"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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Monday, January 22, 2007
Big dad of discrimination- Protecting India’s pride is fine, but don’t bury home truths
20 January 2007
You’re an insect, stay down where you have always been — an upper caste MBBS student to a scheduled caste junior at AIIMS
Indians can be worse than whites when it comes to discrimination against blacks — Samantha Naokeme, Nigerian student at Delhi’s Jesus and Mary College
Before raising a stink over the bullying of Shilpa Shetty in Big Brother House, ministers Anand Sharma and Priya Ranjan Das Munshi may have done well to pause and sniff the air at home.
When it comes to discrimination on grounds of birth or colour of skin, India doesn’t exactly smell of roses.
It took a trend-bucking Prime Minister to end years of official hedging on the subject last month.
“Dalits have faced a unique discrimination in our society that is fundamentally different from the problems of minority groups in general. The only parallel to the practice of untouchability was apartheid,” Manmohan Singh told a “Dalit-minority international conference” in Delhi on December 27.
“There is still (such) discrimination….”
Technically, the two are different — apartheid was official policy in South Africa while caste bias in India is not.
Also, scholars, politicians and bureaucrats are ever ready to split hairs about whether “caste” can be equated with “race” — though many believe the origins of the caste system did lie in varna, the colour of people’s skin.
What Singh was emphasising, though, was how caste oppression is a part of life in India, as shown by the lynching of a Dalit family of four in Maharashtra after they were paraded naked and the two women among them raped.
There can be no dispute, however, that Samantha’s bitter experience had to do with her skin colour. The final-year student, a member of the Delhi University girls’ basketball team, says she is now “used to” hearing people scream “Michael Jordan” the moment she steps on court.
“They see a black basketball player and they draw the association with Jordan. I am clearly being recognised by my colour,” she said.
A 2004 survey in South Africa’s Guateng region revealed that 37 per cent of its 3 lakh Indians, compared with only 19 per cent of the whites, would prefer a return to apartheid.
Racist or not, the colour bias exists across Indian society, as a glance at newspaper matrimonial ads would show.
Might the “dusky” Shilpa have faced taunts in Mumbai similar to the “she’s a dog” remark by Danielle Lloyd? The Bollywood grapevine has it that the duskier Bipasha Basu was snubbed as a “kali billi” (black cat) on a set.
An industry source played it down as “normal bitching between two actresses”.
Sharma and Das Munshi, too, might have been less sanctimonious if they had stopped to think whether Lloyd’s comments might be deemed the sort of bullying that is normally expected on — and may be the whole point of — a reality show.
Bollywood has been no stranger to racial stereotyping, either, with all south Indians (often seen as racially different from the “Aryan” upper-caste northerners) once dubbed “Madrasis”. One such character, played by Mehmood in Padosan, is taunted with “kala re ja re ja re” in a hit number lip-synced by the “hero” and sung by a chum.
To Satinder Meena, recipient of the “insect” jibe at his AIIMS hostel after winning a game of table tennis, the brouhaha over Big Brother is, at best, “ironical”.
After The Telegraph last year exposed how SC/ST students were abused at the premier institute, the Prime Minister had got a three-member probe set up. A member of the panel said today: “Our findings completely corroborate those of your newspaper. The situation in AIIMS is scary, and a lot needs to be done.”
To the government, till Singh took the lid off, Dalit oppression had been an “internal matter”. This line was used to repeatedly block Dalit efforts to raise the issue at global anti-racism forums.
To be fair to Das Munshi and Sharma, they, like most educated Indians, would agree such discrimination exists. What prevents a public admission is “national prestige”.
The Indian thin skin about how the country is seen by the world — especially the white West — is reflected in the BJP reaction: “The PM’s statement is unfortunate and denigrates India’s reputation abroad.”
Defending the Prime Minister’s remarks, Congress spokesman A.M. Singhvi had said: “The UPA government does not believe in an ostrich-like approach of ignoring reality. We can’t find the cure unless we admit the malady.”
His colleagues might learn from the British, protesting in thousands to cure what they see as a national canker.
Link to the article
Gov't Failing Low Caste Women, U.N. Says
Inter Press Service
19 January 2007
India, the world's most populous democracy, has come under fire from a United Nations body for its failure to protect low caste women and those belonging to the country's religious minorities from discrimination.At a meeting held here this week, a General Assembly committee responsible for monitoring discriminatory practices against women worldwide charged that the South Asian nation was falling short of its obligations under a prominent equal rights treaty.
India has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), but continues to claim reservations on articles dealing with the issues of sex role stereotyping and those concerning marriage and family life. "The convention is for every woman in the country, not just the upper class or upper caste," said committee member Glenda Simms, noting that low-caste women in the Hindu system and other minority groups were suffering from "deeply rooted structural discrimination."
The committee urged India to join the ranks of other democracies by ratifying the convention's optional protocol, which lifts barriers to justice for the victims of sexual violence, and to intervene on behalf of its most marginalised female population.
"It is difficult to understand how the Indian government can claim democratic rights for all, yet see women killed because they cannot pay dowry and young girls given away in marriage," noted another member of the committee.
Noting that 70 percent of women live in rural areas, several members expressed their concerns at the displacement of tribal communities as a result of industrialisation and other development projects, such as construction of dams. In her remarks on various forms of discrimination against women in India, Simms said she feared that children sold into prostitution, including many Dalit (low caste) children, would be victims and conduits of HIV/AIDS. "One cannot speak about children without speaking about their mothers," she added, referring to millions of displaced minority and Dalit women, who are often forced to place their children in wealthier households as domestic labour, where they are sometimes sexually exploited.
In response to the committee's criticism and concerns, Deepa Jain Singh, secretary of India's Ministry of Women, defended her government's position by saying that women in her country were "guaranteed the right to equality" and "equal protection before the law."
In an attempt justify the Indian government's reservations about ratifying the Convention's optional protocol, Singh pointed out that, "It is indeed optional." Though she did not indicate a timeframe, she added that the government would "like to see through it" and that "it is only a matter of time." While conceding that certain groups of women do suffer from "multiple forms of discrimination based on caste, religion and disability," the Indian delegation said the government was determined to pursue changes in existing laws to address discrimination against women.
Read the full article
Noida police ignored Dalit complaints: rights group
20 January 2007
`Most missing children belong to marginalised communities'
NEW DELHI: A group of human rights and social activists has accused the Noida administration and the police of showing indifference and apathy towards the Dalit families whose children went missing in Nithari.
- Police still reluctant to admit most victims were Dalits
- Book accused under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
A fact-finding team of the group claims that a majority of the missing children belong to the marginalised communities that are more vulnerable to such crimes.
"During the past two years, 38 children were reported missing and a majority of these were from Dalit and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe families. As these children come from families that do not have a ration card or other forms of recognition, the police and the administration have not paid adequate attention to their complaints," said Annie Namala of the Solidarity Group for Children Against Discrimination and Exclusion.
"The case of missing children has become a new urban and suburban crime and children from poor and marginalised families are easy targets," she said.
A report of the group says that "none of the authorities, including the police and District Magistrate, seems to have taken any action to register a case and investigate the case of missing children."
It alleges that even now the officials and the Government are reluctant to admit that majority of the children who lost their lives were Dalits.
"Both Surender Koli and Moninder Singh were aware of the local area and the caste background of the poor people and they took advantage of this fact and lured little children," said Ms. Namala.
The group has recommended that the terms of reference of the Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry should clearly spell out that the Nithari killings were one of the worst atrocities committed against Dalits.
It has demanded that the accused be booked under Section 3(1) (xii) and 3(2) (v) of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.
Seeking the United Nations' intervention, the group has said the General Assembly should request the Secretary-General to conduct an in-depth international study on the "violence against Dalit children and women in India."
Link to the article
New twist in Khairlangi Dalit killings
January 19, 2007
Pradip Kumar Maitra
There was a new twist to the Khairlangi Dalit tragedy when one of the prime witnesses in the case, Rajendra Gajbhiye lodged a complaint with the Andhalgaon police in Bhandara district for getting life threats and facing casteist abuses from the local NCP legislator Nana Panchbudhe.
Confirming this, the superintendent of police (SP), Suresh Sagar said that Rajendra had lodged a complaint on Friday morning and the police registered an offence against the NCP legislator under 310 of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. "We are investigating the matter and an appropriate action would be initiated accordingly," he added. The offence is a non-bailable one.
Both, Rajendra and his elder brother, Siddharth Gajbhiye, another prime witness in the case, alleged that they were being constantly threatened by a section of upper caste in the district. They had also alleged against Panchbudhe, a trusted lieutenant of union minister, Praful Patel, for protecting the culprits in the murder case, from the beginning and insisted his arrest.Four members of Bhotmange family — Surekha, her daughter Priyanka, sons Rahul and Sudhir — were on September 29 butchered by a group of villagers at Khairlangi, some 100 kms from Nagpur in Bhandara district.
The incident had sparked protests in various parts of the state and the Maharashtra
government finally handed over the probe to the CBI which filed the chargesheet before a fast track court last week at Bhandara. The trial of the case also began.
Meanwhile, Sudhakar Suradkar, a retired IPS officer filed a complaint against the IGP, Pankaj Gupta at Bandara on Friday for suppressing facts in the case.Alleging castist bias, Suradkar insisted an action against Gupta. Gupta was holding the charge of IGP (Nagpur circle) during the tragedy and the state government had taken action against as many as eight officers, including the civil surgeon of the district and a Dy SP on the basis of his report. The IPS officer, Suradkar personally reached Bandara on Friday morning and filed the complaint against the IGP.
Link to the article
15 of 17 killed were Dalits, says NGO team
20 January 2007
Express News Service
A fact-finding team of human rights activists and social activists has claimed that the majority of children killed in Nithari belonged to the Dalit community. Out of the 17 children identified to have been killed, 15 came from Dalit families, it claimed.
The 14-member team that visited Nithari on January 15 to probe into the incident has also charged the Noida Police with negligence in registering complaints of missing children.
The team that included activists from non-governmental organistations like National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Solidarity Group for Children Against Discrimination and Exclusion (SGCADE) and Shristi among others found out that both the accused, particularly Surender Koli, were well-aware of the caste background of the locals and took advantage of their vulnerable status.
“We find that this is the crime of a very modern kind where children from suburban and urban areas were targeted by the accused. They were also clever enough to target only children who were not registered anywhere,” said Annie Namala of SGCADE.
The team also demanded stringent action against Noida police for lax investigation.
Link to the article