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

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

Saturday, August 09, 2003  
Dalit girl hacked to death

The Pioneer - 9 August

A 12-year-old Dalit girl was reportedly kidnapped and later hacked to death. The eye-witnesses also suspected that the girl was sexually assaulted before she was killed. She was missing since last Tuesday and her mutilated body was recovered by the local villagers on Friday evening. Interestingly, to hush up the matter, the Chinhat police maintained that the girl probably died due to snake bite.

Lodging a report in this connection with the Chinhat police station, Ram Vilas Gautam, a resident of Goyla in Chinhat, stated that he had gone to work in the fields on last Tuesday morning, when his daughter Neetu, who was studying in class VII in the local primary school, went in connection with some work. He said that in the evening, when he reached home, the family members informed him that Neetu had not returned home. Ram Vilas said that he went out to search Neetu but when he failed in his efforts, he informed the Chinhat police that his daughter was missing.

Ram Vilas Gautam said that on Friday evening, some villagers smelled bad odour coming from bushes outside his village. He said on search, they found the body of a girl inside the bushes. He said that the villagers informed him subsequently which he rushed and found the body was that of his missing daughter. Her face was badly crushed and the identity could by ascertained only with the help of frock. The villagers, who had seen the body, said that it seemed that on the fateful day, some unknown miscreants intercepted Neetu when she was going in connection with work. Later, they pulled her inside the bushes where they sexually assaulted her and later in fear of being identified by the victim, they killed her and escaped. The villagers informed the Chinhat police about the incident who reached the spot and investigated the matter. The police spokesman said that the Chinhat police said that it was not a murder case and the girl probably died of snake bite. They also did not register the case of murder and said that they would wait for the post-mortem examination report before making any investigation.

11:41 PM

Friday, August 08, 2003  
MP House adjuourned over collective fine issue

Hindustan Times - 7 August

The MP Assembly was adjourned for the day soon after the Question Hour when the BJP MLAs created pandemonium in protest against the imposition of community fine on the residents of nine villages in Dhar district by the State Government.

The state government has imposed a collective fine of over Rs 70 lakh on 250 persons of Dhar town that witnessed large-scale violence on February 19, 2003 during the Dhar bandh, called by the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) and its allied organisations in protest against February 18 police action against HJM activists.

Immediately after the Question Hour, the BJP members stood up to protest the imposition of the community fine. They soon trooped in the Well of the House shouting slogans against the State Government and Chief Minister Digvijay Singh. The MLAs tore copies of the Government advertisement that had appeared in local dailies and threw it across.

Despite the din, Leader of Opposition Babulal Gaur was heard saying that the State Government had humiliated Hindus and demanded discussion on the issue as adjournment motion. He demanded that the anti-Hindu Government should be immediately expelled. While he spoke, several MLAs sat in the well demanding withdrawal of the order.

Later, speaking to media persons in the Press room of the Assembly, Gaur said the imposition of fine of about Rs 86.61 lakh on 296 people in the nine villages of Utawad, Bagdi, Lunhera, Badnawar, Tirla, Salkanpur, Amjhera, Rajpur and Tanda under seven police stations was a conspiracy to pit the Hindus against the non-Hindus with an eye on the forthcoming elections.

He announced that the BJP MLAs would undertake a padyatra in the villages and exhort the people not to pay the fine. He said the matter was sub judice and, therefore, there could not be two punishments for the same offence. He alleged that the State Government was misusing its powers. He said it was for the first time in his 32 years as an MLA that a CM had taken such a step.

Gaur has already announced that he would undertake padyatra on August 13 in the five villages of Rajgarh where the residents have been imposed fine for the attacks of Dalits last year. Several MLAs would join him in the padyatra. He said earlier the CM tried to create rift between the Dalits and non-Dalits and now it was between Hindus and non-Hindus.

Indore Mayor and BJP spokesman Kailash Vijayvargiya also addressed the mediapersons in party headquarters and termed the Government action as unconstitutional and murder of natural justice. He said the CM would not succeed in demoralising the party workers. The CM was bent on spoiling the social fabric of the society, he said.

The government has fined the villagers in different groups area wise with varying amounts. As many as 89 accused of Badnawar town charged with various criminal offences in relation with February 19 violence face a fine of Rs 35.53 lakh. Tirala town's 94 residents, however, face comparatively lower fine of Rs 4.24 lakh. Other accused fined by the Government include 18 from Utavad (Rs 11 lakh), 33 from Bagdi, Lunhera and Phanta (Rs 10.22 lakh) and 19 from Tanda (Rs 10 lakh).

With Rajgarh district collective fine incident still fresh in the public mind, especially in the wake of Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's younger brother Laxman Singh' protest against it, the Government's order carried in a section of the Press was widely discussed in political circles in Indore and Dhar.

BJP Dhar unit general secretary Sharad Vijayvargiya said Government's decision revealed Digvijay Singh's feudal mentality and that the BJP was strongly opposed to such a decision. However, he said, the BJP was not going to launch an agitation immediately on the issue.

Dhar District Congress president Mujib Qureshi has, however, justified Government's move. He said such a decision would send a clear message to people that if they indulged in any violent activities against any section of the society, they would have to pay the price.

He even said that the fine should have been higher, given the fact that the loss of property of the minority community, damaged in violence, was worth over Rs 1.5 crore. Indore Mayor and BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya called State Government's decision dictatorial. He said, in a statement, that Digvijay Singh government was sowing the seeds of hatred in the society by setting one community against the other on the pattern of British government's policy of divide and rule.

The action was meant for harassing the BJP workers who fought their 'battle' on the Bhojshala issue under the banner of the HJM, he added. Vijayvargiya questioned the propriety of collective fine when the cases against the affected persons were pending in the courts and the latter were yet to pronounce the verdict. The Government's decision amounted to contempt of court.

As per the government order, the affected persons may submit their objections before the Commissioner, Indore division, Ramsajivan. Later, the Commissioner would send his report to the State Government and then final notification on the fine would be issued.

Dhar Collector Sanjay Dubey said the district administration had not received any communiqué so far in this regard, therefore, he would not like to comment on the same.

7:23 AM

Thursday, August 07, 2003  
Dalits seek land for settlement

Kathmandu Post (Nepal) - 4 August

Around 300 landless Dalit people comprising majority of women planted paddy saplings on the main road in Rajbiraj, the headquarters of Siraha district, as a protest against the government today afternoon. They also presented a 10-point memorandum to the Prime Minister through the District Administration Office (DAO). Organised by Janachetana Dalit Sangam, Madhupatti, 10 Dalit organisations participated in the programme.

4:32 PM

Gujarat Govt finally files appeals against bakery case

Indian Express - 7 August

The Gujarat government on Thursday filed an appeal in the High Court challenging the order of a fast track court in Vadodara that acquitted 21 persons accused in the Best Bakery massacre during the post-Godhra communal violence.

On June 27, additional sessions judge H.U. Mahida of a fast track court at Vadodara had acquitted 21 people on the ground of lack of evidence.

Several crucial witnesses, including key eye-witness Zaheera Shaikh, daughter of the bakery owner Habibullah who was among those killed in the massacre, turned hostile during trial of the case.

A mob had ransacked and torched the Best Bakery on March one, 2002 at the Hanuman Tekri area and slaughtered 12 people, including women and children, while two persons are still missing since the incident.

The Gujarat government also simultaneously moved an application challenging the decision of a Godhra sessions court earlier in which several persons accused of atrocity and rioting during the communal violence were also acquitted.

Sessions judge K.C. Kella had acquitted one Sajid alias Rabdi Hanif Jamal Shaiekh in a case of atrocity and rioting after he alleged led a 500 strong mob to attack a Dalit colony in Lunawada town of Vadodara on March 1.

However, no one was killed in the incident.

4:27 PM

Dignity in dirt

Indian Express (Pune Newsline) - 3 August, by Aishwarya Mavinkurve

In Poornima Chikarmane, the city’s ragpickers recognise the friend who’s helped them live with dignity

AS most people hold their noses and walk past this garbage dump at Deccan Gymkhana, Poornima Chikarmane stops. The ragpickers rummaging through the garbage greet her and launch into an animated dialogue. For they recognise in Poornima, the friend who has helped them live their life with dignity.

Assistant director of the Pune Sub-centre of the Department of Adult and Continuing Education, SNDT Women’s University, Poornima has been a catalyst in the process that changed the condition of ragpickers considered to be the bottom of the social rung, since it began in 1989.

Three girls who would help their mothers to pick scrap from the garbage dumps had begun to attend the SNDT’s adult education centres in the Yerawada slums. ‘‘My colleague Lakshmi Narayan and I decided to go along with them to see how they could relate better to what was being taught. Here, we realised that instead of rummaging through garbage heaps, it would be much better if they actually got segregated scrap,’’ says Poornima. That was when a pilot activity of collecting segregated garbage in societies in Bund Garden road was mooted. The mothers of the girls who were also ragpickers took over the collection here, suggesting that their children continue to study. Before long 30 ragpickers had begun to make the rounds of these societies with identity cards which had been issued by the SNDT.

And so began the journey of exploring the lives of ragpickers mostly women - of their survival on the streets, who braved police harassment and disdain of citizens and yet managed to keep the home fires burning. ‘‘The women are very strong,’’ says Poornima who was by now involved in her department’s Project for the Empowerment of Women Waste-pickers.

From the time that the Association of Scrap Collectors (Kagad, Kach, Patra Kashtakari Panchayat) was formed following a convention in May 1993 organised by Dalit Swayamsevak Sangh, Dr Baba Adhav and the SNDT to now when the organisation is 4,600 strong, it has been a long but fruitful journey. ‘‘When it started out it was the only ragpickers association of its kind in India,’’ says Poornima. Today its members carry PMC endorsed identity cards, have a credit co-operative, enjoy medical insurance, run a scrap store in PCMC and above all have a positive self image of their work. But Poornima feels there’s more to be done. ‘‘Scrap collectors should be covered by the benefits of the Mathadi act because that gives an unorganised sector social security,’’ she says.

And did she ever think that going around garbage dumps with three adolescent students would actually result in this? ‘‘Its a combination of various factors coming together. We were part of that process,’’ she says modestly.

4:26 PM

Tuesday, August 05, 2003  
Caste downgraded for marrying Dalit woman

Himalayan Times - 3 August

Mahipal Basnet married a girl of Bishwakarma caste while he was in Bahundangi Village Development Committee of Jhapa district in course of work. Now Mahipal has to bear the burnt of his love for a Dalit girl.

Instead of the woman being changed to Chhetri caste (Basnet), Mahipal has been downgraded to Bishwakarma. The society forced Mahipal to outcaste himself for marrying a Dalit woman.

He has been living a life of an outsider with his family in Bahundangi. The society has forbidden him to enter his own house and nobody uses the water he uses.

"Everyone escapes from me," says Mahipal. "But I am not ashamed of my deeds; I don't have any regrets because I have married a girl of my choice." He believes that prevalent caste discrimination should end. It has been 14 years since he got married. He has a son and two daughters. His children do not know the pain he is undergoing through and he does not want to hurt their feeling. He feels that it is better to involve children in some good and creative works than to let them engage in discussion about upper and lower castes.

7:05 AM

LS to debate atrocities against Dalits

Sify news - 4 August

The Lok Sabha will take up on Friday a special discussion on atrocities against Dalits in various parts of the country, which was listed for today. CPI-Ms Basudeb Acharia, who was in the Chair, sought the sense of the House as to when the discussion on atrocities against Dalits would be taken up. After a short discussion, it was decided that the matter would be raised by Ram Vilas Paswan (Lok Janshakti) and Acharia himself on Friday immediately after the Question Hour. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also agreed with the suggestions which came from the floor.

7:00 AM

Banjaras, dalits adopting dowry practice now

Deccan Herald - 3 August, by Shruba Mukherjee

Expressing concern at the rising menace of dowry in Karnataka, a recent report has revealed that the practice has now been adopted even by communities like banjaras and dalits, who did not have the custom earlier.

The study titled “Expanding dimensions of dowry” released by All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) revealed that dowry in cash and kind was on the rise and one could also find the sale of girls so as to avoid dowry.

“The most shocking example of this has been the recent cases in Chhincholi Tehsil where banjara families, who used to hold their women in high esteem, have started selling their daughters saying they cannot afford the expenditures at the time of their marriage,” the report said.

Most of the respondents in the survey, which was conducted in Bangalore, Bijapur, Gulbarga and Mandya, had monthly income of less than Rs 5,000 but had spent huge amount on their daughter’s marriages. The grooms’ families said they had taken dowry to recover what they had spent for the marriages of their daughters. The practice had also been defended as dowry was considered to be “stree dhan”.

The only exception is the Kannada Devanga community, who consider it to be a matter of low status to take money from the daughter-in-law’s family.

The respondents, who were from all castes and religions, suggested that women should be given proper education and good employment opportunities in order to deal with the social evil. They also recommended stringent implementation of the law and launching of anti-dowry campaigns by women’s organisations.

6:58 AM

Sunday, August 03, 2003  
Mumbai to witness largest Dalit congregation in Jan

United News of India - 3 August

Hundreds of thousands of Dalits will throng Mumbai in January next year to attend the fourth edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) with the theme 'Against Imperialistic Globalisation.' The participants affiliated to four national level Dalit organisations, including National Dalit Forum (NDF), would hold a public meeting on the theme of 'Caste, Race, Descent based Discrimination and Exclusion,' according to a resolution passed at a two-day meeting of the National Consultation of the Dalit Sector here.

It was also resolved to organise a round table on the theme of caste based discrimination, exclusion and discrimination, inviting all other discriminated communities across the world, NDF functionary Ravi Kumar told UNI here.

He said it had been proposed to invite former President K R Narayanan as a representative of the Dalits in India and South Asia and former South African President Nelson Mandela as a representative of the excluded and discriminated people across the world for the inauguration and valedictory functions of WSF respectively.

The Dalit organisations have also planned a series of awareness creation campaigns to mobilise support and participation at the WSF, Mr Kumar added.

Rallies would be undertaken in 15 states to disseminate the information of WSF, to propagate the ill-effects of globalisation and also see the possibility of consilidating and building alliances with existing Dalit organisations.

4:14 PM

BJP using conversion issue for poll mileage: CBCI

Press Trust India - 2 August

A Christian body today criticised the BJP saying it rakes up the conversion issue time and again just for "electoral gains."

"Conversion is not an issue..in fact it is nothing new," Father Dominique Emmanuel of Catholic Bishops' Conference of India said at a seminar on 'Conversion Bill: Challenges and Proposals' organised by Committee on Dalit Concerns and Human Rights (DCHR) here.

Emmanuel said the BJP earlier harped on abolition of Article 370 of the Constitution, Uniform Civil Code and the construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya to take its tally of two Lok Sabha seats to 182 in 1982.

"They are now raising the conversion issue just to win 300 seats in the coming elections, as 'vociferously' predicted by their party president Venkaiah Naidu," he said.

Among others who attended the seminar were DCHR chairman Dr James Thomas and Young Men's Christian Association Delhi unit president, Elwin Nathaniel.

4:13 PM

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.

4:12 PM

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