Ambedkar Nagar, Tsundur, Guntur Dist. AP (Phone: 08643-310453)
Hyderabad, 7 December 2003003

Background

We recall the mayhem carried in broad daylight in which 8 dalits were brutally hacked to death in the Tsundur village of Guntur on 6th August 1991 and their dead bodies were packed in gunny bags and thrown in the near by drain canals. There was much uproar and dalits and dalit and democratic rights organizations agitated over the issue.

In this sensational case, police ultimately charge-sheeted 219 persons (28 are no more) mostly belonging to reddy community under the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities ACT) and Sec. 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC etc. by the end of the year. The prosecution proposed to examine 135 witnesses. However, the case has been dragged on for the last 12 years due to the apathy of successive STATE Governments being compounded by the delay tactics of the accused in this massacre that has no parallel in the recent history in AP.

Delay till July 2003
For two years, the case could not reach the Spl. Sessions Court under the SC&ST (PA) Act, Guntur as 8 accused were not arrested by the police. Later the case against the absconding accused was separated and the case of the remaining accused (about 200) was committed to the Spl. Court in 1993. Later there was stalemate in the case as the accused raised an objection in 1994 that the victims belonged to Christian faith and hence there could not be a charge under the SC & ST (PA) Act. The matter was taken to the AP High Court by the accused as the Spl. Judge who gains held that the victims were Hindus. Later, the trial date was fixed up in October 1994, but the government taken no steps to get it held in Tsundur village as promised to the victims by it though a school building in the village was remodeled and furnished with a budget of about Rs. 4 lacks to hold camp Court.

So, renewing their demand for the trial in their village the dalit witnesses had refused to receive summons. Later the judge decided to hold the case trial at Tsundur village itself. The case was further stalled by the efforts of the accused challenging the choosing of Tsundur as the trial place. The case had been again taken to the AP High Court in 1994. However, the AP High Court in 1995 remanded the issue to the trial Court. Ultimately the trial judge in 1995 decided to hold the trial at Guntur instead of Tsundur.

Spl. PPs appointment much delayed
The dalits made two requests: 1) The trial should be held at Tsundur. This they insisted for the safety and security of the witnesses. 2) They demanded the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors. As the appointment of Public Prosecutors goes by political patronage, the dalit community of Tsundur wanted Special Public Prosecutors in whom there they have confidence be appointed.

It took five years to appoint Special Public Prosecutors as demanded by the victims. In August 2000, the government issued a G.G in that regard. But, the GO as the two advocated appointed as Spl.PPs were human rights activists. Court and take steps to get the case their appearance in the SPl. Court and take steps to get the case tried speedily. Nevertheless, the district civil and police administration has been indulging in creating all hurdles to delay the trial process.

Camp court building not renovated
As for the provision of camp Court at Tsundur the facts are as follows:

On 5.8.2003 the SPL Public Prosecutors filed a memorandum before the Spl. Judge to try the case in the camp Court at Tsundur. The Go appointing them, they pointed out, made it clear that the trial be taken place at Tsundur. Earlier also, in 1997 the AP High Court made a request to the Government to provide protection to the trial court in Tsundur while holding camp Court at Tsundur. Responding to it, the SP, Guntur writes the High Court that they would provide bundobust at Tsundur. The same was communicated to the trial Court by the High Court in 1998.

On 2.9.2003 the SPl. The Spl. Judge Mr. N. Balayogi addressed a letter to the District Collector Mr. Ramakrishna Rao requesting to make all necessary arrangements including security arrangements at Tsundur. However, even by 29.9.2003 there was no response from the District Collector, the Judge had no choice except postponing the case. Even by the day of next adjournment (31.10.2003), the building was not made ready by the administration. The case was again postponed to 27.11.2003. However, there was no response to this day from the District administration though some steps were taken to renovate the building. The case was again posted to 10.12.2003, which is incidentally International Human Rights Day. The collector thus, is response for about 3 months delay in trying the case.

Non co-operation by police to the Spl. P.Ps
On their part, police administration has not been taking any interest in this case. In spite of repeated requests by the special PPs, the concerned police officials have so far not handed over the CD files of the Tsundur carnage cases to them. The case record runs into about two thousand pages, which takes months to the prosecutors to prepare for effective layering on behalf of the prosecution. It is doubtful whether the entire case files are there with the police. The Inspector of Police, Tsundur told the representatives of the Victims Association that with much effort he could only trace a part of the record.

The police were not prompt enough to file the death certificate of one of the accused that died a couple of months ago though they were given one-month time. Thus in an indirect way they help those who are in need of delaying the case trial.

12 Year- old NBWs against 8 accused still to be executed

The case against the following eight absconding accused is pending with the committal Court in the Spl. Mobile Court, Guntur for the last 12 year with our being committed to the Spl. Court:
1) A119-Mr.KondamadugulaVenkatappa Reddy S/o Mr.Venkata Reddy, R/o Modukur,
2)A146- Mr.Kosana Ramakrishna Rao S/o Mr. Venkaiah @ Kirasanayilu Venkaiah, R/o Munnangivaripalem,
3) A151- Mr.Ikkurthi Venkateswarlu, S/o Mr.Subba Rao, R/o Munnagivaripalem,
4) A169- Mr.Gorrepati Krishna Reddy, S/o Mr.Rami Reddy, R/o Munnagivaripalem,
5) A170- Mr.Modugula Kotireddy, S/o Mr.Sambireddy, R/o Tsundur,
6) A176- Mr.Kosana Venkaiah @ Kirasanayilu Venkaiah, S/o Mr.Yedukondalu R/o Tsundur,
7)A184- Mr.Gorrepati Appireddy @ Babu, S/o Mr. Ramireddy, R/o Tsundur, and
8)A188- Mr.Bontha Papireddy S/o Mr. Kotireddy, R/o Munnagivaripalem.

They are yet to be arrested even after 12 years of filing of charge sheet. NBWs are pending against them for more than a decade. Both the Inspector of Police, Tsundur could not tell us where the separated case is pending. Though some of the absconding accused are very much present in Tsundur and surrounding places, no efforts are made.

Victims' Association made efforts and traced the case in the spl. Mobile Court, Guntur. Though the Magistrate addressed several letters in these 12 years to the police authorities concerned police have no9t been even attending to the court on the adjournment dates.

If immediate steps are not taken to arrest the absconding eight accused, and the case is not committed to Spl. Sessions Court immediately, the entire trial exercise is to be performed again for them. It results in wastage of the precious time of the hon'ble Spl. sessions Judge. Police department would be burdened with serving summons to all the 125 witnesses again at the expense of public money. The witnesses would loose their working days second time on attending to the trial second time.

Speedy trial is a Fundamental Right and provision of equal justice is a constitutional obligation and the State and its instrumentalities have been brazenly violating the fundamental right of the Dalit Community and have been guilty of flagrant breach of the constitutional obligation of providing equal justice to the victims and their community.

The IGP (PCR Cell) Mr. Mandanlal paid a visit to Guntur a month ago in the Tsundur case account. In a most discourteous way, he did not show any interest to see the Spl. Public Prosecutor Mr. B.Chandrasekhar who on his invitation visited the guesthouse where he was camping. He has not taken any steps to get the absconding 8 accused, nor showed any interest in removing hurdles in the conduct of speedy trial.

Our demands
Regardless of the case being a sensational one awaiting justice for 12 years, the attitude of the State Government and the district civil and police administration is highly reprehensible. We feel that it is an intentional one of helping the culprits. The attitude is an out come of racist understanding toward the dalits and their cause. It makes dalits loose faith in the administration of justice as they eagerly wait for justice.

We demand the Chief Minister Mr.Chandrababu Naidu to take steps to remove all the hurdles in way of the trial of the case on war footing and take action against all the officials, however high their position may be, for showing apathy towaaaards and causing delay in trying the case. We also demand for appointment of a committed special Officer to oversee the prosecution and coordinate between the Spl. Public prosecutors and district police and civil administration and the State Government.

Source: PUCL, December 2003