. . . . . . "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

Friday, June 24, 2005  
After 8 yrs, Dalits get to pull Shiva’s chariot in TN

But show of amity a sham as cops arrest Dalit leaders, sneak in 25 others from ADMK, local administration

The Indian Express
23 June 2005

For the first time in eight years, Dalits in this southern Tamil Nadu hamlet got to push the 300-year-old ornate chariot that bears a Shiva idol yesterday after the Madras High Court ruled that all caste groups should be allowed to participate.

However, the show of caste amity turned out to be a sham of sorts with police sneaking in over 25 Dalits who were acceptable to the upper caste Thevar leaders, virtually at the last minute, while arresting leading Dalit activists.

Dalits had been barred from the festival in recent years after the upper-cast Thevars and local nattars (descendants of the royal family) objected to their participation, leading to caste clashes in the region.

With Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa not wanting to antagonise the dominant Thevars or risk a caste clash in this Sivaganga district village, about 400 km from Chennai, district authorities and state police ensured that the court directive was followed only in letter. They did so by handpicking 25 Dalits, mostly Kandadevi local body staff and owing allegiance to the AIADMK, to drag the chariot.

District Collector Anand Rao Vishnu Patil says “the festival went off peacefully and harmoniously” but the CPI(M), which petitioned the high court over the issue, termed the incident a “mockery of the Dalit participation”.

With Dalit leaders like K Krishnasamy and T Thirumavalavan who were taken into preventive custody ahead of the festival likely to retaliate, there seems to be trouble ahead.

“Everything went off peacefully,” said K Kesavamani, who was “allowed” to participate. “They (the thevars) allowed us to drag the chariot,” he said.

However, it was totally a Thevar show. Sporting fierce moustaches, the Thevars exchanged smiles as slogans of “Long live Jayalalithaa” and “Are you challenging our procession? (a reference to the Dalit activists)” rent the air.

Although district authorities had distributed handbills and put up posters asking everyone to participate there were no men and youth to be found in the hamlet’s Dalit colonies yesterday morning. Dalits from surrounding villages were prevented from entering the village while their leaders were taken into custody.

Legend has it that Ram received news about Sita from Hanuman at Kandadevi after she had been kidnapped by Ravana.

Read the full story

8:13 AM

Monday, June 20, 2005  
All work, no funds for Dalit panchayat head

The Indian Express
17 June 205

Chairperson says not many listen to her; her allowances too have been withdrawn

Deomanti Devi should have been the face of social engineering, which the Rashtriya Janata Dal swore by during the 15 years it was in power in the state. Especially as she was based in Bodhgaya, to which 70,000 foreign tourists flock each year.

But the Dalit chairperson of the Bodhgaya Nagar Panchayat, under which the Mahabodhi temple complex falls, says she “regrets” her foray into public life.
Deomanti says not many listen to her at panchayat meetings. She is even more upset at “being deprived of allowances and other entitlements privy to a civic body head”.

The chairperson used to sell peanuts near the temple complex to look after her six children and an alcoholic husband. “Now, being the chairperson, I cannot even do that. What respect will people give to a chairman who sells peanuts,” she asks.

Since becoming chairperson in August 2002 Deomanti has knocked on many doors — including that of the Urban Development Department — for her allowances.
“I was told that I should get a manual for civic body authorities from Patna and go through it. I did so with the help of some educated neighbours as I am illiterate... But even for taking that trip to Patna at the end of 2002 I was not paid a single paisa”, she says.

“Last year alone, I had gone to Patna four times but no travel allowance was paid,” Deomanti adds.
So where does she get the money to run the Ambassador allotted to her. ‘‘What can I do, I take some money from the funds for development projects in the wards...” is the reply.
Bihar Home Secretary and Commissioner A K Biswas responds to Deomanti’s complaint about non-cooperation by saying, “It’s true that in many parts of the state Dalits, even if they are constitutionally elected, do not get the necessary cooperation from upper-caste colleagues and bureaucrats.”

He adds that the Home Department has not received any complaint from Deomanti. “If she files a complaint, I will make sure that she is not deprived of her entitlements,” Biswas said.
S K Singh, Secretary in the Urban Development Department, says, “Nagar panchayats devise their own budgets and there should be provisions in the budget for entitlements such as travel allowance.”

Deomanti, who thinks she has done a “remarkable job” as chairperson, says she makes “surprise visits” to all 14 Bodhgaya Nagar Panchayat wards. “My immediate concern was water and electricity and I think I have done a remarkable job,” she says, pointing to the street lamp outside her shack.

There is ample goodwill for Deomanti in Bodhgaya. “We are all happy at seeing a Dalit woman as the chairman of the Nagar Panchayat. She is doing a fairly good job though she is not being given any financial assistance,” says Ram Singh Yadav, who runs a paan shop.

Link to the article

8:32 AM

Forcing the issue

Ethical Corporation
17 June 2005

Stamping out forced and bonded labour will never be easy. But the corporate sector cannot deny it is within its ambit of responsibility

Big business has, in general, made an art form of ducking important issues. The “business-is-business” line has been reeled out often enough to have worn ruts in the machinery. It has, for the most part, allowed businesses blithely to disregard many pressing concerns, whether they be HIV/Aids, poverty or climate change, in which they themselves have a direct or indirect role to play. Forced and bonded labour is one such issue. Perhaps it is time to ask what big business can do about the problem.Because much forced and bonded labour tends to take place in the informal economy sectors of various countries, it has been an issue multinational businesses have been able avoid better than most. Also, it has been argued, many of the products of forced and bonded labour are, by definition, so small scale that they don’t find their way into export containers. Not a reason to ignore the issue of course, but the issue of forced and bonded labour is rarely one that leaps from the supermarket shelves in developed economies as many others do. But it cannot be denied and there is still something companies can do.

Baby steps
Late in 2004, a gathering in Nepal organised by the International Dalit Solidarity Network discussed the means by which caste-based discrimination – a significant underpinning to much forced and bonded labour practices – could be challenged, in South Asia, Africa and Japan in particular.

The role of the private sector was expressly included in the call to arms the conference produced, the Kathmandu Dalit Declaration. In this document, the UN, governments, donors, non-governmental organisations and aid agencies are given a comprehensive action plan to stamp out caste-based inequity, in relation to forced and bonded labour, as well as in relation to other discriminatory practices. Private companies are asked to sign up to such instruments as the UN Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights, the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinationals and other Enterprises, and the Global Compact. They are invited to develop specific human rights policies, to consult with marginalized groups and to adopt forms of affirmative action.

The private sector is also asked to consider supporting the Ambedkar Principles, which were presented in draft from at the Kathmandu gathering. These principles offer a range of employment principles to allow “foreign investors to address caste discrimination in South Asia”.Stamping out forced and bonded labour will never be easy. But the corporate sector cannot deny it is within its ambit of responsibility. Such principles as Ambedkar are a useful first step, attacking one of the foundations of forced and bonded labour. The draft document is currently being formalised. Corporate support and input would be encouraged and would help those seeking to empower a much-maligned and oft-forgotten section of the global labour market.

Link to the article

8:14 AM


17 June 2005

The Madras High Court today directed the state Government to ensure that Dalits were not discriminated upon but allowed to take part in the annual Kandadevi Temple festival in Sivaganga district and pull the temple car.
A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice Markandey Katju and Justice F M Ibrahim Kallifulla, gave the order on a petition filed by Puthiya Tamizhagam party and an impleading petition by CPI-M, for a direction to the authorities concerned to permit these communities pull the temple car.

"This court will not tolerate such kind of treatment to the SC and ST communities," the Bench said.
The Judges said as per the interpretation of the Supreme Court, the Dalits were also citizens and entitled to a life of dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.
"Denying them the right to pull the cart is violative of Article 21 and cannot be tolerated," they held.

The Bench directed the Sivaganga District Collector to ensure strict compliance of orders issued by the High Court in July 1998 and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Commissioner in June 1999 permitting dalits to pull the car.
Describing the current era as the modern age where no one should be insulted, humiliated and looked down upon, the Judges said "after the preliminary rituals and poojas are performed by the nathars (village heads) and the car procession starts all Hindus, irrespective of caste, shall be permitted to pull the car and participate in the car festival on June 21.

Link to the article

8:11 AM

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