"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, August 02, 2003
Unburied caste division affects a scientific community
News Today - 2 August, by G Babu Jayakumar
Residents of Anupuram, a new township of the Department of Atomic Energy situated off the scenic East Coast Road, were recently caught in a piquant situation when there was a death in the modern housing colony: They had no cremation ground to use. And interestingly, the main reason for that was 'caste'.
The villagers of Neykuppi panchayat, under which the township housing employees of Indira Gandhi Centre of Atomic Research (IGCAR) and other nuclear facilities in Kalpakkam falls, refused to allow the dead person's relatives, hailing from somewhere but living at Anupuram on the call of duty, to use the traditional cremation ground, saying that they had no way of ascertaining the caste of the deceased.
Like most villages in India, Neykuppi has earmarked two spots to bid adieu to the dead - one for Dalits and the other for caste Hindus. Not in a position to take away the corpse to their native place, the employee at the scientific establishment wanted to have the last rites in Anupuram itself and was even prepared to use to crematorium of Dalits, if the villagers had doubts about their caste identity.
But it was told that the Dalit crematorium had no approach road, like in any other village, and that it would be impossible for the educated middle- classes people working for a scientific establishment to trek to the place in a remote corner. So the township people decided to consign the body to flames at a corner in their own premises. It has happened twice so far, says a resident of Anupuram, where flats and houses were allotted to Kalpakkam nuclear project employees more than three years back.
Never bothering about the final journey that one may have to take in Anupuram itself, the around 600 employees of IGCAR and other nuclear facilities, along with their dependents, went about their life without any problem for they had access to the rest of the basic amenities. Good housing, free transport to their work spots that were located a few kilometers away, a clinic, shops, some sporting facilities and even a school within the sprawling premises.
If the about 400- acre protected township lacked in some facility, the residents have free bus service to DAE's main township, a few kilometers away, where nothing is not available. Only when the grim reaper came a calling at one of the doorsteps did they realise that the passage out of this world has a curtain drawn across.
After the first incident that forced them to convert a deserted corner of their township into a make-shift crematorium, those on the vanguard of the residents' daily affairs approached the villagers of Neykuppi for talks. They also spoke to villagers of Narasankuppam, the adjoining village, which too has two crematoria, keeping with the traditions and practices of rural India.
That the talks failed is evident from the fact that when a second death occurred in the township, no way had been paved for the last journey to go through a time honoured path. So the negotiations were again held and if the villagers will allow the township people to use their crematorium will be known only when another person kicks the bucket, says an IGCAR officer.
But what struck those who were involved in the discussions was the uncanny knack of the illiterate and semiliterate village leaders to turn their table against the educated class when they sought to buy peace on the plank of unity and mutual give- and- take.
'Are you united sir', shot back a villager to a township helmsman. 'First you practise give- and- take', the villager told the members of the scientific community, referring to an ongoing rift they are having with another township, located in its own penumbra, both geographically and administratively.
The small township having 152 dwellings of which only 60 to 70 are occupied is called Ammapuram, after the original name of the village in which it was built, within the sprawling Annupuram. Built for employees of Plutonium Recylcing Project (PDP), which is also part of DAE, it is an exclusive zone with better facilities.
Built at a high investment, the Ammapuram PDP housing township is equipped with a swanky swimming pool, a modern tennis court, and sports grounds, among other things. But not open for anyone, including those residing in Annupuram. Not even children are given access to use the swimming pool or play grounds, though DAE pays Rs five lakh annually for maintenance of the facilities.
PDP also runs free buses to the main DAE township at Pudupettai, the same way DAE has linked its two townships. If DAE buses take the residents of PDP township, PDP buses will not stop for residents of DAE houses. If DAE buses stop just in front of the PDP housing gates, PDP buses will start from within the closed colony gates. PDP buses run four or five services - as against DAE's hourly service - will be operated exactly at the same time DAE buses ply.
The children of those living in the PDP housing attend the Atomic Energy Central School in the DAE premises but when the same school wanted to organise a swimming camp for children in the pool that no one was using, the request was turned down. Ditto with requests for using the sports fields for other games camps.
With these things calling for a need to thrash out differences for better coordination between both the township helmsmen, moves were made for negotiations. But nothing worked out. PDP helmsman just will not talk about it. He cannot share the facilities inside his gates to others.
Well, that was what the villager pointed out when asked to adjust and learn to give and take. 'We have nothing to take from you', the villagers told the DAE residents, turning down their request to use the crematorium. But the message was: 'Don't preach, when you yourself can't do it'.
Dalits still under Hali system
Kathmandu Post (Nepal) - 30 July
Dalits in Parbat, Mustang, Baglung and Myagdi of Dhaulagiri zone are still being exploited under the traditional Hali (ploughman) system due to prevailing poverty and lack of education. Tulase Nepali of Parbat district Khaula VDC-2 gets 22 Pathi (about 88 kg) of rice in return to ploughing the whole year for his landlord. The Hali himself has to make plough and other necessary wooden instruments for tilling and ploughing without any additional payment, it is said. According to a survey carried out recently, about 5,000 Halis in these districts are compelled to work for the landlords without properly being paid. Educational and poverty alleviation programmes should be launched for the welfare of such dalits and reducing racial discrimination in the area, it is stated.
Dalit couple tortured
Kathmandu Post (Nepal) - 28 July
A Dalit couple here was tortured and forced to consume human excreta on the charge of being witch. Durga Bahadur Biswakarma and his wife Sukumaya of Sherabesi in Bidur municipality-3 of Nuwakot were accused by local villagers of practising witchcraft to make the villagers ill.
Locals Bal Bahadur, Ram Bahadur and Krishna Bahadur on Thursday tortured them physically and forced them to taste human excreta and grass, said the victims.Furthermore, the next day, on Friday, villagers gathered at the local Annapurna Kanya Secondary School also forced them to consume human excreta for the second time.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Mother, daughter sentenced to 4 years for 'burning' Dalit girl
NewIndPress.com - 1 August
A woman and her daughter who were found guilty of dousing a Dalit girl with kerosene and setting her afire were sentenced to four years imprisonment each by the Sessions Court here on Wednesday.
According to the prosecution, Chitra (18), daughter of Selvaraj, a Dalit of Rettakudi in Sembanarkovil police limits, was employed as a domestic servant in the house of Fauzia Begum (55), wife of Sheik Allaudeen in Arangakudi village. Suspecting that her son Thameem Ansari might be having illicit relations with Chitra, Fauzia had been quarrelling frequently with Chitra.
On March 13, 2002, Chitra had collected her belongings and was getting ready to go back to her parental home, when Fauzia and her daughter Pappa Kani (22) attacked Chitra. Fauzia had poured kerosene on Chitra and set her alight. Chitra sustained serious burns and even after the wounds had cured, could not move about freely.
Mayiladuthurai DSP filed cases against Fauzia Begum and Pappa Kani under the Protection of Civil Rights Act and on charges of attempted murder.
Principal Additional Sessions Judge S Chandrasekaran who tried the case found both the mother and the daughter guilty and sentenced each of them to four years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 50,000 each. He also ordered that Rs 90,000 of the amount be paid to Chitra as compensation.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Muslim Morcha ready to forgo claim on Ayodhya
DeepikaGlobal.com - 29 July
The All India United Muslim Morcha (AIUMM) today claimed that if the Centre gave Dalit Muslims the same facilities provided to the Scheduled Castes, the organisation could make the Muslims agree to forgo the claim on Ayodhya. Addressing a conference here today, Morcha president Dr M Ejaz Ali said if the Dalit Muslims were included in the Schedule Caste category by removing the religious ban on Article 341 of the Constitution, the party could ask Muslims to leave the claim on the disputed site in Ayodhya. He said the Dalit Mulims were still facing poverty because the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) and the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) were ''playing politics'' on the Ayodhya issue.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
Suicide bid by Dalit youth
The Hindu - 29 July
A 24-year-old Dalit youth today allegedly tried to commit suicide near the Chief Minister's residence in south Mumbai after security personnel prevented him from going inside the house, police sources said here. The youth, Yuvraj Ahire, who is unemployed and had come from Nashik, sought an audience with the Chief Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, at his official residence "Varsha." When he was prevented from entering the house, he took out a bottle of poison and consumed it. He was rushed to a government-run hospital in south Mumbai, where he is stated to be in a critical condition.
Red tape may delay special body for backward castes
Indo-Asian News Service - 26 July
Red tape and bureaucratic hassles may cause a delay in the setting up of a special commission to look into the grievances of dalits as well as tribes in Maharashtra, say Government sources.
Even as Chief Minister Sushilkumar Shinde announced the setting up of a state-level commission for Scheduled Castes and tribes similar to the one existing at the national level, bureaucrats say the measure may be delayed till the winter session of the assembly if not further.
Officials say the setting up of a full-fledged commission would require appropriate laws to be passed in the state legislature.
However, a section of the bureaucracy feels that the ruling and opposition parties working together on the issue could speed up the measures considerably.
The decision to set up the state-level commission on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes - as dalits and tribals are officially called -- was announced by Shinde in the state legislature on Friday.
The commission would be set up in memory of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, a local ruler from the princely state of Kolhapur who first introduced reservations for people of backward castes in the country.
The commission would ensure protection of rights of backward class and tribals and work for their betterment.
The commission, having powers of civil courts, would ensure implementation of government orders and constitutional provisions for both the dalits and tribals, Shinde said.
The commission would also probe atrocities against the weaker sections of the society and ensure reservation of jobs for these sections.
Dalit made priest
Himalayan News Service (Nepal)- July 23
Amar Bahadur Bishwokarma of Hatia is more than pleased for becoming a priest. He is elated that those who used to hate him for being a Dalit have accepted him as a priest.
The 55-year-old priest started his daily rituals from Tuesday. Hatia VDC is situated 12 km east of Hetaunda.
Amar Bahadur became a priest at a newly built Shakti Binayak Ganesh Temple at Hatia VDC. Everybody took tika and prasad from him. Most of the devotees were females. Funds were collected from the locals to construct the temple.
Local people have taken this as a step to social reform. They said that the issue of caste should not come in between the social, religious, political and financial spheres of the country.
The chairman of the construction committee of the temple, Lok Bahadur Chaulagain, presided over the meeting and local social worker Khadga Bahadur Rokka inaugurated it. The locals have agreed to keep Bishwokarma as the priest without any conditions.
Talhan clash: panel’s terms for Dalit nominee
The Tribune - 27 July, by Varinder Singh
The much-publicised June 14 peace pact, is virtually lying defunct due to the non-inclusion of one of the two Dalit nominees by the Jat Sikh-dominated Shaheed Baba Nihal Singh Gurdwara Management Committee as a regular member at its weekly meetings. Mr Amarjit, one of the Dalit nominees, attended today’s meeting but would not be allowed to attend future meetings on account of his inability to attain “Sikh saroop” (Sikh appearance) according to the clauses of the pact.
The committee which discussed the issue at today’s meeting has directed Amarjit, one of the two Dalit nominees who were inducted into the committee, that if he wanted to attend weekly meetings as a regular member he would have to either partake ‘amrit’ by Wednesday or wait for another one-and-a half month till his beard grows full length.
The closed-door meeting was held in the presence of Mr Amarjit and Mr Rajinder Singh, DSP, and a duty Magistrate, who had taken Mr Amarjit along from his house with the promise that the administration would ensure his participation in the meeting as a regular member. Mr Jang Bahadur Singh, a member of the committee said Mr Amarjit would be allowed to attend the meeting as a regular member only after he had fulfilled either of the conditions. “He has been told to either partake amrit by Wednesday, or wait for another one and half months, till his beard grows full length,” said Mr Jang Bahadur Singh. He, however, added that Mr Amarjit had not cut his hair after the pact and he had never consumed tobacco.
Mr Rajinder Singh, DSP, maintained that Mr Amarjit was allowed to attend the meeting and said, we give you a good story within a day or two. Mr Vijay Sampla, the Vice-President of the BJP, refuted this, saying that Mr Amarjit was not allowed to sit in the meeting as a regular member.
Mr Chanan Ram Pal, president of the Dalit Action Committee (DAC), maintained that the condition of partaking of amrit by Amarjit was not acceptable to the DAC. “It can be a personal choice or decision of Mr Amarjit to partake ‘amrit’, but as a condition it is not acceptable to us. There was no such condition in the pact except that the members would have ‘Sikh saroop’ which has been fulfilled by Amarjit, who regularly wears a turban and who has not cut his hair since the signing of the pact”.
Mr Vijay Sampla, expressed concern that the truce was not taking the shape as was envisaged. “The payment of an additional compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Vijay Kumar Kala, who was killed in the alleged police firing at Buta Mandi, has not materialised though it was a clause of the pact. Moreover, the magisterial inquiry has failed to make headway despite the assurance of the Chief Minister that the inquiry would be completed within 15 days,” said Mr Sampla.
Meanwhile, four Dalits, whose houses were damaged in the June 5 Dalit-Jat clashes, have refused to accept the government compensation after dubbing it as ‘grossly inadequate’. Four of the six members of the Dalit community whose houses were damaged have refused the government compensation. The total number of people whose houses or other property was damaged in the violence was 13.
When contacted Mr Ashok Gupta, Deputy Commissioner, said though the assessment committee on compensation had both Dalit as well as Jat members apart from PWD officials, the administration has ordered reassessment following objections by four of the total 13 violence-affected persons. He alleged that the peace pact violated by the Dalits as apart from their failure to ensure ‘Sikh saroop’ of their members they had not withdrawn a civil suit according to the agreement.