. . . . . . "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, September 06, 2003  
Driven out by Jats, Harsola Dalits too scared to return

NewIndPress.com - 7 September

Chased away from their homes by Jats seven months ago, the Dalits of Harsola village are still too scared to return, preferring instead to live on alms within the Guru Ravidas Mandir here.

Assurances from the administration _ that had failed to stop a series of violent attacks on the community _ and the newly set up police post at Harsola have not changed their mind. ``We dare not go back or else the upper castes will maul us,'' says Pritam.

Interestingly, the government's official position is that what happened at Harsola wasn't a caste dispute. Denying that the Dalits were attacked by upper caste people, a Haryana government official says: ``They are responsible for their miserable state. It was an internal fight that led to the situation.''

Balbir Singh, who has also taken refuge at the temple, has still not forgotten what happened. ``We had gathered at the village Chaupal to discuss preparations for the forthcoming Guru Ravidas Jayanti last February when suddenly we were attacked by a gang of upper-caste people from our own village, apparently over a previous dispute with one of their youths. Many of us were mercilessly beaten up, our houses ransacked and shops destroyed. We had no option but to flee to Kaithal,'' he says.

Another Dalit from the same village, Birbhan, a daily wager, says: ``Our crops were ready for harvest when the incident took place. We fled the village leaving everything, including our wages. Later we heard the Jats had taken possession of the crops. We have no hopes of ever recovering our money,'' he laments.

For children of the Harsola victims, it has meant an end to school as their parents don't have the resources to get them re-admitted. ``Sometimes we feel guilty for spoiling the future of our children, but we are helpless,'' says Balbir.

A few of the Dalits have set up a shoe-making workshop at the back of the Ravidas temple, but they find it difficult to market their products. Others are still struggling to find an occupation.

Haryana Congress president Bhajan Lal, former Union home minister Buta Singh and ex-Haryana minister Kripa Ram Punia have submitted a memorandum to the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission demanding rehabilitation of the 270 Harsola Dalit families, and punishment for the culprits. The National Commission for SCs/STs had earlier called for a detailed report from the Kaithal district administration and compensation for the Dalits for their damaged property.

The Dalits, however, say they have not been provided any relief. ``Living in perpetual fear, they have little or no hope of ever returning home,'' regrets Karamvir Singh, president of the Haryana unit of the All India Confederation of SC/ST/BC Organisations.

Pritam nods: ``We don't want to die.''

11:09 PM

Thursday, September 04, 2003  
Dalit woman leader brings fame to panchayat with RWH

NewIndPress.com - 3 September

Here is a panchayat where rainwater harvesting (RWH) structures outnumber the houses. Aatrangaraipatti, one of the 31 panchayats in Sedapatti Panchayat Union of Madurai district, has another distinction too.

It is led by a Dalit woman president, K Pappa, whose initiative resulted in the successful implementation of RWH system in the panchayat and turned it into a model for others to emulate.

With a population of 1,300, the panchayat __ comprising Atrangaraipatti, A Kamatchipuram and Subbulapuram hamlets __ has 386 houses ranging from huts to concrete buildings, whereas the number of RWH structures total 410.

Some of the houses have set up two RWH structures, while the seven Government buildings, including PU office, PU school, Balwadi and community hall, have standard structures.

Intense campaigning, including door-to-door canvassing and distribution of leaflets, made RWH a big hit with the rural masses here. An RWH info centre put up at the Sedapatti Panchayat Union office at Aatrangaraipatti gave strength to the 'save rain water' propaganda.

Interestingly, the RWH movement gained momentum after parai sattruthal (announcement with tom-tom) informed villagers about the need for installing RWH structures to recharge ground water level.

Thavasi, a PG Assistant in the Government Higher Secondary School at M Kallupatti, who owns a concrete building, says: 'We installed the structures after Papa informed us about RWH's advantages.'

Farm worker Ponnuthayi is not aware of the benefits, but says she was guided by the Panchayat's advice to install a RWH structure for her tinned-roof house."

5:58 PM

What’s in a meal?

Daily Times (Pakistan) - 3 September, by Yoginder Sikand

Sharing a meal is one of the most potent instrument of social bonding and dissolving boundaries. If Dalit-Muslim unity is really to take off, efforts like this one must be promoted on a wide-scale

Although Muslims and Dalits are among the most backward and marginalised of communities in India today, efforts to bring them closer so they can jointly struggle for their rights have proved, by and large, abortive. In recent years Hindutva outfits have made great strides in winning Dalits over to their fold, using them in pogroms unleashed against Muslims in various parts of India.

For instance, Dalits, influenced and instigated by ‘upper’ caste-led Hindutva organisations, played a major role In the recent large-scale massacres of Muslims in Gujarat. This was not the first instance either; they have played a similar role in many other cases of what have come to be euphemistically called ‘communal riots’. Despite the efforts of numerous Dalit and Muslim activists, Dalit-Muslim unity remains a distant dream.

Influential Dalit and Muslim leaders have long stressed the need for broad-based unity between their communities, seeing this as a powerful means to challenge ‘upper’ caste oppression. Yet, the Dalit-Muslim unity agenda has not advanced beyond mere sloganeering or at best strategic political alliances at time of elections. By and large, moves to unite Dalits and Muslims have been confined to the political level.

Recent years have seen the emergence of several political parties ostensibly committed to Dalit-Muslim unity. Yet, as the experience of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh so painfully suggests, Dalit-Muslim unity at the political level, in the absence of strong ties between the two groups at the social level, can hardly be sustained. In other words, a meaningful unity between Dalits and Muslims is only possible through strong contacts and close alliances at the level of civil society.

An interesting effort in this regard was the Dalit-Muslim community dinner organised early this year in Delhi by the Jami’at ul ‘Ulama-e Hind, the All-India SC/ST Federation and the Muslim United Morcha. Predictably, the event was not widely reported in the ‘national’ press, for whom Dalit-Muslim unity is nothing short of anathema.

Some 1500 Muslims and Dalits got together for a meal, eating from the same plate. Among those who attended were several imams of mosques and teachers at Muslim madrasas. It was novel experience for many participants. Shunned as untouchables for millennia, for many Dalits the experience of sharing a meal with others was a radical phenomenon. As it was for many Muslims, who, despite their religious strictures against untouchability, consider Dalits as inferior and in emulation of the Hindu caste system practice varying degrees of untouchability towards the latter.

On this occasion, the head of the Jami’at ul ‘Ulama-e Hind, Maulana Asad Madani noted that the meal represented a symbolic protest against untouchability and, at the same time, a quest for human unity. The Qur’an, he said, exhorted Muslims to reach out to people of all faiths, for, as he noted, ‘It declares all humankind to be one and to be pure’.

He explained that Islam believed in the fundamental equality of all human beings and was against the caste system. He expressed the hope that the communal meal and would ‘help improve inter-community relations in the country and promote justice, humanity, equality and unity’. He added that the meal was intended to convey the message that Islam was against communal rivalry and stood for brotherhood, equality and humanity. He announced that the organisers planned to arrange similar events in other places to spread the message of Dalit-Muslim unity at the grass-roots level.

Mr Udit Raj, president of the SC/ST Confederation and one of the co-organisers of the event said that the meal was a practical effort to strengthen bonds between the two communities. He expressed the hope that through such efforts Dalits and Muslims would learn to help each other, especially when attacked. He remarked that Hindutva groups were seeking to draw the Dalits into their fold and use them to attack Muslims. To counter this move, he suggested that Dalit-Muslim collective meals and other such forms of practical Dalit-Muslim collaboration be extended all over the country.

What is in a meal, one might ask? Some might well be tempted to dismiss this as a mere exercise in symbolism. Yet, sharing a meal is one of the most powerful social levellers, a potent instrument of social bonding and dissolving boundaries. If Dalit-Muslim unity is really to take off, efforts like this one must be promoted on a wide-scale. This is not to deny the importance of political unity of marginalised groups for a joint struggle for their rights, but to suggest that it is only through strong civil society pressure that unity at the political level can actually be achieved. Many more such meals are needed!

The writer is post-doctoral fellow at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden. He also edits a web-magazine called Qalandar, which can be accessed at www.islaminterfaith.org

5:57 PM

Tuesday, September 02, 2003  
Rajasthan: Report on bid to rape dalit sought

Press Trust of India - 2 September

Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission today sought details from the Bhilwara district police on a reported rape attempt on a dalit woman, allegeddly by a person belonging to the upper caste.

Taking cognisance of a media report on attempted rape of a dalit woman and subsequent burning of her house in Kherabad village, the Commission asked the Bhilwara Superintendent of Police to sumbit a report on the incident by October 10, a statement issued by the Commission here said.

On August 7, a newspaper here reported that a Rajput man, allegedly under influence of alcohol, set the house of a dalit woman on fire after he failed to rape her, it said.

The accused, Arvind Singh alias Gappu Singh, also beat up five persons, including victim's husband and sat on guard in the front of the house to prevent neighbours from helping the woman put out fire, the release said, quoting the newspaper report.

7:45 PM

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