. . . . . . "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, April 27, 2006  
Forgotten Minority

Times of India
27 April 2006

By Yoginder Sikand

Of the roughly three million officially classified Hindu population of Pakistan, some 80 per cent are Dalits. There are 42 different Dalit castes in the country. Most Pakistani Dalits live in Sindh, with smaller numbers in southern Punjab and Baluchistan. Like their Indian counterparts, they are poor, largely illiterate and eke out a miserable existence mainly as agricul-tural labourers, menials and petty artisans.

A recent visit to Pakistan took me to lower Sindh, home to a large number of Dalits. Land ownership patterns are enormously skewed in this part of Pakistan. A small class of landlords, or waderas, owns most of the land, and some estates run into tens of thousands of acres.

The conditions of the Sindhi peasantry or haris, who include both Muslims as well as Dalits, are pathetic. Many haris do not even own the mud huts in which they live. In much of lower Sindh, Dalits constitute up to 70 per cent of the agricultural workforce.

According to Khurshid Kaimkhani, an activist from Sindh, landlords prefer to employ Dalits instead of Muslim haris because the former are more docile. Hardly any Dalits own any land, he says.

As in some parts of India, Dalits work as bonded labourers, prevented from escaping by private armies of powerful landlords. There are no special government development schemes for Dalits.

This is hardly surprising, for the only significant presence of the state in large parts of rural Sindh appears to be roads, electricity poles and tall minaret-like police stations named after various 'martyrs', these being mainly policemen gunned down by dacoits.

Dalits in rural Sindh face other forms of oppression similar to that in India. Village eateries have separate utensils for Dalits, and, generally, 'upper' caste Hindus and Muslims do not eat food prepared by Dalits.

Cases of Dalit women being kidnapped by landlords are common. Often this results in the women being converted to Islam against their will. In the wake of the destruction of the Babri masjid and the consequent massacre of Muslims in India, the conditions of Pakistan's Dalits have become even more precarious.

Some Dalits, as well as caste Hindus, were killed by mobs in Sindh and numerous temples were destroyed. To add to this is the influence of vehemently anti-Hindu and anti-India radical Islamist groups. All this has made Dalits even more scared to speak out.

In Pakistan's only Hindu majority district of Thar Parkar conditions of Dalits are equally pathetic. According to Pirbhu Lal Satyani, a local social activist, 'upper' caste Hindu Rajput landlords, Brahmins and Banias routinely subject Dalits, who form the overwhelming majority of the population, to various forms of discrimination.

They are not allowed to enter Hindu temples in many places. At election time, Dalits who have dared to contest against caste Hindu candidates are routinely harassed and some have even been killed. Organising the Pakistani Dalits for their rights is an uphill task, says Satyani. He attributes this to fear of reprisal, abysmal levels of Dalit literacy, the small Dalit middle class and difficulty of bringing various Dalit castes together. Pakistani Dalit activists routinely point out that Pakistani caste Hindus take little interest in the plight of Dalits.

"They treat us as Hindus only at election time when they come to seek our votes", says Panna, a Dalit from Larkana. Most Hindu members of the state and national assemblies are caste Hindus, who are regarded by the Pakistani state as representatives of all Hindus. Like most other caste Hindus, Panna says, they are "completely indifferent to Dalits and continue to treat them as untouchables".

Yet, Dalits in Pakistan are beginning to voice their demands, helped in part by non-government organisations and social activists. Aslam Khwaja and his friends in Hyderabad have purchased a plot of land, where they have resettled some 15 poor Dalit families rescued from landlords. Manu Bhil has been protesting outside the Hyderabad Press Club for the last three years demanding release of his family kidnapped by a Baloch landlord.

Last year, Kishan Bhil, a member of Pakistan's National Assembly, created a major stir when he slapped a maulvi member of the assembly for denigrating his religion. And in rural Sindh, some Bhils have even joined up with gangs of dacoits, consisting mainly of landless Muslim peasants. Some Dalit organisations have been formed too. In Sindh, the Pakistan Scheduled Caste Federation has sought to pressure the state to reserve jobs for Dalits, treat them officially as separate from caste Hindus, grant them land, institute special development programmes and purge textbooks of contents disparaging non-Muslims.

Early this year, the International Dalit Solidarity Network, along with some local Dalit groups, organised Pakistan's first ever Dalit convention that came out with a bold charter of demands. The recently held World Social Forum in Karachi brought together some 400 Pakistani Dalit activists, and provided them an opportunity to interact with their Indian counterparts.

This has led to plans for a South Asian Dalit platform, based on the recognition that the plight of Dalits in Pakistan is no different from India. As Nathu Ram, an elderly Meghwal I met at the dargah of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, said, "We Dalits suffer the same plight no matter where we are. India or Pakistan, both are the same for us. We have only God and ourselves who can work to change things for us".

Link to the article

7:38 AM

Wednesday, April 26, 2006  
Dalits deprived to fetch water in Dadeldhura

The Rising Nepal
24 April 2006

More than 100 Dalit families of Bashantapur, Gurukhola and Dhiruwasaiti VDCs have been forced to drink water collected from wells as the non-Dalits deprived them of water sources in the villages. They go to fetch water to the stream an hour's walk away from the village and sometimes they have to return without water in the winter season.

Eighty Dalit families of Gurukhola, eight families of Bashantapur and eight Lohar families of Dhiruwasaiti VDCs have been facing the scarcity of water because of caste based discrimination imposed by non Dalits. Although, the District Development Committee (DDC) had planned for a drinking water project, the project was suspended after the non-Dalits debated over the source of water. The consumers' committee had, already, completed half of the works. Committee chairman Dani Ram Lohar said the works could not be carried out smoothly after the non-Dalits debated over the source of water. The district administration's attention has, already, been drawn towards the issue, which is learnt to have inquired into the dispute.

Lohar complained that the Dalit families were facing the scarcity of drinking water due to discrimination by non-Dalits despite adequate water sources available there in the villages. Secretary of the District Dalit Network Karan Ram said that most of the Dalit families in the district were being deprived of their access to drinking water. Even the Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) are not working to put an end to such discrimination, he added

Link to the article

7:43 AM

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