"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.
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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.
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Saturday, May 24, 2003
Dalit diaspora joins the fight
Indian Express - 24 May, by Vivek Kumar
The Dalit diaspora has all of a sudden become visible. Yet another Dalit international conference was successfully concluded earlier this month in Vancouver, Canada, with the help of the Dalit diaspora in different parts of the world. This is the fourth such conference organised since 1998. The first one was organised in Malaysia, by the Dalit International Organisation in October 1998. It was followed by a two-day international conference on Dalit human rights in London in September 2000 by the Voice of Dalit International (VODI). VODI organised another International Dalit conference in India in February 2003. Besides, Dalits also participated in the World Conference Against Racism in Durban.
Three factors have contributed to the new visibility of the Dalit diaspora. One, increased communication facilities because of the information revolution. Log on to www.ambedkar.org, webmaster@ gururavidasssabha.org etc. and you can find out all about them. Two, the strengthening of civil society, with NGOs, both at the international and national level, taking keen interest in issues related to Dalits and other marginalised sections. And lastly, the intervention of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, World Bank, and other international and national institutions for maintenance of human rights of Dalit and other deprived sections. Based on the issues discussed in these Dalit international conferences, it is possible to arrive at an objective assessment of the present nature, scope, success and failure of the Dalit movement. We can also list the challenges faced by the Dalit movement in the 21st century.
Faced with atrocities within the Hindu social order, at the outset, Dalits in India face a challenge: Should they remain within the Hindu fold or convert to Buddhisim or to any other religion? The Dalit leadership has failed to give any clear cut direction to its followers. Further, the Dalit movement today faces a challenge from the communal forces, an issue on which these conferences have only voiced their concern without coming out with a strategy. The second challenge for the Dalits is how to face the onslaught of the processes of globalisation, privatisation, liberalisation etc. The rolling back of the state is making reservations for the Dalits under Article 335 of the Indian Constitution redundant. On the other hand, with the coming of MNCs, the demand for management, engineering, computer application degree holders is increasing, which Dalits can’t cater to. One, because they are late starters in the realm of education and secondly, technical education is expensive which Dalits can’t afford.
There are two paths suggested by the Dalits to tackle the aforesaid problem. One, capture political power by forming an independent party and implement your own agenda. This is being mooted on the basis that the Constitution gives the Dalits rights at par with other citizens, including the right to vote. The only effort which Dalits must make is to get these rights implemented in letter and spirit, which is possible only by forming a government. But the irony is that Dalits on their own do not have the numbers to form a government. So they must enter into alliances with some other political force. And it is difficult for them to find suitable allies.
The other path is that of diversity-supplier in recruitment. Recruitment diversity, which is now restricted to the government and public undertakings, will arguably extend into the private sector. Here, one can argue that if the rights enshrined in the Constitution were not fulfilled in the last 52 years, who can take the guarantee for the private sector?
How to bring the diverse facets of the Dalit movement into a state of dialogue is another challenge. Today the Dalit movement has diversified its nature and scope. There is the Dalit political and socio-religious reform movement, movement of Dalit bureaucracy, Dalit intellectual movement, which includes a number of magazines, journals, internet magazines and conferences etc. Today we also have international Dalit organisations led by the Dalit diaspora which are trying to raise issues confronting the Dalits. They have taken up matters concerning Dalits with the World Bank, IMF and UNHRC.
Another challenge for the Dalit movement is to bring Dalit women in its fold. Generally it is said that though the Dalit woman is triply exploited on the bases of caste, class and gender, yet she enjoys greater gender equality in comparison to women of other castes. Even so, Dalit women and their issues are absent from the Dalit movement. To spread the Dalit movement in regions like Orissa, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, and create consciousness among the different castes other than the Mahars and Chamars, is another huge challenge confronting the Dalit movement. The international conferences have been successful in creating a greater visibility for the plight of the Dalits at the international level. Yet, unless the Dalit leadership is prepared to face the challenges faced by the Dalit movement back home, its development will be crippled.
Friday, May 23, 2003
Govt apathetic to Dalit burning case
NDTV.com - 23 May, by Imtiyaaz Jaleel
The burning of a Dalit youth in the Jalna district of Maharashtra over a water dispute has now become an issue which local politicians are exploiting.
Politicians are trading charges against each other with an eye at assembly elections. And despite enough wells in the village the district collector is making arrangement for new wells just for the Dalit community.
It was in Bhootegaon village in Maharashtra's Jalna district that 22-year-old Dilip Shengde, a Dalit man was burnt alive last week over a water dispute.
Dilip's 14-year-old sister Lata had gone to fill water when she was stopped by some men from the dominant Maratha community.
In the quarrel that followed, they attacked her house and burnt Dilip to death. A week later, Bhootegaon village remains a village deeply divided.
In fact, the administration is now making separate arrangements for the 18 Dalit families to fill water.
"The women of the village insisted that if they were given a separate borewell, this situation wouldn't be repeated. We will now provide them a borewell," said M N Kerkatta, District Collector, Jalna.
So far the police have arrested 11 people in connection with the case and among them is at least one NCP worker. With the assembly elections due next year, the issue has now acquired political overtones as all parties trying to gain traction from the issue.
Dalit leaders allege that the case is being suppressed, and the Shiv Sena which in recent months has been wooing the Dalit vote is now using this incident to demonstrate its concern for them.
"Those who burnt the boy were NCP activists who claim to protect the interests of Dalits, which they didn't really do," claimed Bhaskar Ambedkar, Shiv Sena leader.
Meanwhile, the condition of Dilip's mother who also sustained severe burns continues to be critical. She has been shifted from Jalna to a private hospital in Aurangabad.
The government seems to have taken the entire issue very lightly. Even after seven days of the incident not a single minister has bothered to visit the village. Elections in Maharashtra just a few months away, so for the opposition this is an ideal issue to cash in on.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
NCP activist suspect in murder of Dalit boy
NDTV.com - 22 May, by Imtiyaaz Jaleel
In Bhootegaon village in Maharashtra's Jalna district, 22-year old Dilip Shengde, a Dalit, was burnt alive last week over a water dispute.
Dilip's 14-year old sister Lata had gone to fill water when she was stopped by some men from the dominant Maratha community. In the quarrel that ensued, they attacked her house and burnt Dilip alive.
A week later Bhootegaon remains a village deeply divided. With Assembly elections round the corner, the Shiv Sena and the ruling Nationalist Congress Party are busy trading charges and trying to impart political overtones to the tragedy.
In the meanwhile, the administration is now making separate arrangements for the 18 Dalit families here to fill water.
"The women of the village insisted that if they were given a separate borewell, such incidents wouldn't recur. We will now provide them a borewell," said MN Kerkatta, District Collector, Jalna.
So far the police have arrested eleven people in connection with the case and among them is at least one NCP worker.
With Dalit leaders alleging that the case is being suppressed, the Shiv Sena, which in recent months has been wooing the Dalit vote, is now using this incident to demonstrate its concern.
"Those who burnt the boy were NCP activists who claim to protect the interests of Dalits. But they don't really," said Bhaskar Ambedkar, Shiv Sena leader.
Meanwhile, Dilip's mother who also sustained severe burns continues to be critical and has been shifted from Jalna to a private hospital in Aurangabad.
"Proposed Criminal Justice Reforms Will Destroy Dalit Rights" - AHRC statement
Asian Human Rights Commission - 22 May
The Committee on Reforms of Criminal Justice System presented its Report to Mr. L.K.Advani the Deputy Prime Minister of India on 21 of April 2003. The most drastic recommendations made by the Committee will remove all the safeguards available in the Indian Criminal law to protect the Civil Liberties: They include, virtual undermining of the presumption of innocence; abandoning the proof beyond reasonable doubt to a lesser standard of proof; abandoning criminal trial and adopting a civil arbitration approach, abandoning the right of silence of the accused, admissibility of confessions in trials and the appointment of a police officer as a Director General of Public Prosecutions. The total impact of all this is a draconian police state. Once these basic safeguards are removed, the Human Rights included in the Indian Constitution will have no meaning. Instead of the Constitutional rights and the rule of law, India will return to the law of Manu, the ruthlessly authoritarian style of rule that it has had in most of its history.
The worst affected will be the ones who had been worst affected previously, the Dalits, the indigenous people and the minorities. The rich and the powerful have always enjoyed absolute impunity. When, even the little achievements made in the recent past are lost, the least powerful section will have to endure jail and torture, with no effective remedy. The organization of Dalits that are struggling to liberate themselves will pay a very heavy price. The Upper Caste right wing organizations which have gained tremendous power in recent times, will now also have the complete backing of the police. Following words from the novel by Arundhati Roy “God of Small Things” is grim reminder of what lies ahead; "They heard the thud of wood on flesh. Boot on bone. On teeth. The muffled grunt when a stomach is kicked in. The muted crunch of skull on cement. The gurgle of blood on a man's breath when his lung is torn by the jagged end of a broken rib. Blue-lipped and dinner-plate-eyed, they watched, mesmer-ized by something that they sensed but didn't understand: the absence of caprice in what the policemen did. The abyss where anger should have been; the sober, steady brutality, the economy of it all."
The Dalit movement must take up the fight to see that these recommendations will never be implemented. A Huge campaign for the Indian Government to ratify the Convention against Torture and to make Torture a Crime Punishable with serious penal consequences must be a core aspect of the Dalit campaign for survival and progress.
Anti-Dalit panchayats (village councils) will be denied funds
Asian Age - 21 May
The Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday undertook to initiate corrective measures for the conduct of elections in the four panchayat unions in the southern districts, where dominant Thevar caste people have been preventing dalits from contesting the reserved post of president for several years.
The government assurance followed a stern warning from the National Commission for SC/ST that development funds would be cut off to such rogue panchayats.
"We will withdraw all funds and facilities to these panchayats until elections are held," commission chairman Bijay Sonkar Shastry told reporters here, after holding discussions with the state chief secretary, Ms Lakshmi Pranesh, and other senior officials. He said the state team responded positively to his suggestion to send a team to the four panchayat unions at Keeripatti, Pappanpatti and Nattarmangalam in Madurai district and Kottakatchiendal in Virudhunagar district for creating a conducive atmosphere for the local body polls.
"After their visit, I will follow," Mr Shastry said, adding: "We have already given instructions to the government that elections should be conducted at the earliest. We have instructed that if the villagers do not allow elections, they should be penalised by the state. Funds for infrastructure projects, like road-laying, would be cut off," he warned. Expressing concern that dalits were being increasingly targeted, Mr Shastry said Rajasthan led the states in the incidence of atrocities against dalits. It may be recalled that in March this year, two dalits had filed nominations for president in Keeripatti for the April 7 poll but were forced to withdraw fearing threats.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Dalit boy killed for sister's 'folly'
www.ndtv.com - 19 May
The fight for water gets more savage by the day. In a small village in Maharashtra, a 22-year-old Dalit boy was burnt to death because his sister defied the power of the dominant caste and filled her bucket at the only tap in the whole village.
In a village in Jalna, a Dalit girl, 14-year-old Lata Shendge, had gone to fill water from the only water source - a hand pump.
She says she was stopped by some young men from the dominant Maratha community. As the quarrel escalated, they attacked her house and burnt her brother, Dilip, to death.
Their mother, who pleaded with the crowd to spare her son's life, was also severely burnt.
"They threw my pot away, then beat me up and burnt my brother alive when he intervened," narrated Lata.
Dilip was to get married on May 27, and the family had come back to their village for the ceremony.
Lata's mother is in deep shock and says she can identify those who burnt her son. "I pleaded with them to spare my son but they burnt him. God will not forgive them," said a disconsolate Shantabai, Dilip and Lata's mother.
While nine people have been arrested, police admit, rather shockingly, that the boy brought it upon himself by provoking the Marathas, who are the dominant caste in that village.
The Marathas themselves claim that the son and mother burnt themselves.
Dalits denied entry into temple
Kathmandu Post (Nepal) - 17 May, by Binod Tripathi
The Pujari (priest) of the Kalika temple in the Western Region of the country has denied access to the people of the Dalit community to the temple and offering their prayer.
The priest of this temple who recognizes many of the Dalits living theoes not allow them to step into the threshold of this temple which is quite popular from the tourist as well as from the religious point of view.
After being barricaded by the priest, Krishna Prasad Paudel, the Dalits there have requested the Human Right Organisations working there to help them out.
"After many futile requests to the Temple Management Committee which did not yield to anything, we had to seek help of organisations working in the field of human rights," reiterated professor Dambhar Beka. Whenever the Dalit womenfolk visited the temple to worship, they had to face staunch humiliation from the priest of the temple, and therefore to bring an end to this discrimination on the ground of caste through the existing law and justice they have approached the Human Right Organisation operating in their locality, added Beka.
According to the information provided by Beka, a Dalit from Thulipokhari who had come to this temple here on the occasion of Chaite Dasai Festival had been stopped by the priest. Narrating yet another incident he said that not only was a Dalit from Pang VDC permitted to enter the temple premises but was insulted badly infront of many worshippers who had gathered there on the occasion. They had instantly condemned such behaviour of the temple priest, but none has lend their ears to listen to our plight and thus provide justice to them, lamented Beka.
So far the priest has kept the Dalits at bay from this temple. The priest not only bars the Dalits from offering prayers, but upon suspicion he also asks the particular people if he belongs to the Dalit caste or not. On Friday Ganesh Sunwar and Bimala Sunwar who came from Pokhara to worship the idol at this temple had to bear the brunt of the priest’s tantrums. They quietly sneaked into the temple when the priest was out, and in one occasion the priest came to know about this and scolded a youth painter present then for not having stopped these Dalits from entering the temple.
Such behaviour from the religious authority at this temple is likely to bring that negative impact on other devotees who visit the temple with positive attitude said the district secretary of UML, Shree Prasad Sharma. He added that though they have been hearing time and again that anybody is allowed to enter the public temples, then such behaviour is inappropriate.
The Charmakar (so considered low caste) people have been indulged in the construction of the temple, but when it comes to worshipping inside the temple they are denied permission. Three years back when a group of Charmakars had made an attempt to enter this temple they had been stopped by the management committee and a squabble had surged up. Since then they had been denied access completely.
Monday, May 19, 2003
Upper caste intimidation undermines village elections in Tamil Nadu
The Hindu - 20 May
The National Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) Commission has asked the State Government to "withdraw all facilities" and funds for and "penalise'' four reserved villages in southern Tamil Nadu, where panchayat (village) elections have not been held for a few years now due to alleged upper caste intimidation.
Concerned at the administration's inability to hold the polls, the Commission Chairman, Bizay Sonkar Shastri, who was in the city today, also instructed the Chief Secretary, Lakshmi Pranesh, to immediately depute a team of "capable" officials, MLAs and public representatives to the villages and create an atmosphere conducive to conducting the exercise.
"Such a discrimination should not be allowed to continue in this modern age,'' Mr. Shastri asserted, in an interaction with the media, after discussions with the Chief Secretary and other senior officials.
Mr. Shastri said the Chief Secretary had agreed to take the "needful steps" to ensure the conduct of elections at Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattarmangalam in Madurai district and at Kottakatchiendal in Virudhunagar district. "If the team is not able to convince the villagers, I myself will visit the panchayats to ensure the conduct of elections," he asserted.
In all the four panchayats, Dalits are in a minority and the majority upper caste is refusing to accept a Dalit president. While no elections could be held at Kottakatchiendal in the last eight years, at Pappapatti and Keeripatti, barring once, no Dalit came forward to file the nomination, fearing reprisal. At Nattarmangalam, elections could not be held for the last two years, because no Dalit dared to contest.
To a question, Mr. Shastri said the State Government proposal to bring tribal residential schools and Adi Dravidar schools under the Education department could be dropped now, though he was not in favour of creating an `island' of Dalits. However, he said, the State's allocation of funds under the Special Component Plan and the tribal sub-plan and implementation of welfare projects for SC/ST were "satisfactory".
Dalit Youth from Andhra Pradesh sets himself on fire due to caste intimidation
The Hindu - 20 May
A Dalit youth, Rajasekhar (16) of Moosapet, who set himself afire on May 8 after he was allegedly abused in the name of caste by a neighbour, succumbed to burns at Gandhi Hospital on Monday. The victim's parents and relatives, led by leaders of the Communist Party of India (CPI), staged a demonstration in front of the Kukatpally police station demanding action against the accused, Sudarshan Patel and Mallesh Patel.
UNICEF programme to induce dalit children to join school
Kathmandu Post - 14 May, by Prakash Adhikari
With further assistance from the UNICEF, the District Education Office of Tanahu to revive the programme started last year to encourage socially deprived children from the Dalit community to enrol in schools in their villages. The campaign plans to include more children in this programme this year.
UNICEF has decided to provide financial assistance of Rs. 2.18 million to conduct two additional programmes.
Last year the education office had conducted a similar educational encouragement programme at Bhanu and Bandipur VDCs, encompassing Byas municipality, which had provided educational relief to 100 children from four VDCs there. It is learnt that this year, the office will be providing this scheme to 75 more children from Bhimad, Bhanumati and Majhkot VDCs.
In order to encourage children to enrol in schools, to discourage dropping out half-way and to encourage children to pass exams, the programme envisages providing children with school uniforms, basic stationery and a stipend of Rs. 7 a day, afternoon meal and / or snacks.
An introductory seminar was conducted on Tuesday, to provide information about this educational encouragement programme. The seminar dwelt on procedures to be undertaken by teachers to curb the number of children failing their exams and the development of educational skill among the teachers.
Gopal Krishna Paudel, the District Education Officer, expressed his view of the need to increase the educational intake of the children by 10 percent, training to the teachers, and effective management of classes. At this seminar emphasis was also given to the need of conducting ability development programme for teachers. It is learnt that the ability development programme, which was conducted in 16 schools in Byas municipality and Jamune VDC, was to be extended to 15 more schools this year.
Of the amount received from UNICEF, approximately Rs. 1.01 million has been ear-marked for providing inducement to the socially deprived children to attend schools; Rs. 7,80,000 for de-centralised learning procedure of children, and Rs. 3,30,000 to be chalked out for improving the efficiency of the School Management Committee. UNICEF has already disbursed a sum of Rs. 516,350 as the first instalment.
Nepal peace-process talks "will address Dalit issues"
Himalayan News Service - May 2003
The issues of the Dalits will be duely highlighted during the on-going peace process, Narayan Singh Pun, minister for physical planning and works, and also a member of the government-Maoist dialogue team, said today.
He admitted that the Dalits were forced to get involved in the Maoist movement due to the injustice meted out to them by society, but expressed satisfaction over the progress made by community. Pun was speaking at the fifth memorial day of Meena Swornakar, a leader of the Dalit movement. Meena died in a road accident five years ago in India. Since then, her death anniversary has been observed by the Dalit Service Association with her being declared as a martyr of the Dalit movement.
Pun said peace would not exist unless the root causes of the present turmoil were addressed. The minister honoured different personalities for their contributed to the uplift of the Dalit community and creating awareness among the people. Those honoured were Sangeeta Nepali - an MBBS student, Raju Biswokarma, Tek Tamarakar, an advocate, singer Sapana Shree and Surrendra Sijapati, a dramatist. Channel Nepal, Spacetime Dainik and Metro FM were also honoured during the function.
Assistant minister for land reforms and management, Prakash Chitrakar Pariyar appealed to the Dalits youths not to be involved in the sister organisations of the political parties as that would only serve to blur their identity. He also said that democracy would never bring prosperity to the people unless Dalits are uplifted.
In a similar vein, advocate Dinesh Tripathy asked: "How can people say we practice democracy when suppressed communities form a large chunk of society?"
Hasta Bahadur Biswokarma, vice president of the Nepal Samata Party warned of another armed struggle if the issues of Dalits were not addressed properly. Tek Tamrakar, an advocate who was honoured, said such programmes would help change perceptions of the society regarding the Dalits. The participants asked the government to declare Meena Swornakar a martyr.