. . . . . . "Dalit Solidarity News" is an information project run by the International Dalit Solidarity Network. News stories are extracts from online newsservices. Link to the full story is found at the end of each blog. Visit the International Dalit Solidarity Network at www.idsn.org

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Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Saturday, May 17, 2003  
100 dalits convert to Christianity in Bhojpur

Rediff.com - 17 May 2003, by Anand Mohan Sahay

Nearly 100 dalits in two Bihar villages converted to Christianity last week.

While sources said the conversions were in protest against discrimination by powerful upper caste Hindus, this could not be independently confirmed.

The converts belong to Ganghar and Milki villages under the Ara block in Bhojpur district of Bihar.

District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar said: "Preliminary report suggests that there is some truth in it [reports of conversions] and we have started investigations."

This is the first major conversion of dalits to Christianity in Bihar after the state was bifurcated in 1999 to create Jharkhand.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal leaders have accused Christian missionaries of luring poor villagers with money and promises of employment.

Reports said in both the villages the converts were provided with bicycles, hands lights, daris (carpet) and Bibles. However, there was no independent confirmation of this.

Kumar did not rule out action against those involved in the conversions if it was proved that the exercise was not voluntary.

2:17 PM

200 Dalits convert to Buddhism in Vadodara

Ahmedabad Newsline (Indian Express) - 17 May 2003

About 200 men and women took diksha and converted to Buddhism in Vadodara on Friday. The World Buddhist Council (WBC), the body behind the move, said that this was the beginning of a chain of conversions that would see some one lakh persons changing their religion by June 15 in the state.

Organised on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, the low key affair on the city outskirts saw the converts get their heads tonsured and take a 22 point oath for Buddhism. Bhante Sanghpriya, national general secretary of WBC and convener of the conversions told Express Newsline, that rather than seeing it as conversions the step should be seen as going back to the roots. ‘‘India was a Buddhist country before Hinduism came. We are going back to our ancient religion,’’ said Bhante.

‘‘Why would the Dalits take such action, if they were kept with honour within the Hindu framework? It is for the majority community to keep us within their fold with due respect,’’ Bhante asserted. The programme had been organised without any permission as required under the new anti conversion law. However, the organisers informed that they have sought permission for the mega congregation of June 15, which would see 1 lakh conversions, for which the State Government has agreed to give it 15 days before the congregation.

‘‘We have sought permission for the June 15 programme, but we feel that for this day it is not needed. We are not indulging in any lobh lalach (inducements etc). Today is Buddha Purnima and the initiation is a small step in the right direction,’’ said Bhante.

Vadodara Collector Bhagyesh Jha said that he had some information about the function, but that administration had no guidelines under the new law, as to what actions to take.

‘‘Neither the organisers, nor police have informed us officially. We also do not have any specific guidelines on the issue from the government. This thing has come up suddenly and we would have to look into it,’’ said Jha. The programme, apart from the 22 point oath, which was basically a list of denials of any allegiance to Hinduism, also saw the passing of a 44 point resolution which had issues like condemning all anti conversion laws, impressing upon the Buddhist identity of the nation, urging action against those claiming Buddhism to be a branch of Hinduism etc.

The occasion was marked by the presence of erstwhile Maharaja of Vadodara, Ranjitsinh Gaekwad. ‘‘We do not believe in any caste or religion based discriminations. That’s why I am here. My good wishes are with them,’’ said Gaekwad.

Ratanlal Shroff, a businessman, whose chance introduction to the Vipasana and the Buddhist philosophy in 1986 culminated with his official acceptance of Buddhism as his religion on Friday. ‘‘Earlier I used to do Gayatri puja and other rituals, but my miseries remained the same. I was short tempered. But now I am a peaceful hope my family would follw suit,’’ said a tonsured Shroff, after the conversion ceremony.

Raman Dodia, 39, converted to Buddhism along with his wife. ‘‘Buddha karma se hota hai. (Actions make me a buddhist),’’ was his explanation for his step.

8:22 AM

Friday, May 16, 2003  
Dalit woman accuses Cong MLA of rape

The Times Of India - 17 May 2003, Suchandana Gupta

A 24-year-old Dalit woman alleged that she was raped by a Congress man known to be close to Hazarilal Raghuvanshi, the Madhya Pradesh minister for revenue, rehabilitation and legislative affairs. The woman claimed she was a bonded labourer in the house of Congress MLA Dinu Malviya. Malviya allegedly raped her on April 23, 2003 at his residence. She claimed that she approached the police to lodge her complaint, but the police beat-up her husband Manoj Pater and threw him out of the police station. The two then approached the special police station for SC/ST atrocities, in Hoshangabad. An FIR was lodged but no copy was given to the couple.
Speaking to newspersons, she recalled: "Dinu Malviya kept me and my husband in his house for the last six months. He gave us a room at the back of the house. In return, we had to work for Rs 300 per month. But he never gave us the money."
On the evening of April 23, her husband went to ask Malviya for salary. Malviya first refused to entertain any discussion on the money. When Manoj persisted, Malviya allegedly beat the man. "My husband ran away while Malviya stopped me," she said. "He threatened he would kill my husband if I shouted and raped me. He also threatened me of dire consequences if I ever revealed the matter." The couple ran away from Malviya's house. "We were afraid that Malviya, being a powerful Congress man, might get us killed," Manoj said. "We went to the police. They said we were crazy to have come with a complaint against the minister's representative. In Hoshangabad, the police told me to shut up." The victims are now in Bhopal expecting an appointment with DGP Dinesh Jugran. Police were not available for comment.

10:37 PM

'Ruling class denying political power to dalits, OBCs'

The Hindu - 17 May 2003

The former Deputy Chief Minister and President of the State unit of the JD(S), Siddaramaiah, said today that the ruling class in the country had been exploiting dalits and other backward classes (OBCs) by denying them political power.

Addressing a "Samarpana Rally" organised by the Karnataka State Dalit Sangharsha Samiti to mark Buddha Jayanti here, Mr. Siddaramaiah said the country's wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few and a majority of the people were denied social and economic rights.

The capitalist class, which had the money power, had been directing the Union and the State governments to formulate economic policies favouring it. The bureaucrats and politicians had been supporting the capitalists to keep their power and resources intact, he charged.

Buddha, Basavanna, and Ambedkar fought for the cause of mankind. Their teachings and principles advocated social, economic, and political equality. Instead of following their ideals, the leaders were exploiting the poor and dalits for the sake of power, he alleged.

Taking a dig at the Hindutva ideology of the BJP, Mr. Siddaramaiah said that it was not interested in the welfare of the people.

The BJP leaders such as Narendra Modi were dividing society on communal lines to gain political mileage.

Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism due to the drawbacks in the Hindu religion. There were many divisions, castes, and sub-castes in it. But Buddhism was based on the principles of non-violence, social and economic equality, and justice, Mr. Siddaramaiah said.

The former Deputy Chief Minister accused the NDA Government of yielding to the pressure by the U.S.

The Government had adopted liberal economic policies to allow multinational companies from the U.S. to set up their units in the country and exploit its resources. The closure of many public sector units created labour unrest and unemployment.

He sought an amendment to the Constitution to provide 22 per cent reservation in jobs in private companies.

The former Health minister, H.C. Mahadevappa, urged the dalits to fight for social and economic justice. Social conflicts in society could be eliminated by empowering dalits and the poor, he added.

The Organising Convenor of the DSS, Laxminarayana Nagawara, welcomed the gathering.

The dalit writers, Siddalingaiah, and Chennanna Valikar, spoke. The Convenor of the DSS, D.G. Sagar, presided over the function.

Earlier, the DSS activists took out a procession from the Jakkarayanakere Ground near Seshadripuram to the Government Arts College Ground.

10:19 PM

Several UP Dalits in jail under POTA

Sify News - 16 May 2003, by Vinay Krishna Rastogi

Under the regime of Dalit Chief Minister Mayawati, several Dalits have been booked under the POTA in Uttar Pradesh.

About Seventy per cent of those booked under Pota in fact belong to the Scheduled castes and Tribes . They have been booked by the police in various districts despite the fact that the law is meant only for anti-nationals and terrorists.

Shockingly, many of the detenus are in their teens. The police invokes the draconian law at its whim.

For instance, 16 persons, mainly Dalits in Sonebhadra district are still in jail under the Act. They include Sukhlal Baiga, Shambhu Chero, Rahul Baiga and Naresh Panika

Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed by human rights activists with National Human Rights Commission seeking an immediate intervention.

When the state government had attracted criticism for invoking the POTA against former minister Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiyya and his aged father the chief minister had announced that the draconian law would be used only against hardened criminals, terrorists and anti-national elements. But the reality is is in total contrast.

10:15 PM

Many dalits jailed under Pota

Times of India - 16 May 2003, by Rajiv Ranjan Jha

In spite of the state government's repeated announcements that the Pota would be invoked only against people involved in anti-national activities and hardened criminals, many innocent villagers are lodged in jails under the anti-terrorist law.

Besides, the district administration announced the names of over two dozen people from Sonebhadra district saying that the Pota would be withdrawn against them. Of them, six were from Chopan block and 10 from Dudhi block and the rest from other parts of the district. While the government may have lifted the Pota against them, the district administration has not withdrawn the cases lodged against them, making the withdrawal of the draconian law meaningless.

When asked to comment on it, special secretary, home, Rajesh Agrawal said that the Pota was withdrawn against them but they were in jail under various sections of other laws which could not be waived.

Of those booked under the Pota in the state, 75 per cent are from the eastern districts, most of them Dalits and adivasis. Some of them were even in their teens. However, till now, permission was granted against only 25 for cases under the Pota, the official said.

When the state government attracted criticism for invoking the Pota against Raghuraj Pratap Singh and his aged father, the chief minister had announced that the draconian law would be used only against hardened criminals and it would be withdrawn against those who did not come under the category of hardened criminals.

Those still in jail are Sukhlal Baiga, Shambhu Chero, Rahul Baiga, Bhagwat Chero, Mahendra and Shanker (from Chopan block), Ram Das, Ram Prasad Gaur, Ram Naresh Panika, Ram Chandra Gaur, Jagat Gaur, Ram Sakal Gaur, Raj Kumar Gaur, Basanti Lal, Raju Gaur and Suresh Gaur (from Dudhi block). Raj Kumar Choudhary, Suresh Kahar, Kamar Chero, Birbal, Chandan Baitha, Azimuddin, Ravi Das Chamar, Rajendra Choudhary, Ashok Kumar, Kameshwawr Baitha and Meera alias Nisha are from other parts of the district.

Also, four of them, namely Raj Kumar Gaur, Basanti Lal, Raju Gaur and Suresh Gaur were killed in the Karahia encounter on April 21. They were released from jail earlier. Prior to this killing, Shyam Behari and Kamta had fallen to police bullets on March 8 in an encounter.

The government started a drive in Mirzapur and Sonebhadra districts to keep people away from Naxalism by offering them incentives in the form of development schemes. In the two districts, 271 villages which were under the influence of Naxalism, were declared as Ambedkar villages.

Even at a special meeting at Bhopal held to tackle Naxalism in the state, the participants from various states expressed concern on the rise of ultra-left in Uttar Pradesh, according to secretary, home, Dipti Vilas. Meanwhile, a complaint has been filed by human rights activists with the National Human Rights Commission, seeking immediate intervention in the matter.

12:25 PM

Dalit agenda: Diggy plans to attend business meet in US

Asian Age - 15 May 2003, by Sudhir K Singh

Determined to extract maximum political mileage from his so called "dalit agenda" and other paper initiatives in the social sector, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh will now be attending the Indo-US Joint Business Council Meet in New York. This, his backers feel, will partially make up for the failure to make it to Vancouver to attend an international conference on dalits which was arranged by an NGO.

Mr Singh had voluntarily informed reporters during his last press conference that his trip to Vancouver stood cancelled due to the ministry of external affairs' refusal to grant him "political" clearance. Pressed for details, Mr Singh's cryptic reply was, "Ask them!" Mr Singh's supporters, however, immediately put out stories in the local media that the Centre had sabotaged his visit since it feared the emergence of Mr Singh as a "messiah" of dalits following the "successful" implementation of the dalit agenda. The truth, however, was much more mundane. The Canadian government had apparently regretted its inability to give Mr Singh diplomatic status since there was nothing remotely "official" about the sojourn.

Though Mr Singh could have gone as a private citizen, this would have deprived him of the publicity and fanfare. Old-timers in the Congress privately admit that Mr Singh's "dalit agenda" is a hastily put-together document by a "bunch of Left-leaning JNU academicians used to the good life."

Ensuring a fair share of the dalit vote in the coming polls was its main aim, not their economic betterment. Deputy chief minister Jamuna Devi (a tribal) has been among its foremost critics. The BJP (which now has its own edition of the dalit agenda following the Mhow declaration) has accused Mr Singh of making a song and dance of distributing "useless stony land" to the landless, and sparking off social unrest in villages. In fact, it was the sheer "politics" behind the exercise, sources felt, which compelled the Jabalpur-based high court to put a stop to gifting away land till the non-dalit landless were also ensured a similar hand-out.

12:15 PM

40-yr-old Nepali Dalit woman ‘fed’ human excreta

Kathmandu Post - 10 April, by Manmohan Swanr

A middle-aged ‘dalit’ woman here is knocking on the doors of administration and various institutions, seeking justice, after she was forcefully ‘fed’ human excreta.

A resident of Dhangadhi Municipality-12, 40-year-old Muna Devi Damai, recently filed a case at the district police office against Parvati Thapa and her husband Bir Bahadur Thapa. "Both the husband and wife manhandled me and fed human faeces as I was going to reap wheat," she has alleged.

Muna, who was taken aback by the sudden attack by the Thapas, immediately cried for help. But by the time her two sons, who were sleeping inside the house, rushed to her rescue, the culprits had already smeared faeces all over her face, she further disclosed.

She was approached by neighbours who took her away. "I still feel uneasy and vomit whenever I remember the incident," Muna told The Kathmandu Post.

A quarrel erupted between Muna and Parvat eight months ago, when the former’s ox trespassed into Parvati’s field and grazed the paddy field.

Although Muna offered Parvati compensation for this, the latter denied it and continued hurling abuses at her at every opportune moment.

Tired of all this, Muna finally decided to resolve matters with Parvati’s husband. A day before that could happen, she was attacked by the couple.

Meanwhile, the locals held a meeting and decided to fine Parvati Rs 5000, holding her responsible for misbehaviour towards Muna. But Parvati did not pay more than Rs 1000 to her.

Muna then filed a case against Parvati and her husband Bir Bahadur Thapa at the district police office. "Please, I need justice," she pleaded.

8:20 AM

Thursday, May 15, 2003  
Violence to keep Dalits away from temples

Indian Express - 14 May 2003, by Radheshyam Jadhav

A dalit movement to be allowed entry into temples in the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra has taken a bloody turn with the upper castes resorting to violence against it. Earlier, upper caste community members had tried ostracising and threatening Dalit Mahasangh, the outfit spearheading the movement. The Mahasangh is active in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts.

Yesterday, upper caste members pelted stones and blocked roads when a Dalit group was returning after a visit to the Basweshwara temple at Hitni, a village in Kolhapur

A violent mob also set afire the tehsildar’s jeep and two police motorbikes and pelted stones at police on bandobast duty. Police took 30 villagers into custody who were later released on bail.

Twenty-five people, including police officials, were injured in the incident. The mob turned violent when police led the Dalit activists to safety after their temple visit. Later in the evening, the Dalit community at Gadhinglaj arranged a morcha against the violence.

The row began when the Dalit community from Madyal in Kolhapur entered the Somlinga temple in the village on Ambedkar Jayanti. Villagers said they are not against temple entrance, but ‘‘outsider’’ Dalits are creating tension.

Superintendent of Police R.K. Padmanabhan claimed that police had controlled the situation in Hitni. The Republican Party of India today submitted a memorandum to the district collector and the SP and demanded strict action against those involved in prohibiting Dalits from entering temples.

8:02 PM

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