"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 31, 2003
Dalit works as temple priest
Himalayan Times (Nepal) - 27 May
Though Arjun Bishwokarma is from the Dalit community he has been working as a priest at the Rangeli temple of Morang district from the past seven years.
"Earlier, when I was working as a priest in the temple the local people tried to boycott me. I lodged a complaint against the discrimination at the District Administration Office and the Chief District Officer decided in my favour. I was inspired by his decision," Arjun said.
The temple where Arjun is a priest is located 18 km east from Biratnagar, the district headquarters of Morang. Most of the local residents know that the priest at the temple belongs to the Dalit community but they do not misbehave with him.
"When I began working as a priest at the temple some eight years ago, the local people tried all their best to remove me from my job. They even threatened me to throw into the river if I would not leave the place," he said.
"They also lodged a complaint against me at the DAO to seek CDO's order to ban me work as a priest but the CDO took my side," he said.
"They tried to replace me with a Brahmin priest and but he asked me to continue working as a priest because he was afraid to work in such a tensed condition," Arjun said.
Friday, May 30, 2003
British MPs condemn dalit human rights violations
The following is the text of an early day motion (the term used to describe notices of motions given by Members that are not generally expected to be debated). The EDM is sponsored by Jeremy Corbyn MP. Since it was published on 21 May, it has been signed by 13 MPs, including former government minister Tony Banks. The signatories represent a broad cross-section of the House of Commons and include eight Labour MPs, two Conservatives, one Liberal Democrat, one Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalist) and one Ulster Unionist.
"That this House condemns the continued atrocities against Dalits in South Asia, especially in India; recommends, in the light of revelations about the distribution of Gujarat earthquake aid, re-evaluation of development policies, programmes and cooperation agreements and the use of aid on the basis of their effect on Dalit communities; strongly recommends implementation of general recommendations on descent-based discrimination made by the UN Committee for Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and calls upon the Home Office to monitor the activities of the right-wing Hindutva organisations operating in the United Kingdom to ensure that they are not promoting caste and descent-based discrimination and the practice of untouchability."
Thousands flock to Mai’s funeral
Express News Service - 29 May
Thousands of mourners gathered at Chaityabhoomi in Dadar on Thursday, as Savita (Mai) Ambedkar (91), wife of Dr B R Ambedkar, was cremated with full state honours. Mai Ambedkar passed away at 5.30 am at J J Hospital, where she was admitted for critical care a month ago. Incidentally, it was here — at the Grant Medical College attached to the hospital — that she got her MBBS degree in 1937. Ambedkar was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit on May 19, after a prolonged illness. The funeral procession started at Rajgriha, the Ambedkar residence at Hindu Colony, Dadar, at 3 pm. A trail of mourners constituted the procession, with a slowly thickening crowd of Dalits, political leaders, onlookers and relatives milling around the flower-bedecked truck. Chants of ‘Mai Ambedkar amar rahe’ went up as the body was wheeled into the electric crematorium at about 5.30pm.
'‘We came all the way from Badlapur, we could not catch a glance of Mai, though,’’ says Namdeo V Shinde (45), a contract labourer who was present with his family of six. But there were others who decided to try till the very end. So, when the crowd grew stronger and the gates of the crematorium had to be closed, people began jumping over the wall, creating chaos and confusion. Then there were others like Bapuji Raje (50), a resident of Lower Parel, who decided to just step back and watch instead of shouldering his way into the crowd.
Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Republican Party of India leaders Prakash Ambedkar, Ramdas Athavale, Gangadhar Gade and Namdeo Dhasal and various Democratic Front ministers were among those present. Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Satyanaraya Jatiya flew down to the metropolis to represent the central government.
Kerala: Dalit Federation oppose upper caste reservation
Kerela Next - 30 May
Kollam: The Kerala Dalit Federation has opposed the move to introduce reservation for the economically backward among the forward communities.
KDF state president P.Ramabhadran said in Kollam that the architects of the Constitution to ensure the participation of the backward communities in the administration and political power of the country introduced reservation.
Any attempt to mix the economic criterion in the job reservation would harm the very objective of reservation, he said.
He appealed to the Dalit-Backward MPs of all political parties to defeat the "upper caste reservation bill" introduced by the BJP with the backing of the Congress.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Ambedkar's wife passes away
The Hindu - 29 May
Savita Ambedkar (94), wife of B.R. Ambedkar, died here today after a prolonged illness. She leaves behind three grandsons, including the former nominated Rajya Sabha member, Prakash Ambedkar, who heads a faction of the RPI.
Affectionately known as `mai', she had a role when the Dalit Panther movement was born in Maharashtra. She had studied medicine and was working in a hospital when she married Ambedkar. The Maharashtra Government accorded a State funeral.
'We have lost an adviser, a mentor'
Press Trust of India - 29 May
Member of Parliament and wellknown Dalit leader of Maharashtra Ramdas Athavale remembers Savita 'Mai' Ambedkar, the 95-year-old wife of the late Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who passed away in Mumbai on Thursday.
Maisaheb Ambedkar was like family to me. Her contribution to the Dalit movement is unparalleled.
She was from a Brahmin family, but still married Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. By this act she proved that the scourge of caste system in India could be destroyed by inter-caste marriages. All her life she spoke against the ills of the caste system in India.
When Dr Ambedkar wrote the Indian Constitution, she was by his side. When he wrote Dharam Granth, Maisaheb helped him. Babasaheb used to say that Savita was a great help to him in completing his works.
When Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956, she followed suit. She spent eight years with Dr Ambedkar and those eight years had a great influence on his life.
It was in Siddharth College, Mumbai, in 1978 that I first met her. She was a great supporter of the Dalit Panther movement. She was a great inspiration to the youth of my generation. As a college boy, I used to stay at a hostel in Wadala and travel to Dadar to meet her very often. I was greatly influenced by her thoughts.
Whenever we held programmes, she invariably was there as a special guest. She was very helpful to all of us. For the past 24 years I was in regular touch with her.
She had great faith in Buddhism. She often urged her Hindu friends to give up their blind beliefs. Many of them criticised her. They felt that she was forgetting her roots of Brahminism.
In Dalit Panther she was a great source of support and inspiration to all of us. We will always be indebted to her for her contribution. She made a big difference in Dalit politics and inspired many young Dalit leaders like me. Her passing away is a great blow to the Dalit community.
She was not much of a political force because she was never part of active politics. She was not interested in politics and posts. Her only interest was social change. She used to advise us on all matters we took to her.
We have lost an adviser, a mentor.
Dalits are still being discriminated against in India. They are still looking for a voice that can articulate their case. Maisaheb spent a lifetime fighting this discrimination, giving voice to the underprivileged and the dispossessed.
Her only aim in the last few days of her life was to unite all Dalit parties under one roof. She was very disappointed when we all split into different groups. I hope we will come together after her death. If we do, her soul will rest in peace.
`Gehlot playing politics of quota'
The Hindu - 29 May
NEW DELHI MAY 29. Giving a new turn to the recently triggered debate on providing reservation for the economically backward upper castes, the Justice Party chief, Udit Raj, suggested that reservation be fixed for all castes, proportionate to population.
Maintaining that reservation was not going to be the panacea for the plethora of problems, he suggested at a press conference that the real solution lay in providing equal and compulsory education for all and the elimination of the caste system.
Mr. Raj alleged that the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, "played politics of reservation" and the BJP too grabbed the opportunity to recommend the setting up of a national commission to identify the criteria to give reservation to the poor among the upper castes.
"The most pertinent question arises whether the poor among the untouchables and the upper castes are equally placed. Is a poor Brahmin ready to enter into marital relationship with a poor Dalit? Are high caste poor not allowed access to temples, wells and ponds? Are their houses being burned? Here lies the difference between the poor of upper castes and untouchables," he said.
Three policemen charged with two Dalits' murder
Times of India - 29 May
Even as the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the panel monitoring violation of human rights in UP and defined the ambit of the UP State Human Rights Commission, the concern of chief minister Mayawati on crime against the Schedule Castes/ Tribes incurred a battering when two dalit men, including a Bahujan Samaj Party activist, were allegedly tortured to death by police in the state capital. The kin of the deceased, after ten days of pursuing the issue with all top bosses, finally got an FIR registered against three policemen on Wednesday after DGP Hakam Singh took note of the issue.
On May 17 Ramanand (30) of Kamlapur village in Sarojni Nagar police circle was riding his motorcycle around 8 pm and, as he reached Bijnore police outpost, he was reportedly intercepted by sub-inspector Anil Kumar Chaubey, in charge of Bijnore police outpost, along with AK Singh and Chandrabhan Rai. Chaubey asked Ramanand to produce registration paper of the vehicle and a heated argument ensued between the two. Ramanand was allegedly beaten by the policemen and later released.
Thereafter, Ramanand reached home with injuries on his body. His wife Savitri claimed that around 11 pm, a police team again arrived at the house of Ramanan
Independent body to asses work for dalits
Sify.com - 29 May
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh today said an independent committee will be formed in the state to assess the work done for welfare of dalits.
''An independent body will be constituted to assess the work done by my government and Mayawati led Uttar Pradesh government for welfare of dalits,''he told reporters at the conclusion of two-day ''Pachmarhi Conclave'' of the Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee.
Stressing on education Mr Singh said, ''through universalisation of education evils like infant mortality rate can be reduced in the state.
'' ''Efforts are on to solve the power-situation in the state and will bring out a white-paper on the issue shortly, Rs 2500 crore have been invested for development of roads in the state while the state stands seventh in terms of industrialisation,''he said.
Castigating the BJP for spreading communal tension ahead of November polls, Mr Singh assured that no one will be allowed to disrupt the communal peace in Madhya Pradesh.
''A united Congress can easily defeat BJP in Madhya Pradesh,' 'he said
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
NCW seeks report from Jharkhand and UP on torture, rape case
Zee News - 28 May
Taking serious note of the reported incidents of torture of a woman after being branded as 'witch' in Jharkhand and rape of a dalit woman by her father-in-law in Uttar Pradesh, National Commission for Women (NCW) today sought reports from the respective state governments into the incidents.
"NCW has asked these state governments to submit their reports into the incidents failing which it will do its own investigation into the cases," NCW sources said.
According to the media reports, one Shivwati was branded 'witch', dragged out of her house, beaten, tortured and even forced to consume human faeces in Ranchi.
Shivwati, who belonged to a backward class of "junwani", remained motionless for four hours because of broken bones, the report said and quoted area SHO saying "she was just 15 minutes away from the death."
The reports further added that Shivwati has been discharged from the hospital and was staying with her parents in a neighbouring village.
In second incident, one Anarkali was raped in Amethi by her father-in-law who was against the marriage of his son to her.
Five Dalits stripped, beaten up
Deccan Herald - 28 May
Caste Hindus allegedly forced five Dalit men to strip half-naked, tied them to a pole and thrashed them on Sunday at Marakumbi village, around 15 km from here. The five were accused of stealing paddy. The next morning, villagers who congregated at the Gram Sabha, also imposed a fine of Rs 2,500 on them, it is learnt.
The government has built a Samudaya Bhavan in the Harijan area of Marakumbi exclusively for the use of Dalits. A businessman and a farmer Tirumalappa used to store his paddy in this bhavan. The five youth demanded that the bhavan be cleared of all the paddy as it was meant for public use and did not belong to any individual. Dalit leaders expressed their inability to free the bhavan from the clutches of the businessman, sources said.
The five youth then approached Mr Tirumalappa and requested him to clear out of the bhavan. They told him that the bhavan was needed to hold functions and moreover the poor Dalits could sleep in the bhavan in the nights to escape the deadly bite of snakes and scorpions. Mr Tirumalappa did not budge. The youth later threatened to complain to the government. When the news spread, furious caste Hindus held a meeting. Later they accused the five youths of trying to steal the paddy stored in the bhavan. On Sunday, they rounded the youths up and thrashed them. The mothers of the youth were roughed up when they tried to give the youths some water.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
The Hindu - 27 May, by Gail Omvedt
In India, and the world as a whole... Dalits themselves are calling for action on all fronts, a cultural-economic and political revolution.
A three-day international Dalit Conference in the coastal Canadian city of Vancouver, inaugurated by the former President, K. R. Narayanan, brought together Dalits and their sympathisers from all over the world and cast a new challenge before Indian political parties seeking to woo Dalit votes in the upcoming elections. The Vancouver Declaration demanded a rightful share for Dalits in India's wealth, institutions, and capital — with specific reference to Dalit women — and called on all corporations, including multinationals, to recognise their social responsibilities. This reflected debates and meetings of the recent past in which we can see a genuine internationalisation of the anti-caste movement.
Though an international conference was held in Malaysia in 1988, the first real thrust came with the United Nations-sponsored World Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. With the support of a few NGOs and energetic mobilisation by Dalits — including many based in north America — through email and other sources, Dalits and their sympathisers pressed their demands for treating caste as an ongoing reality, a major source of discrimination and oppression. Against major opposition from the Indian Government, Dalits succeeded at Durban in bringing their case to the international arena, forging alliances with disparate groups from African-Americans to the Burakumin in Japan. The official WCAR did not accept Dalit demands, yielding to the official Indian Government position in this respect.
However, in a more recent meeting of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August 2002, discrimination based on "caste and analogous systems of inherited status" was focussed on and a document adopted to challenge the global dimensions of caste discrimination and similar forms of social hierarchy. This is considered a major step forward not only by Dalits but also by representatives of other oppressed groups. The major step forward in terms of policy, however, was taken at the Bhopal conference, held on January 12-13, 2002 — the first Indian Government response to the issues raised at Durban — bringing together some 250 delegates from all over India as part of an enthusiastic gathering that totalled nearly 2000, including Dalits from Madhya Pradesh. While sponsored by the Madhya Pradesh Government under the leadership of Digvijay Singh, the initiative was taken by Dalit activists and the document finally accepted was chosen by the conference delegates without Government intervention. Its recommendations focussed on "diversity" — the share in resources and wealth which the Vancouver Declaration talks about, ranging from land to every Dalit family and providing a major percentage of Government contracts to Dalits as a first step in what is sometimes called "reservation in the private sector". These are beginning to be implemented by the Madhya Pradesh Government, often against strong caste Hindu resistance — particularly on land issues.
Following Bhopal, another important challenge was expressed to the intellectual defenders of caste when Professors Eleanor Zelliot and Gary Tartakov, two major U.S.-based academic sympathisers of Dalits, organised a full-day symposium on "Challenges to Caste" as a pre-conference event on October 10, just before the massive three-day South Asia academic conference held every year in Madiscon, Wisconsin.
Two other events at the same time also brought forward the new academic thrust — one, a conference at the University of Iowa which brought together Dalits and African-Americans, and the other, a symposium on October 18 on "Caste and its Discontents" at the Columbia University, a major centre of academic studies on South Asia in the U.S. Considering that academic studies on India and abroad are increasingly dominated by upper-caste expatriates from India, these events represented a major step forward, though the programmes did not have the direct political implications of either Bhopal or Durban. In some ways, the agenda both at Durban and Bhopal suffered from some limitations.
At Durban, the framework of specific U.N. language — in particular, having to fit caste within the framework of "race" (many argued afterwards that indeed "caste" could be considered a broader concept) — was in some ways hampering. In turn, the Bhopal conference, focussed primarily on economic issues, did not discuss culture — though the delegates at the conference frequently brought up issues of cultural and religious identity. This was not only related to the "Hindu identity" politics prevailing in Uttar Pradesh; the drafters of the Bhopal document also defend this with the argument that disassociation of caste from economic opportunity will represent the most major step forward under current conditions.
The Vancouver conference, however, discussed both cultural and economic issues. On the agenda were many of the issues being endlessly discussed throughout India in regard to caste: the problems of atrocities, of Dalit women; the question of social justice and transformation. Sessions were also held on Dalit literature, "Interfaith discourses for Dalits' development" and "Ideology and Vision of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and Shri Guru Ravidass." These sessions were chaired by Paul Diwekar, Vimal Thorat, Chanan Chahal and R.K. Nayak, while the chairperson of the conference itself was K.P. Singh, a political scientist now based at the University of Washington in Seattle.
In fact, the very holding of the conference was made possible largely due to the contributions of the Shri Guru Ravidass Sabhas of Vancouver and other Canadian cities. This indicates an important reality of Indian life abroad: the role of religious institutions in providing a community life, a basis for what many call "social capital." This has been heavily lacking among those few Dalits who have made it to the U.S.
Canadian Dalits have been in some ways in a stronger position than Dalits in the U.S. simply because there has been much more working class immigration. In the U.S., most Dalits are doctors, engineers or even businessmen; few are in the academic world, with Dr. Singh being one of the major exceptions. Some changes are gradually taking place here, with institutions such as the Ford Foundation sponsoring Dalit students doing Ph.D. abroad, and with even the Madhya Pradesh Government having committed itself to sponsoring 10 Dalits and Adivasis for post-graduate study in the U.S.
Only in some places in Canada has something like a Dalit community developed, and strikingly, this has been made possible by the religious integration and motivation provided by the Guru Ravidass institutions. Ravidass himself was one of many radical `bhaktas' who challenged caste identity and Brahmanic priestly monopoly during the 15th to 17th centuries in India — a period long after the defeat of Buddhism. While in most cases, the radicals were absorbed in the general cooptation of `bhakti', this did not happen so thoroughly with Ravidass, and the Ravidass movement has developed a strong sense of anti-Hindu identity. In Canada, freed from much of the economic and political hegemony of the upper castes, institutions like the Guru Ravidass Sabha have flourished.
Thus, the development of a new Dalit pride as well is pushing forward a growing self-confidence reflecting itself at the level of social and political organisation. In India, and the world as a whole, while politicians like Mayawati symbolise the new cultural-moral self-confidence of Dalits, and those like Digvijay Singh are pushing forward the economic agenda, Dalits themselves are calling for action on all fronts, a cultural-economic and political revolution.
Musahar school students’ fate uncertain
Kathmandu Post (Nepal) - 23 May, by Bijaya Prasad Mishra
The permission to conduct the Dalit Oppressed Ethnic Primary School, started with the help of donations from 70 families of Musahar ethnic people of Majaura VDC in Siraha, has been withheld by the District Education Office (DEO) of Siraha, following the notice of the cancellation of the school’s registration.
The reason for cancelling their registration, as informed by the DEO, was due to the then district education officer, Mohammud Hasrat Ali, who had provided them permission to conduct a school violating the directions of the Department as well as of the directive-body. Including this school registration of six other schools have been nullified as well, informed the DEO.
The DEO had granted permission to this school of Musahar on December 19 last to conduct classes for standard one. The families of the each of the students enrolled in this school had been paying Rs 25 and eight kilogrammes of rice grain annually to Binod Kumar Sadaya, the teacher of this school as fee for imparting knowledge, informed the chairman of this school’s management committee, Kapileshwor Sadaya.
Nepal Rishikul Sadaya Committee, an organisation of Musahars which is involved with conducting the awareness campaign emphasising on the education of the Musahar children has been executing by forming regional committees in various villages. It was due to this awareness campaign that the Musahars of this VDC had got together and opened up this school two years ago.
According to the chairman Sadaya there are 105 Dalit students enrolled in this school which has upto class two at present. But unfortunately all the Musahar families were dismayed when the DEO sent a letter to this school on May 17 apprising about the cancellation of its registration. Condemning this move of the DEO when the government was arranging the scholarship programme to these Musahar children by incorporating them within the education programme for the children of the Dalit and the downtrodden, he said, this mistake of the DEO is pushing the fate of these 105 Dalit students into darkness.
For this school the government has not provided any assistance so far, but Manoj Kumar Yadav of Siraha Fulbari had contributed 35000 bricks for the construction of this school while Save The Children US of Lahan had assisted them with galvanised sheets and 25 sacks of cement.
Chief Sec. DGP summoned in Punjab
Sify.com - 27 May
Jalandhar: The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has summoned the Punjab Chief Secretary, the Director General of Police(DGP) and the Home Secretary for a status report on action taken by the state government in connection with alleged social boycott of Dalits in Talhan village on the outskrits of Jalandhar city.
As per the letter issued by the Commission on May 23, the state government officials were required to appear before the Commission Chairman tomorrow at 1500 hrs along with necessary documents and latest status report on the action taken in the matter.
Meanwhile, the Dalit Action Committee, spearheading the dharna at the Ambedkar Chowk here since May 15, had decided to intensify its agitation from the next month to press for action against those who had allegedly given the call of boycott of Dalits in the village.
The Committee spokesman Vijay Kumar Sapla, who is also the vice- president in the BJP state unit, told reporters here that despite the filing of the FIR against the culprits on February seven this year, the police and district administration had so far not taken action against the accused in this case and they went scot free.
Sapla alleged that the administration even ignored the directives of the National Commission for SCs and STs in this regard.
In protest against the administration, the committee had decided to stage dharna, slogan shouting and gherao in the offices of high officials here from any day after June one.
Contrary to this, Gurudwara Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh (Talhan village) Prabandhak Committee, in a press release here yesterday, said there was no social boycott of Dalits in the village.
Monday, May 26, 2003
Dalits prevented from contesting polls
NDTV.com - 26 May, by T M Veeraraghav
Upper caste Hindus in south Tamil Nadu have ensured that a Dalit does not become president in the three panchayats reserved for Dalits'.
While the issue has even been raised by the SC/ST commission, the upper caste Hindus remain defiant and Dalit leaders blame the two main Dravidian parties for not protecting them.
For instance Saraswathi had tried to contest in the village panchayat election's in Nattarmangalam, but she failed.
Though it is a panchayat reserved for Dalits', and Saraswathi belonged to the community, she was threatened by the upper caste Hindu's. The threats have even left her scared to raise the issue in public.
For the last seven years, three panchayats near Madurai have not had a president as the caste Hindu's ensure that genuine Dalit candidates do not contest. And if they do, they are defeated by dummy Dalit candidates, who later resign.
In 1996, a Dalit Candidate was even murdered in Melavalavu, a nearby village. And this has left the Dalits even scared to talk of the elections.
"They are rich and powerful so what can we do," says Lakshmanan, local Dalit.
Defiant upper caste
The Commission for Scheduled castes and tribes has recently written to the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that polls are conducted in the region. It has even suggested stopping of development funds for these villages if the polls are not held.
But the caste Hindus, predominantly from the politically powerful Thevar community, remains defiant.
"Elections in the area will take place only when the panchayat is de-reserved," claims Vallachami, an upper caste Hindu.
Dalit leaders blame the two main Dravidian parties for the current situation. They say both the DMK and the AIADMK have not taken a strong stand on the issue as it will anger their upper caste vote bank.
"Though the two parties are as different as a snake and a mongoose, when it comes to the issue of the Dalits, both are the same," claims Thirumalvalavan, Dalit Panthers Party.
And as yet another election date is soon be announced, the Dalits are skeptical and even the few who wanted to fight have now resigned. They say it will make little difference.
Buddhism conversion gnaws VHP members
Ahmedabad.com - 26 May
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, threatened World Buddhist Organisation members of dire consequences if they hold the mass conversion of about 1 lakh dalits into Buddhism on June 15.
Anant Anand, 27, who later came with a group, indulged in a scuffle at a press conference called by the WBO officials reacting to minister of state for home Amit Shah’s comment: "I do not think dalits can assemble in such a large number," appeared in The Asian Age on May 22, WBO held a press conference at Baroda on Saturday.
The activist, who managed to get inside the conference hall, claimed that he was the secretary of VHP and a dalit. After the conference, Anant along with about 10 youths barged into the hotel and indulged into verbal altercation with WBO members. The group also tried to ransack the hotel furniture; however, the Sayajiganj police dispersed the group.
Anant said, "The conversion activity initiated by WBO is for gaining political mileage and not in true religious spirit. Under no circumstances, would we allow such mass conversion to proceed in Baroda." He further said they had come to the conference as per their wish and not under any plan of the VHP.
Earlier at the press meet, reacting strongly to the home minister’s statement, national general secretary of Vishwa Boudh Sangh, Bhante Sangh Priya claimed that they could gather one lakh dalits before Mr Shah’s residence also. He said, "Mr Shah is underestimating the strength of the dalits that constitute about 85 per cent of Indian population."
On March 23, Boudh Sangh members had announced the mass conversion of about 1 lakh dalits to Buddhism on June 15. The members also criticised the government for not declaring the Buddh Purnima, which falls on May 16, a National holiday.
However, no police complaint has been filed in connection with the incident. Meanwhile, in an official statement, Bahujan Sangharsh Manch’s Valji Patel condemned the act of vandalism.
Sunday, May 25, 2003
Urgent Action from Asian Human Rights Commission
Sign the Online Petition: Protest against the proposals to destroy the foundations of Indian criminal justice system
This urgent appeal relates to the proposal by of the Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System. The major reforms proposed are:
1. To reject the proof beyond reasonable doubt in criminal cases and to introduce “a lesser standard;”
2. Virtually do away with presumption of innocence;
3. Reduce criminal trial into civil arbitration;
4. Remove obstructions to make confessions obtained under torture admissible in evidence;
5. To appoint a police officer as the Prosecutor General and thus bring entire prosecution system under police control;
6. To create independence police intelligence services and thus make extensive surveillance on the population possible.
The implementation of recommendation will result in removal of all basic civil rights contained in the Indian Constitution and the International Bill of Rights, especially the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India is a state party to.
Reject the Recommendations of the Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System
The Asian Human Rights Commission has today released a detailed statement on how the Government of India plans to undermine the foundations of criminal justice there via the recommendations of the Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System (AS-17-2003). The statement notes that the “Quest for Truth” proposed by the Committee as the guiding principle of criminal justice in India is nothing more than centuries-old bunk that has served to reinforce, rather than challenge, social inequality and injustice. It is also appears to mimic China’s “Finding Truth from Facts”, which in practice means the denial of fundamental principles of fair trial.
The “Quest for Truth” violates the Constitution of India by undermining the presumption of innocence. It demands that the accused present statements of defense before being prosecuted. It waters down the burden of proof from “beyond reasonable doubt” to a “clear and convincing” standard, thereby trivializing criminal procedure and reducing it to the level of civil trials. It permits police control over both criminal investigation and prosecution, by making a police officer the public prosecutor. It incites torture by admitting confessions in trials without safeguards to prevent its use to extract them. It proposes a state security and surveillance apparatus of unprecedented proportions with frightening consequences. It will totally undermine the role of judges and lawyers, giving police absolute supremacy. It will reduce the value of human life to that of mere property. It will make the police force a much more powerful tool to suppress popular demands and political dissent than it has ever been. It will impose silence on vast numbers of oppressed struggling to break free from the inhuman conditions in which they live, particularly Dalits, by denying them the only rights they have: to protest, and to shout in court.
In short, the “Quest for Truth” invites the establishment of a draconian police state. It proposes an end to the fundamental human rights included in the Constitution. Instead of constitutional rights and the rule of law, India will return to the Law of Manu, the ruthlessly authoritarian style of rule it suffered for most of its history.
I call on the Government of India to utterly reject the recommendations of the Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System, by signing this open letter and taking all other steps necessary to avert their implementation. Instead of opting for flagrant violation of fundamental human rights, the Government of India must instead do all it can to uphold fair trial principles and the rule of law. Above all, it must ratify the Convention against Torture and make torture a crime under domestic legislation. By taking such steps it will uphold the principles of the Constitution and the international human rights norms and standards rather than mimic the practices of dictators.
Please sign the online petition at: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/india_cjs/index.html
By signing it you will be sending the following open letter to the president, deputy prime minister and the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of India.
Report from International Dalit Conference, Vancouver, Canada May 2003
The huge Convention Hall of the Pacific Inn Hotel at the White Rock in Vancouver was resonating to beat of drums and the Punjabi folk songs with dalit Punjabi singers singing in praise of Baba sahib Ambedkar and the all delegates joined the local Dalit community to dance in joy in celebration of the Vancouver Declaration, till late night on 17 May 2003.
The delegates who came from all parts of the globe deliberated for 2 days of the 3-day Conference an issued a Declaration, The Vancouver Declaration an expression of the Global Dalit, the Dalit Vision for the 21st Century.
Chilly winds swept the tourist city of Vancouver as the discussions heated up as the Conference progressed. The Conference had 3 sessions of discussions on the 16 May,2003 on dalit development and Dalit literature Chaired by Mr.Chanan Chahal of UK. Prof Vimal Thorat chaired the session on Issues of Dalit Women and Human rights. This Session was to be originally Chaired by Mr.Paul Divakar of the Dalit Human rights Campaign who could not attend the Conference. Prof.B.L. Mungekar,Vice Cahncellor of the Mumbai University chaired the session on InterFaith discourse on development which dealt which the various issues related to the religions to which Dalits belong.
On the 17 May 2003, Dr.R.K.Nayak Chaired the Session on Bhopal Experiment for Socio Economic Transformation. Dr.L.N.Berwa of the Dr. Ambedkar Memorial Trust, Washington DC USA chaired the Session on Diversity and Agenda for Dalit Liberation.
The Conference had delegates from USA,UK,Nepal,Sri Lanka apart from India.The Nepal representative Mrs.Vishnu successfully tried to draw the attention of the conference to the plight of untouchables in Nepal. The conference felt that world community should focus on the plight of untouchables in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The highlight of the Conference was the Conference banquet which started at 9 PM. The dias had Mr.Ujjwal Dosanj, the former premier of British Columbia, Mr.Cheema, the Health Minister of British Columbia, Mr.Sumant Grewal MP from Canada, Mr.Ramdas Atavale, MP from India, Mr.Kainth former BSP, MP from Punjab, Mr Malviya PCCI President of Madhya Pradesh Congress and Mr.Jai Birdi and DrKP Singh of the Dalit Conference. The Indian High Commissioner to Canada Mrs.Sashi Tripathi was a special guest of Honour.
Mr.Divijay Singh Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh who was not allowed by the BJP government to attend the conference did not make his absence felt at the Conference. He gave a 12 minute speech on the huge screen by a specially recorded video, who said that in continuation of the Bhopal agenda the international Dalit agenda would achieve success. He said that there might have been many Dalit Millionaires in Canada but he has a dream of seeing dalit Crorepatis in India.
It was late in the night on 17 May 2003when the time arrived for the Conference to adopt the Declaration. The most respected academic and the beloved grand old lady of Dalit and Ambedkarite movement in North America, Ms.Eleanor Zelliot read the preamble of the Vancouver Declaration and the demands were read by Mr.Kamlesh from London. The conference adopted the declaration among slogans of Baba sahib Ambedkar Amar rahe…Jai Bhim…and Jai Bharat.
The Conference decided form an advocacy group, International Association for the Advancement of Dalits to further the cause of global dalit.
The Conference continued today at the Sri Guru Ravidas Gurudwara Sabha at Barnaby, Vancouver. The local Dalit Community turned out in huge numbers with families with more than 1000 people. The Conference started with Community Breakfast at the Langar (Community Kitchen). The delegates attended the prayers and there were religious singing. But Babasaheb was remembered in Punjabi songs again in the Gurudwara. The programme was followed by a series of speakers speaking on the Guru Ravidas Vision of Community development. The speakers were from USA, Canada and UK. Finally after the community lunch the Conference finally closed as the beautiful spring weather of ‘Beautiful British Columbia’ as they call was drizzling.
To view the Vancouver Declaration in Word format, go to: