. . . . . . "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

Thursday, January 20, 2005  
Japan's despised class still suffering from discrimination

IMPURE PROFESSIONS: One man's plight reveals the country's ongoing problem with `Burakumin' -- a reviled caste due to their death-related jobs

AFP, Jan 19, 2005

After more than four decades of fighting the Japanese justice system, Kazuo Ishikawa has learned to read and is out of prison, but he still feels the shackles on his wrists.

Convicted of a sensational murder he insists he did not commit, Ishikawa has waged a battle not only against the courts that put him behind bars but against a society that left him defenseless.
Ishikawa is a Burakumin, part of Japan's untouchable caste formerly relegated to ghettos because of their "impure" professions associated with death and whose hundreds of thousands of members still struggle for full acceptance in the 21st century.

In Ishikawa's emblematic case, to prove his innocence, he had to teach himself to read and write from inside a prison cell. He is now using the skill to demand a retrial -- all he wants, he says, is an apology.

Ishikawa's saga began on the rainy afternoon of May 1, 1963, when 16-year-old Yoshie Nakada disappeared on her way home from school in the small rural town of Sayama in Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo. That evening, her parents received a ransom letter in poorly written Japanese. It asked for ?200,000 (US$1,960) and a meeting at the stroke of midnight the following day.

The police sent out 43 officers at the assigned time. A mysterious person turned up but was not caught. Yoshie's body was found three days after the kidnapping buried near a footpath to a farm. [...]

Ishikawa, then 24, was arrested on the morning of May 23 for theft, assault and attempted blackmail. He was interrogated and after more than a month in custody he confessed. The basis of the allegation was the ransom letter. But Ishikawa, an upkeeper of swine, could not read.
After a six-month trial, Ishikawa was handed the verdict on March 11, 1964: death. He smiled at the judge, not believing the sentence could be true.

Ishikawa now writes poems to keep the memories of his ordeal. His dream is to earn the equivalent of a high-school diploma. His other dream is to have his name cleared.
The death sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1974 on an appeal. On December 21, 1994, he was freed on bail after 31 years and seven months in jail, thanks to a long national campaign of solidarity on his plight.

Ishikawa's supporters have so far gathered 430,000 signatures demanding a retrial.
"If a judge tells me, `I'm sorry,' I can forgive everything," Ishikawa

Link to the article

8:21 AM

Wednesday, January 19, 2005  
Tsunami Opens Fault Lines in Old Caste System

The Washington PostTuesday, January 18, 2005

India's Untouchables Allege Discrimination In Allocation of Aid
By Rama Lakshmi

Muthu Vellaithevan, a farm laborer who is part of India's untouchable caste, lost seven goats and a cow when massive waves lashed at his coastal village on Dec. 26. The water also swept away his thatch-roofed mud hut.

But he said his real problems began after the water receded, when he and his people found themselves the targets of aid discrimination by the fishermen of his village.

Members of the untouchable caste, which is at the bottom of the rural social order in India, say they were made to live and cook separately from the fishing families of Thirumullaivasal village in Tamil Nadu after the Dec. 26 tsunami washed away their homes.

"Forty families from my community took shelter in a school building outside the village," recalled Vellaithevan, 35, a father of three. "But in two days, the fishermen's families at the shelter began troubling us. They did not allow us to sleep and eat with them. They did not want to be under the same roof with us. We were forced to leave. Our homes were destroyed and our children were hungry. Where could we go?"

The South Asian tragedy has ripped open centuries-old fault lines of caste in rural India's rigid social hierarchy. In the district of Nagapattinam, where more than 6,000 people died, untouchables from about 10 villages have openly protested what they call discrimination against them in the provision of relief supplies and access to shelters.

The Indian constitution outlaws the country's 3,000-year-old caste system, in which society is organized into groups ranked in a strict hierarchy. But many Indians retain the system mentally. Untouchables are at the bottom of the rural social order; people of other castes often consider them to be unclean and refuse any contact with them.


The fishing families lived closest to the sea in this coastal community and appeared to have suffered the most damage from the tsunami in this area, in loss of both lives and livelihood. The bulk of relief supplies, from the government and private organizations, has gone to them.
"The fishermen have cornered all the relief supplies that come into the village. The whole world thought that only the fishermen are the victims," said Selvi Thangavelu, 40, whose husband washed fish that were brought from the sea and loaded them into trucks. "When we queued up for food or clothes, they said, 'Go away, we have suffered the most because we have lost lives and boats. What have you lost?' Our lives and our work are closely tied to theirs. But nobody paid any attention to us."

When they were thrown out of the school building, Vellaithevan and others went to a marriage hall and lived separately there for 10 days.
He said the government built plastic-roofed tents for 10 untouchable families in the village, while all the fishing families received shelters. Vellaithevan's family now lives by the road in a small tent that he made by tying old borrowed saris to three bamboo poles. He said the seawater flooded several acres of farmland, leaving him jobless.

When the government gave the family the equivalent of $90 and two sacks of rice as immediate relief a week ago, they returned to their village. "Now we cook our own food with the help of the money," he said, pointing to a wood fire outside his tent.

In Thirumullaivasal, 55 untouchable families have been living in a school building away from the tents of the fishermen. A private charity group cooks community meals in the village, but the untouchables allege that they mostly have served the fishing families.
"The fishermen say we will be fed only if there is extra food," said Neesa Madiazhagan, 28, an untouchable mother of two small children, living in the school building. "Whenever a relief truck enters the village, they unload it for themselves first. Whatever is left over is sent our way."
A senior bureaucrat looking after relief operations in Nagapattinam district acknowledged that there were some problems with the supplies not reaching the untouchables.

"In such a big calamity, there is bound to be some complaints about distribution of relief supplies. We are trying to address these gaps," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Fishermen bore the brunt of the tragedy. The untouchables also faced the problems, but to a lesser extent. Naturally all the attention was on the fishing community. But there is no deliberate caste discrimination."

Read the full story

8:20 AM

Monday, January 17, 2005  
'Remove discrimination against Dalits in tsunami relief':

New Kerala
13 january 2005

Alleging discrimination against Dalits during relief distribution in tsunami-hit areas, the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) today asked the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that the conservancy staff are taken care of properly.

Discrimination was being practised against Dalits in the coastal areas in relief distribution and the conservancy staff were not being taken care of properly, NCDHR state convenor and former IAS officer V Karuppan said at a press conference here. Karuppan said nearly 700 conservancy staff had been employed to remove corpses, but had not been provided any protective gear like gloves, mask and gum boots. "Because of this these staff are being exposed to hazards." A total of 84 Dalit families had been affected due to tsunami in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam. Nearly 200 dalits had also perished in the tidal waves, while 175 were still missing, he said.

However, the state machinery was not registering the names of the missing persons and without this their families would not be eligible for compensation, he said adding officials were not showing much concern for them. He said even in the distribution of relief in the camps, fishing community was being given priority."What we want the government to do is ensure that this discrimination goes and all relief and facilities are provided to dalits and conservancy staff," he said. PTI

Link to the article

9:53 AM

India: End Caste Bias in Tsunami Relief

14 Jan 2005

GMT source: Human Rights Watch

(so-called untouchables) communities by the authorities as well as by some aid groups and local communities. Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government to make all efforts to counter caste or religious discrimination throughout the entire post-tsunami process of relief, rehabilitation and redevelopment.

"In the aftermath of the tsunami, the Indian government should try to help Dalits who may be excluded from equitable relief and employment opportunities," said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "The government should immediately ensure that there is equitable and unbiased rehabilitation by including Dalit rights activists, both male and female, in rehabilitation committees at all levels."

Nearly 10,000 people died in India in the tsunami on December 26, most of them in Tamil Nadu state. Most of the immediate victims were from fishing communities, perceived as coming from higher castes, who live along the coast. Dalits who live further inland lost their livelihood and access to water because their wells were filled with seawater.

According to many press reports and an on-site investigation by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), a highly respected Indian organization, some higher-caste fishing communities refused to share emergency shelter and rations with the Dalits. The NCDHR investigation also documented incidents in which authorities in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu provided Dalits with less relief and support than other victims. Dalit areas have been the last to have electricity and water supplies restored during rehabilitation efforts. NCDHR also cited allegations that officials are discriminating in providing financial assistance to the families of deceased Dalits.

"The government should ensure that all government and NGO activities take steps to combat caste discrimination in the longer-term reconstruction efforts," said Adams. "India has excellent legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination, but it should implement these laws to avoid adding the problems of caste-discrimination to the misery caused by the tsunami."

Link to the article

8:34 AM

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