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

 

#India- Let’s Have a National Debate on the Ambitious Nuclear Program


People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) December 12, 2012
Idinthakarai & P. O. 627 104
Tirunelveli District, Tamil Nadu
Phone: 98656 83735; 98421 54073
koodankulam@yahoo.com

The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) calls for a national debate on the Indian government’s ambitious and aggressive nuclear power program and for making it a poll issue in the upcoming Parliamentary elections. If the Congress Party or the BJP or any other party for that matter manages to convince the Indian voters about this full-scale nuclearization of the country and obtains absolute majority in the next Parliament, we will call off the ongoing struggle against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) immediately.

Since the incumbent Congress-led UPA government is accused of obscene and rampant corruption and scandals, and have lost all moral authority and legitimacy to rule the country, the people of India cannot and will not let them take this important nuclearization decision about the future and wellbeing of the second most populous country in the world. The whole of India knows how the present Manmohan Singh government manipulates the Parliament and gets through its devious policies and deceitful schemes. They played all kinds of dirty games and dubious politics to get the Indo-US Nuclear Deal passed in the Parliament. The Indian citizens have witnessed a much worse drama on the recent vote on the FDI issue. The Congress-led government threatened and/or seduced political parties and unscrupulous politicians such as M. Karunanidhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati, Lalu Prasad Yadav and others with serious cases or selective incentives to win their support for FDI. Now we hear that Walmart has spent an exorbitant amount of money in India to manipulate the entire Parliamentary processes.

Indian citizens simply do not and cannot trust these unprincipled, immoral, corrupt and self-seeking “leaders” and their family-run parties to decide all our fate, our progenies’ destiny, and our precious natural resources. Most of the present-day “leaders” are all sell-outs and they work for foreign governments, their agencies and MNCs. These cancerous elements’ only motive in public life is self-aggrandizement, self-perpetuation, and self-indulgence. Even if these old manipulative Machiavellis lose power (and die), we will still be stuck with their equally bad and corrupt sons and daughters. Nonetheless, let the people of India have a say in the important decision of nuclearizing India.

After all, the nuclear energy program is not just about generating electricity. When the government starts nuclear power plants all along the Indian coast at Koodankulam, Kalpakkam, Kovvada, Pati Sonapur, Haripur, Jaitapur, Tarapur, Mithi Virdi and so on, all these huge and foreign power plants would be dumping hot and contaminated water and radioactive wastes into the sea with disastrous impact on our sea, seafood, ground water, crops and so forth. Our food security and nutrition security will be drastically affected. As it is, some 42 percent of our children are born malnourished and with severe deficiencies. If we lose the cheap and best fish food also, only the politicians’ and bureaucrats’ children will have the physical health and mental faculties to lead normal healthy life. The present-day slavery will be perpetuated.

When the Indian elites build even more nuclear power plants at Kaiga, Chutka, Banswada and Fatehabad and so on, most of the Indian citizens will be exposed to dangerous radiation all over the country and we all will be paying a heavy price for diseases and ill health. The government of India does not take these hidden costs into account as our “leaders” are constantly working for their money and their children’s power.

So, we make the following proposition. Ask the government of India and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to share the following documents on all the existing and upcoming nuclear projects:
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA),
Site Evaluation Report (SER),
Safety Analysis Report (SAR),
Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP),
Concerned Reactor’s Performance Report,
Liability Regimes and all other relevant information, documents and details in English, Hindi and the local languages.

Let the whole country discuss these reports and information and engage in a nation-wide debate about the exorbitant cost of nuclear energy, the hidden costs such as food insecurity and diseases, nuclear safety, nuclear waste management, decommissioning technology and costs, and the whole array of related issues.

And then in the upcoming Parliament elections, let us ask the Indian voters to decide on the full-fledged ambitious and aggressive nuclearization of our country. If majority of them endorse the policy and vote overwhelmingly for any party that supports this nuclear policy and projects, we, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) will immediately withdraw our struggle against the KKNPP project.

If the corrupt “leaders” of India have not sold the country to the United States, Russia and France, let them take up this democratic offer and work with us instead of sending discredited scientists, macho model boys and subservient bureaucrats amidst us to convince the clear-headed citizens of India.

The Struggle Committee
The People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)

 

#India -Holding democracy to a whip #FDI


Garga Chatterjee | Agency: DNA | Sunday, December 9, 2012

 

In the FDI debate that happened in the Lok Sabha, a particularly painful moment saw ‘Netaji’ Mulayam Singh Yadav take the name of Ram Manohar Lohia. He talked about Lohia and Gandhi. Even as he made tired statements to the effect that he opposed FDI in multi-brand retail in principle, it was getting amply clear to everyone that he and his party would walk out when the moment of truth came in the form of voting. Paralysis and hypocrisy are two conditions where one’s action is not in line with publicly-expressed wish. At any rate, they are not among the desirable characteristics of ‘people’s representatives.’ Some old Samajwadis in his contingent might have wanted to defect and vote their conscience to avoid the ignominy of being associated with either of the two conditions. But that would effectively end the parliamentary career of such people. So they followed their ‘Netaji’ out of the house. Avoidance of trouble is preferable to happiness. The Anti-Defection law drawn up by party bosses have ensured that no Samajwadi Party member of parliament or for that matter, any member of parliament of any party cannot vote in accordance with what he/she deems right. One has to slavishly follow the party diktat or lose the their membership of the parliament, unless at least a third of the MPs of a party find their spine.

It may not be a totally idle exercise to think how the FDI vote would have turned out if the anti-defections law was not in place, given the murmurs of discontent that exist even within the Indira Congress. The anti-defection law is supposedly a counter against horse-trading. In the period from 1985 to 2009, only 19 members of parliament have been disqualified for violating the party whip. The party leaderships don’t have faith on people winning on their ticket, partly because they know on what flimsy self-serving ground such an assemblage of champions is created in the first place. The leaderships also know that enticements of greater value may sway legislators — irrespective of the publicly stated reason of coming together as party – Gandhian socialism, Indian nationalism, Hindutva, OBC rights or whatever. At a deeper level, these are signs of crisis in the very nature of the political class — namely, the absence of inner party democracy and ideology based politics. That crisis has only deepened. Hence the need of the anti-defection law to make parliamentarians falls in line with high command dictates. This form of quasi-Stalinist centralism somehow has a long afterlife in those nations (India, Bangladesh, Kenya) where freedom of expression is also under constant threat from the government of the day. I have a feeling that it is not accidental. UK, France, Canada, Germany and USA have no such anti-defection law for their legislators.

It is important to understand what a member of parliament represents. One is not simply a ‘proxy’ for the people but a representative of the changing wishes of the people of one’s constituency. That is to say, things change and so do people’s wishes, above and beyond the programme of the party on whose ticket one was elected. Party programme cannot be the sole guide if parliamentary democracy is to be a living entity. In a first past the post system, many MPs do not win by majority but by plurality. Parties command all the representative abilities of a MP by issuing whips. This is when democracy takes a beating at the hand of partycracy.

Parties are important tools of organising opinion and force multiplication, especially across larger geographical spaces. Do people vote for a party or a candidate or both? The answer is variable. Candidates use parties and parties in turn use candidates. The Mohammedan MPs of the BJP are a fine example of this symbiotic relationship. In some cases, parties change candidates and win. In other cases, some people win, irrespective of their party affiliation at the time. Clearly parties are not the last word in a democracy. The individual representatives matter too.

In the presence ofparty-whips, voting records of individual MPs are a monotonous copy of party stances, or worse still a continuous testimony to the nature of cynical machinations that the party-head has executed. The anti-defection laws were purportedly drawn up to avoid Matsyanyay — the condition where the big fish eat the small fish. It has resulted in a system where even the minimally conscientious fish is too scared to make its opinion known by voting one’s own opinion. The anti-defection law does not penalise anyone, even the leadership, when it deviates from stated party programme. With the rise and rise of parties that have dynastic or persona-based leaderships, a different Matsyanyay is at play. Only the top fish needs to be ‘managed.’ The top issues the whip and the rest of the shoal falls in line. This surely cannot be a good sign for an aspiring democracy representing such variegated shades as the subcontinent. The anti-defection law only solidifies the false majorities of parties in a first past the post system.

Garga Chatterjee is a postdoctoral scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

#India-Who said what in FDI debate


IANS India Private LimitedBy Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – 2 hours 57 minutes ago

New Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) Seven speakers from different parties spoke Tuesday on the FDI issue in the Lok Sabha, kicking off a two-day debate with voting.

The debate will end Wednesday with a vote. If it loses in the voting, the UPA government need not resign but it will certainly be a huge embarrassment.

Here are some quotes :

Sushma Swaraj (BJP, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha) : “Small shops, retailers have been wiped out in countries which allowed FDI in retail. About 12 crore people will go out of jobs in India due to the UPA government’s decision to allow FDI in retail. PM makes bold statements like if we must go down, we’ll go down fighting. You must Mr PM, but fight for the poor, not the rich, fight for country, not multi-nationals, fight for small, not big.”

Kapil Sibal (Communications Minister) : “It was decided that retail will only be in cities with over 10 lakh population. There are 53 such cities. After that we felt some states have opposition government. If we separate the states that don’t want it, there are 18 cities left…So if FDI in retail will be implemented in only 18 cities, why is the debate happening? This debate is not needed at all, it is a totally political debate.”

Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party chief) : “As far as FDI is concerned, how much so ever you explain, it is not in favour of the country. We are speaking for the people, it is not in favour of the country. Thirty crore people will be unemployed. If this was good and beneficial, why is America in trouble? Why are people unemployed there?”

Dara Singh Chauhan (Bahujan Samaj Party): “Poor people are anxious over the impact this policy can have on their lives. They fear the multi-national companies will take away their livelihoods. The government should not rush with it.”

T.K.S. Elangovan (DMK) : “I am not telling this as an opponent, but telling this as your brother. I don’t want to put you (government) for a whole-body scan as opposition, but it (FDI in retail) is definitely not in interest of the trading community. “We were the first party to oppose FDI, but we don’t want to oppose you. We have done many good things for the country together, something may not be in favour of the country, but we don’t want to oppose you.”

Basudeb Acharia (Communist Party of India-Marxist): “The government is giving dreams of employment (from FDI).. There is 0.8 percent growth in employment in the country and unemployment is rising, there is an economic slowdown… If Wal-Mart gives one employment, it will snatch 17 employments.”

 

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