"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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Saturday, July 05, 2003
Sena offers hand of friendship to Dalits
Mid-Day (Mumbai) - 4 July
The Shiv Sena is not averse to the idea of offering a few Assembly seats to factions of the Dalit parties like the Republican Party of India in the forthcoming assembly elections.
This was strongly hinted by party’s working president, Uddhav Thackeray soon after a two-day conclave of Sena legislators and office bearers.
‘‘We had offered a branch of friendship to the Dalit leaders, but it did not click. But more and more lay Dalit activists are coming to us. I don’t want an electoral alliance but I look for friendship with the Dalits.
"The Sena will be there whenever they need us and they should be there when we need them. I had a meeting in Baramati recently and many Dalits came to us,’’ Uddhav said.
The strategy for the next polls was decided in the two-day conclave at Uttan, Bhayandar. During the conclave, the Sena seemed to be focus on the Hindutva approach rather than the Mee Mumbaikar campaign.
Uddhav Thackeray said, ‘‘Hindutva is a national issue while Mee Mumbaikar was confined to the metropolis.’’
The Sena’s working president said that irrespective of whether the two congresses in the state were united or not, it was almost certain that the Sena-BJP alliance would return to power.
‘‘I feel that the elections might be held in February or March next year. And it’s my challenge to the Democratic Front government to have both the elections together,’’ Uddhav said.
Sena chief Bal Thackeray also addressed the MLAs in Uttan. Asked if there was a possibility of him being projected as the chief ministerial candidate, Uddhav said, ‘‘Balasaheb will decide who the next chief minister will be.’’
He added that if need be, there would be new faces in the next assembly polls just as the party did in the Mumbai and Thane civic polls.
And when the party comes to power in the state, the Sena has an accurate plan of bringing the state and the economy back on the rails, he stated.
Hardline Shiv Sena teams up with Dalit Buddhists
Economic Times - 4 July
In a political masterstroke that would give a new dimension to Maharashtra’s politics, the Shiv Sena on a Thursay formally extended its friendship to backward classes, which, traditionally are not with the saffron party.
It may be seen as poaching on its elder brother’s BJP turf. The BJP, known for playing its caste cards, may feel the pinch if the Sena succeeds in attracting dalits.
He also made it clear that Hindutva will be the main poll agenda of the Sena. In an apparent effort to widen Sena’s vote bank, the party today deliberated on “Shiv Shakti” joining hands with “Bhim Shakti” of dalits to contest the forthcoming crucial Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
“Now nobody can stop this union”, the Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray told mediapersons here. Mr Uddhav, with his high-profile cousin Raj and former chief minister Narayan Rane, addressed the party’s two-day ‘Nirdhar Shibir’ being held at Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini at Uttan near Mumbai. “Wherever possible, we will give tickets to dalits or else enter into an alliance if the candidate is contesting on a ticket of a smaller party,” Mr Thackeray said. He claimed that the dalit population is hugely responding to the Sena’s appeal, and even if the Republican Party leaders are perturbed about this move, they would still strongly back the Sena in the coming elections, he hoped. Wooing the dalits, who comprise 11.5% of the state’s population, would usher in “social renaissance” in the state, the participants at “Nirdhar Shibir” said. The party leaders, while making it clear that the prominent Republican Party of India (RPI) leaders might not be willing to join hands with the Sena, said the party may have to seek cooperation of the second rung of leadership among the dalits. Performance of MLAs and seats lost by marginal votes in the last polls were among those subjects which would be discussed.
“Once our party comes to power, Maharashtra will be back on rails. The present government has put the state in a very perilous financial condition that needs to be rectified as soon as possible”, Mr Thackeray said. As far as the ‘Me Mumbaikar’ campaign is concerned, Mr Uddhav said that the campaign would continue, as it is “necessary to save Mumbai by stopping the influx from other states.”
Friday, July 04, 2003
Dalits to unite with hard-core Hindutvavadis
Indian Express - 3 June
There will be a new social renaissance in Maharashtra after Shiv Shakti (Shiv Sainiks) and Bhim Shakti (supporters of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar) unite, declared the Shiv Sena on the concluding day of its two-day conclave at Rambhau Mhalgi Prabhodini in Uttan in Thane district. The party will launch a campaign to attract smaller and neglected parts of society, said senior party leader Subhash Desai.
In the presence of Sena chief Bal Thackeray and party executive president Uddhav Thackeray, the Sainiks deliberated on the proposed union of the two distinct political groups. The Sena decided to aggressively take up the issue of atrocities on Dalits.
The necessity of a union between hardcore Hindutvavadis and the Dalit population was mooted by Uddhav after he took over as the party’s executive president. Though criticised initially, the formula has found many takers within the rank and file of the Sena and Dalit population. However, leaders of the Republican Party of India (RPI), the banner which unites the Dalit population, have demanded that the Sena shed its hardcore Hindutva policy for such a unity.
On June 21, a large group of RPI followers joined the Sena at a mammoth function in Baramati, the pocketborough of NCP president Sharad Pawar. The high attendance at this function, that too in a Congress-turned-NCP pocketborough, was proof of the strides made by the Sena in recent months. Addressing the press later, Uddhav said if the Sena is able to woo the Dalit population, which comprises 11.5 per cent of the population, it would definitely be a social renaissance. ‘‘The Sena is also considering fielding Dalit candidates in the Assembly and Lok Sabha polls,’’ he said.
The Sena leadership will hold deliberations with the second-rung leadership of the RPI to effect the proposed changes, said Uddhav.
In the presence of the ageing Thackeray, the delegates affixed their stamp of approval for the Mee Mumbaikar programme. Flanked by cousin Raj, Uddhav sought to dispel talk of any power struggle between the two of them. ‘‘Wherever possible, we will give tickets to Dalit candidates or enter into alliances with such candidates of smaller parties,’’ said Uddhav.
Dalit farmer tortured in Malwa, Punjab
NDTV - 4 July, by Vishal Malhotra
Following the green revolution in Punjab, the economic conditions of Dalits may have improved but their social status remains the same.
It is men like Baldev Singh, who have brought prosperity to Malwa in Punjab by tilling the land, but they are still shackled by their social status.
After his employer Paramjit Singh accused him of stealing diesel, Baldev says he was tied up and beaten incessantly for two days and then had acid thrown on him.
"Two nights ago they beat me, then again last night. They injured my arm and threw acid on it," said Singh.
"My brother works as bonded labour on the landlord's farm. They picked him up the night before, beat him up and threw acid on him. They also threatened to take him to the police station," added Jagdev Singh, Baldev's brother.
He is now being treated for his injuries and the police has only registered a case.
"We have filed a case against the employer. We now need to take Baldev's statement on what happened," said Kabul Singh, Lambhi police station.
Baldev's story is one of many Dalits', who have been abused and exploited by their employers simply because the law enforcement machinery takes a lenient view of offences like these.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
Compounding Injustice: The Government's Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat
Human Rights Watch - July 2003
This month, Human Rights Watch released its report on denial of justice and relief in Gujarat entitled "Compounding Injustice: The Government's Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat". The report is based in part on HRW investigations in Gujarat in January 2003 and also covers the recruitiment and targeting of Dalits and tribals by the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat and the larger issue of communalism as a political strategy.
The report can be downloaded from: http://hrw.org/reports/2003/india0703/
Law can’t even get us to school: Bihar scavengers
Indian Express - 1 June, by Varghese K George
Twenty-five years ago, when Baban Rawat was in school, his teacher picked him out to clear human faeces during a students’ cleanliness drive. When he hesitated, he was told: ‘‘Even after you study, you will end up doing this.’’ Rawat went on to prove him wrong, and now he’s trying to ensure that others from his Methor caste are not relegated to a life of human scavengers — illegal, but only on paper.
Yesterday, he organised a rally of lower-caste Dalits in Patna, where they raised a demand for their rights. Nearly a hundred Methors from all districts of Bihar gathered in Patna and shared their daily experience of transporting human excreta in leaking cans to long distances. Their monthly earnings range between Rs 400 and Rs 500. ‘‘In Bihar, no attempt has been made to implement the law banning human scavengers,’’ said A. Sada, convenor of the Dalit Adhikar Morcha, the organisers of the function.
An estimated 12,000 people are engaged in the occupation, despite the fact that the practice was declared illegal by a Union law in 1992, and described ‘‘shame for the nation’’ by the NHRC in 2002. But it is not surprising that attempts to rehabilitate human scavengers have failed. Shiv Pujan, 15, said he tried to give a different direction to his life by starting a tea shop. His customers lasted just a day. ‘‘When people came to know his caste, they started boycotting his shop,’’ said Usmi Devi, his mother and a scavenger herself. Shiv Pujan is now a sweeper in a housing colony.
Methors are not allowed inside shops, or to drink tea in stalls. ‘‘People cover their noses on seeing us,’’ said Vaidya Nath from Motihari. Even other castes among the Dalits consider Methors unclean.‘‘In villages, they cannot draw water in a Chamar hamlet,’’ said Rawat.
The various Dalit movements have failed to break the wall of hostility. With almost 100 per cent illiteracy, there is no benefit of job reservation for Methors either.
Dalit Adhikar Morcha leaders say they are trying to get children admitted to schools. But that’s easier said than done. Ask Umesh Ram, the 15-year-old son of Vaidya Nath. In 25 years, he says, nothing has changed in the attitude of teachers. ‘‘Other students in the school never let me be among them.’’
Girl’s brothers kill dalit lover
Ahmedabad.com - 2 June
Two Muslim brothers beat to death a dalit man for allegedly having illicit relations with their sister at Sihor Taluka, in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, on Monday.
The victim, Trikam Nathu, 35, a mason, met Hasmin Adam, 32, who works as a daily wager, during the course of his work, according to the police. Police sources said their relationship grew intimate, especially since they lived in the same neighbourhood. However, her brothers Yunus Adam and Mustafa Adam had serious reservations about the relationship.
On Monday, at around 2.30 am, the two brothers caught Nathu and their sister Hasmin in a compromising position. Enraged with this, they beat up Nathu and hit him on the head with a stone, resulting in his death.
District superintendent of police Anupam Gehlot said both the accused were absconding but they hoped to arrested the duo soon. Meanwhile, he said there was no tension in Sihor following the incident since it was a private dispute concerning two families, and not a communal issue. Police sub-inspector Nanbha Chauhan, who is investigating the case, said both Nathu and Hasmin were not living with their spouses. While Hasmin had separated from her husband and had been living with her brothers for the last five years, Nathu’s wife also did not live with him.
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Women, Dalit heads prove their worth
News Today - 1 July
The elected women and Dalit representatives have proved their worth in their performance and achieved remarkable achievements. They showed that they are second to none in administration, according to a survey conducted during the last six months in 38 Panchayats in 20 districts.
Sharing the findings of the survey conducted by the Tamilnadu State Council for Sustainable Livelihood, its Chairman Prof P Palanithurai said women and Dalit representatives had dispelled the notion that they cannot deliver the goods.
'They have commitment and been sensitised on developmental issues. Besides these, their transactions in the panchayat affairs are transparent though they work against several insurmountable hurdles'.
It could be inferred from the study that their recruitment to the office was an outcome of a combination of factors such as their public contact, family reputation, party affiliation, parents' status in the community and so on. The dalit local body leaders were not rich and were mostly engaged in coolie work, petty shop owners, cycle shop owners, he observed.
Regarding the Pappapatti, Keeripatti, Nattarmanagalam and Kottakkatchiyendal panchayats where the local body elections could not be held for a long time, he said it was a challenge to the State government. However, he observed that till now, only a few political parties were expressing concern over this issue while others were keeping mum.
Caste discrimination was yet another serious problem that the Panchayats faced, he said adding that no president from the SC community had said that villages were free from caste discrimination. Barring a few, many of the Gram Panchayats had this practice, though not openly.
In many places, caste associations were vibrant and they looked at Panchayat activities only from caste perspective. They were spending money for the activities of their assocation.
It was a reality that the existing social order did not relish the special arrangement for reservation of seats for Dalits and women. First, the caste Hindus deliberately made attempts to thwart the new arrangement. Since they could not succceed, they found a new way by fixing proxies both for Dalits and women, he said.
Whenever the community was mature, they would understand the process of social transformation and look for good candidates from Dalits and women. The moment Dalits and women were elected to Panchayats and sensitised, elected representatives would take up the issues of women and Dalits. In many places the community panchayats had posed a volley of problems to the elected women and Dalits respresentatives.
Giving the recommendations of the survey, Prof. Palanithurai said the Acts, which were contradicting the provisions of Tamilnadu Panchayati Raj Act of 1994, had to be identified and suitable amendments made. All officials had to be trained and sensitised on new Panchayati Raj system. For proper Panchayat administration, an administrative manual had to be prepared and published.
The State government would be organising a training programme for Panchayat leaders on 22 August which would be inaugurated by Rural Development Minister K Pandurangan.
Monday, June 30, 2003
Left also for repeal of Goondas Act, NSA
News Today - 30 June
The DPI's demand for the repeal of the Goondas Act and National Security Act has found support from the Left Parties and a few other outfits, including Thandhai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam, which have said they would never support any legislation that sought to curtail the rights of people.
CPI(M) State secretary, N Varadarajan, at a conference organised by the DPI here Saturday evening on the topic, claimed that economic interests were behind the enactment of such legislations. Such Acts, he claimed, could be used to silence the poor into submission and that they would aid only the rich.
The world over, people had not yet woken up to the danger of 'fascism', he said and added that 'no law can stand if people come together and oppose it with full vigour'.
Vidudalai Rajendran, general secretary, TPDK, in his address, claimed that 'Varnashrama Dharma' was behind legislations like the POTA and Goondas Act.
Society sought to project the Goondas Act as legitimate, as only the Dalits in the slums were affected by it. Similar laws to check bootlegging and land grabbing in every State sought to curb the rights of only those in slums, he said.
Criticising the introduction of a GO to lease wastelands to MNCs for development, he said the 'residency rights for people must be made a basic right in the State'.
DPI leader, Thirumavalavan, in his address, said he differed from Varadarajan in attributing economics as the singular reason behind such Acts.
Saying that the majority of those arrested under the Goondas Act and NSA were the Dalits, he asked 'are Dalits alone Goondas and anti-national'? He claimed that there was a conspiracy to brand the Dalits as criminals and said even he (Thirumavalavan), Poovai Murthy and Krishnasamy, who belonged to Dalit outfits, were sought to be viewed as criminal activists.
He defended party functionary Selvaperundagai, who has been arrested under the Goondas Act, and claimed that a case had been foisted against him. Accusing the police of being the 'worst violators', he said the social set-up itself was sanctioning discrimination.
He criticised the PMK and its social justice conferences and said that party, through the conferences, was trying to get the Act for Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs repealed. Since rules were framed under the Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act in 1995, not a single case had been registered under it so far, he said.
Others who spoke included Subha Thangaraj, general secretary, Pudiya Jananayaga Thozhilalar Munnani and Hyder Ali, general secretary, Tamizhaga Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam. The CPI was represented by Lenin from the party's student wing.
Sunday, June 29, 2003
Polls and that looming Dalit factor
Indian Express - 27 June, by Neerja Chowdhury
Both the BJP and the BSP have decided against extending their partnership to states outside Uttar Pradesh in the forthcoming November elections. In UP their alliance is expected to create a winning chemistry. But in Madhya Pradesh, where the BSP has been a factor in successive elections, both may stand to gain from going it alone.
Mayawati made it clear two days ago that her party will go it alone in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Delhi, and Chhatisgarh. The BJP brass has also indicated that no alliance is being sought with the BSP.
The BSP had fought on its own in the 1998 assembly elections and rescued Digvijay Singh, helping him to bounce back to power for a second term. The BSP had contested only half the seats, and BSP chief Kanshi Ram had urged his supporters to vote strategically in order to defeat the BJP. Digvijay Singh’s skillful handling of the BSP leaders had paid him handsome dividends.
This, however, is not the case in 2003. Of course, the BSP is expected to cut into the Dalit vote which has traditionally gone to the Congress. This is true not just in the Rewa-Satna area where the BSP has had a presence but also in the Malwa region.In Malwa, this time the BSP may be the spoiler for the Congress, though it may not win seats. Besides the Dalits, the Most Backward Castes have been fired by a Mayawati in power.
The main difference between 1998 and 2003 is that Mayawati is in the saddle in Lucknow and there is a spillover effect of this in the adjoining areas of Madhya Pradesh. Thanks to the ripple effect, the BSP may gain strength this time. It plans to fight in all the constituencies in November. The BJP brass concedes that the BSP now has a 12 per cent popular following in the state. This is the finding of the two surveys the party has got done internally. In 1998, the BSP’s vote-share had dropped to 5 per cent from the 8.3 per cent it had polled in the previous election.
It is not surprising that the politically savvy Digvijay Singh had told his close confidantes almost two years ago that while the BJP could be managed, the real challenge to the Congress would come from the BSP. This became even more of a truism after Mayawati took over in Lucknow in May 2002.
Aware of the writing on the wall, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister had announced his by-now-famous Dalit Agenda in Bhopal in January 2002. In the months that followed he tried to consolidate his following amongst the Dalits — who add upto 36 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, with the SCs accounting for 15 per cent of the population and the STs 21 per cent — by taking three initiatives. The first was to distribute 8 lakh acres of land to the Dalits, the second to buy goods and produce from Dalit entrepreneurs as part of affirmative action to empower them economically, and the third step was to set up special centres of excellence for Dalits in every district of Madhya Pradesh, which are modern centres of learning where Dalit students have access to free food, uniforms, computers, tutors. There are almost 5,000 such centres in Madhya Pradesh. (There are only 400 of them in UP).
The Dalit Agenda ran into trouble for two reasons. The drive to distribute grazing land was resisted by the other castes, mainly the OBCs. Of the 48 cases of serious clashes that reportedly took place, the OBCs were involved in 46 of them and the Rajputs in only two.
The Indore bench of the Bhopal High Court stayed it and the opponents of the move used this as an opportunity to take back their land illegally. The Agenda became a double-edged sword.
The second factor which could really create trouble for Digivijay Singh is ironically the recently announced alliance between the Congress and Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP. From the feedback that is trickling in from parts of Madhya Pradesh, particularly the areas bordering UP, is that the move has not gone down well with the Dalits. The educated Dalits in particular are furious with the Congress and say that the party which had once betrayed Ambedkar has shown its true colours again. It cannot stomach the rise of an independent Dalit leader in power in UP and has now forged an alliance to dethrone Mayawati.
This will compound Digvijay Singh’s problems. As it is the BSP leaders have been campaigning against him, charging him of trying to bribe the Dalits with his Agenda. Moreover, the Congress has done nothing to project in UP all that its CM has done for the Dalits in Madhya Pradesh, which could have mitigated this sentiment. Some even suspect that it is Digivijay Singh’s opponents in the Congress who have pushed for an alliance with Mulayam Singh knowing that this would antagonise the Dalits and create problems for him in the elections.
The BJP on the other hand feels it has ladoos in both hands. The BJP leadership calculates that the party may stand to gain from the increased influence of the BSP in the border areas because it would weaken the Congress but also because the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Uma Bharati, is an OBC. The BSP has impacted the thinking of the Most Backward Castes, like malis, mallahs, dhobis, nais, in this area, and this goodwill for it may actually translate into votes for Uma Bharat. These communities now hanker for political power and leadership. One of the reasons why the socialist and communist movements in this belt for social justice had petered out was that the leadership remained in the hands of the upper castes.
In any case, the BJP reckons, even if the BSP gets more than a dozen seats in the next assembly, it is more likely to align with the BJP than with the Congress in the event of the elections throwing up a hung assembly.
The idea of the meeting of the BJP’s officebearers on Wednesday in Gwalior presided over by party chief M Venkaiah Naidu and attended by Deputy PM L K Advani was to finetune the BJP’s strategy. The ‘‘internal surveys’’ done by the BJP give the party a convincing lead in the forthcoming elections, but the party leadership is taking no chances.
On the plus side, the BJP is banking on incumbency to take its toll, and is plugging away at the development issues. The current tussle between the Sangh-VHP and the BJP over Ayodhya may not adversely affect the BJP in Madhya Pradesh because Uma Bharati has been closely aligned with the Ayodhya movement and enjoys the confidence of the Sangh leaders.
On the flip side, the BJP has to contend with a bureaucracy that continues to be loyal to Digivijay Singh, the CM’s skillful management techniques, and a party that is divided despite the papering over that has been done. The power situation has improved in Madhya Pradesh of late and the farmers’ plight might improve if the monsoons come on time, and this too is worrying the BJP.