"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.
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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.
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Thursday, December 07, 2006
India 2006: The Flying Elephant Tumbles
06 December, 2006
Christian Beck takes on the myth of India as the next global superpower.
What are the chances of the Indian elephant catching up with the American eagle and the Chinese Dragon at the beginning of the Asian century? A steadily enlarging amount of publications wondering about the sudden growth of wings of the heavy down-to-earth animal after the opening of the Indian economy, made it a fair thank of the publishers to make India the guest country at the world’s largest book fair in Frankfurt in 2006. The Indian nation was for decades breaking records only in poverty indicators and made a skinny old guy in loincloth and a wrinkly nun living in the slums of Calcutta its best knownrepresentatives. After then-Finance Minister Manmohan Singh opened the world’s most-regulated non-communist economy to the world in 1991, the impoverished masses now seem to be turning into the country’s strength, providing the world’s largest working force, and in the process taking over the software business, call centres, and becoming the “back-office of the world”. Deutsche Bank for example is shifting about half of its overall sales and trading jobs to Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. But this year’s developments indicate an unnecessary stumbling of the grey colossus at the take-off.
When attempting to identify India’s weaknesses, one ought to focus on recent domestic events, rather than analysing international headlines
On April 5, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh told the Indian mediathat the government proposed to introduce 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC) in Central universities, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), the Central medical colleges, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and a few other centrally-run elitist institutions. OBC resemble a caste-based category between the traditionally better-off or elitist groups, and the most backward groups of Scheduled Castes and Tribes (SC/ST), which include Dalits (outcasts alias untouchables) and Muslims. Those with no chance to become part of India’s knowledge-based economic miracle due to being born in one of the lower castes should get their share of the cake. Such an extension of reservations to the OBC was made possible by the 93rd Constitutional Amendment Bill, which was adopted by near-unanimity in the Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian parliament). Against this unity, students of the affected educational institutions created the “Youth for Equality” (YFE) movement, went on the streets against this proposal, and almost brought life (especially the health services) to a standstill in much of northern and western India for over two weeks. Only an order by the Supreme Court on 31 May made the doctors return to work while challenging the government’s proposal as well.Naxalism, the bloody uprising of some of the poorest Indian peasants with Marxist support on the east coast of India is a rural phenomenon among the elderly portion of the Indian society. In great contrast, the YFE turned out to be backed by successful modern Indian companies and the growing middle class. The restriction of access to education and knowledge as a domain of the highest caste groups was for millenniums the foundation of the social hierarchy. With a continuation of these traditions, the wings of the Indian elephant would remain much too small for him ever to fly. The integration of the Indian economy into the world market is not only based on liberalisation but to a large extent also on English language skills. However, it is properly spoken by merely a few per cent of the population. In IT-country India, only 1.2 per cent (= 9.4 million of its one billion people) are logged on to the internet at least once a week. Caste based discrimination means a large threat to India’s economic efficiency and a medium-term danger of drying-up supply of skilled labour.
The unavoidable Indian complexity – everything one can say about India is true, the opposite as well – makes it impossible to clearly distinguish good polices from bad ones. The YFE’s criticism of university reservations aims at a social-policy instrument that is commenced at a stage where it is too late to address the fundamental and underlying challenge of the India educational system. Indeed, primary schools are financed so poorly that teachers often do not even show up for work, thus equipping children poorly with the tools needed to successfully finish their secondary education. Due to a poorly developed primary educational system, most children will not even be able to make use of the reservations at university level as they drop out of the system somewhere on the way. Yet, the Congress-led government tries to win support for its concept despite its obvious weakness and its failure to address the complexity of discrimination against poor Brahmins and rich OBCs, with gender and regional disparities neglected and even a lack of reliable demographic data.
Read the full article
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
UP adopts resolution on quota for Muslim, Christian Dalits
6 December 2006
Amidst protests by the BJP and in the absence of the entire Opposition, Uttar Pradesh Assembly on Tuesday adopted a government resolution seeking a Constitutional amendment to pave the way for inclusion of Muslim and Christian Dalits in the Scheduled Caste category to give them the benefit of reservations.
BJP members vehemently opposed the resolution, alleging that it reflected "appeasement of Muslims, and was aimed at gaining political mileage ahead of the next Assembly polls."
BJP member, Hukum Singh, said the Samajwadi Party government was "perturbed by the shift of Muslim votes" and wanted to portray itself as a "messiah of the community".
It was a "conspiracy to divide the society along religious lines," he said, and demanded that it be withdrawn.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Azam Khan, defended the resolution, saying that it would remove "discrimination against the Dalits in Muslims and Christians."
Congress and BSP members were not present in the House, having walked out earlier on a different issue. Congress leader, Pramod Tewari, had on Monday said his party had no objection to the resolution but alleged it was intended to gain "political mileage" ahead of the polls. ¨
Link to the article
Despair of the discriminated Dalits
BBC News, Nagpur
5 December 2006
Some of the accused have been released, I want them arrested again
Bhaiyyalal BhotmangeThe brutal killing of a family from the lower castes - known as Dalits - in India's western state of Maharashtra has revived the community's demand to be treated as equals in a society that has labelled them as outcasts.
The incident took place in a remote village called Khairlanji in Bhandara district situated in the north-east of the state.
On 29 September, Surekha Bhotmange, her 17-year-old daughter Priyanka, and two sons, 19-year-old Roshan and 21-year-old Sudhir were at home when an upper-caste mob broke into their mud hut and murdered them.
The details are gruesome. The four were reportedly dragged out and beaten with bicycle chains, sticks and other weapons. The mother and daughter were allegedly stripped and raped by the mob, many of whom lived in the same village and were possibly their neighbours.
The father and only surviving member, Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, is a broken man but shows steely resolve when demanding justice for his family.
Dr Ambedkar is revered among the Dalit community
"Some of the accused have been released, I want them arrested again," he said. "Some people take life for a life but I am not like that, I want the law to punish the guilty."
While he wants justice for his family, the Dalits are demanding justice for the community as a whole.
There have been protests across the state against the alleged mishandling of the investigations by state police and crowds have come onto the roads demanding fair treatment.
Journalist and professor Ranjit Meshram, retired chairman of the Board of Sociology at Nagpur University, says there is anger among the Dalits because they feel no one pays attention to them.
"Even though they are a sizeable number, they feel people in power do not listen to them. They have been feeling ignored for some time and Khairlanji pushed them over the edge," he said.
The frustration is palpable.
Dalits are often the victims of inter caste violence
Recently, after news broke out that a statue of Dalit leader and scholar, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, had been desecrated in the northern city of Kanpur, angry Dalits took to the streets in Mumbai (Bombay), burned trains and threw stones at buses and other vehicles.
About 10.2% of Maharashtra's approximately 100m-strong population belong to the Dalit community. A large number of them live in Nagpur, Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Bhandara and Gondhia districts.
In the traditional Hindu caste system, Dalits, formerly called the untouchables, were considered the lowest of low castes.
They were expected to do the most menial jobs in villages. They could not share basic amenities including drinking water with upper-caste people.
Such practices still exist in rural areas.
Thirty-year-old Baby Manohar Ramteke is a Dalit by birth and works in the fields.
She has lived in Bhabal, a village about two hours drive from the city of Nagpur, all her life and says they have always been ill-treated by others on the basis of their caste.
"First they wouldn't let us fill water from the common well, then there was an incident of someone vandalising the village temple statue so they blamed us for it. They keep calling us names and telling us we are dirty people," she said.
She finally got a separate water tap installed in the village for Dalit families.
Families belonging to higher castes living in the same village say they do not treat them differently.
"We tell them anything and they tell us you are pointing fingers at us because of our caste," says Gangadhar Kodhramji Bawane, a carpenter who belongs to a higher caste and lives in the same village.
"We all live together and there are bound to be fights but they think we target them," he said.
Thousands have attended conversion ceremonies in Nagpur
The chief architect of the Indian constitution, Dr Ambedkar was born a Dalit but rose to a respectable position in society despite all odds. He enjoys iconic status among his people.
Retired professor and social worker Dr Rupa Kulkarni says those who followed him have forged ahead in life socially and financially. She said many of them have become top doctors, writers and bureaucrats.
"Leaving Hinduism and accepting Buddhism changed the entire mentality of Dalits, made them believe that even they were someone. They realised they had to revolt against the caste system and because of this their self-respect awakened," she said.
"But those who did not adopt this path are still backward. In Nagpur today, more than 70% of the rickshaw pullers are Dalits. Among domestic workers the overwhelming majority of women belong to the Dalit community. Many of them are still illiterate," she said.
Dr Kulkarni said discrimination in cities may not be as obvious as that in the villages, but it still exists and Dalits are not allowed to forget the caste they were born into.
"Before giving a house out on rent here, the tenant's caste is asked and Buddhists are banned completely even though their economic condition is such that they can buy the place. Inter-caste marriages are still prohibited.
"No matter how progressive people call themselves, that really progressive element - a generous and big heart - is still missing."
Link to the article
Mumbai tightens security as 800,000 low-caste Indians arrive to mark leader's death
The China Post
6 December 2006
Thousands of state police and security force personnel kept vigil Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of low-caste Indians headed to Mumbai to mark the 50th anniversary of their leader's death.
The government shut down schools and colleges, and police said security was tightened as a precautionary measure following last week's violent demonstrations by low-caste groups against the desecration of a statue of their leader B.R. Ambedkar.
Low-caste Hindus, also known as dalits or untouchables, come to the city every year to pay homage to Ambedkar, one of India's prominent freedom fighters.
After his death on Dec. 6, 1956, Ambedkar _ also a dalit _was cremated in Mumbai's central Dadar neighborhood.
Police expect the crowd to swell to at least 800,000 this year and fear the possibility of violence after last week's protests, during which at least two people died when police fired into a crowd. In other clashes at least 40 were injured.
"We don't want to take any chances. Higher police presence is just to ensure things go smoothly," said police officer Arup Patnaik. "This precaution is needed with so many people coming here and keeping in mind the protests that took place."
On Monday police barred leaders of the Republican Party of India, a political party of mostly low-caste people, from entering the central Indian town of Nagpur and staging a rally there.
Ambedkar was a key architect of the Indian Constitution and its provisions for affirmative action intended to pull the dalits out of social and economic misery.
Hinduism has traditionally divided people into castes that determine their prospects for educational, economic and social advancement. While the system has been officially outlawed, discrimination remains common and an overwhelming majority of the dalits continue to be economically deprived.
Link to the article
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Tight security amid Dalit unrest
BBC News, Mumbai
5 December 2006
By Zubair Ahmed
At least two trains were set alight by protesters last weekHeavy security is in place in the city of Nagpur in the western Indian state of Maharashtra for the opening of the state assembly's winter session.
The city was among parts of the state which saw violence during protests last week by low-caste Hindus, or Dalits.
At least three Dalits were killed in the unrest and trains, cars and property damaged.
Parties representing Dalits called for a rally to be held in Nagpur on Monday, but it was banned on security grounds.
A Dalit leader, who tried to enter the city, was arrested.
The assembly session in Nagpur is usually a non-event.
But this time around it has acquired a special significance in the light of last week's protests by the Dalit community.
They were angry at the desecration of a statue in Kanpur in northern Uttar Pradesh state dedicated to BR Ambedkar, one of the architects of the Indian constitution and a leading Dalit leader of the last century.
Three Dalit protesters were killed in the Maharashtra violence, one of them shot by police.
The assembly session threatens to be stormy, as opposition parties are likely to raise the issue of violence and the killings of four members of a Dalit family in September, allegedly by high-caste people.
The opposition is also likely to challenge the governing Congress party-led coalition over a spate of suicides by the state's farmers.
So far, more than 1,000 farmers who were trapped in debt have taken their own lives since June last year.
Link to the articlehttp://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6206270.stm
Maharashtra Dalit killings: Top cop indicted
Times of India
4 Dec, 2006
MUMBAI: In an embarrassment to the Maharashtra government, a state institute has accused a top police official of dereliction of duty in the Khairlanji Dalit killings case. A report by the institute described the September 29 killings of four Dalits of a family, including two women, at Khairlanji in Bhandara district as an "organised conspiracy." The report was commissioned by the Centre for Equity and Social Justice of Pune-based government agency Yashwantrao Chavan Institute of Development Administration (Yashada). It was prepared under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Research & Training Institute. It says Pankaj Gupta, Special Inspector General of Police at Nagpur, "made a premature and irresponsible public statement that the Khairlanji incident did not involve rape on female victims. It is learnt from the public that Gupta accepted a bribe from the interested elements to make such a statement."
Describing the report as "preposterous", Gupta said "Making allegations is easy... I have not seen the report. Whenever the report will come, I will take appropriate action." The report said the local BJP MLA was present during the post-mortem of the body of Priyanka, daughter of Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, 4 members of whose family were killed. Drawing conclusion from discussions with the Bhandara district Civil Surgeon, the report spoke about a "strong possibility that under political pressure, the Civil Surgeon instructed fabricating the post-mortem in such a way that crucial evidence, especially on the possibility of rape on victims, is lost."
Link to the article
UP for including Dalit Muslims, Christians in SC category
5 December 2006
Mulayam Singh Government tables a resolution to this effect amidst protests from the BJP in Lucknow
LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh Government on Monday tabled a resolution in the Assembly, demanding that the Centre include Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Caste category by deleting Clause 3 of the Constitutional (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950.
The move drew an instant reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party members. They stormed the well of the House, protesting against the manner in which Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mohd Azam Khan tabled the resolution. This forced the Speaker to adjourn the House.
The resolution was tabled amid uproarious scenes and even as the Bahujan Samaj Party members were staging a dharna in the well in protest against the Parliamentary Affairs Minister's accusation that the Ambedkar statue's desecration in Kanpur was masterminded by the BSP. The BSP had earlier demanded a CBI inquiry into the Kanpur incident. Leader of the
Opposition Lalji Tandon and the Congress supported the BSP's demand.
Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav said action had been taken in the form of arrest of the culprits and suspension of the Kanpur SSP and Kakadeo Station House Officer.
The resolution said all sections listed in the Scheduled Caste category, under Article 341 of the Constitution, should be extended reservation benefits, irrespective of to which religion they belonged. All classes of Scheduled Castes, including Muslims or Christians, should be given the same benefit. Denial of such benefit to Dalit Muslims and Christians not only violated Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution, but was also against the principles of justice.
The resolution said it was the firm belief of the Government that just as religion cannot form the basis of quota benefits, denial of these rights to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians, solely on the basis of their religion, also violated the Constitution.
While the BJP members stormed Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey's chamber during the adjournment period, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister defended the Government move. He told newsmen that the BJP was opposing the resolution because of the word "Muslim." The tabling of the resolution figured in the House business agenda for the day.
Earlier, the entire question hour was lost after the House was adjourned after five minutes of re-assembling following tumultous scenes with the BSP, Congress and BJP demanding a discussion on the Kanpur incident. They entered the well when the BSP members were staging a dharna.
Raising the issue when the House reassembled at 1.15 p.m., Swamy Prasad Maurya (BSP) alleged that the Government was trying to sweep the issue under the carpet. Demanding a CBI inquiry, Mr. Maurya demanded the Chief Minister's resignation on moral grounds. Supporting him, Pramod Tiwari (Congress) said escalation of violence in Maharashtra in reaction to the Kanpur incident was an issue, which should be investigated.
Mr. Tandon wanted rules to be framed for setting up statues.
The Chief Minister accused the BSP of politicising the issue with an eye on the coming polls. Dr. Ambedkar was a national leader and the BSP was turning him into a leader of particular caste and party, he said.
Efforts would be made to prevent recurrence of such incidents, he said, adding that the possibility of a conspiracy should be unveiled.
Link to the article
Monday, December 04, 2006
PM calls meeting of CMs on atrocities on Dalits
December 3, 2006
In the backdrop of recent incidents provoking Dalit violence in Maharashtra and reports of atrocities against them, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a meeting of the chief ministers of all states to discuss the issue on December 9.
In an agenda sent to all the state chief ministers, the prime minister expressed unhappiness over the crime against Dalits and the administration’s “indifference” to them.
The prime minister also wants to take stock of the implementation of various welfare schemes for the Dalits and the tribals. The state governments will be asked to report on the action taken to check atrocities against the Dalits.
The discussions, to held in an inter-state council meeting, will follow the National Development Council meeting, scheduled for the same day.
Officials said the SC/ST welfare schemes were also expected to be taken up at the development council meeting, where the Planning Commission plans to introduce new proposals to improve their lot.
The meeting is significant in the wake of the violence in Nasik and other parts of Maharashtra after the desecration of the statue of Dr BR Ambedkar. Three people died and public property worth crores was torched.Two months ago, the state was rocked by another spate of Dalit violence, after four of a Dalit family — including two women — were killed. Similar, incidents have also been reported from other states.
In May, a Dalit village in Haryana’s Karnal district flared up, when the community defied police orders to take out a procession of Ravidas Jayanti. A deluge of complaints is pending with the National Commission for Schedule Castes and Tribes because of the government’s failure to enforce the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Many states are yet to appoint vigilance and monitoring committees that the law stipulates.
Link to the article
2 killed, 40 injured in violence over alleged desecration of low-cast leader's statue
The International Herald Tribune Asia-Pacific
November 30, 2006
Mumbai, India: Low-caste groups protesting the desecration of their leader's statue burned train cars, buses and clashed with police in western India on Thursday, in violence that left at least two people dead and 40 injured, police said.
Authorities imposed curfews in three districts of western Maharashtra state Thursday, police said, to control rampaging protesters who had forced shops and businesses to shut down across the state, including in parts of Mumbai, India's financial and entertainment capital.
The violence came after a statue of B.R. Ambedkar, one of India's prominent freedom fighters and a leader of low-caste people, was damaged in the northern Indian city of Kanpur on Wednesday.
At least two people were killed Wednesday, said P.S. Pasricha, police chief of western Maharashtra state. As the violence escalated, 40 people were injured in clashes with police.
Today in Asia - Pacific
The Press Trust of India news agency, however, put the death toll at three and the number of injured at 60.
Millions of low-caste Hindus — also known as dalits or untouchables — revere Ambedkar, who fought against caste discrimination and was the architect of the Indian Constitution provision on affirmative action.
More than 1,500 preventive arrests were made Thursday, said state police official P.S. Pasricha.
"Buses and trains have been damaged in stone-throwing and arson. But the situation is now under control," Pasricha said.
Some schools also closed in Maharashtra.
Trouble began Thursday when thousands of low caste Indians set out on marches across the state to protest the defilement of Ambedkar's statue. Incidents of mobs pelting police with stones were reported in eastern districts such as Nanded, Pimpri and Osmanabad.
Mobs torched 30 buses across the state and set fire to two trains in Mumbai, India's financial capital, formerly known as Bombay.
Vehicles plying busy city roads and state highways were also targeted, and shops and businesses were forced to close in some areas in the city.
Link to the article