#India – Dalits stripped of Dignity #Caste #discrimination


Frontline  

WITH the imposing Puthur hillock surrounded by lush green sugarcane fields offering a picturesque backdrop, Vadugapatti in Usilampatti block in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu gives the impression that all is well there. But the humiliation inflicted on a 11-year-old Dalit boy on June 3 and the abuses hurled subsequently at his widowed mother by a caste Hindu youth have unmasked the moral pretensions of the tiny village in the heartland of the Piramalai Kallars.

In a place where footwear is considered a status symbol rather than protective gear, a Piramalai Kallar youth, P. Nilamaalai, forced the Dalit boy, P. Suresh (name changed), to carry his sandals on his head as punishment. His crime: wearing footwear in the caste-Hindu area!

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) tooksuo motu notice of the case and held an inquiry in the village on June 11. D. Venkatesan, Director of the NCSC (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), who was accompanied by A. Iniyan, investigator, confirmed that the incident had taken place. Dubbing it a “heinous crime against a juvenile”, he said that persons guilty of the crime would have to face “serious legal consequences”.

Following a complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, P. Nagammal, a brick kiln worker, the Usilampatti Town police registered a first information report (FIR) on June 6 and arrested Nilamaalai, his brother P. Agni and their father, A. Pathivuraja. The police have registered cases against them under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.Even 10 days after the incident, Suresh found it difficult to come to terms with the humiliation he had undergone. Narrating his ordeal, he said it occurred when he and two other boys were returning from the Government Kallar High School where he was studying in Standard VI.

All the three boys belonged to the Dalit colony and had gone to the school to find out about the rescheduled date of reopening after the summer vacation. Nilamaalai waylaid them near a tamarind tree. After allowing the other two Dalit boys, who were barefoot, to leave, he upbraided Suresh for violating the ban on Dalits walking on the streets in the upper-caste area with footwear on. Reprimanding him for his mother’s “failure” to teach him the “etiquette” he had to follow, Nilamaalai forced the boy to put his footwear on his head and paraded him up to a platform used to stage cultural events.

According to Nagammal, Suresh stomached the insult and did not say anything about it to her or to his other relatives. However, sensing her son’s abnormal behaviour, she coaxed him a couple of days later into revealing his agonising experience. She took up the issue with Nilamalai’s brother Agni on June 5. But Nilamaalai not only justified his abominable action but also hurled abuses at her and allegedly threatened to eliminate her if she dared to inform the police. Contrary to his belief that the Dalit woman would grin and bear the dishonour, she lodged a complaint with the police. Nagammal said the local police wanted to settle the issue through a “compromise” and she had to approach Dalit activists to ensure that justice was done in the case.

K. Theivammal, coordinator of the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu, an organisation working for the rights of the oppressed communities in Usilampatti block, said the police registered an FIR after much dilly-dallying. Though the police arrested Nilamaalai’s brother and father on June 7 on charges of protecting the accused, Nilamaalai was absconding until he was nabbed on June 9. Posters were put up throughout Usilampatti town and in several villages in the area demanding, among other things, the arrest of the main accused.

According to Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan, who visited the village close on the heels of reports on the incident, cases had been booked under Section 294(b) (singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and Section 506(1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(xiv) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Section 3(1)(x) of the Act deals with intentional insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view and Section 3(1)(xiv) pertains to offences such as denying a member of an S.C. or an S.T. any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructing such member so as to prevent the person from using or having access to a place of public resort which other members of the public or any section thereof have a right to use or have access to.

 

 

 

In denial 

Caste Hindus, however, dismissed the incident as an “aberration” in the otherwise cordial relations between the two communities. Vadugapatti panchayat president M. Thavam said both Dalits and Piramalai Kallars lived in harmony in the village. Though the incident was deplorable, it should not be blown out of proportion as it would harm the peaceful coexistence of the two communities, besides bringing disrepute to the village, he said.

The headmistress of the local school was also in denial. Nothing should be done to precipitate the issue, she cautioned. Of the 166 pupils in the school, which was established in 1921, 90 were Dalits and no discrimination was shown to them, she claimed.

However, Nagammal, who has not yet fully recovered from the shock, feels that the government should intervene immediately to ensure protection to her and her son. She wants the authorities concerned to shift her son to another school so that he can continue his studies without fear. Though the school reopened on June 10, the boy did not attend classes fearing reprisals from some persons belonging to the dominant community. She has also urged the government to allot a housing plot in a safer location so that she can live peacefully. Her demands have the backing of Dalit organisations, including the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu.

The NCSC has urged the district administration to help the victim to find admission in a government school and hostel in Madurai town. The boy needs counselling and relief, the commission said.

Dalit residents of the village say the June 3 incident has brought to the fore various problems faced by them. According to Theivammal, different discriminatory practices prevailed in all the six villages—Vadugapatti, Ramanathapuram, V. Kallipatti, Kongupatti, Puthur and Vilarpatti—that come under Vadugapatti panchayat. Dalits describe the peace meeting held in the village by the Deputy Superintendent of Police and investigating officer on June 9 as a knee-jerk reaction by the authorities.

M. Jayakumar, Suresh’s maternal uncle, said the practice of insulting members of the oppressed community for wearing footwear in front of caste Hindus occurred every now and then. Only recently was a girl student of the local government school, M. Malarvizhi (name changed), beaten with a broomstick for walking with footwear on a street in the caste-Hindu area, he said.

K. Mangayarkarasi (name changed), a brick kiln worker, said her son was taken to task by caste Hindus for wearing footwear while crossing a street last month. Dalits are not even allowed to ride two-wheelers in caste-Hindu areas. There is no proper pathway to the burial ground used by them. According to some residents, non-Dalits had warned them also against complaining to visiting government officials and activists of human rights organisations about the discriminatory practices.

 

 

Stressing that the Vadugapatti episode should not be taken as an isolated one, M. Thangaraj, organiser of the Madurai district unit of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), listed the discriminatory practices: segregated dwelling units; separate burial grounds for Dalits; denial of access to places of worship, common meeting place, village squares or community halls; ban on the use of footwear in front of caste Hindus; and the two-tumbler system in tea shops. In many villages in Usilampatti block, B.R. Ambedkar’s picture was not to be found in government offices and schools, he added.

As in the case of several villages in the region, the Dalits of Vadugapatti are farmhands and have to depend on the dominant community for their livelihood. They have been working as manual labourers in brick kilns or as agricultural workers in land belonging to caste Hindus. In Vadugapatti village, there are around 220 Dalit families and 500-odd caste-Hindu families. With the monsoon playing truant in the past several years, Dalit youth have migrated to the northern States seeking jobs in snack-making or fast food units.

“As many as 120 brick kilns are located in Usilampatti and Chellampatti panchayat unions. They are owned by caste Hindus. Almost 90 per cent of the workers involved in brick-making are Dalits brought from the western and northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Most of them are treated as bonded labourers,” Thangaraj said.

The TNUEF is planning to launch an agitation shortly to ensure that Dalits in Vadugapatti walked on the thoroughfares in the village wearing footwear, he said. Thangaraj asked the authorities concerned to take stern action against those who practised untouchability in any form. Strong action from the government in one village would send a warning signal to the forces of oppression in the entire region, he opined.

Director of the NCSC Venkatesan said the villagers had been told that discriminatory practices against Dalits and various forms of untouchability not only were inhuman but were against the law of the land. Expressing concern at the escalating incidents of atrocities against Dalits, he said these would be taken up at the State-level review meeting of the NCSC slated for July.

Significantly, discrimination against certain communities insofar as wearing footwear has a long history in Tamil Nadu. The senior archaeologist C. Santhalingam said there was historical evidence to show that using footwear was treated as an exclusive right of certain groups in ancient Tamil land, though footwear might have been originally treated as something to protect the feet, particularly in tropical climatic conditions. A 12th-13th century A.D. stone inscription in the Kongu region speaks of a decision by the Kongu Chola administration to lift the ban on wearing footwear by Kammalars (artisans) and Idayars (cowherds), he said.

 

Manu, FIaw-Giver- Gender, and their centrality in Ambedkar’s work #Bookreview


For equality Ambedkar tried a fundamental reform of Hindu personal laws, in vain
REVIEW
Manu, FIaw-Giver
Matters of gender, and their centrality in Ambedkar’s work
Against The Madness Of Manu: B.R. Ambedkar’s Writings On Brahmanical Patriarchy
AGAINST THE MADNESS OF MANU: B.R. AMBEDKAR’S WRITINGS ON BRAHMANICAL PATRIARCHY 
SELECTED AND INTRODUCED BY
SHARMILA REGE

NAVAYANA PUBLICATIONS | PAGES: 266 | PRICE NOT STATED

Here is a book that offers something new and stimulating, and it matters little if you are already acq­u­a­inted with the scholarship around Bab­asaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar or not. Sharmila Rege, well known for her collection of ‘testimonies’ by Dalit women and her writings on caste and gender, has gleaned from the huge corpus that now constitutes Ambedkar’s leg­acy a selection of his writings, which she has ably introduced and commented on.

While the figure of Ambedkar has burst forth in public life across the country in the last two decades, his writings have been rather slow in finding their place, whether in movements or academe. And as Sharmila Rege points out, his thinking on gender has been engaged with the least, which is what she has sought to rectify in this volume. She argues convincingly in the introduction that feminists must reclaim Ambedkar. He already enjoys a huge following in popular culture in Maharashtra, one in which posters, music and pamphlets bring out his life and work in ways that she finds both “confusing and diverse”. Some feminist scholars have rediscovered the centrality of caste for understanding gender discrimination since the 1990s, as in studies of the non-Brahmin movement, or in the historical emergence of “Brahminical patriarchy” in early India. Ambedkar himself was, as the writings included in this volume amply attest, deeply convinced that the subordination of women was an essential facet of the creation of a caste system, and it is a failing that current scholarship and anthologies on his work have not brought this out.

Ambedkar argued in an essay that Brahminical endogamy was imitated by others to become our caste system.

The volume is divided into three sections. The first one, entitled Caste as Endogamy, introduces two pieces by Ambedkar, the first written as early as 1916. Ambedkar intervenes in the anthropology of the time to show how “unnatural” and yet durable was the creation of a class (of Brahmins) that superimposed marriage within the group when exog­amy (marrying out) was the norm hitherto and elsewhere. It is this endogamy that was, according to Ambedkar, subsequently imitated by other classes to become a caste system that has given India its cultural unity. The next essay written much later opposes the widespread view that it is the Buddha’s misogyny that led to the downfall of women after the Vedic period, and places the onus squarely on the Manusmriti. The second section, from which the book takes its title, shows us Ambedkar locking horns with several religious texts and figures. ‘Manu’s Madness’ can be found in his categorisations of various kinds of castes (especially so-called mixed castes), marriages and forms of kinship, where his obsession with hierarchy is mirrored by the “graded violence” (this is Rege’s apt term) that is meted out to a woman based on her caste location. Another short critical piece on Rama and Krishna included here, which was first published posthumously in 1987, triggered widespread protests, leading to its initial withdrawal, followed by counter-protests and its subsequent republication. The third section takes us to the eve of Indian independence, the Constituent Assembly and the first years of the new nation seen from the prism of the fate of the Hindu Code Bill. Ambedkar was India’s first Law Minister and it was he who took it upon himself to subject Hindu personal laws to a fundamental overhaul in the name of gender equality. Yet, as he put it in his presentation to the Constituent Assembly, there was nothing radical in the proposals, all that was being attempted, he said euphemistically, was “repairing those parts of the Hindu system which are almost become dilapidated”. This section has an excellent choice of pieces to convey the extent of what he attemp­ted, the pain in seeing the Bill stalled, fragmented and diluted over a period of four long years, and the reasons he fina­lly gave for resigning.

Instances of Manu’s madness can be found in the gradations of punitive measures invited by violations of strict social codes.

This book of under 250 pages manages to cover an enormous terrain along with commentary that delves into Ambedkar’s life and times, offering valuable and thought-provoking interpretations of his work. Questions are thrown up for this reader—about the method of seeking the meaning of caste through speculations about its origin in a distant time; about the very focus on the “rise and fall of Ind­ian womanhood” and why this was such an obsession; on the explicit role that sexuality played in classical texts in suturing the links between caste and gender, and so on. But these kinds of que­stions demand that we engage more with Ambedkar, and read this excellent book from which there is much to learn.
(Mary E. John is senior fellow at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. Her recent publication is Women’s Studies in India: A Reader)

 

#India displaced women and children imprisoned for a month by #Vedanta and police #Vaw #WTFnews


Badapada:

Badapada: the jailed women and children tell their story

19th June.  This report, directly from a Foil Vedanta team on the ground in Niyamgiri, tells a shocking story of the month long imprisonment of a group of Dalit women and children displaced by Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery. The testimonies provide clear evidence of the collusion of Vedanta and police working as one, and show the callous nature of their outright disregard for human rights or basic morality. Foil Vedanta is now following this case up with local lawyers.

Please also see the video interview with Padma Tandi here.

On 10th June 2013, a team of three Foil Vedanta activists visited Badapada village in Lanjigarh. Badapada is a Dalit village, where the villagers had lost agricultural land to Vedanta when the company was establishing the Lanjigarh refinery. As a result of Vedanta not adhering to any of its resettlement promises, the villagers have registered an association called “Vedanta Land Loser’s Association”, to demand proper implementation of the rehabilitation processes and to seek accountability from Vedanta and the state for promises made to them before the refinery was set up on their land. Mr. Kumar, a retired school teacher, who is the President of the Vedanta Land Loser’s Association, told us,

 

Badapada women blockade the railway into Lanjigarh in May 2011

The agricultural lands of the Dalits in this village were taken away by Vedanta. We were promised Rs 3 lakh compensation, but the compensation provided to us has been a scam and very erratic, people have received varying amounts ranging from 25k to 1 lakh rupees. We have done so much Andolan. We have organised numerous demonstrations and rallies, we blocked the nearby railway line on one occasion. We have petitioned and submitted memorandums to everyone — the Chief Minister, the Governor, the Orissa Human Rights Commission, Jairam Ramesh, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Still there has been no solution. No-one is listening to the poor. Everyone one is the company’s ‘dalal’ (agent). We have had to face so much pain and hardship because of Vedanta, and we are constantly threatened and harassed. The company has completely destroyed our lives. Our villagers were promised jobs in the refinery, till date it has not given anyone in the village even a coolie’s job. This company is full of lies. We do not have our lands anymore, and we do not have any jobs. How are we supposed to survive? Who will listen to the poor? Everyone has been bought by the company”

 

An incident of blatant human and child rights violation emerged from the village, adding to a series of incidents so far. The villagers informed us that twelve women from the village had been arrested on false cases on 7th April 2013. They had been kept in jail for one month and three days. What was most shocking was that there were also two minor children, both of two years of age who had also been kept in custody with their mothers during this period of time. This is a very serious violation by the Odisha state police. We immediately had a impromptu meeting of the ten women who had been arrested. Initially, the women were scared to give any statements, given their harrowing experience in jail. However, on being persuaded by other villagers, they opened up and provided us with some very shocking testimonies.

 

I am a widow, whose hardships have increased many fold ever since the company came here. I was walking around the refinery area, when I slipped and fell down, and hurt myself. The other women ran towards me to make sure that I was ok. Suddenly, several policemen arrived and started beating me. They also dragged and pulled the other women” —- Padma Tandi

 

We had ran to see if Padma was ok. Once the police arrived, they started manhandling us. There were two women police, but they were just standing by. The male policeman started dragging and pushing us, and pulled our hair. All of us were forcibly put inside a Vedanta vehicle. That was the most atrocious thing. Why was the state police dragging us into a Vedanta vehicle? If they had to arrest us, they should taken us in a police van, not in a Vedanta gaari! We were taken straight to the Bhawanipatna court.” – Kanchono Suna

 

They took two children also into jail. My son, Bulbul Nihal, two yrs and Aditya Nihal, son of Saraswati Nayak, also two yrs – were in jail with us. What crimes have these little children, who have just learnt to speak, committed? The police and company have no right to keep kids in jail like this!” – Doini Nihal

 

“ We have no proper information about the court case that has been registered against us. We saw our lawyer being paid money in the police station. The police and lawyers have been bought by the company. There is no-one to listen to the cries of the poor. When the police had taken us in the Vedanta vehicle on 7th April, which was a Sunday, we were told that we would be released by the following Tuesday, the 9th. However, we stayed in jail for a whole month and three days. The police and company is trying to scare us, to intimidate us, so that they can break our will, our voice and our struggle.” – Jamuna Durga

 

Following are the names of the women and children arrested by the police, as recalled by the villagers:

  1. Suryamukhi Tandey
  2. Saraswati Nayak and 2 year old child, Aditya Nayak
  3. Jamuna Durga
  4. Kanchona Suna
  5. Savita Harijan
  6. Babuli Harijan
  7. Maya Suni
  8. Guloni Harijan
  9. Neela Batisona
  10. Gourimoni Tandi
  11. Doini Nihal, and 2year old child, Bulbul Nihal

 

The women were also not provided the free legal aid they are legally supposed to have access to as Dalits. They stressed how they do not have the financial resources to engage with the legal process, and hence it is used a pressure tactic by Vedanta to silence voices.

 

Foil Vedanta members are now trying to get access to court documents on this incident, and we will be updating very soon in this regard.

 

Posted:  June 19th, 2013

 

A Conversation With: Journalist Naveen Soorinje


By ROHINI MOHAN
Naveen Soorinje.Courtesy of Daya KukkajeNaveen Soorinje.

On July 28, 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a journalist with the Kannada television network Kasturi Newz 24 in Mangalore, Karnataka, covered an attack by a mob from the right-wing group Hindu Jagarana Vedike on a group of boys and girls having a birthday party at a suburban resort. A cameraman, Seetharam, who goes by one name, filmed the brutal assault, which lasted half an hour.

Widely known as “the homestay attack,” it was only one of a rising number of incidents of sectarian moral policing in the developing and modernizing city of Mangalore. But when Mr. Soorinje and Mr. Seetharam were arrested in November, along with 43 others, and charged with conspiracy, rioting and unlawful assembly, the case inspired an intense campaign for media freedom and Mr. Soorinje’s release from jail. Mr. Soorinje was freed on bail on March 23, and the charges against him and Mr. Seetharam were finally dropped on Friday.

In an interview with India Ink, Mr. Soorinje spoke about what he learned during his time in jail and the dangers he sees in extremist groups and in the complicit police in Mangalore.

 

Q.

Since your arrest in November 2012, you maintained that you only recorded the attack and were not a participant. What led to charges being dropped now?

A.

Civil society groups and journalists appealed to the Karnataka chief minister’s office for charges to be dropped. They had approached the earlier B.J.P. [Bharatiya Janata Party] regime, but that was the government that in a way put me in jail, so we didn’t expect them to release me. It was only after the new C.M. from the Congress Party took charge that he signed the petition to drop charges against me. Of course, when the Congress was the opposition party earlier, they didn’t do anything then.

Q.

How were your five months in Mangalore jail?

A.

This might sound odd, but it was good that I saw the inside of a jail. As a journalist, my view of crime stopped at the arrest, police and trial. The life of imprisonment was a blind spot. I found that the increase in communal tensions in Mangalore has led to even the jail being segregated. In the A block, are the Muslims and Dalits, largely convicted or accused of terrorism, smuggling or theft. The B block is the Hindu block, with thugs from right-wing groups — people who attacked girls for talking to boys, or for drinking. I’m Hindu, but since the attackers I filmed and thereby got arrested were in B, the cops thought I’d be safer with the Muslims and Dalits.

I stayed in different wards every few weeks, chatting with whoever was willing to talk. It was eye-opening, the abysmal conditions, the twisted interrogations, the stories of so many innocents or one-time petty criminals that languish in prison for ages while their trials go on for decades.

Q.

Have threats and intimidation against journalists grown in the past few years in Mangalore?

A.

Yes, it has been a crucial part of the communal groups’ intention to intimidate society. After the pub attack of January 2009 — I was a print reporter then — [the Hindu extremist group] Sri Ram Sena upped its violent projects. Hindu boys and Muslims girls can’t eat ice-cream together, can’t sit together in a bus. The attacks on college kids were all over.

I’m lucky to have a secular, fair editor. I’d reported on all this with a group of like-minded reporters. We shared tip-offs, created maximum coverage. We were disgusted with the random attacks on women and even more ashamed by most media that focused on the so-called moral degradations — girls’ drinking and smoking and going with boys — than the assaults by these communal thugs.

We got life threats. People came around my house, screamed on the phone. They burned the press of the local paper I worked at, set fire to the editors’ chair. My editor was arrested; I was chased a few times. The head of Sri Ram Sena, in a press conference, said that it is not enough to kill one fellow. Openly, he said,” We should take out one more journalist, then Mangalore will be fixed.”

Q.

What have the police done to stop this?

A.

These lumpen elements have free rein because of two things: people’s discomfort with modernity and westernization, and police complicity. In the homestay attack, when the police turned up, they conversed with the attackers for over half an hour. One victim tried to escape, but the police caught him and brought him back. In custody, the police allowed the attackers to beat him.

Why did they detain the victims? The Mangalore police do this — take the scared, assaulted kids to the station, call their parents, and then give them advice. “Don’t send your girls with boys, don’t let Muslims and Hindus interact in college, why is your child drinking, don’t you know Indian culture?” This is moral policing, what else? Beat, and then give unsolicited advice to the wrong person.

Q.

The police blamed you for not informing them about the attack even when you were tipped off earlier by a source.

A.

That is untrue. I repeatedly called the inspector of the local police station, Ravish Nayak, from my official number. Nayak did not pick up. The attacks had begun by then, and there was mayhem; the poor girls were screaming. I asked my friend Rajesh Rao of channel TV-9 to call the police. He also called Nayak, again in vain.

My cameraman and I were the first people there, and we tried to record everything. Other journalists came in minutes. We all shot, but we couldn’t stop the drunk, crazy goons attacking the young boys and girls.

It was a birthday party. When I got there after a local source tipped me off — not one of the attackers, as my phone call record shows — a girl was sitting on the porch, and two boys were playing games on their mobile phone. There was no rave party, as the goons alleged.

Q.

You were also accused by the police of abetting the attack because you didn’t stop it.

A.

This is an old dilemma in journalism: do you stop the action or do you report it? But here, I had no dilemma. I was screaming and requesting, “Don’t hit the girls.” The camera has caught my voice, but the attackers were unwilling to listen. They were like a pack of lions. I couldn’t physically stop them. No one could. [Read a translated version of Mr. Soorinje’s full account of the attack here.]

It is common today in India for mobs to call the local media informing them of a planned raid or attack. This is their way of getting publicity. Just 20 days before this homestay attack, a girl was molested publicly by a gang in Guwahati, Assam. In that, the cameraman was egging the attackers on, instructing them. So it may seem like I was in the same situation, but I was not.

Q.

How do the people of Mangalore react to this? Have the sectarian groups influenced their actions?

A.

Mangalore is both modern and conventional. That friction is being exploited. People live their lives as they please, but in private. In public spaces like buses, colleges, restaurants, there is a lurking fear.

The homestay incident was in July 2012. After that, there have been 10 other assaults. None have been investigated, and visual evidence is limited. Moreover, some tabloids — why, even big dailies — mangle the issue. If the Bajrang Dal [a Hindu fundamentalist group] has slapped a girl who was smoking, the headline will say “Smoking girl slapped.” It’s a combination of right-wing ideology and power driving the police, goons and some of the media.

Q.

You are still with Kasturi TV, and still in Mangalore. Has this experience changed the way you report or live now?

A.

There is an angle of caste that I’ve begun to understand. For example, all the boys and girls attacked in the homestay are Muslims or from backward castes. The accused goons are also from backward or lower castes, barely educated until third or fourth grade. All the leaders — of Sri Ram Sena and of the Vedike — are high caste, sitting happily in Bangalore, never arrested, only giving wildly inflammatory speeches on Hindutva to their minions without any consequence. I’ve realized that accountability must go further than the immediate actors.

I used to always try and do balanced reports — you know, quote both sides. But now I want to expose the attackers even more strongly. There is nothing to redeem them.

Rohini Mohan is a journalist based in Bangalore. She is working on a book about the civil war in Sri Lanka.

[This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.]

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/

 

Caste curses Dalit, tribal children to life of slavery beyond borders


By Gokul Vannan – CHENNAI

Caste discrimination and exploitation of Dalit children are not confined to villages alone as some members of the dominant communities force them into bonded labour in savory and confectionary units run by them in many parts of north India.

Recently, Vadugapatti village near Usilampatti was in the news when a Class VI Dalit boy was forced to carry footwear on his head through a caste Hindu street. But the same village has another story of a 17-year-old Dalit, who has become mentally ill due to physical and psychological torture he had faced at a savory factory in Gujarat, owned by a local businessman settled there.

Confined within a room for the last two years, the victim, T Vairamani, was rescued by his father, Thevamani, from a village in Gujarat. Owner Rohan, a caste Hindu of Usilampatti, had paid `2,000 as advance to Thevamani, a tender coconut vendor, while taking the boy for work at his savory unit.

“Vairmani was forced to work for nearly 20 hours a day. If he asks for rest, Rohan would abuse him in filthy language denoting his caste,” says S Muthu, a social worker attached to Madurai-based NGO Evidence. These days, Muthu takes the boy for regular medical check up at the Government Rajaji Hospital.

Rohan gave spoilt or poor quality food and that too only twice a day, and forced Vairmani to sleep in the kitchen. He also prevented his father from communicating with his son for two years. A restless Thevamani went in search of his son and spent more than a fortnight in Gujarat. Only after he filed a complaint with the Keraloor police, Ravikumar, a relative of Rohan, informed that the boy was safe at his house. “But when Thevamani spotted his son, he had injuries all over the body and was lying unconscious. With the help of then Madurai district collector Sagayam, we treated him for two months in the hospital,” says Muthu.

While Thevamani got back his son, albeit with mental illness, Parvathy of Uthampalyam in Theni district lost her son Surlimuthu within a few months after he was rescued from a confectionary unit in Uttar Pradesh. Incidentally Surlimuthu, a Dalit, had lost his dad Periyasuruli, as an eight-year-old.

On seeing Parvathy struggling to run the family, Sonaikalai, a caste Hindu of nearby Meikilarpatti convinced her to send her son to the factory promising good returns.

“The boy was working for 17 years at the savory unit of one Mahendran, who treated him like a slave,” says Ilayaraja, a social worker with Evidence.

While forcing him to work for 20 hours a day, Mahendran at times scalded him by pouring hot oil on his skin and branded him with a hot iron. When Surlimuthu returned home in 2008, his body was full of injuries. “Though we provided medical treatment, he died within a few months,” says A Kathir, executive director of Evidence.

A study of 111 bonded labourers in Madurai, Theni, Dindigul and Virudhunagar districts, revealed that most of the children were Dalits. In northern Tamil Nadu, particularly in Villupuram, Cuddalore, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Tiruvannamalai districts, tribal children were forced to work in brick kilns as bonded labourers, the study showed.

“It is distressing that the relief and rehabilitation promised in the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 doesn’t reach the rescued children,” says former south-zone convener, Campaign Against Child Labour, B S Vanarajan.

“If the rescued boy/girl is a Dalit, he/she is eligible for addition relief amount of `60,000 under the SC/ST prevention of atrocities Act, 1989 (section 3 (1) (6), but the government is not taking steps to provide relief invoking this Act,” he says.

http://newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/Caste-curses-Dalit-tribal-children-to-life-of-slavery-beyond-borders/2013/06/17/article1638429.ece

 

 

#Gujarat- NHRC irked over denial of scholarships to dalit students


TNN Jun 14, 2013

AHMEDABAD: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of the TOI report alleging denial of scholarships to 3,125 dalit students in Ahmedabad district. Out of this, applications of 1,613 students for scholarship are pending, whereas, 1,512 have been denied due to lack of funds. Allegedly, the state government had no answer for the Rs 3 crore that was to be spent on scholarships for dalit students.

The commission, shot off notices on Thursday to state chief secretary, Varesh Sinha and has sought a reply within four weeks. The commission also observed that, “the contents of the newspaper report, if true, paints a worrisome picture and constitute a gross violation of human rights of the dalit students. In view of their socio-economic backwardness, they deserve to be given special care and that is why such special provisions for scholarships to them have been made. Any failure in their implementation would defeat the whole purpose.”

The data was procured from the department of social justice after an RTI application was filed by dalit rights activist of Navsarjan Trust Kirit Rathod. It took Rathod three years before he could land on this basic information from the department.TNN “This is the level of transparency that the Gujarat government shows when it comes to the rights of the common man and the downtrodden classes. It took me three years to access information which should ideally should have been on the government website.”

The data in the RTI comprises only of ITI, science, arts, engineering and medical colleges. The information commission failed to provide the information for the dalit kids studying in schools

 

In the land of Gandhi and Modi, Dalits still render water ‘impure’ for others #WTFnews


 

 

Dailybhaskar.com | Jun 13, 2013,

 

Ahmedabad: Just 45 kms from the cosmopolitan hub of Ahmedabad, a village in Bavla Talika district has been found to be using caste as a parameter for distribution of water supply. On the scale, the highest castes of Rajputs and Patels have exclusive access to the well in the morning from 8 to 10 am, with Bharwas and Vaghris using the well from 10 to 12 am. Dalits, or Harijans as they are locally known, are only allowed access after 12 am till 2 pm.
According to a report, the pipelines carrying water are also arranged so each caste has a different one for their exclusive use. While the two upper castes can and do use each other’s water interchangeably, graphic warnings levying ‘strict penalties’ on Dalits if they are caught using others’ water decorate the surrounding walls.
In fact, a DNA correspondent notes that so ‘derogatory are the pictorial prohibitions and the language used in them that the person who wrote them could be easily charged under Atrocities Act.
Surprisingly, the casteist practise has the backing of village panchayat.
“We have put up the notice to streamline water distribution as we have separate pipelines for areas where people of different castes reside,” Pratapsinh Dodia, the husband of sarpanch Nimisha Dodia was quoted saying by DNA.
“And people don’t like when those from other communities use the same well. Villages are different from cities,” he conceded.
Throwing light on what upper castes call ‘tradition’,  local NGO Navsarjan Trust workers told DNA that even Dalits have stopped protesting against ‘inferior treatment’ as they have become used to it. Startlingly, coordination officer of the NGO Ramila Parmar was quoted by DNA claiming that such water distribution procedure can be found all over the state.
“We have lodged a complaint with the chief minister via e-mail. We are surprised by such things happening in the constituency of panchayat minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama,” said Navsarjan project director Kirit Rathod.

 

 

Dalit boy forced to carry footwear on his head as punishment, wary Dalits flee #WTFnews


By Harish Murali | ENS – MADURAI

08th June 2013

Pechiammal (61), the grandmother of Dalit boy Arun Kumar who was forced to walk on streets where caste Hindus reside carrying his footwear on his head at Vadugapatti near Usilampatti, is worried about the future of her grandson.

“After my daughter Nagammal gave a police complaint against a caste Hindu youth for humiliating her son Arun Kumar, both have left for our relative’s house fearing for their lives,” said Pechiammal, who was seen sitting alone in the house at Vadugapatti. The village wore a deserted look on Friday, while the caste Hindus ‘closely monitored’ the movement of those Dalits who dared to venture out.

Narrating the atrocities that happened to Arun Kumar, Pechiammal said, “My grandson went to the Kallar Government High School to check his annual exam result. When he was returning, he walked barefoot following the ‘dictum’ of the caste Hindus, carrying his footwear in his hand. However, when he saw a group of students playing cricket, he stopped to watch the game. Unable bear the heat, he put the footwear down and stood on it. It was then that caste Hindu youth Nagamaalai spotted my grandson and forced him to walk carrying the footwear on his head.”

“What happened to Arun Kumar is not unusual. Since Nagammal filed a police complaint, the caste discrimination in our village has come to light,” said a cross-section of Dalits.

About 70 Dalit families live in a ‘colony’ (secluded area earmarked for Dalits) in the village. However, none of them are allowed to walk wearing footwear in the streets of caste Hindus. “We also walk barefoot to a ration shop which is located in the caste Hindu area,” said Alagar (33), a resident.

#India -Daughters, wives sold to repay debt; NHRC notice to U.P. #WTFnews #Vaw


J. BALAJI, The Hindu

Incident allegedly took place in State’s Lalitpur district

A social activist Lenin Raghuvanshi has claimed that women and daughters were sold off to repay debts in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur district in Bundelkhand region.

Mr. Raghuvanshi said that caste discrimination is so intense in some villages of Bundlekhand that a Dalit has to take off his chappal and hold it in his/her hand if a person belonging to the Thakur caste is approaching.

Taking a serious view of such incidents, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police calling for reports on the complaint within four weeks.

Fact-finding team

It also directed the NHRC Director General (Investigation) to send a fact-finding team to study and file a report about such discrimination against the oppressed class.

Mr. Raghuvanshi also alleged that a Dalit cannot wear chappal or shoes and must walk barefoot if he/she wants to visit the area dominated by people belonging to the upper caste.

 

Sati deaths

Women belonging to the Balmiki community manually dispose off night soil and carcass. Violence against women is rampant and a number of S ati deaths have been reported from the region during the last few years. Even the sex-ratio is very adverse in the area, Mr. Raghuvanshi added.

 


  • ‘In some Bundlekhand villages, a Dalit has to take off his/her chappal if a Thakur is approaching’
  • Balmiki women dispose off night soil, carcass manually: Activist

 

Take Action to Improve Conditions for Dalit Women- UN Special Rapporteur #Vaw #Womenrights


Women and Girls Facing Caste-Based Discrimination Need Special Protections
JUNE 7, 2013
  • Many [Dalit women] experience some of the worst forms of discrimination. The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization, which perpetuates their subordinate position in society and increases their vulnerability, throughout generations.
Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women

(Geneva) – United Nations member states should focus urgent attention and decisive action to improve conditions for Dalit women, four international nongovernmental organizations said today. The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape, forced prostitution, and modern forms of slavery.

“Many [Dalit women] experience some of the worst forms of discrimination,” said Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in a written statement. “The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalization, which perpetuates their subordinate position in society and increases their vulnerability, throughout generations.”

Following a side event on June 4, 2013, at the UN Human Rights Council on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women and women from similarly affected communities, IMADR, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group International, and the International Dalit Solidarity Network called on UN member states to support efforts to eliminate gender and caste-based discrimination. The multiple forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women have mostly been neglected until now, but some UN human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have begun to pay attention to this serious human rights issue.

Dalit women leaders from four caste-affected countries in South Asia took part in the side event and made strong appeals to the international community as well as their own governments to address discrimination. This was the first time that a UN event focused exclusively on the situation of Dalit women, whose courageous struggle for human rights has come a long way over the past decade.

Addressing the event in a written statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, reiterated her “fullest commitment in contributing to the eradication of caste discrimination and untouchability and the correlated deeply rooted exclusion, exploitation and marginalization of Dalit women and other affected groups” through the work of her office.

Pillay, who has spoken out strongly against caste discrimination on a number of occasions, also called on UN member states to “take on the challenge of addressing caste-based discrimination and the human rights violations flowing from this seriously and by mobilizing all of their relevant institutions to this end.”

The ambassador from the German UN Mission, Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, said he had been “shocked” when gathering information about the situation of Dalit women and came to realize the “urgency, the dimension of the problem.”

The fact that numerous states co-sponsored the event demonstrates the increased international attention to the situation of Dalit women – an interest that now needs to be transformed into concrete action by the international community as well as caste-affected countries.

One such country is India, home to almost 100 million Dalit women. Although there are laws in place to protect them, implementation remains an obstacle.
“New laws are useless unless they are implemented, as we have seen with previous efforts to ensure protection of Dalit rights,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

Many of the speakers noted that the lack of implementation of legislation that is meant to protect Dalits is a key problem. Manjula Pradeep, director of the Indian Dalit rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust, stressed the importance of more data about the situation of Dalits and said that, “It is time to look at the intersection of caste and gender.”

Many victims of the combination of caste and gender-based discrimination live in South Asia where they are known as Dalits. Similar forms of discrimination occur elsewhere as testified by Mariem Salem, a parliamentarian from Mauritania and herself a member of a group targeted for discrimination, the Haratines, who are descendants of former slaves.

Salem noted that the pervading social attitudes and perceptions which stigmatize Haratine in general are “a key challenge for Haratine women.” She added that “specific types of work continue to be assigned to them on the basis of their hierarchical status,” a description that could also have been applied to Dalit women in South Asia.