Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dalits from another village sits on dharna

CHANDIGARH: Two days after 70 dalit families in Haryana left their homes alleging social boycott by upper-caste residents of Bhagana village, dalits from another village held a sit-in protest in Hisar on Wednesday.

Ten dalit families from Dhani Thakriya met superintendent of police Anil Dhawan to complain that they were facing caste-based discrimination after a dispute with people of upper caste over village's common land. On their complaint, police had booked over a dozen persons under the SC/ST Act and also arrested three of them. "We want all the accused arrested," said Mohan, the representative of the protestors.
However, the SP said it was a dispute between two familes belonging to two different castes. "Its not a caste conflict," he said. Even the village sarpanch, who belongs to a dalit family, doesn't agree with the allegations of the agitators, said Dhawan. After meeting the SP, the dalit families left for their village.

However, the 70 dalit families from Bhagana village are still camping in front of the district headquarters. "We will return to the village only after an FIR against members of the upper caste is registered for passing caste-related remarks," announced BSP leader Balraj Satrodia. Meanwhile, the district administration has appointed an investigation officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police to investigate the allegations.Source

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The mythology of the Dalit student suicide

In the midst of the ongoing debate over reservation, and outside the media spotlight, Dalit students are struggling for a life of dignity in our nation’s top educational institutions. A new Outlook magazine article by S Anand reveals that age-old bigotry is alive and well on the Indian campus. [Read the story here.]
Suicides by Dalit students in elite institutes like AIIMS, IIT, etc. are a well-known fact – and usually attributed to the “stress” experienced by poorly qualified students who get in due to a quota but are not able to make the grade. There have been 18 Dalit suicides over the past four years, and many do not fit the “couldn’t hack it” profile. Anand rebuts this popular stereotype by offering some recent examples:
Setting aside the debate over the effectiveness of reservation, what these deaths reveal is an India that is simply unable to shake off its feudal legacy of caste. Reuters
Earlier last month, on March 3, Anil Kumar Meena, an adivasi medical student at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, killed himself in his hostel room. Educated in the Hindi medium, the son of poor farmers in Baran, Rajasthan, Meena had scored 75 per cent in Class 12 and a second rank in the AIIMS entrance test. He was following in the footsteps of Bal Mukund Bharti, a final year MBBS student, who exactly two years ago hung himself to death in his hostel room in AIIMS. As I write this, news comes of Neeraj Kumar, a first-year Dalit medical student in Lucknow’s Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, failing in his attempt to take his life.
Anand’s claim is buttressed by a recent documentary, Death of Merit, which took a closer look at three such cases, including Bharti’s:
The first case was that of Bal Mukund, a Jatav (Chamar) Dalit from Kundeshwar in Uttar Pradesh, the first Dalit from the village in 50 years to enter an elite institute like All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi. The whole family, including his mother and sister, had toiled hard to pour all their earnings to support Mukund. Mukund, a topper all through his life, had scored 82 per cent in Class X; had won the International Mathematics Contest and cleared the IIT and AIIMS entrance examinations but chose AIIMS as he had the dream of becoming a doctor.
What emerges is a deliberate pattern of harassment by both students and faculty. It’s not just the taunts or physical abuse, but also the threat of losing a hard-earned opportunity:
Jaspreet Singh, a Dalit by birth and a student from Chandigarh, ended his life unable to bear the insults and taunts thrown at him at the medical college library. Unable to overcome the loss of her elder brother, his sister, a student of Bachelor of Computer Application, also committed suicide, heartbroken at the injustice done to him. The suicide note recovered from his coat pocket charged his head of the department with deliberately failing him and threatening to fail him over and over. Seven months later, after the National Commission of Scheduled Castes intervened; a three-member team of senior professors re-evaluated his answer sheet and found that he had in fact passed the examination. NCSC’s intervention only made the police file the FIR under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
Setting aside the debate over the effectiveness of reservation, what these deaths reveal is an India that is simply unable to shake off its feudal legacy of caste. And that the burden of post-Mandal anti-reservation fury is being borne by these young men and women. And if these are the attitudes in our highest institutions, what hope do the Dalits have in remote villages?
Anand makes two additional points that offer grist for thought. One, he points out that most “reformist” solutions – usually campus self-enrichment programmes to help Dalits adjust to the culture of these institutions – are aimed at the victims not their oppressors, who are in greater need of re-education.
And two, he underlines the hypocrisy of getting angry about racism against Indian students in places like Australia, while tolerating far greater injustices closer to home.
When Indian students in Australia — predominantly students with surnames like Gupta and Sharma not good enough to make it to IITs, IIMs and AIIMS —are attacked, it is “racism”; it even becomes a diplomatic issue. When Dalit and adivasi students on Indian campuses are hounded to death, there’s not a murmur. What makes Indian society so shameless as to not just deny but even justify such prejudice against Dalits that lead to murders?
Whatever one’s position on the efficacy of reservations in addressing age-old discrimination, Anand’s article raises important questions that deserve serious considerationSource

Madurai villages still practising the two-tumbler system

Selvam is a postgraduate who works in a private company. Neither his economic or educational status can guarantee social equality at a tea shop in his village where he will be served tea only in a separate tumbler.
The socially abhorrent practice of having separate tumblers for caste Hindus and Dalits is still in vogue in some villages in Madurai. The district police have filed a case against a teashop owner at Madaipatti in Usilampatti taluk for practising the ‘two-tumbler' system, which has once again brought to light the practice of discrimination against Dalits. Following a complaint by Kallusami belonging to the Dalit community, a case has been registered against teashop owner N. Raja Thevar, under Section 3(1) 10 of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. His shop has been ‘sealed.' After coming to know of the police action, the accused is absconding.
Raja Thevar has disposable cups for Dalits and stainless steel tumblers for caste Hindus. This discrimination extends to outsiders visiting the village; if he is a relative of a caste Hindu he would get tea in a stainless steel tumbler or in a glass tumbler. If the person is known to have come to meet a Dalit, he would be given tea in a plastic cup.
The village has a population of 90 families belonging to Dalits and 400 belonging to Piramalai Kallars.
The village had already earned notoriety for its practices of untouchability where Dalits were prevented from using footwear in the caste Hindu area.
A few months ago, police intervened and filed cases against those who practised the discrimination after which it was stopped.
The practice of having two tumblers has undergone many changes with subtler forms to escape the attention of monitoring agencies. Citing pollution, once Dalits were served tea in coconut shells; then came separate glass tumblers for Dalits which they had to wash themselves, while everyone else was served tea in steel cups.
Then, Dalits were given tea in separate glass tumblers and in order to prevent the mixing of tumblers owners used red/yellow/green paint marks on the bottom of tumblers meant for Dalits. In many places, they were asked to bring their own cups. Now, for Dalits, it is disposable plastic cups and for others it is stainless steel cups. In most cases, Dalits can't sit on benches in tea stalls but have to squat or sit on the floor.
A recent study by an NGO, Evidence, found that the two-tumbler system is in vogue in 104 villages in Tamil Nadu. Its prevalence was found to be high also in 14 villages in Coimbatore district. The practice was found in 14 villages in Dindigul district and in 13 villages n Salem.

SP warns of stern action

Superintendent of Police Asra Garg, talking to The Hindu, agreed that the practice existed in a few villages in Madurai and now “we have identified a shop where it was practised and have filed cases under SC/ST Act.”
All the police stations coming under the district would be asked to issue warning to owners of tea stalls in their respective limits to stop it immediately.
“We will ask intelligence officials to monitor and if the practice is not stopped serious action would be taken and the practice which is against the Constitution will be eradicated,” he said.
The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra in April, 2011 has described the two-tumbler system as highly objectionable and an offence under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and criminal proceedings must be carried out against those practising such acts. They must be given harsh punishment, if found guilty.Source

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dalits allege social boycott, quit Haryana village

CHANDIGARH: Around 70 dalit families of a Haryana village have left their homes and are camping outside the Hisar district administration headquarters to protest discrimination by upper-caste villagers. Dalits of Bhagana village allege they are facing social boycott.

Police have been deployed in the village to avert a flare-up. The dalit protest is also receiving support from members of other backward communities.

When a low-caste farmer was stopped from entering a village pond by upper-caste men, the dalits bolted their houses and marched to the district headquarters the next day. "On Monday, we decided to finally leave. We have suffered enough," said Satish Kumar, who is leading the protests. He alleged dalits are being ostracized for the last three months.

On Tuesday, a delegation of upper-caste villagers met the deputy commissioner, Amit Aggarwal, and denied imposing a boycott on dalits. "A few people are trying to create a rift," said village sarpanch Rakesh Kumar.

Sparks were first lit in 2011 when dalits demanded free residential plots of 100 square yards under Mahatma Gandhi Gramin Basti Yojana. This was strongly opposed by upper-caste villagers even though 220 acres of shamlat (community) land lay vacant. "Upper caste men distributed this land among themselves. Now, they are forcing us to withdraw a complaint against encroachment of land," said Balraj Satrodia, district president of Bahujan Samaj Party.

Deputy commissioner Amit Aggarwal said a probe has been ordered. "It's not a case of atrocities on dalits, but a dispute between two groups," Aggarwal said. Source

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Increase in violence against SCs and STs, reveals report

Decades after enacting a legislation to prevent atrocities against the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes through the SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995, the picture continues to remain quite grim, according to a civil society report.
The report on the “Status of Implementation of SCs and STs [Prevention of Atrocities] Act 1989 and Rules 1995” reveals that there has been substantial increase in cases of violence against SCs and STs.
Released by Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, the first Dalit Chief Justice of India, here on Thursday, the report highlights loopholes in the implementation of the Act and argues that it has not been able to check atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis in an effective manner.
Prepared after collecting evidences by visiting the places of incidents and talking to victims across the country, the study says “to begin with first the cases of violence against SCs/STs are not registered” and even in those that are registered the conviction rate is quite low. “At least one-fourth of the cases have been disposed of at the investigation stage itself by the police and these complaints have been referred to as ‘mistake of fact,” adds the report which was prepared by the National Coalition for Strengthening SCs & STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
The report which explains in details the trends and nature of discrimination and atrocities against SCs/STs over the years, recommends that “a high-level committee should be appointed to review implementation of the Act and the Rules in all the States”.
While expressing disappointment over the States' failure to check crimes against Dalits and Adivasis, Justice Balakrishnan favoured the reports' recommendation that “exclusive special courts with powers to take cognizance of the offences under the Act should be set up and special public prosecutors for speedy trials of cases registered under the Act should be appointed”.
According to the report crime rate against SCs has increased from 2.6 per cent in 2007 to 2.8 per cent in 2010. In 2010, Uttar Pradesh accounted for 19.2 per cent of the total crimes against SCs (6,272 out of 32,712) in the country. In the same year, Rajasthan reported the highest rate of crimes (7.4 per cent) against SCs compared to the national average of 2.9 per cent.
According to the report, the number of crimes against STs drastically increased in 2010 to 5,885 cases and murder cases of STs alone totalled 142.
When it comes to registration of atrocity cases, the report says “police resort to various machinations to discourage SCs/STs from registering cases, to dilute the seriousness of the violence, and to shield the accused persons from arrest and prosecution. FIRs are often registered under the PCR Act and IPC provisions, which attract lesser punishment than PoA Act provisions for the same offence.”
At national level, only 11,682 (34.2 per cent) out of 34,127 atrocity cases were registered under PoA Act in 2010.
Of all the cases registered in 2010 investigation was completed only for 37,558 cases of the total of 51,782 cases. Charge sheets were submitted only for 26,480 cases (51 per cent) because of which even by the year end, around 14,092 cases remained pending for investigation.
In 2010, of the 16,601 cases registered across the country under PoA Act for atrocities against SCs, the police closed almost 2,150 cases (13 per cent) in 2010. Meanwhile, of the 1,714 registered cases of atrocities against STs, 223 (13 per cent) were closed.
The report says that with 101,251 cases of crimes against SCs/STs (80 per cent) pending for trial by the end of 2010, no significant improvement was seen in the trial pendency rate (82.5 per cent) at the end of 2011. Source

Drunk men set 14-yr-old Dalit ablaze in Vidisha

BHOPAL: Three men apparently under the influence of liquor, set a 14-year-old Dalit boy afire after dousing him with country liquor in Vidisha town, 60 kms away from here.
The boy's fault was that he refused to fetch glass tumblers for the three. The boy, Rajesh Ahirwar, sustained 40% burns and is hospitalized at the district hospital.

At 10 pm Vijay Jadon, Prem Pal Singh Gadariya and Sanju Ahirwar reportedly queued-up outside a liquor shop in Kararia Chouraha on the outskirts of Vidisha. They already had several rounds of country made liquor but wanted to continue with their binge.
The boy, Rajesh, had hardly thought that ignoring the order of the accused would cost him his life. They purchased more country liquor from a nearby shop and were walking towards an open space to consume it when they realised they needed glass tumblers.
The drunken men spotted a young boy sitting on a bench near a roadside 'paan' stall. The teenaged boy, a student of class VII, was playing with a stick. The trio approached Rajesh and asked him to fetch three glass tumblers from his home. The boy refused and got busy with his play.
Before Rajesh could understand what happened, one of the accused allegedly doused him with the country liquor left in his bottle and the other walked over to paan' shop.
They snatched a lantern from the shop and threw it at the boy. People rushed to inform the boy's family after which Ahirwar rushed his son to the hospital. "There was no electricity and it was warm inside the house hence my son had gone out to play in the cool breeze,'' said the victim's father Ram Pravesh Ahirwar.
The incident occurred less than 25 feet from the local Kararia police station. Father of the victim alleged that his son was set on fire by hoodlums and no one from the police station came to help or take the boy to the hospital.
DGP Nandan Dubey ordered an inquiry into the incident by inspector general of police Vijay Yadav. Police said a case has been registered against the three under sections 307 (attempt to murder), 294 (obscenity), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and relevant sections of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Source

Thursday, May 17, 2012

‘Social boycott made Dalits in 77 Gujarat villages migrate'

Dalits in at least 77 villages in Gujarat have been forced to migrate due to social boycotts, according to chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.
A team of the NHRC, headed by Justice Balakrishnan, on Tuesday completed a two-day visit to Gujarat for an Open House to hear the complaints of the backward classes. He rounded it up with a meeting with Chief Secretary A.K. Joti and some other government officials to discuss steps being taken by the government to attend to the complaints.
Talking to journalists at the conclusion of the visit, Justice Balakrishnan said nearly 100 complaints were also received by the NHRC on alleged police atrocities, particularly the police refusing to register their complaints, or showing total inaction in pursuing the cases after registering the complaints. Some of the specific cases, however, were promptly refuted by the government. It pointed out that the complainants might be unaware of it, but the police had filed FIRs on the basis of their complaints, and investigations were on.
Expressing concern at the low conviction rates — just 5 per cent — in atrocity cases in the State, Justice Balakrishnan said this usually happened because of improper investigation by the police, or due to the failure of the public prosecutors to present the cases properly. He said the attention of the State government had been drawn to the situation, and it had promised to take necessary remedial measures. The government had also agreed that henceforth the meeting of the vigilance committee for the backward classes would be held twice a year as required.
Justice Balakrishnan said the NHRC was satisfied with the past performances of almost all State governments, as most of the suggestions and recommendations of the commission had been implemented by all States.
As far as social boycott of the Dalits by the upper castes was concerned, it was the outcome of the “mindset” of the people for centuries, which would take time to be removed.
Justice Balakrishnan was all praise for the Gujarat government, for formulating “innovative schemes” for the betterment of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes. Describing Gujarat as a “model State” in this sphere, he said: “Many innovative schemes are being implemented, which are all working well. This is the State where the penetration of education among the SC and ST communities has reached 70 per cent,” he said in his opening remarks. Source