. . . . . . "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

Tuesday, November 15, 2005  
Conflict Triggers Exodus Among Kids: Report

The Himalayan Times
15 November 2005

A total of 17,583 children migrated from border areas of Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj, Tikapur, Dhangadhi and Mahendranagar to India between July and October last year, a research said, adding that a quarter of these children cited insecurity caused by the ongoing conflict as the reason for the exodus. Thirty-six per cent of the migrated children said poverty was to blame for migration.The results of the survey titled 'An Increasing Wave — Migration of Nepalese Children to India in the Context of Nepal's Armed Conflict' were made public here on Monday. Central Child and Welfare Board and Save the Children Alliance, Nepal had conducted the survey.Deepak Sapkota, executive director, Central Child Welfare Board, said though the children did not use the word 'conflict', they said they had fled due to the fear of getting kidnapped, getting caught in cross-fire and unrest.

According to the report, the migrated children hailed mainly from Kailali, Dang, Surkhet, Dailekh and Achham, the districts hit the hardest by the conflict. While 33 per cent of the migrated children were from the Dalit community, 30 per cent were from the Chhetri community, the report says.Thirteen per cent of the migrant children were leaving the country on their own, the report says, adding 87 per cent of the migrants were boys. While nearly half of the migrants were between 16 and 17 years of age, 25 per cent were aged between 11 and 15 years. The report has recommended that a special policy or programmes be formulated for safe migration and migrant resource centres be set up

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8:48 AM

Nepal king wages war on NGOs

14 November 2005

Human rights activists fear a “humanitarian crisis” in Nepal as thousands of non-governmental organizations defied the government led by King Gyanendra, saying they would rather shut down their operations than obey a controversial new code of conduct that limits their activities.
At least seven people were arrested when the first protests hit the streets on Friday.

The NGO Federation - an umbrella organization of over 2,600 associations - led rallies in the capital, Kathmandu, as well as in 35 of Nepal’s 75 districts, where copies of the code were torched.

Since he came to power through a bloodless coup in February, King Gyanendra first cracked
down on democracy by banning political rallies in the capital’s key areas, then took on the media by introducing new press curbs. Finally, he reined in civil servants by banning them from forming political associations.

“The code of conduct for NGOs is another onslaught in this systematic attack on democratic forces,” Sapana Pradhan-Malla, a leading lawyer who also heads the Forum for Women, Law, and Development (FWLD) NGO, told ISN Security Watch.
“It is not the content alone that matters, but the intent behind it as well,” she said.
The new code, which came into force on Thursday, prevents local or international NGOs from disclosing confidential information, doing anything that affects social and religious harmony, and forming any political alliance.

Their members and officials cannot draw any remuneration and the organization heads cannot hold their positions for more than two terms. But according to the Social Welfare Council, which set up the framework for the code of conduct, said NGOs were exaggerating the situation.
“They have not understood the provisions,” Sharad Sharma, a council member and spokesman, told ISN Security Watch. “The code is to make them transparent and effective.
“It is also to ensure that they spread out to the remote areas instead of concentrating in the capital or district headquarters,” the spokesman added.


A three-month unilateral truce called by Maoist insurgents is scheduled to end in early December, and the king has announced local elections for 8 February. Human rights activists fear the new code of conduct will make it illegal for NGOs to publish human rights violations by the government and security forces.
“Look at the Doramba massacre, the Kavre killing,” says Dr. Gopal Siwakoti, who heads the Inhured International human rights organization.
In August 2003, Nepalese security forces entered Doramba, a tiny village in Ramechhap district in central Nepal, and arrested 19 people, including Maoist cadres, disarmed them, and then killed them.

In the other incident, a 15-year-old school girl, Maina Sunuwar, was arrested and tortured to death inside an army barracks in February 2004 to prevent her relatives from talking about the extra-judicial killing of another teenaged girl they had witnessed.
“For more than two years, the army has denied any wrongdoing,” Siwakoti adds. “It was the human rights organizations who brought the killings to light. The new code tries to deter us from investigating such deeds.”

The code will also affect people not involved with NGOs, according to activists from the Dalit community, a group of people at the bottom of Nepal’s social hierarchy whose members are still treated as untouchables.
“I was thrown out when I tried to enter a temple because I am a Dalit,” says Padma Sundas, vice president of the Dalit Freedom Society.
“Nearly one-fourth of Nepal’s population are Dalits who are treated as less than human. We have been trying to challenge that, but a code that asks you not to disturb social harmony blocks such efforts.”

In the meantime, NGOs have planned a nationwide rally for 4 December, to be followed by another rally on 10 December, which is observed as Human Rights Day.
After that, they plan to move to international courts for justice.
“The code has helped us in a way,” Subodh Pyakurel, chief of Informal Sector Services Center, Nepal’s biggest human rights organization with representatives in all 75 districts, told ISN Security Watch.

“You can’t file a case at the UN or the International Court of Justice until all national resources have been exhausted. But now, with the government nipping all resources, we can approach them [the international courts] directly.”

An estimated 12,000 people have been killed in the nine years of fighting between the rebels and Nepalese forces since the Maoist rebels began their armed struggle to replace the monarchy with a secular, Communist state. The leftist fighters take their political lead from the teaching of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong and have become highly influential in Nepal’s rural communities. Social injustice is chief among the rebels’ complaints, as Nepal still adheres to a rigid caste system where some communities are regarded as untouchable, as accorded by the Hindu faith.

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8:40 AM

Monday, November 14, 2005  
President of the ‘Other India'


The Indian Express
12 November 2005

When Kocheril Raman Narayanan was born in February 1920 in a small thatched hut in the village of Perumthanam in Kerala, not even an oracle could have predicted the kind of future he would have. He was the fourth of seven children. His father, although respected as a traditional physician, was desperately poor. And the family belonged to the Paravan caste. In short, the man who would become the future President of India was born an impoverished dalit, far from the corridors of power, and decades before notions of affirmative action became the norm.

How did this happen? As we pay tribute to him, and recall his contribution and legacy, this is the question we need to ask. Certainly, when the journey began, the obstacles were almost insurmountable. At six years Narayanan began to learn to read and write, not in an elite school, but at the Lower Primary School in village Kurchithanam. The school was 15 kilometers from his home, and he walked that distance everyday wading through paddy fields. Finding the money to pay the fees was a constant battle. Buying books was another. It is said that his father’s elder brother used to borrow books from other students, copy them down, and give them to Narayanan.

There were two factors which saw KRN through in those early and exceptionally difficult years. The first was grit, the sheer tenacity to hang on and not to accept defeat. The second was, undoubtedly, personal brilliance. A merit scholarship enabled him to complete his intermediate degree from Kottayam. And when he did his Masters from the University of Travancore, he stood first in the University, and became the first dalit to ever get a first in that institution. Later, a J.R.D. Tata scholarship enabled him to study under the legendary Harold Laski at the London School of Economics.

These aspects of KRN’s life became much better known after he became the President of India. But officially released curriculum vitae of people when they are at their pinnacle often blur the hardships and deprivations of real events as they actually unfold. To fully appreciate the odds that Narayanan actually dealt with we need to understand the degree to which the fact of being a dalit entailed overt acts of social exclusion. Fighting poverty was much easier than fighting social prejudice. In the incorrigibly hierarchical society of India, to be at the bottom rung of an unfair social ladder, was a handicap that only those who were at the receiving end could internalise in all its humiliating magnitude. Gandhiji, who always wanted to co-opt Dr. Ambedkar, once said that he fully understood the anger and despair of the dalit leader. Despite being the apostle of non-violence, the Mahatma went so far as to say that he could understand why a dalit could be provoked into violence by such an unjust system.

To the credit of KRN, while he must have deeply resented social discrimination, he did not become irremediably bitter. In London, he worked actively for the India League under V.K. Krishna Menon. He contributed too to the Social Welfare Weekly brought out by K.M. Munshi. And when, on his return to India, Jawaharlal Nehru offered him entry into the Indian Foreign Service, he gladly accepted.

Although somewhat eclipsed by his later achievements, KRN’s career as a diplomat was exceptionally successful. He was India’s Ambassador in Thailand and Turkey, and far more significantly, our chief envoy in China and in the United States during a difficult and challenging period. One of the reasons for his success-and this was apparent to all who knew him-was that he was an erudite but gentle interlocutor, clear on his brief but willing to be a good listener. Even when unyielding, he was always ready with a winning smile.

KRN’s career in public life began after he retired from the Foreign Service in 1978. After a three year stint as Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal University in Delhi, he fought and won three successive general elections to the Lok Sabha in 1984, 1989 and 1991 representing the constituency of Ottapalam in Kerala. In 1992 he was unanimously elected as Vice-President of India, and in 1997 he moved to Raisina Hill as the tenth President of the Republic of India.


A second aspect was his ability to be a part of the system and yet not be entirely co-opted by it. To my mind, he remained constantly aware of the duality of India where, beyond the pageantry and pomp of the high office he occupied, there was the ‘other’ India, of the dalits and adivasis, the minorities, the poor and the dispossessed. He never forgot that he belonged to that India, and was conscious that while much had been done, much more needed to be done to make these segments a part of the mainstream. Many of his speeches, on which he worked hard himself, dealt with this theme, and it was a refrain in his private conversations too.

A third feature was his personal affability. He greeted people warmly, had very few of the angularities of the powerful, spoke softly, had a ready smile, and treated people with respect. It is amazing how rare some of these qualities are in the powerful, and KRN always came across as a refreshing and reassuring contrast.

Towards the end, KRN was in indifferent health. Once, while he was still at Rashtrapati Bhavan, he smilingly told me how he kept feeling that the strength was ebbing out of him. But he still made the effort to be with people he liked. One of the lasting images I have is of him at a recent party for Lord Meghnad Desai in Delhi. At one point, Meghnad and Dilip Padgaonkar began to sing an old Hindi film song, and invited KRN to join in. With effortless grace he took their hands in his, and while he did not sing, his smile said it all.

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8:20 AM

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