Haryana – Family commits suicide after Dalit girl’s rape #Vaw


Haryana’s harsh reality: How a rape ruined a family
Sushil Manav
Tribune News Service

Blood lust mars India’s Tiananmen moment #Vaw #delhigangrape

Bhairi Akbarpur (Hisar), Apr 28
Rape cases have nearly doubled in Haryana in the first three months of the year, according to government figures. Till March 31, 214 rape cases were reported as against 121 in the same period last year. Exactly a week ago, a family of five consumed poison in Bheri Akbarpur village, 50 km from Hisar, allegedly tormented by the police over the whereabouts of their elder daughter, who is missing after being raped last year, and on account of poverty.

An eerie silence prevails in the one-room dilapidated house where Mohan (all names changed to protect identity), his wife Sunita, their 13-year-old daughter Sandhya and sons Amit (11) and Rajiv (9) consumed celphos in the early hours of Monday. Mohan is the lone survivor and is recuperating in PGIMS, Rohtak.

Mohan’s eldest daughter, all of 15, was allegedly kidnapped and raped for two days by a villager, Rohtash, on May 15, 2012. He was arrested on May 17 and has been on trial for rape and abduction. On July 6, 2012, the victim disappeared. Mohal alleged that not only would the police keep pressing him to locate her, but the family had been suffering humiliation at the hands of the villagers as well.

While the suicide by the family has shaken the conscience of people across the state, those living around Mohan’s house seemed indifferent to the tragedy. “We had no interaction with the family,” says Ram Kumar, Mohan’s immediate neighbour. Mohan, a Dalit, had bought this house in an area of upper caste Jats after selling his old house some time back.

Ram Kumar says Mohan would usually leave in the morning for neighbouring Uklana town about 1.5 km from the village with his loading rickshaw, which he used to rent out. “His wife used to work as and when she got work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme. The three children used to go to school. The family seldom interacted with others in the village,” he adds.

Inquiries reveal that the family had been living in isolation ever since Mohan’s 15-year-old daughter eloped twice, was raped and then disappeared within two months of her recovery last July. In fact, Mohan had sold off his house in the Dalit Basti at the south end of the village and purchased a rundown house in the north end where upper caste Jats and others lived to escape taunts from his community members.

“We tried to counsel him and advised him to marry off his daughter after we heard of her first elopement. But he did not listen to us and, instead, shifted to a new neighbourhood,” say Mohan’s uncles Kanshi Ram and Dayanand amid receiving mourners.

“Mohan went into a shell after his daughter disappeared and did not discuss his problems with anyone,” says Dayanand. “We did not know he was under immense police pressure to produce his missing daughter. They wanted to produce her in a Hisar court on April 30 to record her statement. We came to know about this only after the family consumed poison.”

The day Mohan and his family consumed poison, the SHO of Uklana police station is alleged to have told Mohan to find his daughter and warned him of dire consequences if he failed to do so.

“Ladki ko dhoond ke la nahi to tujhe ulta taang doonga (find the girl or I will hang you),” he is alleged to have said. The SHO has since been sent on leave by the SP, though the allegation has been denied by the police.

“My nephew did not know his daughter’s whereabouts. How could he have produced him before the SHO?” asks Kanshi Ram.

Villagers also say the family’s financial condition was bad and Mohan had sold his rickshaw some days back. Mohan told mediapersons from the hospital that his children had not eaten in two days. He said other members of his family chose to end their lives with him rather than lead a “hopeless life”.

Unable to cope with police pressure, fed up with his poverty and with no support system to bank upon, Mohan appears to have taken the extreme step.

The Head Teacher of the Government Primary School in the village remembers 11-year-old Amit and nine-year-old Rajiv as good students, but sensitive by nature. “Both Amit and Rajiv were extremely good in studies and very docile and submissive. Children often quarrel and sometimes hit each other, but these boys would come to me teary-eyed if a classmate said anything,” says said Mohinder Singh. The girl Sandhya, who studied in the adjoining middle school, is also described as a quiet student, who did not have many friends in class.

Ironically, the children’s last journey was also quite silent, as very few villagers turned up at the cremation or to mourn their death.

Victims of circumstances

  • The family sold off its house in the Dalit Basti and purchased a rundown house where upper caste Jats and others lived to escape taunts from community members after its minor girl was raped
  • The day the family consumed poison, Uklana SHO is alleged to have told the girl’s father to find her and warned him of dire consequences if he failed to do so
  • Villagers say the family’s financial condition was bad and the rickshaw-puller had sold off his rickshaw some days back
  • The family had not eaten in two days at the time of the suicide and the rape victim’s father said other members chose to end their lives with him rather than lead a “hopeless life”

Mohan went into a shell after his daughter disappeared and did not discuss his problems with anyone. We did not know he was under immense police pressure to produce his missing daughter. They wanted to produce her in a Hisar court on April 30 to record her statement. We came to know about this only after the family consumed poison..
— Dayanand, Mohan’s uncle

No candlelight protest for Lalli Devi #Vaw


THE HINDU

Published: December 30, 2012

Dalit women are always at the receiving end of societal oppression which takes many forms. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

 

Badri Narayan

The Hindu  Dalit women are always at the receiving end of societal oppression which takes many forms

The Sunday Story

While voices were rasied against the brutal gang-rape of the 23 year-old woman who tragically died on Saturday, what about the daily occurrences of rape and assault in the lives of Dalit women?

Who will listen to the voices of the margins? Margins mean those who are not in the capital, those who are not part of the urban middle-class, and those who are not in the gaze of the TV camera. Margins mean those who are silent because they have no one to tell their stories to.

Delhi citizens rightly raised their voices against the brutal gang-rape of the 23 year-old woman who tragically died on Saturday morning. But what about the other statistically established truth? That rape and assault are daily occurrences in the lives of Dalit women? Most crimes committed against Dalits remain unrecorded because the police, the village councils, and government officials reflect the biases of the Hindu caste system. Crimes against them also go unreported because of fears of reprisals, intimidation by the police and their inability to pay bribes.

A report released by the Amnesty International in 2001 found an “extremely high” number of sexual assaults on Dalit women perpetrated by the powerful combine of landlords, upper-caste villagers, and police officers. The study estimates that only about 5 per cent of the attacks are registered, with 30 per cent of the rape complaints dismissed as false. The study also found that the police routinely demand bribes, intimidate witnesses, cover up evidence, and beat up the women’s husbands. Even where rape victims are murdered, the culprits go unpunished.

Often rape and assault happen as part of caste warfare with militia-like vigilante groups, assisted by the local police, conducting raids on villages, burning Dalit homes and raping the women. Legal records, media reportage and personal testimonies reveal that upper-caste men claim sexual access to Dalit and lower-caste women as a matter of caste privilege. Consider this recent incident at Sheetalpur Tikari village under Tharwai police station, around 30 kilometers from Allahabad. Lalli Devi, 45, was constructing a house allotted to her under the Indira Awas Yojna when a local money-lender arrived there with other influential people and demolished the house. As Lalli tried to reason with the man, she, her husband Gulab and her son aged 12 years were beaten mercilessly by the goons. Her hut, where she used to sleep and cook, was razed to the ground. Even today marks of the Brahminical violence are visible on Lalli’s body. And yet, the police kept her in the thana for 24 hours and denied that any violence had occurred.

Worst victims

Dalit women are the worst victims of sexual violence because they face oppression at three levels — caste, class and gender. Indeed she faces atrocities as a Dalit, as a woman and as a member of the working class. Dalit women undergo sexual oppression, economic exploitation and socio-cultural subjugation. But the judicial system routinely fails them.

Immediately after V.P. Singh became Prime Minister in 1989, his constituency, Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh, was rocked by the news of the gruesome murder of Dhanraj, a Dalit, by some Thakurs in whose fields he worked. Dhanraj had been ordered by the landlords to let his wife spend a night with them. When he defied the diktat, he was dragged out and burnt alive. Singh, who projected himself as a messiah of the oppressed classes, rushed to the spot and offered the widow Rs. 1,000 from his welfare fund and some land as compensation. However the land that was allotted lay within the boundaries of the land of the Thakurs, making it totally inaccessible to her. In the court case that followed all the Thakurs were acquitted of the crime.

In another case that occurred in village Dauna near Allahabad on January 21, 1994, Shivpatia, an old Dalit woman was paraded naked in the village because her son had objected to her vegetable field being plundered by some boys from the dominant Kurmi (OBC) caste. This incident happened when Mulayam Singh Yadav and Kanshi Ram were in an alliance and had formed a government in U.P.. The incident hit the national headlines, prompting both men to rush together to the spot. The victim was offered land and money as compensation and the culprits arrested.

Seventeen years have passed since the incident but the case is still pending in the sessions court even as Mayawati became Chief Minister of the State four times. The irony is that the case was on fast track. In reality, the harassment has increased for Shivpatia and her relatives who are forced to visit the court for their ‘sunwai’, thereby reliving the incident over and over. Today all that they want is that the case should come to an end so that they do not need to forgo their daily wages in order to answer summons from the court.

Dalit women are invisible not just for the media and the police but also seemingly for the judiciary, considering the glaring lack of genuine efforts to resolve their cases. For the public outrage against the Delhi gang rape to have real significance, it must also lead to the victimised Dalit women also getting justice.

(Badri Narayan teaches political science at Allahabad University)

#India- Why there are so few senior Dalit bureaucrats


Vinay Sitapati , Indian Express

Since they are in the bottom half of the merit list of the UPSC exam, they are likely to be under-represented in senior government service decades later

Here’s a fact you can’t tear up in Parliament. It provides the basis for the current constitutional amendment bill providing quotas in promotions for Dalits and tribals in government service. Despite six decades of entry-level quotas, there are few Dalit senior officers. By one count, of around 88 secretary-level posts in the Central government, not one is filled by a Dalit. Systemic discrimination, allege its proponents. Is that the only explanation for this “fact”?

To begin with, who appoints officers to senior posts? In the last decade or so, it is well known that ministers, not senior bureaucrats judging their own, choose key bureaucrats. Central secretaries (after empanelment) are often chosen by the concerned minister. It seems schizophrenic for politicians to systematically discriminate against Dalits and tribal officers, yet overwhelmingly vote for a law to correct this.

This “fact” is also a partial picture. As the submissions before the court argued, anecdotal evidence suggests Dalits are well represented in the state (as opposed to Central) bureaucracy. It is hard to read meaning into this without comprehensive data — something the courts asked for and the government refused to provide.

During the Constituent Assembly debates in the late 1940s, no one questioned the grievous historic injustice meted out to Dalits and tribals. An independent India agreed to inherit that sin. The logical solution was a strong state that protected these groups from discrimination, providing them quality schooling, health and opportunity. But the flailing Indian state was not capable of “delivering” real social justice so quickly. Reservations were a second-best solution. Since the state could not, in a generation, correct the inequities of the past, reservations would correct caste prejudice within the state, and create a Dalit middle class. These thousands of jobs and college seats were important; but they were (and are) no substitute for more essential social justice — providing succour to the millions of deprived Dalits and tribals outside of the state.

It is catastrophic to admit now, 60 years later, that far from preventing discrimination against Dalits outside the narrow confines of the state, the Indian government has been unable to protect Dalit officers within the state. That is what the bill implies. Fortunately, this is not true. Since Independence, Dalits have been empowered within the state — through quotas and powerful political parties. Overwhelming political support for the constitutional amendment is proof of this. Yet, Dalits and tribals remain the poorest, most discriminated, least literate Indians outside of the state. This then, is the 21st century consequence of what B.R. Ambedkar alluded to half-a-century ago: “in politics, we will have equality, and in social and economic life we will have inequality”.

What then explains why there are, in some cases, so few senior government officers who are Dalit?

Let me suggest one. In any organisation, those who are towards the top of an entrance exam are more likely to rise to the top, compared to the bottom half. Our cabinet secretaries and foreign secretaries have typically been those nearer the top of the UPSC examination when they first joined. Even those at the bottom of the general list in the UPSC struggle to make it as Central secretaries. This is a trend seen in entrance exams everywhere. Those towards the top of an engineering or medical college entrance test tend to leave college at the top of the pile. Why should government be any different? Since Dalits and tribals are at the bottom of the merit list (since most avail of quotas), they are likely to be under-represented in senior government service decades later. Add to this the problem that since age restrictions are relaxed for them, Dalits and tribals officers tend to enter service older, retiring before reaching senior posts.

Is this fair? Of course not. But the real tragedy is not why there are so few Dalits and tribals in senior government posts. It is why, 60 years after Independence, so few of them make it to the top of the general list. The answer is blindingly clear. So little government money (and frankly, the energy of social justice advocates) is spent on improving public schools, colleges and scholarships — the surest way for historically marginalised groups to overcome the lack of social capital back home.

This is only a hypothesis. But it offers a compelling counter to the claim, made without any systematic evidence, that the seeming absence of Dalits in top bureaucratic posts is, of itself, evidence of discrimination.

The bill does more than divert attention from social justice. It hurts the only force (apart from the market) with the ability to improve the condition of Dalits and tribals: the state. Bureaucracy 101, since first written by Max Weber, dictates that efficient organisations have to be hierarchical and internally meritocratic. This is intuitive: if your junior or peer becomes your boss solely on the basis of identity, how likely are you to perform? By making the state the site of social justice, instead of the vehicle for social justice, the interests of the marginalised are harmed most.

Are those few politicians opposing the bill mouthing these liberal and socially just arguments? Well, Exhibit A is the Shiv Sena, about the most illiberal party in Indian history. Exhibit B is the Samajwadi Party, whose member tore a copy of the bill in Parliament. Mulayam Singh Yadav, more than any other, grasps the bill’s cynical aim. The current amendment is in response to a court judgment invalidating a law passed by Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. Her BSP owes its origins to Dalit government officers such as Kanshi Ram, who first organised within the bureaucracy, then floated a political party outside. Dalit bureaucrats are the feeder service into Dalit politics. For Mulayam, this Bill will empower his opponent in his home state — and for that reason alone, his Lohiaite backward caste party will tear a pro-reservation bill. When illiberal and cynical laws are opposed by illiberal and cynical people, democracy’s doom is not far.

The writer is a lawyer and doctoral candidate at Princeton University, US

 

Dalit politics must embrace less powerful caste groups


On the margins of the margin

Badri Narayan, The Hindu, June 210, 2102

COUNT THEM IN: Lesser Dalit groups need to counter their disembodiment by developing their own politics. A February 2012 picture of supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party at an election rally at Sitapur, near Lucknow. Photo: AP
COUNT THEM IN: Lesser Dalit groups need to counter their disembodiment by developing their own politics. A February 2012 picture of supporters of the Bahujan Samaj Party at an election rally at Sitapur, near Lucknow. Photo: AP

Dalit politics must embrace less powerful caste groups

When Kanshi Ram emerged on the political scene, he developed himself as a leader of all Dalits as a whole and tried to create a homogeneous identity for the diverse Dalit castes who comprise the lower castes of the social system. He ensured that each and every Dalit caste had respect by providing representation to them in democratic power. Through his efforts, a large section of Dalits, who were earlier excluded from the democratic processes of the country, have succeeded in obtaining political empowerment in Uttar Pradesh through the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). However out of the 66 Dalit castes, only four including shoemaker (cobbler) caste — called Ravidasi or Harijan in some parts of India — Pasi (watchman of feudal lords/toddy tappers/some of them tame pigs), Dhobi (washerman) and Kori (weaver) have become visible in democratic politics. The rest are invisible. Even among the more visible Dalit castes, the cobblers and Pasis have grabbed most of the space.

Disempowerment

But in the ever-evolving politics of U.P., the invisible and unseen communities are unable to demonstrate their presence. While democracy has helped in empowering many erstwhile marginalised communities, it has also led to the disempowerment of many other smaller communities because marginalised communities which have gained power do not want to share it with their less fortunate brethren. Thus are dominant communities born.

The cobbler caste, the largest Dalit community in U.P., constitutes 56.20 per cent of the total Scheduled Caste population, which is 21.1 per cent of the State’s total population (2001 census). It has emerged as one of the dominant castes among Dalits.

The caste took to education in a big way in pre-Independence years. That helped its members find jobs in cities, in turn helping in their rise as a political caste after Independence. When Kanshi Ram emerged on the scene, the caste already had a middle class, community leaders and the makings of an intelligentsia. They were a ready-made cadre for the party in its initial phase. The cobbler caste thus made up a chunk of the BSP, and succeeded in cornering the benefits of Dalit political empowerment. However many other Dalit castes like Jogi, Nat (wanderer), Musahar (who make items out of leaves), Kanjar (mat weaver), Dom, Domar, Hela (sweeper), Basor (basket weaver), and Bansphor (bamboo basket maker) are so insignificant despite their numerical strength that they cannot make their presence felt in U.P’s vote bank politics and continue to face exclusion.

Aside from these castes, there are others found in lesser numbers like Bahelia (bird hunter), Khairha (woodcutter), Kalabaaz (songster), Balai (farm labourer), Majhwar (musician), Hari (basket maker) and Sansiya (musical instrument repairer). They are not visible in any political or governance strategies, and lack a presence in the political sphere. While conducting research, it was observed that communities which are not educated, and which do not have leaders, caste histories and heroes are unable to create their own identities which can make their communities assertive in democratic politics.

Vocabulary of exclusion

Within Dalits, the term ati-Dalit (lowest of the low) has become a part of the vocabulary of the Dalit intelligentsia as a result of this exclusion. In its election manifesto for the U.P. Assembly elections, the Congress party had promised to give respect, representation and status to these castes. More recently, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar created a new category, Mahadalits, to offset the exclusion of certain Dalit communities. Commentators saw this move as a step by Mr. Kumar to line his own vote-bank, but it served to establish that exclusion among Dalits exists. Not much was mentioned about these margins in the election manifesto of the Samajwadi Party (SP), nor is it apparent in their policies.

As the Congress did not win the elections in U.P. and Kanshi Ram is not alive to fight for the rights of the marginalised Dalit castes, the most marginalised communities would benefit by adopting the road map provided by the major and dominant Dalit castes. They need to acquire visibility, possible only by building capacity to desire change through the same means that empowered the other Dalit castes. These lesser Dalit groups need to counter their disembodiment. To do that, they need to develop their own politics. The dominant Dalit groups who now have control over scarce resources should act as agencies to help distribute these resources more evenly. In fact, for Dalit politics to become sharp and dynamic it is necessary that all smaller and lesser Dalit groups who are now invisible and unseen, are included within its socio-political matrix.

(Badri Narayan teaches at the Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute in Jhusi, Allahabad, and is an analyst of Dalit issues. His latest book published is The Making of the Dalit Public in North India: Uttar Pradesh 1950–Present, from Oxford University Press.)

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