Atrocities & Crimes Against Dalits

India’s courts ‘condone’ Dalit atrocities

Twenty two years ago, in Bhateri village in the western Indian state of Rajasthan, Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped by five men. The reason was neither lust nor just patriarchy. Devi’s fault was that as a lower-caste woman, she had dared to transgress the age old strictures of caste – by protesting against the practice of child marriage, which was a staple among the upper-castes. Hence, he was meted out a “deserving punishment”.

When the matter finally reached the court, the judge acquitted all the five rapists, holding, among a host of other reasons, that since the upper castes practised strict untouchability, it was inconceivable that any of the five would touch a lower caste woman. Till today, Devi remains deprived of justice.

Now that there is a tidal wave of opprobrium and condemnation against the gang-rapes and murder at Badaun in northern Uttar Pradesh state and the gang-rapes in Bhagana, Haryana, the next question one is confronted with is – will justice be done? And if so, how?

While investigations are still on, and arrests have been made, it is only the first step. The final outcome in the courts is all that matters, and it is here that there is cause for much alarm and disappointment. For, India’s courts have consistently failed the Dalits (untouchables) by steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that sexual violence is perpetrated because of a woman’s caste.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, commonly known as PoA Act, recognises rape and other forms of sexual violence as an “atrocity”- an aggravated offence, as opposed to the general crime of rape. The reason is that an atrocity, as philosopher Claudia Card defines it, is a “gross evil – the widespread toleration of wrongfully perpetrated intolerable harm to individuals”.

Because Dalit women’s bodies are stigmatised – they are considered expendable and justifiably available for recreational (pleasure-seeking) or punitive purposes of upper-caste men, the law seeks to bring in substantive equality by recognising the lived reality of the victims.

Therefore, it is imperative for courts to recognise that the sine qua non for the deeming rape as an atrocity under the law is that the violence was perpetrated on the ground that the victim hailed from a lower caste.

Tragically, it is here that the judicial record is one of abject failure. Not only have the judges refused to acknowledge the reality of caste, but have also attributed reasons such as “unrequited passion”, “exploration of sexuality” and let off the accused. Even if there is a conviction for rape, an acquittal from the charges of atrocity renders justice not only incomplete, but also as a travesty.

Khairlanji village in western Maharashtra state stands out as the most infamous example in recent times. On September 26, 2006, four members of Suresh Bhotmange’s (a Dalit) family were killed in the most gruesome manner. His wife and daughter were stripped, thrashed, and paraded naked through the village, before being subjected to a fiendish gang-rape.

Nothing was left….knives, iron rods, spikes of bullock cart wheels- everything was thrust in their private parts. Bhotmange’s “crime” was the police complaint that he had lodged against the upper-caste Hindus grabbing the plot of land that was rightfully his.

The autopsy was done in the shoddiest manner – no efforts were made to test for rape, even though the naked bodies of the two women lay in the village for a considerable period of time. All the accused who were arrested were convicted by the trial court of murder and other offences, but not for rape.

Worse was in store in the Bombay High Court. In its 2010 judgement, the court put down the atrocities to reasons of personal rivalry and individual revenge. Shockingly, the court went to considerable lengths to hold that because there was no evidence, no rape had been committed – completely ignoring the harsh reality – that there would be no witnesses, and that the trial court had committed a glaring omission by ignoring evident facts. If the naked and badly mangled bodies of Dalit women did not stir the court to acknowledge sexual atrocity, perhaps nothing else could have. The appeal against the high court’s judgement remains undecided till this date.

The case of Hanamath was an appeal to the Karnataka High Court against the conviction of four men for gang-raping a 15-year-old Dalit girl. The court upheld the conviction of rape because it could have done little else – all the proof – eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence were stacked against the accused. But when it came to holding the culprits guilty under the PoA Act, the court not only demonstrated its blindness to caste, but took the “boys will be boys” line of reasoning, holding that the gang-rape was “a lustful act of misguided youth”.

Leave aside convictions. How does one prove to the court that a rape was committed because the perpetrators wanted to exercise their upper caste power and pelf? There cannot be any rule of evidence, except that of social reality – that the caste system, in all its vicious manifestations, exists.

Hence, the Supreme Court’s judgement in Ramdas (2006) rankles, and rankles hard. In the dead of night, three men dragged out a young woman of the low-ranking Pardhi caste and raped her. This was after she had refused to obey their summons, belonging to a landowning upper-caste, who wanted her to satisfy their carnal desires.

Of course, they wouldn’t have had the temerity to exercise the same obnoxious power on a woman of their own, or a higher caste, but then, Dalit women are fair game!

But the court was not inclined to accept this, and held – “The mere fact that the victim happened to be a girl belonging to a scheduled (lower) caste does not attract the provisions of the (PoA) Act.”

When a judgement of the Supreme Court deals a body blow to the very foundations of the law which aims to protect, impunity will certainly continue, unabated.

By: Saurav Datta
Al Jazeera

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/india-courts-condone-dalit-rape-20146101032 7959421.html

Posted on: June 11, 2014

 


Why India’s sanitation crisis kills women

The gruesome rape and hanging of two teenage girls in the populous Uttar Pradesh state again proves how women have become the biggest victims of India’s sanitation crisis.

The two girls were going to the fields to defecate when they went missing on Tuesday night.

Nearly half-a-billion Indians – or 48% of the population – lack access to basic sanitation and defecate in the open.

The situation is worse in villages where, according to the WHO and Unicef, some 65% defecate in the open. And women appear to bear the brunt as they are mostly attacked and assaulted when they step out early in the morning or late in the evening.

Several studies have shown that women without toilets at home are vulnerable to sexual violence when travelling to and from public facilities or open fields.

The evidence is glaring.

A senior police official in Bihar said some 400 women would have “escaped” rape last year if they had toilets in their homes.

Women living in urban slums of Delhi reported specific incidents of girls under 10 “being raped while on their way to use a public toilet” to researchers of a 2011 study funded by WaterAid and DFID-funded Sanitation and Hygiene Applied Research for Equity.

Women in one slum said when they went out in the open to defecate, local boys stared at them, made threats, threw bricks and stabbed them. Others said they faced “lewd remarks, physical gestures and rape when they relieved themselves in the bushes”.

“We have had one-on-one fights with thugs in order to save our daughters from getting raped. It then becomes a fight that either you [the thug] kill me to get to my daughter or you back off,” a helpless mother told the researchers, pointing out to the chilling frequency of such assaults.

By one estimate, some 300 million women and girls in India defecate in the open. Most of them belong to underprivileged sections of the society and are too poor to afford toilets. The two girls from Badaun, who reportedly belonged to the lower-rung of a group of castes called Other Backward Classes (OBCs), were among them and paid with their lives.

“This vicious, horrifying attack illustrates too vividly the risks that girls and women take when they don’t have a safe, private place to relieve themselves,” says said Barbara Frost, chief executive of WaterAid. “Ending open defecation is an urgent priority that needs to be addressed, for the benefit of women and girls who live in poverty and without access to privacy and a decent toilet.”

Experts believe that India needs to scale up its war on sanitation with a special emphases on women.

It needs to build more private toilets with sewerage connections when space is available and shared toilets when space is scarce. Community toilets have worked in many places and flopped in others like the city of Bhopal, where, a study revealed, only half as many women as men used the toilets because of their distance from home.

This is not a problem in India alone: violence against women on the way to or from public toilets have been reported from countries like Kenya and Uganda. But for a country which aspires for superpower status, lack of toilets is an enduring shame.

On his stump, the new prime minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist BJP had promised, “Toilets first, Temples later”. He needs to do that sooner to save lives of more women.

By: Soutik Biswas
BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27635363

Posted on: May 30, 2014

 


‘Atrocities against Dalits increasing’

Water conservation minister and Dalit leader Nitin Raut on Monday took his own government to task over the spurt in cases of Dalit atrocities. He said that such cases have been increasing in Maharashtra. He has asked chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to call a special Cabinet meeting to discuss the issue in detail.

Mr Raut visited villages of Osmanabad, Buldhana and Ahmednagar where cases of Dalit atrocities have been reported recently. Referring to them, Mr Raut said, “Such cases have been on the rise. In Ahmednagar alone, this is the second case of Dalit atrocity within a year and the state government had to take it seriously.” He was referring to the murder of 17-year-old Nitin Aage at Kharda village of Ahmednagar.

The minister has written a letter to the CM for a special meeting of the Cabinet to discuss the issue and said he would raise the issue in the meeting on Wednesday.

On whether the state has failed to curb such incidents or is it a failure of the home department, he said, “You can interpret it as you like, but all I can say is that the cases of atrocities against Dalits have increased in Maharashtra and this needs to be stopped.”

He also expressed shock over anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s silence. “I am shocked as to why a senior social worker like Mr Hazare is mum even when Ahmednagar is his home district. In less than a year, this is the second case where a Dalit youth was brutally murdered and he has not uttered a single word on it,” Mr Raut said.

“I believe all political parties and social activists should come together to solve this problem as the mentality of the people needs to be changed. We have laws and the accused will be convicted, but such incidents will be curbed only when the mindset changes,” he said.

Asian Age
http://www.asianage.com/mumbai/atrocities-against-dalits-increasing-763

Posted on: May 6, 2014

 


Dalit kids made to eat last, Muslims insulted in schools: Report

Children from Dalit, tribal and Muslim communities are being blatantly discriminated against in schools in rural areas in several states of the country, says a shocking report released by an international rights group on Tuesday.

The discrimination, the Human Rights Watch report titled ‘They Say We’re Dirty’ says, includes “teachers asking Dalit children to sit separately, making insulting remarks about Muslims and tribal students and village authorities not responding when girls are kept from the classroom”.

The report also says “teachers and other students often address these children using derogatory terms for their caste, community, tribe, or religion”.

“In some schools, children from vulnerable communities are not ever considered for leadership roles such as class monitor because of their caste or community. Many are expected to perform unpleasant jobs such as cleaning toilets. Schools in marginalised neighborhoods often have the poorest infrastructure and least well-trained teachers; many have fewer teachers than required,” the report said.

The report was prepared with interviews with more than 160 people, including 85 children, to examine obstacles to implementation of the Right to Education Act, said Human Rights Watch.

Here are some of the instances of bias the children face on the basis of caste and religion, as cited in the report:

1. This is what a student from the Ghasiya tribal community studying at a school in Sonbhadra district in UP was quoted as saying: “The teacher tells us to sit on the other side. If we sit with others, she scolds us and asks us to sit separately … The teacher doesn’t sit with us because she says we ‘are dirty.’ The other children also call us dirty everyday so sometimes we get angry and hit them.”

2. The principal of the same school in Sonbhadra said this about the tribal children: “These Ghasiya children come to school late, come when they want to come, no matter how much we tell them to come on time. Their main aim is to come and eat, not to study. Just see how dirty they are.”

3. A 14-year-old boy, working at a brick kiln, recounted: “The teacher always made us sit in a corner of the room, and would throw keys at us [when she was angry]. We only got food if anything was left after other children were served… [G]radually [we] stopped going to school.”

4. A dalit girl from Bihar said this: “Other children don’t let us sit with them. Some of the girls say, ‘Yuck, you people are Dom [street sweepers] – a dirty caste….’ The teachers never say anything even when we complain.”

5. A 12-year-old boy, from the Muslim community in Delhi, said this: “The teachers don’t let us participate in any sports. Class monitors are always chosen from among Hindu boys and they always complain about us Muslim boys.”

6. Sharda, a Dalit girl, said she was withdrawn from school by her parents because they were worried about her safety. She was married at age 14 against her will. Before her wedding, when she went to school despite her parents’ refusal, she found that her name was no longer in the school register. While some villagers cautioned her father against marrying her at such a young age, no local authorities or members of the gram panchayat intervened.

India Today
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/dalit-kids-made-to-eat-last-muslims-insulted-in-schools-repo rt/1/357043.html

Posted on: April 22, 2014

 


Stinker for the political class

The SC directive asking the Centre and states to end manual scavenging and offer compensation to the workers might finally restore dignity to three lakh Dalits

In spite of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, passed in September last year, the Supreme Court had to step in to put an end to the degrading vocation of manual scavenging. Its directives to the Centre and states to strictly implement the Act are scathing reminders of how little the rest of India cares about those who carry out the dirtiest of jobs at grave personal risk. Without them, our ‘civilised’ world would have crumbled long back.

According to government estimates, there are about three lakh Dalits, mostly women, engaged in the medieval practice of clearing excreta from dry latrines — declared illegal since 1993 — and cleaning drains.

The impact of the 1993 law can be gauged from the 2011 Census report which mentions the existence of 7,94,390 such toilets in the country.

Like most meaningful legislations, the 2013 Act too remains only on paper. The Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS), which offers vocational training, cash subsidy and loan, is slow to deliver and prone to corruption, with middle men being the prime beneficiaries of the cash component of the scheme. The SC’s March 27 order for rehabilitation, which also includes providing education and residential plots or houses will make a significant difference in the lives of valmikis.

The other critical issue is the hazardous nature of the vocation. Asphyxiation is common even as the anti-manual scavenging act makes protective gear mandatory for a person entering the underground tunnels.

The death of 30 workers in Tamil Nadu since February 2012 points to grave laxity in safety measures. In such a milieu, the apex court’s decision to award Rs10 lakh compensation for each sewer death occurring due to lack of safety gear is only human. It will now make negligent waste management companies, employing people on a temporary basis, value human lives. The court order doesn’t spare the Railways, the biggest employer for such jobs, either, as the latter is now being forced to look for suitable alternatives for its workforce.

The failure to end manual scavenging points to an even bigger failure in tackling India’s toilet problems. For a country aspiring to be a world leader and an economic giant, its 640 million people defecate in the open, producing 73,000 tonnes of waste every day. The utter disregard for sanitation results in 768,000 deaths every year and a loss of US $54 billion due to various factors such as medical bills and missed work. After all these years, India’s toilet revolution is still a pipe dream.

However, at the root of it all is society’s criminal indifference to its own people. That a fellow human being, a Dalit, has to bear the waste of a privileged person for livelihood is a violation of the human spirit. It negates the cardinal principles of equality and the dignity of labour. Right from the days of Gandhi’s Harijan movement, scavenging has been publicly denounced — even Manmohan Singh has called it “one of the darkest blots on India’s development process”. Yet it has continued, right under our nose, and much to our relief, because it has spared us the ignominy of getting our own hands dirty. We have conveniently dumped the responsibility on the underprivileged who for generations have been subjected to such humiliation.

DNA
http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/editorial-dna-edit-stinker-for-the-political-class-1973708

Posted on: March 31, 2014

 


123 scheduled caste complaints taken up for hearing by human rights commission

The National Human Rights Commission chairman Justice KG Balakrishnan said, “The increasing number of complaints on human rights violation indicates that the provisions prescribed in law are not being followed properly.”

Justice Balakrishnan made these remarks on Tuesday while addressing the inaugural session of the two-day open hearing session organized by the NHRC at the auditorium and monitoring hall of divisional commissioner office here.

A total of 123 complaints made by the people from scheduled caste of Varanasi division have been taken up for hearing in this session. On the inaugural day, 90 complaints were listed for hearing but by late afternoon the hearing was completed only in 20 cases while fresh complaints like delay in viscera report arrival in a case of alleged murder case, lingering for more than two years, were also accepted on the occasion.

In his address, the NHRC chairperson said if the provisions prescribed in law are implemented effectively the cases of human rights turning up before the commission would reduce itself. The increasing social injustice and disparity in the society is a serious cause of concern, he said further adding that the time has come when everyone should try to ensure the availability of affordable judicial system for all.

Justice Balakrishnan said the NHRC is trying its best to ensure that everyone gets justice. He said that in view of increasing number of complaints from people belonging to SC/ST category the commission had formed KB Saxena Committee to study the problem and suggest solution. Among its recommendations, the Saxena Committee had suggested to go in the state for the hearing and disposal of the complaints of the people of these categories. As per the same recommendation the NHRC started the series of open hearing sessions in the states, he said adding, it was the sixth hearing session in the same series.

Justice Balakrishnan said that out of total complaints made with NHRC more than 5% were from UP which indicates that the awareness regarding human rights is greater here in comparison to other parts of the country, he said terming it as a positive sign. But he looked concerned with high number of complainants from SC/ST classes. He said that the commission would continue its initiative to conduct state-wise open hearing sessions for the disposal of pending complaints.

After the inaugural session the benches of Justice Balakrishnan and Justice D Murugesan started the open hearing sessions separately. Apart from NHRC team members and complainants the senior officials including ADG/IG Zone GL Meena, divisional commissioner CK Tiwari, DIG range A Satish Ganesh, district magistrate Pranjal Yadav and SSP Rajesh Modak were also present at the inaugural session.

Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/varanasi/123-scheduled-caste-complaints-taken-up-for-he aring-by-human-rights-commission/articleshow/26462367.cms

Posted on: November 27, 2013

 


Centre to make Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act more stringent

The Union Cabinet will debate the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act of 1989 tomorrow to introduce stricter penalties for harassing people belonging to the two groups.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has moved a Cabinet note to plug the loopholes in the existing Act and make crimes against the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes more specific.

As per the proposal, punishment for crimes – under the Act – that presently attract a 10-year jail term will be doubled.

Certain other provisions too will be made stricter. For example, removal of clothes of a person belonging to the two groups is an offence. Now, parading of partially-clothed people, removal of moustache and tonsuring and garlanding by footwear would also qualify as crimes against them.

Earlier, depriving a person of his or her land and denying water was a seen as a crime. Now, denying someone of forest produce and destroying their crops will attract strict punishment.

Similarly, forced manual labour was mentioned as an offence earlier. Now, the ‘forced manual labour’ has been defined. Manual scavenging, asked to forcibly remove carcasses, drum beating among others are seen as violating the law.

“We are trying to make punishments stronger and want to put the fear of law. In many rural areas, atrocities go unpunished despite being reported to authorities,” says an official associated with the making of the proposed changes in the law.

NDTV
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/centre-to-make-scheduled-castes-and-scheduled-tribes-act-more -stringent-445121

Posted on: November 12, 2013

 


Bihar not alone in denying justice to dalits

The recent acquittal of all accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case is not an isolated example of justice denied to dalits. In terms of conviction rate in cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes, the national average is quite disappointing, with Bihar among the bottom rankers.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, while the national conviction rate for overall IPC crimes stood at 38.5%, it was only 23.9% in case of crimes against SCs, suggesting Bihar is not an exception in denying justice to dalits.

However, the eastern state is certainly among the worst. Conviction rate for crimes against SCs in Bihar stood at 12.4% even though conviction rate for overall IPC crimes in the state was 15.9%. Bihar is among the states with maximum number of crimes against dalits (4,821); next only to UP and Rajasthan.

Interestingly, UP, which had maximum number of cases of crimes against SCs (6,202) in 2012 had the best conviction rate among big states. Its conviction rate in such cases was 51.4%, next only to Sikkim (66.7%) and Uttarakhand (54.5%). However, both states have low populations, very few such cases and hardly any caste conflicts in their society.

Rajasthan, which had the second-highest number of crimes against SCs (5,559), had a conviction rate of 41%, more than three times that of Bihar. Even MP with 2,875 such cases had a conviction rate of 35.3%. Only Andhra Pradesh (9.1%), Odisha (6.3%) and Karnataka (4.8%) among states with more than 2,000 cases of crimes against SCs had a worse conviction rate than Bihar. In the category of crimes under Prevention of Atrocities against SCs and STs Act, the performance of the justice system was even worse. The national conviction rate in these cases was merely 18.8%, worse than the national average for overall crimes against SCs (23.9%). However, analysts said while the issue of justice denied to dalits was a serious one and the data on overall crimes against SCs in terms of conviction rate only proved the point, the corresponding numbers for Atrocities Act must be taken with a pinch of salt. “In this category, it has often been seen that a lot of false cases are registered which ultimately fall flat in court. Several times, dalits become pawns in the fight between two upper caste landlords in a village and file false cases,” said a senior IPS officer.

Times of India
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-10-16/india/43106078_1_conviction-rate-scs-crimes

Posted on: October 22, 2013

 


It’s a sin to be dalit in Haryana: Union minister Kumari Selja

Dissidence in Haryana Congress came to the fore again on Thursday after Union minister Kumari Selja slammed the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led government over the death of a dalit youth in police custody.

“Is it a sin to be a dalit in Haryana? If dalits are not safe and the government does nothing to protect them, it is clear that it’s a sin to be a dalit in the state,” Selja said after visiting the family members of a youth who was mysteriously run over by a train while in police custody.

“In recent years several incidents of atrocities on dalits were reported in Haryana. But the Hooda government made no serious efforts to protect them,” said the four-time MP and seniormost leader from the state in the Central government.

The minister visited the house of a dalit youth – Ram Kumar – in Majri in Ambala city. The youth was found dead on the railway tracks on October 15, a day after he was picked up by police along with another youth. Ram Kumar’s friend, Vikram, was also allegedly tortured by police but managed to escape from custody. The handcuffed youth hid in the fields and later claimed he saw cops pushing his friend in front of a train. He is yet to record his statement before a magistrate.

Selja said police included provisions under the SC/ST Act in the FIR on the youth’s death only after her intervention. Two assistant sub-inspectors and a head constable were arrested on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the custodial death of the youth.

Only a few days ago, Selja had accused a section of the state party leadership of trying to intimidate her. Her comments came after an unidentified youth flung a rock through the window of a train she had flagged off from her constituency, Ambala.

Ambala City MLA, Vinod Sharma, attended the youth’s funeral on Thursday and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the victim’s family.

Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Its-a-sin-to-be-dalit-in-Haryana-Union-minister-Kumari -Selja/articleshow/24311339.cms

Posted on: October 18, 2013

 


Madurai tops list of dalit women facing atrocities

Chinnayi Ayyappan (55) was among the group of dalits who stridently fought non-dalits of her Koolayanur village near Bodi in Theni district after the latter refused the former to be buried in the village graveyard.

But barely 20 days after the dalits demanded burial rights in January 2011, a group of non-dalits hurled petrol bombs on her house. Four days later, she succumbed to injuries at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Not all dalit women are as unfortunate as Chinnayi to die, but they endure equally harrowing experiences if one goes by a study on crimes perpetrated against dalit women conducted by an NGO.

Incidentally, more number of atrocities against dalits, are reported from southern districts, particularly Madurai. The study conducted by Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation found that 124 cases of atrocities against dalit women in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu from January 2009 to September 2013. Madurai tops the list of districts with 23 cases, followed by Tirunelveli with 13, Sivaganga 12, Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each and Dindigul 10. “These numbers pertain only to those atrocities that were registered in police stations and pursued legally and not all incidents of atrocities,” said A Kathir, executive director, Evidence.

“Thirty-six of the women were raped, eight survived attempts to rape and 18 suffered sexual harassment,” the report said. A case in point was the plight of Thulasiammal (35), a widow who was raped by a gang of non-dalits at her house in Veerapagoundanur near Pollachi in 2010. In the same year, at Jittandahalli in Dharmapuri, a 16-year-old girl was molested by the school headmaster.

Shockingly, seven of the 124 women have committed suicide while 16 of them have been murdered. The study also said that the perpetrators have not targeted the victims just once, but several times in some cases.

After the Dharmapuri violence in 2012, there was marked increase in atrocities perpetrated against dalit women, says the study listing out 27 such incidents that occurred across Tamil Nadu.

A senior police official said that it was wrong to paint a picture portraying that dalit women are targeted in large numbers. “If you look at the number of atrocities against women in general, dalit women would only be a small part of it,” he said. “We don’t discriminate atrocities based on the caste of victims. We approach the cases depending on the magnitude of the offence and not based on the victim or perpetrator,” said the officer.

Kathir, however, said that seldom do the police register cases under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. “Committees comprising human rights activities, feminists, advocates and journalists should be formed in each district to monitor atrocities against dalits,” he urged.

BRAZEN ATTACKS (January 2009 – September 2013)

124 cases in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu

Madurai tops the list with 23 cases

Tirunelveli comes second with 13

Sivaganga follows with 12

Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each

Dindigul recorded 10 cases

7 of the 124 have committed suicide

16 of them have been murdered

36 women were raped

8 survived attempts to rape

18 suffered sexual harassment

Times of India
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/Madurai-tops-list-of-dalit-women-facing-atrocit ies/articleshow/23754326.cms

Posted on: October 9, 2013

 


Dalit Man Murdered Allegedly by In-laws, Honor Killing Suspected

In a suspected case of ‘honour killing’, a Dalit man was murdered allegedly by his in-laws at Mehrama village of Bihar’s Nawada district on Tuesday, police said. “The victim identified as Naveen Kumar (25), was hanged with a rope and his stomach was pierced,” SP Manavjeet Singh Dhillon said. Naveen had married a girl from another Dalit caste two years ago much to the disapproval of her family, the SP said. The victim’s mother in-law and wife have been arrested and raids were being carried out to nab other family members who were absconding he said

IBN Live
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/dalit-man-murdered-allegedly-by-inlaws-honour-killing-suspected/4242 78-3-232.html

Posted on: September 24, 2013

 


Nine days, three autopsies later, dalit girl’s death remains a mystery

It was just another Saturday morning, recalls Murti Devi. As usual, her 20-year-old daughter woke up around 8.30am, helped her with household chores, tucked in two chapattis for breakfast, got ready and left for Jind, 22 km away from her village Baniya Khera, to take a junior teachers’ exam. She never returned home.

Around 4 pm, her father Surat Singh, a dalit who worked as a daily wager, got an anonymous phone call saying his daughter’s identity papers were found in Ambredi village near a bus stand. Her body was found by a canal the next day. Her dupatta, purse and sandals were missing.

“Her eyes were still wide open with fear. Nobody bothered to straighten her curled fingers. And nobody tried to close her mouth. It was as if her last scream was still inside her throat,” says Singh, his eyes fixed to the ground, fingers trembling.

Now, nine days and three post-mortems later, including one at AIIMS, nobody knows who snuffed out her life. Her murder has been the focus of media in these parts of Jat-dominated Haryana. Scores of demonstrations by enraged Dalits and activists have rocked Jind. But when her body was finally cremated on August 31, after National Commission for Schedule Caste chairman P L Punia and local police assured protesters that the culprits will be caught, there were plenty of unanswered questions.

“We can’t pinpoint any particular community’s members responsible. Investigation is on,” said Rajiv Rattan, deputy commissioner, Jind. The protests continue. On Sunday, a crowd of 800 agitated in Rohtak.

By all accounts, the young dalit girl, whose name is being held back, was special. “Of the 20-odd Dalit families in the village, she was perhaps the only girl who was a graduate. Her younger and elder sisters are married. Some neighbours said this was unusual,” says her mother.

Post-mortem reports said the girl wasn’t sexually assaulted. However, the family’s lawyer Rajat Kansal claimed she was tortured. “People who saw the body near the canal said her salwar was bloodstained and there were cigarette burns on her body. But cops want to avoid communal tension and are playing down atrocities on dalits. They are trying to pass it off suicide,” Kansal alleged.

Life is tough for dalit women in Haryana. As per police records, 22 dalit women were raped in the past 45 days in the state. Activists claim the real figure is higher. “Of 10 rapes, only one gets registered. There are cases where a family member was murdered for speaking up against the rape of a woman in his family,” says Beena Pallical, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights. In October 2012, the abysmal condition of women, particularly dalit, made Congress president Sonia Gandhi visit Jind.

It’s heart-rending when Surat Singh and his sons relive the moments they first realised that something had gone horribly wrong. “When I checked with the school authorities after that phone call, I found that she had never reached there,” he recalls. He then called his son who lives in Jind. On the way back home, Singh filed a complaint at Pillukhera police station.

“We stopped at various places and asked if someone had seen my daughter. But I was beginning to feel she was no more,” says Singh. After the body was found, cops took it to the civil hospital. While doctors were tardy with post-mortem, public anger rose. Enraged villagers took the girl’s body out of the mortuary and protested.

“I didn’t know what was happening. I remember from being very angry to losing hope to going numb. I could hear people screaming but the voice I longed to hear was gone,” says Singh.

After the first post-mortem was hushed up at a civil hospital leading to mobs going on rampage, cops ordered another post-mortem. “There’s a reason why the mob was angry. The doctors’ and police attitude towards dalit victims and rape survivors is uncaring,” says Asha Kowtal, general secretary, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch.

By Maria Akram
Times of India
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-09-02/india/41687910_1_dalit-girl-jind-dalit-h uman-rights

Posted on: September 4, 2013

 


Three Strikes

August 14, 2013

Although the caste system in Nepal was outlawed in 1962, it is still very much active throughout the country. It is firmly embedded in Nepali culture in a complex structure that is difficult to untangle. It combines many different elements which maintain a level of inequality and difference between ethnicities and groups based on birthright, ethnicity, occupation, power and financial assets.

Although it’s easy for the so-called ‘global west’ to criticize the caste system in Asia, in reality the West has a caste system of its own. It is usually referred to as “class” which is also based on birth right, ethnicity, occupation, power, and financial assets. Arguably, it appears easier in the West to climb the social class ladder, whereas in Nepal it is determined by birth.

One such group that struggles to shed the stigma cast upon it are Dalits, the so-called ‘untouchable caste’ that is the primary victim of caste-based discrimination. In the Far-West hilly District of Doti, where the overall adult literacy rate is 42 percent, some Dalit women suffer three-fold discrimination; first because of their Dalit status, second because they are women, and third because their families are infected with HIV/AIDS.

Sashi Sob resides in Doti and is District Chairperson of the Feminist Dalit Organisation, a national organisation set up in 1994 to “fight against caste and gender discrimination and to construct a just and equitable society”. The Feminist Dalit Organisation is a member of Sankalpa Women’s Alliance for Peace, Justice and Democracy. It has defined itself as “Mission 50/50”, meaning proportionate and representative participation of women at all levels of the peace process and all state structures.

Sashi has noticed a trend in men seeking work outside Doti in the neighbouring India. Local men migrate to India for seasonal and long-term work as laborers and security guards. Whilst working in the major cities of India, they visit brothels where they are exposed to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) such as HIV. As they are not educated, they are clueless about the dangers they expose themselves to.

Consequently, on their return to Doti they risk infecting their wives as well. When the men fall sick, they believe their ancestors are mad at them for visiting brothels and are punishing them by making them sick. They are oblivious to their HIV status. It is not common practice in Doti for people to seek medical help from health posts and hospitals. Consequently, by the time they seek medical help, HIV will usually have developed into AIDS.

Sashi recalled the story of one man from Doti, a Dalit who went to Kerala, India and found another wife who he brought back to Doti. He had contracted HIV whilst working in India and had transmitted the disease to his new wife. It was not known if he had passed HIV on to his first wife, though the likelihood was high.

His adoption of a new wife is an example of how men in the area regard their wife with little respect. In another story, Sashi spoke of a wife who, after her husband had died of AIDS, was accused of ‘gulping down’ her husband. I

t was not until community mediators became involved that they were able to convince the family of the truth.
The majority of men from Doti who migrate to India are Dalits, as they are less likely to own land through which they can earn a living. They have limited employment opportunities due to their ‘low’ caste. Out of approximately 800 people that are infected by HIV and AIDS in Doti, approximately two thirds are Dalit. For Dalit women whose husbands die from AIDS, this adds a new layer of discrimination against them, i.e. being a widow.

Sashi Sob stated that if there were more employment opportunities for men in Doti, they would not have to migrate to India for work. Also, if there was more awareness on safe sex and medical treatment for HIV, it would reduce the risk of infection. She didn’t mention that the problem existed because men were committing adultery with prostitutes in brothels. Maybe this has been accepted as normal behaviour in Nepal, though it would be a different story if women were committing adultery. That would be another opportunity for discrimination.

By Lula Belinfante

Republica
http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=58344

Posted on: August 14, 2013

 


Of Every 100 held in Haryana for Crimes Against Dalits, 92 Walk Free

July 29, 2013

For a state infamous for caste-based crime, Haryana has a lot a of catching up to do so far as getting perpetrators of such atrocities, especially against the Dalit community, are concerned.

Sample this: Out of every 100 people accused of or arrested on chargs of committing crimes against the Dalits, more than 92 walk free after the court trials. This translates into a conviction rate of merely 7.9 per cent.

The Supreme Court reprimand to Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government while hearing a matter relating to rehabilitation of the members of the Dalit community who had to leave Mirchpur village in Hisar doesn’t come as a surprise then.

Violence had broken out in the village following the killing of 70-year-old Dalit Tara Chand and his teenaged daughter Suman on April 21, 2010. The apex court asked the Haryana to inform it about the status of implementation of laws relating to prevention of atrocities against the Dalits in the state.

According to the figures available with the National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2012, Haryana figures in the last seven states with the poor conviction rate in crimes against Dalits. The highest conviction rate in such crimes was recorded by Sikkim (66.7 per cent), followed by 54.5 per cent in Uttarakhand.

Even Uttar Pradesh, also infamous for caste and community related crime incidents, recorded 51.4 per cent conviction rate in crimes against Dalits. It is followed by Rajasthan (41 per cent), Delhi (35.7 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (35.3 pert cent) and Chhattisgarh (31.1 per cent). The country’s overall average conviction rate in crimes against Dalits is 23.9 per cent.

Last year, 782 cases (including those pending from previous years) pertaining to crimes against Dalits were listed for hearing in Haryana courts. Of the total accused in cases, only 24 were convicted, while 278 were acquitted or discharged from the cases registered against them.

Haryana Police officers, however, maintain that despite their best efforts, the witnesses refuse to support the prosecution’s case leading to acquittal of many of the accused. “The accused walk free as the complainants and witnesses backtrack from their original statements. The out of the court settlements take place and both the sides call it a truce leading to most of the acquittals. The police has been doing its job by arresting all those allegedly involved”, one of the senior police officers said.

Incidentally, like Haryana, there are some other states too, which have registered a shoddy conviction rate. These include Gujarat (7.8 per cent), Assam (5.4 per cent), Karnataka (4.8 per cent), Kerala (4.1 per cent), Maharashtra (5.4 per cent), Odisha (6.3 per cent) and West Bengal (6.3 per cent). The Union Territory of Puducherry is having the worst conviction rate in crimes against Dalits at 3.1 per cent.

In the last one year, there had been a spate of crimes against Dalits in Haryana, including gangrapes of minor girls, murders and attacks on colonies forcing the community members to migrate out of their villages.

Even the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes had taken cognisance of several such cases and took the state government to task.

By: VARINDER BHATIA :

The Indian Express

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/of-every-100-held-in-haryana-for-crime-against-dalits-92-w alk-free/1147472/2

Posted on: July 29, 2013

 


A 100-day Dalit agitation gets no response

By Muralidhara Khajane

It has been 100 days since 37 Dalit (Madiga) families of Shivanagar in Hiriyur taluk in Chitradurga have been on a protest at Freedom Park in Bangalore, and the government has been deaf to their demands, they say. Their request is for rehabilitation as they have allegedly been boycotted by “upper” caste Hindus of the adjoining Majure village, where most of them worked.

After being evicted from the premises of the Hiriyur taluk office where they had protested earlier, over 115 Dalits, including women and children, continued their dharna at Freedom Park.

‘No to complaint’

The protesters told The Hindu that they did not want to register a complaint, as it could mean being forced to go back and live in the same place again. “We have no faith that the local police will protect us and help in rehabilitation,” said K. Nagaraju, who is leading the dharna under the Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (B. Krishnappa faction).

Dalits from Shivanagar, 12 km from Majure viallge, were eking out a living by working in the fields and houses of the “upper” caste in Majure. What brought the situation to a boil was the appointment of a Dalit woman, Lakshmamma of Shivanagar, as a cook in the anganwadi of Majure village. According to the protesters, residents of Majure boycotted the Dalit families because Lakshmamma refused to sign a letter rejecting the appointment. “They did not want a Dalit to cook food and feed their children,” said Lakshmamma, who is among the agitators. “They abused me in the foulest language and humiliated me.”

Warning to residents

According to M. Jagadish, another protester, village heads have warned residents of the village that they would be fined Rs. 5,000 if they employ any Dalit from Shivanagar. “They even stopped shop owners from selling us groceries,” he alleged.

Except the very old, nobody is living in Shivanagar now, he added. The entire official machinery has failed to respond, he said.

When The Hindu contacted M. Venkatesh, Social Welfare Officer at Chitradurga, he said: “The issue has been sorted out and a detailed report on the plight of Dalits is ready for submission soon.”

The Hindu, February 26, 2013

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/a-100day-dalit-agitation-gets-no-response/ar ticle4452570.ece

Posted on: February 26, 2013

 


Appointment of Dalit cook creates a ruckus at school in Mangalore

In a case of caste-based discrimination, upper-caste schoolchildren of a government school near Belthangady were prevented by their parents from having midday meal after they were informed that a Dalit cook worked there on Friday afternoon.

Of the 43 children at the Surya Primary School, Nada village, 15 students were pulled out by their parents, all reportedly from upper castes, before the mid-day meal was served at the school, said Lokesh C., Block Education Officer, Belthangady.

Sumitra, who comes from the Adi Dravida Scheduled Caste community, had been appointed by Nada Gram Panchayat as a cook and started her duty on Friday. However, as the news of her appointment spread, at around noon, parents gathered in front of the school, pulled out the children from the school and demanded her removal, said the BEO who would be heading investigations into the incident.

An hour later, members of the Dalita Hakkugalu Horatta Samiti protested in front of the school, seeking criminal action against the parents. “Even those who are a part of the school development and monitoring committee withdrew their children. This comes under atrocity against Scheduled Castes persons,” said Shekar L., from the Samiti. Late in the afternoon, after members of the samiti approached the Belthangady police, parents were warned not to repeat this. “They have apologised for the incident, and claimed that they were instigated by a gram panchayat member. When we asked around, we were informed that the member was promised the job of the cook, but was sidelined by the gram panchayat as they wanted an SC candidate,” said Yogesh Kumar, Sub-Inspector, Belthangady station. He said since no complaint was given, and no caste slurs were uttered, a case would not be lodged. Calling it the first such complaint in the district, Manjula K.L., Educational Officer, Akshara Dasoha, Dakshina Kannada, said the department would visit the school on Friday and take action if the practice continued.

The Hindu, February 8, 2013

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/appointment-of-dalit-cook-creates-a-ruckus-at- school-in-mangalore/article4392635.ece

Posted on: February 8, 2013

 


Three Dalit men murdered in apparent case of honour killing

Alok Deshpande

The first day of this year took Maharashtra down to a new low. Adding to the growing list of atrocities against Dalits, three young men were killed, allegedly by a mob of upper caste men to keep their family’s honour intact. One of those killed was in love with the daughter of an upper caste farmer, who is among those accused.

The matter was allegedly suppressed by the authorities for almost a month and the murders came to light only after a hard-fought battle by the brother of one of the victims.

A month after the arrest of all five accused and visits to the victims’ families by ministers and the member of the State Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commission C.L. Thul, the police are yet to file a charge sheet in the case. The accused had been given magisterial custody till February 11.

The accused had chosen a septic tank on January 1 for their plan. As one of the relatives of the three men from the Mehtar (bhangi) community put it, “cleaning septic tank is our bread and butter … We could not have said no to this work, even in our wildest of dreams.” The Darandales knew this very well.

The three worked at the Trimurti Pavan Pratishthan School and College at Nevasa Phata in Ahmadnagar district. Sachin and his mother, and Sandip along with his parents, wife and one year old son lived at the staff quarters of the college, while Rahul, who didn’t have parents, lived in a small room in the college hostel. All the families had the job of keeping college premises clean and Sandip was the head of cleaning operations.

Popat Darandale’s daughter Radha (name changed) was studying in the same college. According to Kalabai Gharu, Sachin’s mother, Radha and Sachin had fallen in love with each other. “He told me once about her when he first received threat from her family. He was scared. They both wanted to marry, but could not,” she told The Hindu.

Sandip’s brother Pankaj Thanvar, an Indian Army jawan posted in Jammu and Kashmir, is yet to come out of shock. “Their phone was [switched] on till 3.45 p.m. on January 1 when they had gone for work at Darandales. Then, we heard the news of his death from police,” he said, playing with Sandip’s one year old son. It was Pankaj who in spite of negligence from the authorities kept the battle for justice alive for over a month.

It came to light that Ashok Navgire, a common friend, took all three victims to the house of the Darandales in the Sonai village. He reported to the police on the same evening about the death of Sandip, claiming he fell down in the septic tank. “They wanted to create a scene where Sandip was killed by [the] other two and both ran away,” said Pankaj.

The police however found the death of the 6-feet-tall Sandip suspicious. They also found bruises on his face. After intensive search, Rahul’s and Sachin’s dead bodies were found the next day in the adjacent dry well. However, they could not identify Sachin at first, since the body did not have head, legs and hands.

“What was the fault of my son? Loving a girl is not a fault. They killed him with such brutality, I wish they die in hell,” said Sachin’s mother. His missing body parts were later recovered from a bore well. The old woman said her life won’t be the same again . “Old women don’t like to see such scenes, scenes like their son being killed,” she said.

The terrified families have left Ahmadnagar in search of a safer place. Pankaj has brought his entire family to Malegaon at his aunt’s house, while Sachin’s mother has shifted to her daughter’s house in Erandol in the neighbouring Beed district.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Ambadas Gangurde told The Hindu that police have arrested five people till now. They are searching for others as they believe the five could not have killed three well-built men. “Popat, Prakash and Ramesh (all Darandale) are brothers. Sandip Kute is their nephew, while Ashok is a friend and an accomplice. We suspect that there are more people involved in the crime as killing these three young men was not easy as all three were well built and strong. We are on search for others,” he said. All five have been charged under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and under sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Prakash and Ramesh have reportedly accepted their complicity in the crime in front of the police.

Advocate Keval Uke, the general secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice, who visited Ahmednagar along with Mr. Thul, told The Hindu that such increasing incidents were a sign of the failure of the constitutional mechanism in the State. “There has to be a comprehensive compensation package to the families and the case has to be fast tracked, unlike many others in the State,” he said. The victims’ families have demanded death penalty for all the accused and also asked that Radha’s statement, which they say will prove that it is a case of honour killing, be recorded.

The increasing number of attacks on Dalits has put the Congress- NCP government in the dock. The leaders of all political parties are allegedly connected to the perpetrators of such attacks and are allegedly protecting them. A Congress MLA is a relative of those who attacked Dalits in the Satara district ten days ago. A week ago Hindu right wing organisations beat up a Dalit professor in Dhule district for allegedly hurting their sentiments.

The Hindu, February 6, 2013

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/three-dalit-men-murdered-in-apparent-case-of-honour-ki lling/article4383182.ece

Posted on: February 6, 2013

 


CID to probe Dalit youths’ killings in Maharashtra

IANS

The Maharashtra government Tuesday ordered the state CID to probe the brutal killings of three Dalit youths last month in Ahmednagar district, an official said here.

State Home Minister R.R. Patil told a delegation of Dalit leaders of the Mehtar-Valmiki community, to which the three youths belonged, that he has asked the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to probe the case.

“The government has taken a very serious view of the incident. We shall take the most stringent action against the perpetrators of the heinous crime,” Patil assured the delegation.

The development comes almost a week after Dalit and social activists demanded a probe by the National Human Rights Commission during its tour of the state.

According to lawyer-activist Priyadarshi Telang of Pune-based NGO Manuski, the three victims belonging to the Mehtar community were lured to an isolated spot in a village in Ahmednagar district and murdered. Their bodies were dismembered.

“They were working as scavengers in a school run by Trimurti Education Society. On Jan 1, they were called to clean a septic tank in Nevasa village in the district. Later, their body parts were found in the septic tank and in the fields nearby, in what is suspected to be an attack by upper caste villagers,” Telang told IANS.

“We visited the village for probing the matter Jan 21. Police are under pressure. They have nabbed five people for the triple murder. However, the brutality of the killings indicate that more than five people were involved,” Telang said.

The victims were Sandeep Thanwal, Rahul Kandare and Sachin Gharu.

The autopsy reports revealed they were probably strangulated to death and their limbs chopped off.

Following an uproar by activists, police arrested five suspects on grounds that one of the victims was allegedly involved in an affair with an upper-caste girl.

“However, the exact motives behind the killings, the people involved and other aspects are still not known. We have demanded that the NHRC take up the matter,” Telang said.

The activists have also demanded trial in a fast-track court, full protection to the victims’ families and other witnesses in the case, and adequate compensation to the victims’ kin.

Newstrack India, February 5, 2013

Posted on: February 5, 2013

 


Students skip mid-day meal made by Dalit help

By Satish Jha

Schoolchildren of Valiyampura village in Sabarkantha district have been skipping mid-day meal for the past few weeks, apparently because it is cooked by a Dalit woman who was appointed as a helper in the school only last month.

The woman alleges that students of other castes have refused to eat the food prepared by her as asked by their parents. According to Bhavna Jasubhai Vankar (42), students have stopped eating the mid-day meal ever since she joined on December 26, 2012. “The villagers do not want me to touch the vessels I clean because of my caste. After I took the charge as a helper, the students refused to eat,” Vankar said on phone. The primary school has about 176 students.

When contacted, principal Jayantibhai Patel said the situation had improved but added that angry villagers had threatened him after Vankar’s appointment and declared they would stop sending their children to the school. “I sent a report to the senior officials. I also told the villagers that Bhavnaben was just a helper. But they did not listen and their children refused eating,” he said.

Sabarkantha Collector Shah Meena Husain said a team of senior officials had visited the school and recorded the statement of Vankar. “My officials have told me there is no truth to the allegations. She had been absent from the school for a few days. We will take action against the guilty if we find any truth in the allegations,” she said.

The Indian Express, February 1, 2013

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/students-skip-midday-meal-made-by-dalit-help/1067647/

Posted on: February 1, 2013

 


Five held for ‘honour killings’ of Dalit men in Maharashtra

By Zubair Ahmed

Authorities in India’s Maharashtra state have arrested five people over the killing of three men from the low-caste Dalit community on 1 January.

The case is now being treated as an “honour” crime, Ahmednagar district official Sanjeev Kumar told the BBC.

One of the men killed, named as Sachin Dharu, is alleged to have had a relationship with an upper-caste girl, which was opposed by her family.

India’s top court has said so-called honour killers should face death.

There are no accurate statistics on the number of such killings across India, but one study estimates that hundreds of people are killed each year for falling in love or marrying against their families’ wishes.

“Members of the girl’s family summoned Sachin and two of his friends from the school where they were working, and hacked them to death,” Mr Kumar said.

The murders happened on 1 January and the bodies were found the next day.

Mr Kumar said the arrests on Thursday were made under the Prevention of Atrocities against Dalits Act.

Despite stringent laws to prevent crimes against the Dalit community, atrocities against them have been on the rise in the state, which has a substantial Dalit population.

BBC News India, January 31, 2013

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-21274357

Posted on: January 31, 2013

 


Long walk to Delhi by Dalit youths

By MB Maramkal

MYSORE: No politics, it is a long walk for a cause. Four youths from the city’s Ashokpuram area and office bearers of NalavadiKrishnarajaWadiyar association have embarked on a tough task of walking to New Delhi .

Intention is, all these dalit youths want to draw the attention of the authorities, politicians and people in general across the country to the increasing number of atrocities on dalits. As per their schedule, they walk more than 2400 kms in a fifty days time to reach New Delhi by mid March. In Delhi they are planning to meet the PM and President and submit a memorandum to them.

According to youths they have planned to walk at least 50 kms daily. “Initially we will walk about 30 to 40 kms and later on we are thinking to increase the speed so that we can cover at least 50 kms daily which is not an impossible task for us” they claimed, disclosing that they are practicing to walk long distance for the last one year.

“Our preparations for this walkathon began a year ago and we all four walked in the morning and evening for long distance to test our ability and agility of walking” C Chidambara president of the association disclosed, adding that deliberately they kept their walk a secret to avoid politicization of the issue.

“We don’t want to politicians to take unnecessary advantage of the walk and this was the reason we kept it a closely guarded secret” he said , adding that even money needed for 50 day trip has been mobilized from our own resources. Chidambara said each need at least Rs 15000 towards food and other expenses and all of them have pooled it from their own resources.

Talking about the agenda and goal, Chidambara said they are not foolhardy to think that their walk will end atrocities on dalits.” Our aim is to create an awareness on the issue by going to slums and dalit colonies en route to Delhi” he revealed, adding that one cannot imagine how many cases of atrocities go unreported when in Mysore rural part itself at least 50 incidents of atrocities go unnoticed every year.” Everybody has failed to protect dalits” he said, highlighting why he chose 26 January to begin his yatra to Delhi.

The Times of India, January 26, 2013

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-01-26/mysore/36563321_1_dalit-youths-end-at rocities-kms

Posted on: January 26, 2013

 


For 200 Million Indians, a Life Steeped in Discrimination

By Sanjit Das

One in six Indians — approximately 200 million people in all — is born a Dalit. From the day a Dalit is born, life is predestined. Caste discrimination seeps through social symbols, practices and traditions, dooming Dalits to a lifetime of inequity and a position on the lowest rung of Indian society.

The few jobs Dalits are allowed to do demand the most from their bodies and give them the least in return. This allows those high in the caste order to live a life in which Dalits cost little and depend upon the upper caste for their economic survival. A tradition of melting caste and occupation together means that for most Dalits, work is not an escape out of poverty, but a purgatory.

Photographer Firoz Ahmed, humanitarian group NoLogo and I explored some of the discrimination Dalits face in their every day lives, as part of a project commissioned by Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS), an initiative of the U.K. government’s Department for International Development. Our work was presented at a photo exhibition that opened last week at the British Council Library in New Delhi.

Among the Dalits, the most unfortunate is the manual scavenger, a euphemism used to describe the two million people, mostly women, who are forced to remove the feces of other castes with their bare hands. While the rigidity of caste and pressures of close-knit families and societies mean that these women are forced to do this wretched, inhumane job, the real, often overlooked, nightmare is that an escape is nearly impossible.

Having been born into the caste of Valmikis, and having cleaned human excreta for their livelihood, they are now trapped in a stigma, which denies them other sources of livelihood — people won’t buy tea from a shop they may try to run, and rich women won’t hire them as household help. If a manual-scavenging community member steps out of line, the entire social system responds to close down on him or her.

Beyond the horror of their lives, there are certain forms of discrimination that I personally feel exist around us but are not visible to the naked eye. Yet if you scratch the surface, it is fairly evident. The sad part is that the social structure has complied with it for hundreds of years without questioning its legitimacy.

This invisible discrimination exists at the bus stop, where you’d see an upper caste member sitting on the bench whereas the Dalit sits on the floor. Glass cups are pre-designated for Brahmins or other members of the higher castes in case they want tea, whereas the Dalits are served in disposable plastic cups. Just as the plastic cup is weak, crushed at will and disposable, so is the Dalit who drinks from it.

This discrimination exists at the river, where upper castes have the privilege of using the upper stream to bathe and wash their clothes. But the Dalits are forced to go downstream, the shallow, dirtier end. Human excreta and other wastes often are dropped off not very far from this end of the river. The Dalits’ very presence is considered impure, so they are expected to stay out of sight when Brahmins go early in the morning to pray at the riverbanks.

At the well, there is a designated time for Dalit women to fetch water, and if they go earlier or later when the upper caste women are around, the Dalit women have to step aside for the upper-caste women to fill up their buckets first.

Almost all restaurants and sweet shops deny manual scavengers the right to sit on the benches in the premises. The sweet shop vendor selects sweets and leaves them out so the Dalits can collect them later.

Dalits are even denied the basic human right to worship freely. A Dalit is not allowed to enter the four walls of a temple. They all line up outside the temple stairs and offer their prayers from outside, and a Brahmin takes their offerings to be blessed by the gods. This entire transaction has no human touch involved — the Dalit keeps the packet on the floor and the Brahmin picks it up and brings it back after the blessing, leaving it at the same place for the Dalit to collect.

Discrimination also exists within the Dalit communities and Other Backward Classes, known as O.B.C. The barber community, which falls under the O.B.C. category, denies manual scavengers the right to get a haircut in the salon. The barbers find it beneath them to render services to Dalits.

Not willing to live with these restrictions and bindings of society, which have been practiced for hundreds of years, some women have finally decided to quit the caste’s age-old profession, and they have the law on their side. The manual removal of human excreta has been illegal since 1993, but what is most shocking is that not a single person has been convicted. Parliament is now considering an amendment that would impose a 50,000 rupee ($920) fine and imprisonment for those who break the law.

There is no dignity in what these women do every day. The community has been sidelined and discriminated for generations. The law is in place, the government is willing to act and change, but the bigger challenge is to change the mindset of people and of the community and to stop these outrageous acts of discrimination against its own people.

The “Breaking Margins” exhibit runs through Dec. 21 at the British Council in New Delhi.

Sanjit Das is a freelance photographer based in New Delhi.

The New York Times – India Ink, December 17, 2012

http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/17/indias-200-million-strong-dalit-community-faces-di scrimination-every-da/

Posted on: December 17, 2012

 


500 Dalit Homes Burnt… And A News Blip

By Imran Khan

THE AFTERMATH of the caste violence in Dharmapuri district of northern Tamil Nadu has rendered thousands of Dalits homeless and living in constant fear of another possible attack. On 7 November, a mob of 2,500 backward-caste Vanniyars had burnt and looted around 500 houses of Dalits, claiming to avenge the death of a Vanniyar who committed suicide after his daughter married a Dalit. Adding to the fear is a statement by Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) MLA Kaduvetti Guru, who heads the Vanniyar Sangam, forbidding inter-caste marriages. Locals and even the police officials posted in the area say the attack was premeditated and done with the connivance of pro-Vanniyar sections of the police and cadres of the PMK.

Between 5 pm and 10 pm on 7 November, every single house of the three hamlets of Nathamkottai, Kondampatti and Annanagar was burnt down. “Around 4:30 pm, the police started doing the rounds, asking us to run for our lives as a mob of Vanniyars was on its way to attack us,” says Paulina, 30, a Dalit Christian and mother of three, who ran to the nearby fields to save herself, along with other women, children and the elderly. There were few men in the villages at the time as most of them work as labourers in the construction sector in Bengaluru and Coimbatore, or in the garment-manufacturing sweatshops in Tirupur. Now, Paulina stays in a temporary community shelter set up a stone’s throw away from the charred remains of her oneroom house. “They even took away the cash and jewellery we had left behind,” she adds.

Madiwayan, 36, works as a scrap-dealer in Bengaluru and was not in the village at the time of the attack. His parents were hiding in the nearby fields when the irate mob arrived. “It took me over a decade to save Rs 24 lakh, which I spent on building my house. They burnt it to the ground and also looted Rs 2 lakh that I had kept to buy some land nearby,” he says.

Usha, wife of Periyaswamy, a cook in the local government hospital, says the police was unable to stop the mob. “The police came back only around 1 am and announced over the loudspeakers that those who had fled the village should come back.” The women returned the same night, followed by the children and the elderly the next morning.

The genesis of the recent violence is traced to the marriage of a Dalit man, Ilavarasan, 23, from Nathamkottai, with a Vanniyar woman, Divya, 20. As Divya’s father, 48-year-old R Nagarajan of Sallinkottai village, disapproved of their relationship, the couple had got married in secret a month ago. Nagarajan asked his daughter to return home, but she refused. Then, a meeting of the Vanniyar community was held, where it was decided that Divya must return to her father’s house. When she did not relent despite the community’s pressure, her father allegedly felt humiliated and committed suicide on 6 November.

The Dalits of the three hamlets attacked by the Vanniyar mob allege that the father’s suicide was used as a pretext to whip up caste sentiments and fuel anger over inter-caste marriages. “There are more than seven inter-caste couples in our village. My wife Radha is a Vanniyar. We haven’t seen any violence in the 12 years of our marriage. The Vanniyars are just angry that we do not work in their fields for meagre wages,” says NC Armugham, 36, who runs a grocery store in Bengaluru. Agrees Palaaiswamy, 40, who works as a newspaper vendor in Bengaluru. “Even a month after the couple had eloped, Nagarajan did not seem particularly upset,” he says. “We suspect his community must have pressured him to take this extreme step.”

The attack has left the Dalits of the three hamlets economically devastated. A fact-finding team of People’s Watch, a Chennai-based NGO, which visited the area on 11-12 November along with the state representative of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights for RTE in Tamil Nadu, estimates the total economic loss caused by the attack to be around Rs 12 crore. According to this report, 215 families were affected in Nathamkottai, 152 in Kondampatti and 36 in Annanagar. The Jayalalitha government has offered Rs 50,000 as compensation to the victims.

“Violence of this kind would not have happened without the active support of the police,” says Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch. “We found that the Vanniyars used more than 150 petrol bombs. It looks like a planned attack, instigated by the PMK, though Vanniyars from other parties also participated in it.” So far, the police has arrested 92 Vanniyars and filed cases against 218 more.

‘It is unbelievable that the police had no clue when 2,500 Vanniyars were being mobilised for the attack’

PMK State Council Member Senthil denies any party hand in the violence. “Our party has worked for the upliftment of Dalits and it played no role in the incident,” he says. “Our position on inter-caste love marriages is that boys and girls less than 20 years old should not be allowed to get married as they cannot support themselves independently. Most end up getting divorced within six months. We are also campaigning for raising the marriageable age for girls to 21,” he adds. At best, this is an absurd argument. Moreover, in the case of Divya and Ilavarasan, neither was below 20. It is as if all the violence could be justified on the ground that Divya missed the PMK cut-off by a year.

ACCORDING TO the 2011 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, Tamil Nadu ranks eighth among the states in the number of attacks on Dalits, with more than 1,400 reported incidents. A lot of this violence is rooted in the conflict between the backward castes and the Dalits. Though categorised as backward caste, the Vanniyars have traditionally been landholders who employed Dalits to work in their fields. In recent times, however, the Dalits have been migrating to the cities to work as daily wage labourers and their economic condition has improved slightly. Tiphagne says this newfound mobility of the Dalits has not gone down well with the Vanniyars, and this anger fuels violence.
Abdul Rashid Khan lost his father in the Pathribal encounter Abdul Rashid Khan lost his father in the Pathribal encounter Abdul Rashid Khan lost his father in the Pathribal encounter

“Notably, this violence has occurred in hamlets where the Left movement once used to have a strong presence. In fact, Dharmapuri district was once the headquarters of the Naxalite movement in Tamil Nadu,” says Dalit intellectual Anand Teltumbde. “It is revealing that with the Naxalite movement on the wane, casteism has raised its ugly head. Vanniyars and Dalits are not very different in terms of economic status, but the fact that they have clashed violently many times shows the continuing power of the caste system.”

According to Thol Thirumavalavan, president of the Dalit party Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), the PMK orchestrated the riots in Dharmapuri to check the “economic rise of the Dalits” and counter “its own declining popularity among the Vanniyars”.

Regarding the connivance of the local police, Dharmapuri SP Asra Garg told TEHELKA: “Based on initial inquiries, three officers posted in the area — Inspector V Jegannathan, Sub-Inspector Perumal and Head Constable Singaravelu — were found guilty of dereliction of duty and have been placed under suspension.” Jegannathan, in charge of Kaaramangalam police station (Nathamkottai comes under this jurisdiction), was earlier convicted in a case dating back to 1992, in which more than 100 people were injured and at least 18 women reportedly raped in Vachatti, a tribal hamlet in Dharmapuri district. Jegannathan was among 268 officials from the forest, revenue and police departments who had gone on a rampage in the garb of locating illegally felled sandalwood. In September 2011, a local court convicted 215 of them, including Jegannathan, who has challenged the court’s order in the Madras High Court.

“Despite the simmering tension in the area, the local police failed to deploy adequate personnel for our protection. It is unbelievable that the police had no clue when 2,500 Vanniyars were being mobilised for the attack. The mob included people from villages 20 km away. They came with 150 litres of petrol and 200 litres of kerosene in mini-trucks. They also cut down trees and blocked the road to prevent fire tenders from reaching on time,” says Shakthi, president of the Nathamkottai Gram Panchayat.

Tehelka, November 22, 2012

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main54.asp?filename=Ne011212DALIT.asp

Posted on: November 22, 2012

 


A Village Rape Shatters a Family, and India’s Traditional Silence

By Jim Yardley

DABRA, India — One after the other, the men raped her. They had dragged the girl into a darkened stone shelter at the edge of the fields, eight men, maybe more, reeking of pesticide and cheap whiskey. They assaulted her for nearly three hours. She was 16 years old.

When it was over, the men threatened to kill her if she told anyone, and for days the girl said nothing. Speaking out would have been difficult, anyway, given the hierarchy of caste. She was poor and a Dalit, the low-caste group once known as untouchables, while most of the attackers were from a higher caste that dominated land and power in the village.

It might have ended there, if not for the videos: her assailants had taken cellphone videos as trophies, and the images began circulating among village men until one was shown to the victim’s father, his family said. Distraught, the father committed suicide on Sept. 18 by drinking pesticide. Infuriated, Dalits demanded justice in the rape case.

“We thought, We lost my husband, we lost our honor,” the mother of the rape victim said. “What is the point of remaining silent now?”

As in many countries, silence often follows rape in India, especially in villages, where a rape victim is usually regarded as a shamed woman, unfit for marriage. But an outcry over a string of recent rapes, including this one, in the northern state of Haryana, has shattered that silence, focusing national attention on India’s rising number of sexual assaults while also exposing the conservative, male-dominated power structure in Haryana, where rape victims are often treated with callous disregard.

In a rapidly changing country, rape cases have increased at an alarming rate, roughly 25 percent in six years. To some degree, this reflects a rise in reporting by victims. But India’s changing gender dynamic is also a significant factor, as more females are attending school, entering the work force or choosing their own spouses — trends that some men regard as a threat.

India’s news media regularly carry horrific accounts of gang rapes, attacks once rarely seen. Sometimes, gangs of young men stumble upon a young couple — in some cases the couple is meeting furtively in a conservative society — and then rape the woman. Analysts also point to demographic trends: India has a glut of young males, some unemployed, abusing alcohol or drugs and unnerved by the new visibility of women in society.

“This visibility is seen as a threat and a challenge,” said Ranjana Kumari, who runs the Center for Social Research in New Delhi.

In Haryana, the initial response to the rape after it was disclosed ranged from denial to denouncing the media to blaming the victim. A spokesman for the governing Congress Party was quoted as saying that 90 percent of rape cases begin as consensual sex. Women’s groups were outraged after a village leader pointed to teenage girls’ sexual desire as the reason for the rapes.

“I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don’t need to go elsewhere,” the village leader, Sube Singh, told IBN Live, a news channel. “This way rapes will not occur.”

The most vulnerable women are poor Dalits, the lowest tier of the social structure. Of 19 recent rape cases in Haryana, at least six victims were Dalits. One Dalit teenager in Haryana committed suicide, setting herself afire, after being gang-raped. Another Dalit girl, 15, who was mentally handicapped, was raped in Rohtak, according to Indian news media accounts, the same district where a 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a neighbor.

“If you are a poor woman who is raped, you cannot even imagine a life where there will be justice,” Kalpana Sharma, a columnist, wrote recently in The Hindu, a national English-language newspaper. “If you are a poor woman and a Dalit, then the chances of justice are even slimmer.”

Haryana is one of India’s most entrenched bastions of feudal patriarchy. The social preference for sons has contributed to a problem of some couples aborting female fetuses, leaving Haryana with the most skewed gender ratio in India, 861 females for every 1,000 males. Politically, the Jat caste largely controls a statewide network of unelected, all-male councils known as khap panchayats, which dominate many rural regions of the state.

Elected leaders are reluctant to confront the khaps, given their ability to turn out voters, and often endorse their conservative social agenda, in which women are subservient to men. Khaps have sought to ban women from wearing bluejeans or using cellphones. One khap member, Jitender Chhatar, blamed fast food for the rise in rape cases, arguing that it caused hormonal imbalances and sexual urges in young women. Mr. Singh, who suggested lowering the legal marriage age, is also a khap leader.

“They are working the blame-the-victim theory,” said Jagmati Sangwan, president of the Haryana chapter of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association. “They are diverting attention from the crime and the criminals, and the root causes.”

Yet public anger is clearly bubbling up. Small protests have been staged across the state, including one this month in the town of Meham, where about 100 men and women picketed the district police headquarters over the rape of a 17-year-old girl. They waved signs demanding “Arrest Rapists!” and “Justice for Women” and chanted “Down with Haryana Police!”

Here in Dabra, about 100 miles from the Pakistan border, villagers say there is no khap panchayat but rather an elected village council where the leadership position, known as sarpanch, is reserved for a woman under nationwide affirmative action policies. Yet the male-dominated ethos prevails. The current sarpanch is the wife of a local Jat leader, who put her forward to circumvent the restriction. During an interview with the husband, the official sarpanch sat silently in the doorway, her face covered by a gauzy scarf.

“No, no,” she answered when asked to comment, as she pointed to her husband. “He’s the sarpanch. What’s the point in talking to me?”

The gang-rape of the 16-year-old girl occurred on Sept. 9 but remained a secret in the village until her father’s suicide. Dalits formed a committee to demand justice, and roughly 400 people demonstrated outside the district police headquarters, as well as at the hospital where the father’s body was being kept.

“We told them that unless you catch the suspects, we would not take the body,” said a woman named Maya Devi. “We do not have land. We do not have money. What we have is honor. If your honor is gone, you have nothing.”

Since then, the police have arrested eight men — seven of them Jats — who have confessed to the attack. There are discrepancies; the victim says she was abducted outside the village, while the suspects say they attacked her after catching her having a tryst with a married man.

“She was raped against her will,” said B. Satheesh Balan, the district superintendent of police. “There is no doubt.”

Officer Balan said villagers told the police that other local girls had also been gang-raped at the same stone shelter, though no evidence was available. Often, a girl’s family will hide a rape rather than be stigmatized in the village. Even sympathizers of the teenage victim doubt she can assimilate back into Dabra.

“It will be difficult on her,” Ms. Devi said. “Now she is branded.”

In an interview at her grandparents’ home outside the village, the victim said she believed other suspects remained at large, leaving her at risk. (Female police officers have been posted at the house round-the-clock.) Yet she has actively pushed the police and joined in the protests, despite the warnings by her attackers.

“They threatened me and said they would kill my family if I told anyone,” she said.

Many Dalit girls drop out of school, but the victim was finishing high school. Even in the aftermath of the rape, she took her first-term exams in economics, history and Sanskrit. But she no longer wants to return to the village school and is uncertain about her future.

“Earlier, I had lots of dreams,” she said. “Now I’m not sure I’ll be able to fulfill them. My father wanted me to become a doctor. Now I don’t think I’ll be able to do it.”

The New York Times, October 27, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/world/asia/a-village-rape-shatters-a-family-and-indias-tra ditional-silence.html

Posted on: October 27, 2012

 


‘Ensure speedy justice in crimes against dalits’

With an average of 93 crime against SC/STs being reported daily, a number of dalit human rights groups on Thursday urged the Government to amend the SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in the Winter Session of Parliament to ensure speedy trial and higher conviction for such crimes.

These groups, united under National Coalition for Strengthening SCs and STs, have approached Congress president Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council and various political parties seeking their support in this endeavour. They have also decided to hold march towards the national capital on November 23 to pressurise the Government to check incidents of crime against dalits.

The National Crime Records Bureau has shown that between 1995 and 2007 the average number of crime registered under the Act was 33,956 per year bringing the daily average to 93 instances. But the conviction rate during the period was only 30.3 percent, pointed out Prasad Sirivella, general secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice. Over 80 percent atrocities cases are pending trial year, he lamented.

The Coalition wants the Government to set up exclusive courts in every district of the country to deal with incidents of atrocities against dalits, said PS Krishnan, a former bureaucrat. Also crimes like social and economic boycott of dalits and adivasis and evicting them from land should also be brought under the Act.

Pioneer News Service, October 25, 2012

http://dailypioneer.com/nation/104240-ensure-speedy-justice-in-crimes-against-dalits.html

Posted on: October 25, 2012

 


Dalit girl tied to a tree, assaulted

A dalit girl was allegedly tied to a roadside coconut tree and beaten up in Afsarpur village under Jajpur Sadar police station on Friday afternoon. A mob assaulted the 20-year-old girl Mamina, accusing her of being involved in a girl trafficking racket.

“Her hair was chopped off and her complexion turned ruddy from being continuously slapped by many people. She sustained no serious injuries though,” said Bijan Jena, a villager.

The incident was prompted by the disappearance of a 19-year-old girl Anita Jena from the village on Wednesday. When Anita failed to return to the village by Friday, her parents and other villagers accused Mamina of selling her to some traffickers and assaulted her.

Anita and the assault victim are friends. At the time when Anita eloped from the village, Mamina was staying at a relative’s place in Jajpur town. Anita stayed with Mamina in Jajpur for two days and subsequently returned to the village on Saturday.

Narrating the nightmare, Mamina said on Saturday that she was dragged out of her house by members of Anita’s family, who thrashed her, tore her clothes and tied her to a tree. “I am innocent. Anita’s parents had fixed her marriage with a boy but she was not interested in marrying him, due to which she left her house and met me in Jajpur town. She returned to the village on Saturday. The villagers unnecessary blamed me for her disappearance. I have never been involved in any trafficking racket. But some villagers including Anita’s parents are hell-bent on tarnishing my image in the village,” said Mamina.

“The victim girl was not involved in any girl trafficking case,” reiterated S N Das, police officer of Jajpur Sadar police station. “Anita left the village after her parents tried to marry her to a man against her wish. Police is investigating the case,” he added.

Naliniprava Tarei, secretary of the district unit of All India Democratic Women’s Association, and other women leaders on Saturday demanded the arrest of the accused persons. They faxed letters to the chairpersons of State Human Rights Commission and State Women’s Commission, demanding stern action against the accused persons.

The attackers could face up to seven years in prison for their role in the incident.

The Times of India, July 21, 2012

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-21/bhubaneswar/32776311_1_dalit-girl-vil lage-assault-victim

Posted on: July 21, 2012

 


Dalit woman who was beaten up, paraded naked dies

A Dalit woman, who was paraded naked and beaten up in her village in Jagatsinghpur district, died on Monday at a government hospital.

“She died of septicaemia and acute renal failure,” said Dr Bhubanananda Maharana, superintendent of SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack.

Last month, the woman from Mangrajpur village in Jagatsinghpur district was beaten up by several Dalit men of her village and paraded naked before her husband. She was beaten with iron rods and disrobed after she protested against the accused defecating at the field near her house.

She suffered serious head injuries following which she was first admitted to Kujang community health centre, then SCB Medical College and Hospital, and again admitted to a private nursing home in Cuttack after the SCB doctors failed to treat her.

The police have arrested four persons in connection with the case. They are Gangadhar Mallick, Netrananda Mallick,Chabi Mallick and Pabitra Mallick.

Her husband Satyananda Mallick has lodged a petition with the Orissa Human Rights Commission.

The Indian Express, July 17, 2012

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/dalit-woman-who-was-beaten-up-paraded-naked-dies/975358/

Posted on: July 17, 2012

 


“We don’t eat their food, it is not untouchability, just our custom”

By S Ramaswamy

Displaying their ignorance and probably violating multiple laws including provisions under the SC/ST act and the Right to Education Act, a group of parents have decided to keep their children out of school than let them be fed the mid-day meal by a Dalit.

The bizarre decision was taken last week by a group belonging to the Kambalathu Naicker community in Kammapatti village about 300 km from Chennai. The group which included parents, prevented 50 children from attending classes at the Srivilliputtur Panchayat Union Elementary School. According to them, they are “protesting” the employment of two Dalit women, as cook and helper respectively, at the mid-day meal centre of the school. The two women, Maragadavalli and Veeralakshmi were posted to the school after the recent recruitment drive conducted by the panchayat. They were employed as they fulfilled various criteria, set up by the panchayat. The women reported to the school in the afternoon to prepare the mid-day meal provided to the students. Word quickly spread in the village that Dalit women were cooking the food meant for “upper caste” children.

Parents refused to send their children for the lunch and kept them at home the next day onwards. According to the community leaders this does not amount to caste discrimination at all. “We are not against any particular caste. We maintain a cordial relationship with the Scheduled Caste people. But, it is our practice that our people, especially girls and women, do not eat food cooked by people belonging to any other community,” said B Sanjeevi, a ward member of the Kammapatti Panchayat. The women and girls from the community, if they had to go out of the village, would come back in the evening itself and would not take food outside, he said. The village is predominantly populated by Kambalathu Naickers, followed by Dalits and a small number of Maravars, another most backward community.

A team of officials from the Education Department, led by the District Elementary Educational Officer, Senthivelmurugan, and Assistant Elementary Educational Officer, Muthuramalingam, has held talks with the parents. However, the situation remains unchanged. “The officials said the issue should be settled by the Block Development Officer,” said Sanjeevi, who is also the Village Education Committee chairperson. Official sources said that following a similar protest in 2007, mid-day meal employees posted to this school were transferred.

District Revenue Officer, R Raju, who holds additional charge as District Collector, said the BDO had proposed to transfer the employees this time as well. He too said the parents were acting according to tradition and not practicing untouchability. “This is a peculiar habit of this community, we cannot treat this as a practice of untouchability,” he said. According to him posting people belonging to the Kambalathu Naicker community will be considered when the next round of recruitment takes place.

According to Dalit leader CK Tailarasan, MLA and Republican Party general secretary, the villagers are quoting tradition to escape the wrath of the civil rights groups. “This only the tip of the iceberg, in southern parts of Tamil Nadu, tea shop owners keep separate sets of tumblers, one for the upper caste and another for Dalits,” he said. State Harijan welfare minister C Subramnaiam was not available to comment.

Tehelka, July 9, 2012

http://www.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Ws090712Ramaswamy.asp

Posted on: July 9, 2012

 


Rohtak shelter home sealed after reports of abuse

By Jyoti Kamal

A day after the horrific tales of rape and prostitution in a government shelter in Rohtak surface, Harayana government on Saturday ordered the sealing of the shelter home. The state government has been under pressure to act after CNN-IBN highlighted the findings of a High Court team probe. The report revealed shocking details of women and children being gangraped and physically tortured.

The report names the government shelter’s caretaker and several police officials too. Teams from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the National Commission of Women (NCW) are heading to Rohtak on Saturday to meet the over 100 inmates, who have been transfered to several other homes.

Earlier, the state’s Women and Child Welfare Minister has promised to rehabilitate victims and book all culprits.

For five years, it’s been a journey through hell for one of the sexual abuse victims. Poverty forced her to leave her home and go to Gurgaon in search of a job, and while working there she was gangraped and a son was born to her. The police sent her to the Apna Ghar in Rohtak where there was a second round of exploitation. The owner of Apna Ghar also allegedly sold off her son without her permission.

More such horror stories emerged from the Apna Ghar shelter home – sordid details of how these girls were raped and tortured and forced into prostitution. Details of how even government and police officials, people who were supposed to protect these girls, cruelly exploited them.

“In the Apna Ghar we were beaten up and were also made to do bad things. Some were made naked and beaten up and others were tied to the fan or the bed and beaten up. We were made to massage people and while we were doing it others would stand and watch,” one of the victims said.

“Lot of things happened there. Wrong things were done with the girls. Girls were sent out to do labour work too. Grown up girls were kept naked without clothes. There was a cage like structure in which girls and women were kept naked under blankets. Three small children were sold in front of me and four to five girls were sold,” another abuse victim said.

An exclusive video available with CNN-IBN shows how even women who were deaf and dumb or mentally challenged were not spared A video of a mentally challenged woman showing how she was bitten and then aborted with a stick.

Video of second woman shows torture marks on arms. Video of a deaf and dumb woman shows her gesturing that her clothes were ripped off and she was made to abort with a stick and then tortured with hands tied.

IBN, June 9, 2012

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/rohtak-shelter-home-sealed-after-reports-of-abuse/265103-3.html

Posted on: June 9, 2012

 


India’s poorest turn to video journalists to fill news gap

The disturbing clips and personal stories have a common thread: all the victims are “untouchables”, now known as Dalits, who are at the bottom of India’s rigid Hindu caste hierarchy.

The Dalit with the cut hand says he was harmed for drinking from a pot meant for higher castes. Often, filthy and dangerous sewer work is a profession reserved for families of the lowest caste.

Such everyday discrimination is nothing new, but it is rarely documented with such intimacy and insider knowledge in India’s mainstream domestic news media.

“The mainstream media just report on the superficial events but they don’t have depth,” said Amol Lalzare, a Dalit and one of the “community correspondents” working for Video Volunteers, a media and human rights group.

“I stay here, I know what’s going on, and I also want to give solutions through my news clips,” added Lalzare, who makes videos in the Mumbai slums with a camera not much larger than a mobile phone.

The 27-year-old documents a range of issues affecting the poor, from water shortages and poor sanitation to corruption and sexual harassment in the slums, where more than half of the city’s residents live.

In their recently-launched campaign against caste discrimination, including a petition to properly end the illegal practice, Video Volunteers from across India have released footage to show the problem is still entrenched.

They captured Dalit women who take their sandals off to walk past the “big people’s houses”, a barber admitting Dalits don’t come to his shop, and a school where Dalit children eat separately.

“It makes me nothing but angry,” vented one female interviewee.

Kumar Ketkar, editor of the Dainik Divya Marathi newspaper in Mumbai, agreed that marginalised communities rarely draw attention from mainstream news outlets.

“Their normal everyday life does not get adequate coverage,” he said, blaming the problem on the media’s need for revenues from advertisers, who target a middle-class audience with “consumer potential”.

Lalzare and his colleagues earn 1,500 rupees (29 dollars) for each report and 5,000 rupees (95 dollars) for an “impact” video, showing some kind of change as a result of their work.

They number about 60 nationwide and contribute to the Video Volunteers’ “IndiaUnheard” news service, which since 2010 has published regular clips online and sometimes at screenings for the communities concerned.

In a major breakthrough for the group, one of the biggest English-language news networks in India, CNN-IBN, recently agreed to broadcast one of their stories per week to its millions of viewers.

Topics broadcast so far include gender inequality in farm workers’ wages and child marriage — one interviewee was a 12-year-old cattle grazer married off three years earlier.

The project was set up to focus on “specific places where the media wasn’t functioning,” said American founder Jessica Mayberry, who is based in the southwestern holiday state of Goa.

She said the problem was more extreme in rural communities, giving the example of eastern Jharkhand state, home to a largely tribal population but without a single journalist of tribal origin in the regular press.

“It’s a question of representation. Seventy percent of this country, the poor, is coming through this filter of the outsider who doesn’t live there,” she told AFP.

The income for Video Volunteers is currently about two-thirds donations — from social entrepreneurship foundations and individuals — and one third revenue from selling content and training.

The service is among various projects that have sprung up in recent years harnessing technology to give a voice to hundreds of millions of marginalised Indians who feel ignored by the media and the political class.

Bangalore-based website http://www.ipaidabribe.com offers a place for users to vent their anger and share experiences of corruption across the country, where bribes and kickbacks are routine.

P. N. Vasanti, director of the Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi, said the mainstream news channels were still dominated by politics, crime, sport and entertainment, but she thought social issues were gradually gaining ground.

“It’s an evolution of news media and evolution of the audience. They are learning to demand what they want,” she told AFP.

The Express Tribune, May 18, 2012

http://tribune.com.pk/story/380719/indias-poorest-turn-video-journalists-to-fill-news-gap/

Posted on: May 18, 2012

 


Young Dalit woman abused in Mumbai

Originally published as “Dalit girl paraded naked in Mumbai”, Times of Inda, July 10, 2010.

MUMBAI: Cases of attacks on dalit women aren’t confined to rural India. Last month, a young dalit girl was stripped and paraded in a southern Mumbai locality. The local police has arrested 10 women and two men and slapped them with cases of atrocities. However, Sharada Yadav, the main accused, is out on bail.

Said senior police inspector Rajan Bhogale: “All the suspects named by the victim, including Sharada Yadav, were arrested in the case. We charged them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. But Sharda Yadav was granted bail by the court.” The 22-year-old dalit girl Mita Kamble (name changed), who was stripped and dragged out of her house at Darukhana, Reay Road, by a mob of mostly women, said: “They all shouted that dalits like me should not live in this area. They kept hurling abuses on me.”

What led to the incident was Mita’s brother allegedly abused a five year old girl.

Posted on: July 15, 2010

 


Dalit teenager dies after hospital refuses treatment

Originally published as “Dalit teenager dies after hospital refuses treatment,” IANS, June 15, 2009.

Lucknow, UP: A Dalit teenager in Uttar Pradesh died Monday after a government-run hospital allegedly refused to admit him, police said.

“Anil Kumar, 18, who had suffered burn injuries after being electrocuted was reportedly denied treatment by the doctors in a hospital in Hamirpur district Monday,” Superintendent of Police Suryanath told IANS over phone.

The kin of the deceased alleged that the doctors asked them to take away Kumar, as the hospital was not meant for treating “lower caste patients”, he added.

A high-level enquiry has been initiated into the case to probe the role of doctors, who have been accused of denying treatment to the Dalit teenager.

“A three-member committee, including the Hamirpur chief medical officer (CMO) has been constituted following the directions of the district magistrate,” Suryanath said.

“The committee members have been directed to submit the enquiry report within two days on the basis of which necessary action would be taken against the hospital staff,” he added.

Hamirpur is some 300 km [186 miles] from Lucknow.

Posted on: June 23, 2009

 


Court gives justice to Mumbai Dalits

Originally published as “12 yrs on, justice for Mumbai Dalit colony”, Hindustan Times, 8 May 2009.

Nearly 12 years after the controversial police firing in a Mumbai suburb, a fast track court on Thursday sentenced the then State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) Platoon Commander Manohar Kadam (56) to life imprisonment for causing homicidal deaths of 10 Dalits in the firing.

The Dalits were part of a mob protesting against desecration of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue in Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar, a northeastern suburb of Mumbai on July 11, 1997.

Ad-hoc Judge SY Kulkarni handed the maximum punishment, considering the large number of victims, and that the firing was ordered without assessing the situation and violated mandatory norms.

Judge Kulkarni found that Kadam had ordered firing within 10 minutes of his reaching the scene and did not try to resort to a cane-charge, teargas shelling or firing in the air.

The impact of the killing was such that Dalits, who form roughly 12 per cent of the state’s population, voted to defeat the Sena-BJP alliance government in the 1999 elections. The alliance has not returned to power since.

What incensed Dalits was the way the then Chief Minister Manohar Joshi (Sena) and Home Minister Gopinath Munde (BJP) had defended the firing — arguing that the police resorted to firing as the mob was about to torch a nearby oil tanker.

“It is delayed justice but it will surely help the Congress-NCP build faith among the Dalits,” said Ratnakar Mahajan, Executive Chairman of the State Planning Board.

BJP leaders Munde and Nitin Gadkari did not comment on the verdict.

The court discarded the ‘gas tanker’ theory put forth by Kadam and the then ruling Shiv Sena-BJP combine. According to the officer, the mob, which had already set some vehicles on fire, was moving towards the tanker standing on the Eastern Express highway. Kadam said it was at this moment that he ordered his platoon to open fire, sensing danger of the mob setting the tanker ablaze and affecting the entire area within 10 km of the tanker’s periphery.

Posted on: May 21, 2009

 


Dalit political candidate found dead

Originally published as “IJP candidate’s murder a mystery”, by Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui, Times of India, April 18, 2009.

[Editor’s note: The dead politician was running for election under the Indian Justice Party. This party was formed by Udit Raj, a Dalit leader who has worked with DFN, as a platform for social justice for Dalits. It is one of the few competitors to Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party which is currently in power in the state of Uttar Pradesh.]

LUCKNOW: On March 30, Indian Justice Party (IJP) candidate from Jaunpur Bahadur Sonkar informed the district magistrate (DM) Aparna Upadhyay of being threatened to withdraw from the elections. With no help from the authorities, he produced evidences at a press conference on April 6 claiming that circle officer (CO) Ditendra Chowdhary was pressurising him to skip the fray. On April 13, his body was found hanging from a tree near his house. Within the next 24 hours, police said Bahadur committed suicide. However 72 hours later, police are yet to answer some basic queries which question their suicide theory.

This despite ample evidence to strongly suggest that not only Bahadur was murdered but an intelligent attempt was also made to plant evidence which could portray victim’s younger brother Suresh as the prime suspect. But the police appear to have conveniently overlooked this evidence for reasons best known to them.

For a quick recap: Bahadur’s body was found hanging from a babool tree, nine feet above the ground, about a furlong from his house. Ante-mortem injury on the head and a ligature injury on the neck were found during autopsy. The post-mortem report deduced the cause of death as “asphyxia as a result of ante-mortem injuries”.

Neither circumstantial evidences, nor the post-mortem report remotely suggest that Bahadur hanged himself to death. On the contrary, there are a series of elements which suggest that he did not.

Firstly, despite Bahadur having named the CO who was supposedly pressurising him to quit elections, no efforts have been made yet to confirm if the allegations hold water.

Next, Bahadur’s body was found hanging from a tree nine feet above the ground. Why would a person planning suicide hang a loop 14.5 feet (9 feet plus his own height 5.5 feet) and then climb up all the way to hang himself instead of choosing a lower branch to hang the rope from. Next, there was nothing at the scene of crime which could have been used by Bahadur to reach the 14-feet-plus-high knot. So, how did reach there?

When confronted with the query, SP Jaunpur V K Dohre instead came up with a question. “Why wound anyone hang him 9 feet above the ground even if we assume that he was murdered?”

Thirdly, the post-mortem report clearly states that the victim had suffered ante-mortem injuries on his head and a ligature injury on the neck — a common factor in suicide cases.

Posted on: April 20, 2009

 


Two Dalits hacked to death in Tamil Nadu

Originally published by CNN-IBN, March 7, 2009.

Sankarankoil (Tamil Nadu): Two Dalits were hacked to death by unidentified assailants following a dispute apparently over offering worship in the local Muppidathy Ammam temple in Tirunelveli district.

The group of unidentified persons hacked one Dalit, K Paramasivan (27), when he was going to his village on Friday night, police said on Saturday.

Another Dalit, E Easwaran (55), who was coming in a motorcycle with one more Dalit Suresh, was also found hacked to death.

Suresh somehow managed to escape from the scene.

The dispute started over offering worship in the temple, belonging to Konar community, started last year, officials said.

Posted on: March 9, 2009

 


Gujarat teachers sentenced for raping Dalit student

Originally published as “6 Gujarat teachers get life term for gang raping Dalit student”, Press Trust of India, March 6, 2009.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat: Six teachers of a college in Patan near here were awarded life terms by a special court for gang raping a 19-year-old Dalit student today, a year after the incident had led to public outrage in Gujarat.

Manish Parmar, Mahendra Prajapati, Ashwin Parmar, Kiran Patel, Suresh Patel and Atul Patel were pronounced guilty by Additional Sessions Judge S C Srivastava at Patan, about 125 km from here in north Gujarat.

The judge imposed a fine of Rs 4,000 ($77) on each of them and said failure to pay the amount would invite additional six-month imprisonment.

The court also directed the convicts to pay Rs 10,000 ($192) each to the girl, a student of the Primary Teachers’ Training College (PTC), as compensation.

The incident at the state government-run college in Patan came to light on February 4, 2008 after the victim told her parents and relatives that she was repeatedly raped by the teachers over a period of six months.

The girl comes from a poor background and was a resident-student of the college.

She was threatened by the teachers that they will not give internal marks to her and fail her if she did not give in to their sexual advances, police had said.

Posted on: March 9, 2009

 


Dalits in Gujarat say their dead have no place to rest in peace

Original article from ExpressIndia.com by Shubhlakshmi Shukla.

Banaskantha Runi, nearly 25 km from the Rajasthan border, is a village that has always acted as a breeding ground of politicians. Although the village has seen a lot of development, the Dalits have a different story to tell. Their main complaint—they do not know if their dead are actually laid to rest.

Unlike high-caste Hindus, who have well-developed crematoriums, thanks to the Rs 5 lakh grant under the Panchvati Yojana of the state government, Dalits from nine separate categories still follow their age-old custom of burying the dead. But their burial ground has been encroached upon by the village high school that has left little space to bury the dead. The story is similar in over 60 villages under Dhanera taluka of Banaskantha district.

Varsha Ganguly, who heads the Ahmedabad-based Behavioural Science Centre (BSC), said: “The divide is evident, even in the eyes of the government. The reason: in the Hindu religion, last rites are always understood as cremation. The government has not even cared about regularising burial lands for Dalits.”

The divide exists everywhere in the state. According to the BSC, there are nearly 18,100 villages in Gujarat; of these around 5,000 have no legal burial ground for the Dalits.

Bharat Dhabi, a resident of Runi said: “They have funds for the upper castes—those who cremate their dead—but not for our community. We have been using the burial ground for a century now.”

He added, “Runi Gram Panchayat had allotted around 8.5 acres of land to Matrushree Vidyalaya—a private high school. However, the school authorities have encroached upon nearly 1.5 acres.”

Elsewhere, in Ruppur village under Chanasma taluka of Patan district, Valji Patel of the Council for Social Justice recounts how a Dalit burial ground located there was taken over by the Nirma trust. Incidentally, Karsan Patel, the founder of Nirma, belongs to this place, said Patel.

Even as Dalits have been burying their dead for such a long time now, it is not regularised by the state government. As a result, the land is now considered a wasteland, Patel said. Interestingly, the price of burial lands at Ruppur has increased. The reason: with the construction of a national highway connecting Chanasma and Patan, around 1.5 acres of Dalit burial land came to the front.

“Settlements were made between the Gram Panchayat and the trust, and the land was given to the latter, last year, to develop a garden,” Patel said. He added: “We started a 30-day agitation at the collectors office and also filed a petition in the high court, last year.

Inquiry was ordered against the district collector. Land, however, was not allotted. Instead of the piece of land lying adjacent to the highway, a small patch in the interior of the village was given to the Dalits .”

The institute has now taken this matter to the Supreme Court, said Patel.

Despite the fact that the Revenue Department had passed a Government Resolution in September 1989 to consider 1972 as the year for earmarking land for burial, nothing seems to have been done so far.

“Apart from the Revenue Department, the Dalits have to approach the Health Department also to regularise land for burial, but this provided the decaying bodies do not spread any disease. Quite ironically, Gram Panchayats in several villages have allotted residential land that are in close proximity to burial lands,” said Manu Pandya, a local volunteer associated with BSC.

In Odha village of Banaskantha district, the Gram Panchayat has allotted a residential zone just adjacent to the previously existing burial ground.

Leela Solanki (40), a widow from Odhav village witnessed a gory scene when the body of her three-year-old son was accidentally exhumed by the plough of a farmer from the Patel community. “My husband was alive when the incident happened a few years ago. He died a few days later,” she said.

Fakir Vaghela is the state’s Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment of SCs and Socially and Economically Backward Classes. He also holds the portfolio of Sports and Youth and Cultural Activities. Although Vaghela is aware of this problem faced by the Dalits, he was unaware of the status. P Panneervel, Principal Secretary, State Revenue Department, was not available for his comments.

The reality, at the end of the day, is that the tale of woes of the Dalits does not seem to have an end right now. When asked about this, Leela said: “My son, Mahesh, and I work as farm labourers. We get two bags of wheat in lieu of our work on which we have to survive for a few months. I have to fill my stomach before I can fight for the dead.”

Posted on: December 1, 2008

 


Can Love Conquer Caste?

Can Love Conquer Caste?
By Emily Wax, Washington Post Saturday, November 22, 2008

NEW DELHI—She was a gutsy student leader known for hunger strikes and provocative street theater at universities across the country, exposing the plight of India’s beleaguered lower castes. He was a worldly gadfly with a passion for ending nuclear proliferation and exposing environmental crimes.

They fell in love in Iraq nearly 18 years ago while campaigning for peace before the Persian Gulf War. Their romance bloomed, and within three months they were engaged.

But their marriage a year later ushered in another war: In tying the knot, they openly defied India’s deeply entrenched taboos against inter-caste marriage. Anita Pharti, now 42, came from the Dalit caste, still known as untouchables, the lowest in India’s social order. Her husband, Rajeev Singh, 45, is a Rajput, traditionally a landholding caste that had for centuries ruled over Pharti’s peasant community.

“My family was completely aghast,” Singh recalled, sitting with Pharti in their cozy living room, where they have helped clandestine inter-caste couples elope. “My father said he wouldn’t let it happen. But I felt so sure about Anita. We were able to fight back. But we were the lucky ones. Many still get murdered for this.”

Even though India legalized inter-caste marriage more than 50 years ago, newlyweds are still threatened by violence, most often from their families. As more young urban and small-town Indians start to rebel and choose mates outside of arranged marriages and caste commandments, killings of inter-caste couples have increased, according to a recent study by the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

In the past month, seven so-called honor killings have targeted inter-caste couples. In the latest incident, a Hindu youth in Bihar was beaten by villagers this week and thrown under an oncoming train because he sent a love letter to a girl of a different caste. The attacks continue despite decades of government decrees intended to dismantle the bulwark of caste, which is widely seen as the glue of traditional Indian society but is considered among the most corrosive features of the emerging new India.

“The recent rise in violence actually shows that the younger generation—especially women—are slowly gaining individual freedom in marriage. But the older generation still cling to the old ways where marriage is still a symbol of status, not emotional love,” said Shashi Kiran, a lawyer in India’s Supreme Court who married outside her caste and is handling several honor-killing cases. “It shows a society still in transition and wrestling with deep change.”

As part of a controversial incentive for inter-caste couples to marry, the government recently began offering $1,000 bonuses. That’s nearly a year’s salary for the vast majority of Indians. Smaller cash payments first started in 2006 after a Supreme Court ruling in which judges described several high-profile honor killings as acts of “barbarism” and labeled the caste system “a curse on the nation.”

“The government is again deeply concerned over the low rate of conviction and high rate of acquittal of those people involved in incidents of atrocities on people belonging to lower castes,” said Meira Kumar, the minister for social justice and empowerment, who is from a lower caste. “This is not the only way to end the caste discrimination, but one has to start somewhere.”

B.R. Ambedkar, the country’s most famous Dalit leader and chief architect of the Indian constitution, called for an end to caste consciousness more than 60 years ago. He promoted inter-caste marriage as the most practical way to blur caste lines and render them irrelevant.

Despite India’s egalitarian veneer, there remains an invisible separation between the country’s upper and lower castes that lasts from birth to death. Meals are rarely shared between Brahmins and Dalits, the top and bottom brackets of the caste system, which also….click here to read full article and see photo.

Posted on: November 24, 2008

 


BBC Interview of Dr. Joseph D’souza

Dr. Joseph D’souza – President of All India Christian Council and International President of Dalit Freedom Network was interviewed on BBC, which was broadcasted last week.
The interview is available by clicking here.

Posted on: November 19, 2008

 


Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert or Flee

From the NY Times by SOMINI SENGUPTA

BOREPANGA, India — The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.

They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.

“Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.”

India, the world’s most populous democracy and officially a secular nation, is today haunted by a stark assault on one of its fundamental freedoms. Here in eastern Orissa State, riven by six weeks of religious clashes, Christian families like the Digals say they are being forced to abandon their faith in exchange for their safety.

The forced conversions come amid widening attacks on Christians here and in at least five other states across the country, as India prepares for national elections next spring.
The clash of faiths has cut a wide swath of panic and destruction through these once quiet hamlets fed by paddy fields and jackfruit trees. Here in Kandhamal, the district that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall where the Digals worshiped. Today it is a heap of rubble on an empty field, where cows blithely graze.

Across this ghastly terrain lie the singed remains of mud-and-thatch homes. Christian-owned businesses have been systematically attacked. Orange flags (orange is the sacred color of Hinduism) flutter triumphantly above the rooftops of houses and storefronts.

India is no stranger to religious violence between Christians, who make up about 2 percent of the population, and India’s Hindu-majority of 1.1 billion people. But this most recent spasm is the most intense in years.
It was set off, people here say, by the killing on Aug. 23 of a charismatic Hindu preacher known as Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who for 40 years had rallied the area’s people to choose Hinduism over Christianity.
The police have blamed Maoist guerrillas for the swami’s killing. But Hindu radicals continue to hold Christians responsible.

In recent weeks, they have plastered these villages with gruesome posters of the swami’s hacked corpse. “Who killed him?” the posters ask. “What is the solution?”

Behind the clashes are long-simmering tensions between equally impoverished groups: the Panas and Kandhas. Both original inhabitants of the land, the two groups for ages worshiped the same gods. Over the past several decades, the Panas for the most part became Christian, as Roman Catholic and Baptist missionaries arrived here more than 60 years ago, followed more recently by Pentecostals, who have proselytized more aggressively.

Meanwhile, the Kandhas, in part through the teachings of Swami Laxmanananda, embraced Hinduism. The men tied the sacred Hindu white thread around their torsos; their wives daubed their foreheads with bright red vermilion. Temples sprouted.

Hate has been fed by economic tensions as well, as the government has categorized each group differently and given them different privileges.

The Kandhas accused the Panas of cheating to obtain coveted quotas for government jobs. The Christian Panas, in turn, say their neighbors have become resentful as they have educated themselves and prospered.
Their grievances have erupted in sporadic clashes over the past 15 years, but they have exploded with a fury since the killing of Swami Laxmanananda.

Two nights after his death, a Hindu mob in the village of Nuagaon dragged a Catholic priest and a nun from their residence, tore off much of their clothing and paraded them through the streets.
The nun told the police that she had been raped by four men, a charge the police say was borne out by a medical examination. Yet no one was arrested in the case until five weeks later, after a storm of media coverage. Today, five men are under arrest in connection with inciting the riots. The police say they are trying to find the nun and bring her back here to identify her attackers.

Given a chance to explain the recent violence, Subash Chauhan, the state’s highest-ranking leader of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu radical group, described much of it as “a spontaneous reaction.”
He said in an interview that the nun had not been raped but had had regular consensual sex.

On Sunday evening, as much of Kandhamal remained under curfew, Mr. Chauhan sat in the hall of a Hindu school in the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, beneath a huge portrait of the swami. A state police officer was assigned to protect him round the clock. He cupped a trilling Blackberry in his hand.

Mr. Chauhan denied that his group was responsible for forced conversions and in turn accused Christian missionaries of luring villagers with incentives of schools and social services.
He was asked repeatedly whether Christians in Orissa should be left free to worship the god of their choice. “Why not?” he finally said, but he warned that it was unrealistic to expect the Kandhas to politely let their Pana enemies live among them as followers of Jesus.

“Who am I to give assurance?” he snapped. “Those who have exploited the Kandhas say they want to live together?”
Besides, he said, “they are Hindus by birth.”

Hindu extremists have held ceremonies in the country’s indigenous belt for the past several years intended to purge tribal communities of Christian influence.

It is impossible to know how many have been reconverted here, in the wake of the latest violence, though a three-day journey through the villages of Kandhamal turned up plenty of anecdotal evidence.

A few steps from where the nun had been attacked in Nuagaon, five men, their heads freshly shorn, emerged from a soggy tent in a relief camp for Christians fleeing their homes.
The men had also been summoned to a village meeting in late August, where hundreds of their neighbors stood with machetes in hand and issued a firm order: Get your heads shaved and bow down before our gods, or leave this place.

Trembling with fear, Daud Nayak, 56, submitted to a shaving, a Hindu sign of sacrifice. He drank, as instructed, a tumbler of diluted cow dung, considered to be purifying.

In the eyes of his neighbors, he reckoned, he became a Hindu.

In his heart, he said, he could not bear it.

All five men said they fled the next day with their families. They refuse to return.

In another village, Birachakka, a man named Balkrishna Digal and his son, Saroj, said they had been summoned to a similar meeting and told by Hindu leaders who came from nearby villages that they, too, would have to convert. In their case, the ceremony was deferred because of rumors of Christian-Hindu clashes nearby.

For the time being, the family had placed an orange flag on their mud home. Their Hindu neighbors promised to protect them.
Here in Borepanga, the family of Solomon Digal was not so lucky. Shortly after they recounted their Sept. 10 Hindu conversion story to a reporter in the dark of night, the Digals were again summoned by their neighbors. They were scolded and fined 501 rupees, or about $12, a pinching sum here.

The next morning, calmly clearing his cauliflower field, Lisura Paricha, one of the Hindu men who had summoned the Digals, confirmed that they had been penalized. Their crime, he said, was to talk to outsiders.

Posted on: October 13, 2008

 


The oppression of untouchables is modern India’s shame

From the Sunday Herald by Andrew Duke

Noon in Karimnagar, central India, and already it’s over 40 degrees. A queue of 2000 wedding guests wait patiently in the sun outside a covered courtyard decorated with lotus flowers and ornate drapes. The women wear brightly coloured saris and fan themselves as they chat; the men, clad in sharp, 1970s-cut suits, dab at their foreheads. From time to time, a VIP is whisked along to the front of the line. I know these people are important because they have bodyguards, and their bodyguards are carrying sub-machine guns.

Everyone here knows who these people are, and why this wedding ceremony is so significant. Before the betrothed marry, they will undergo a controversial religious conversion and the congregation of well-wishers, family members, politicians, academics and writers are here to show their support.

Deekonda Tirupathi and his bride-to-be, Sucharitha, are converting to Buddhism because they are Dalits, members of society rooted below even the bottom rung of India’s complex hierarchical system. Above them, four main Hindu classes, or varnas, occupy their own places in life: the priestly Brahmins; then the ruling class, the Kshatriyas; next are the Vaishyas, the artisans and traders; then follow the Shudras, labourers and servants. Those born without varna are seen as sub-human, or, as they used to be referred to, “untouchable”, their lives restricted to menial jobs and duties deemed impure in Hinduism: they alone work leather, dispose of dead bodies, handle carcasses, clear human and animal excrement.

Our wedding couple are the latest in a long line of Dalits who hope to rid themselves of the stigma of “untouchability” and be accepted as equals by adopting a new religion. They follow in the footsteps of one of the country’s greatest thinkers, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a Dalit lawyer and scholar who went on to become the main architect of India’s constitution.

Ambedkar’s attempts to reform the system in the 1940s and 1950s came under attack from an unlikely source: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi – later Mahatma Gandhi, celebrated peace campaigner, spiritual leader and father of the nation.

Gandhi’s hope of finding a solution to the problem of untouchability without dividing Hindu society sat at odds with Ambedkar’s intention of direct political action: Ambedkar’s demands that Dalits should form separate electorates were initially accepted by the ruling British but he was forced to back down after Gandhi began to starve himself to death in protest.

Ambedkar did, however, manage to ensure that a quota system was introduced in education, politics, the law and public service before his disdain for caste-based Hinduism led him to convert to Buddhism in the late 1950s. “Ambedkar said if a Dalit is to be empowered, the only true way is to leave Hinduism,” Tirupathi tells me. “Since Ambedkar converted to Buddhism and I follow him, I am leaving Hinduism and embracing Buddhism.”

But for the vast majority of the estimated 180 million Dalits (16% of India’s population), everyday life is about basic survival.

“What can we do?” asks Vimalemma Mari, a widow since 1983. “We have families to support and no choice of what work we do.” I meet Mari as she starts work in a northern suburb of Hyderabad. Every day, seven days a week, the 52-year-old mother of six joins an army of women across India in the unending task of sweeping litter and dust from the nation’s roads. A gangmaster – her boss – circles the neighbourhood on a motorbike checking all the sweepers are pulling their weight.

A couple of metres beneath Mari’s feet, 27-year-old Padma Rao begins his job of clearing the drains of human waste with his bare hands. Once the task is complete, his colleagues pull him out. He lets me take his photograph but, as a friend explains, he doesn’t want to talk to me about his life because he is too embarrassed. He looks at me apologetically, gulps some fresh air and is lowered into another drain.

For their efforts, Mari and Padma will be paid around £1 a day.

Discrimination against Dalits, although outlawed, is deeply ingrained. “In rural areas it is still very dangerous for a Dalit to allow his shadow to fall across an upper-caste man – it is the biggest crime a Dalit can commit,” says Moses Vattipalli, himself a Dalit. “It results in very severe punishment, sometimes death. In villages, all Dalits live together on the east side because the wind flows from the west. This way, members of the upper caste will not have any wind or sound coming in from the direction of the Dalits.”

Vattipalli, 31, manages a website documenting the problems faced by Dalits. Much of the site catalogues violence – the beatings, acid attacks, rapes and murders – as well as day-to-day discrimination. “At my village school,” says Moses, “I was told again and again that I was a Dalit boy, and so I was unfortunate. In class we would sit separately and couldn’t share anything. Teacher would abuse me and beat me with sticks – when the upper-caste boys got something wrong, I got the beating. We weren’t allowed to drink in the same place and I had to bring my own tumbler. I was always angry, always asking, Why was I born a Dalit’ ... thinking it would have been better if I hadn’t been born.”

Despite everything, Vattipalli made the most of his education and left his village to work overseas. But moving away from the rural areas does not guarantee acceptance. “Discrimination in the city is different and can be more severe,” says Vattipalli, who now lives with his wife and daughter in Secunderabad. “In the villages you know what is happening and can be careful; here it is psychologically oppressive and dehumanising. They always ask your name: they find out you are a Dalit, then treat you differently.”

But that doesn’t stop thousands seeking work in the major IT and industrial centres each year, especially places like Hyderabad, nicknamed Cyberabad, home to Hitec (Hyderabad Information Technology Engineering Consultancy) City. Here, confidence in India’s future is reflected in the mirrored buildings housing the likes of General Electric, Microsoft and Dell. In the shadow of these multinationals, small shanty towns of itinerant workers have grown up, providing temporary shelter for those lucky enough to be given work.

Others fall into the trap of bonded labour. A few miles north of Hyderabad is a settlement unofficially known as Pipe Village. The encampment consists of discarded pipes beside the factory that produced them. Inside the pipes live the factory’s Dalit workers. Mostly from rural villages, they were enticed by the prospect of a job, accommodation and a loan to help with the move. What they got was a 12-hour day, a pipe to live in and a long-term debt that ensures they stay put.

According to a 2006 survey by the Hindustan Times, 48% of villages still deny Dalits access to water, while three-quarters of villages do not permit Dalits to enter non-Dalit homes. Meanwhile, a third of public health workers refuse to visit Dalit homes. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the contentious process of religious conversion appeals.

“Every day thousands of Dalits choose to embrace a new religion,” says Dr Joseph D’souza, international president of the Dalit Freedom Network. “Dalits are primarily choosing Buddhism or Christianity, although some have chosen Islam. Changing their religion means they – and more important, their children – think of themselves differently. Instead of following holy texts which say they were created only for one role in life and are of lesser value than others, now they learn about a creator who made them equal and truly free. This mental change impacts on their behaviour as they attempt new careers or fight for dignity by embracing their legal rights.”

This growth in confidence has, however, set those with a vested interest in preserving the status quo on a collision course with reformers. “Just 7% of the population rules the majority of India,” says Moses Vattipalli. “When the 93% gain empowerment, the minority fear they will lose everything.”

Realising the threat, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindu heartlands of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu introduced laws to severely restrict conversions, while others, including the state of Gujarat, have attempted to reclassify other faiths and bring them into the fold of Hinduism.

“When the small number of fundamentalist Hindus who want to rule all India and continue to oppress Dalits saw these conversions to Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, they feared they were losing manpower and growing weaker,” says Vattipalli, himself a convert to Christianity. “They realised that soon they would become the minority and said that the other three religions were in fact branches of Hinduism.”

But that assertion met with little sympathy. “The other religions said no, we are not part of Hinduism so long as there is the caste system,’” says Vattipalli.

As their strength has increased, Dalit leaders and support groups have taken their battle further afield to help shift domestic policy.

“The Dalit movement is at a turning point in history,” says D’souza. “Most Westerners have never heard of Ambedkar, Phule, or Periyar, who were great Dalit leaders and writers. But since 2000, influential bodies such as the United Nations, the US Congress, the UK parliament have issued statements condemning caste discrimination. We are gaining momentum. We are gaining recognition that caste is similar to apartheid and deserves the involvement of the international community.”

Unsurprisingly, the talk over lunch at the wedding in Karimnagar is dominated by the topic of change. But any transition from such deeply entrenched positions may prove painful. If the caste system were to be abolished folowing next year’s crucial elections then, according to Vattipalli: “There may be clashes with Hindu fundamentalists because the Hindu scriptures are everything for them.”

His words seem to be have been born out after recent conflict in the states of Orissa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. Trouble in Orissa alone left 13,000 people without homes when Anti-Christian violence flared up after local Hindus accused Christian Dalits of murdering a controversial holy man. Claims of forced conversions were also levelled at the Christians. (Both allegations have been vehemently denied). During the most recent clashes, one Christian woman was left dead and scores of others were injured.

So far the outbreaks have been relatively contained, given the size and population of the country, but Moses Vattipalli fears that Dalit empowerment may prompt reprisals.

“Dalits will be angry because of injustices and oppression spread over the last 3000 years,” he warns. “There could be bloodshed, even civil war.”

But Dalit campaigner D’souza takes a different view. “Of course, any group of people that has been oppressed for thousands of years is tempted to take revenge, but I’m confident that Dalit leaders will follow the example of Gandhi and, even more so, BR Ambedkar,” he says. “They will respond with a firm but peaceful defence of their rights and human dignity.”

Posted on: October 13, 2008

 


Where Bibles are Burnt

Click here for the video report

The Indian state of Orissa, in the east of the country, is the theatre of a religious war that few people talk about, the traditional religious flashpoint in the country being between Hindus and Muslims.

But FRANCE 24’s reporting team came here to hear the horrific stories of people who say they are the victims of a new kind of profound religious bigotry. The hatred stems from the extremist teachings of a Hindu guru named Swami Laxmananda Sarazwahti. Since his murder in August, attacks on Christians have multiplied. Sarazwahti claimed that Christians, backed by the USA and Europe, were trying to take over India. Extremist Hindus blame Christians for the guru’s murder. These Hindus and Christians have lived side by side for 20 years, but due to the poisonous words of Sarazwahti and the fervour of his followers, violence soon followed his death. His organization, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, lives on and Indians who have converted to Christianity are especially targeted. Christians in Orissa have seen their churches vandalised and, their villages razed to the ground; 32 people have been killed. Some have even been burnt alive. Most of these Christians have left their ruined villages altogether and have gone to refugee camps for shelter. But they do not feel safe there, and for good reason: Hindus armed with sticks and knives have been trying to steal their food.

In this climate of fear, conversions to Hinduism are on the rise. Some say the violence can be traced back to the nationalist Hindu party BJP coming to power in 2000. They say the BJP is orchestrating and encouraging the violence. The situation is unlikely to improve soon, since the BJP is hoping for a third mandate in elections in Orissa early next year.

Reprinted by permission FRANCE 24

Posted on: October 9, 2008

 


Khairlanji Dalit Murders: 6 Get Death Sentence

Original article from Deccan Herald.

Ending intense nationwide speculation, the trial court here on 24 September 2008 slapped death sentence on six of the eight convicts in the sensational Khairlanji Dalit murder case while ordering life imprisonment for the remaining two.

The six convicts found guilty of brutally murdering four members of a Dalit family in Khairlanji village of Maharashtra’s Bhandara district are Sakru Mahagu Binjewar, Shatrughan Issam Dhande, Vishwanath Hagru Dhande, Ramu Mangru Dhande, Jagdish Ratan Mandlekar and Prabhakar Jaswant Mandlekar. The two sentenced for life imprisonment are Shishupal Vishwanath Dhande and Gopal Sakru Binjewar.

A frenzied mob of about 50 villagers attacked the house of Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, a Dalit farmer 29 September 2006 evening and lynched four members of his family including his wife Surekha, young daughter Priyanka and two sons Sudhir and Roshan.

While the Central Bureau of Investigation handling the case had filed the charge-sheet only against 11 of the original 47 accused and discharged 36, the court had acquitted Purushottam Titirmare, Mahipal Dhande and Dharampal Dhande in its ruling 15 September 2008. The court had also dropped the charges of atrocity and conspiracy against the accused.

On 20 September 2008 first ad hoc sessions judge SS Dass had heard the arguments on the quantum of sentence from both sides in which special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had demanded death sentence for all eight convicts for the ‘frozen blooded’ murder while defence lawyers Sudip Jaiswal and Neeraj Khandewale had pleaded for leniency in view of the convicts’ clean past record.

While Khandewale and Jaiswal said they would challenge the verdict in the appellate court, the reaction of Nikam could not be immediately known.

Find out more information about the Khairlanji murders.

Posted on: October 8, 2008

 


Khairlanji Ruling is Not Fair to Dalits

Original article from Times of India.

Many Dalits across the state are expressing unhappiness with the Khairlanji verdict, with several of them saying the charges made under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should have been upheld.

Republican Party of India (Kawade) chief Jogendra Kawade said, “I am really unhappy and unsatisfied with the judgement. One must not comment on the judiciary, but I feel that the judgement is not fair to the Dalits. I cannot understand why none of the accused could be punished under the atrocities act. We feel that the government is supporting casteist forces and now they must set up a judicial commission like the Srikrishna Commission to probe this incident.” Kawade also said Dalits must arm themselves for self-protection in cases where the government fails.

While IAS and IPS officers chose to stay silent, finance wizard and Pune university vice-chancellor Narendra Jadhav demanded stringent punishment for the accused.

A Dalit activist and assistant professor of TISS, Shailesh Darokar, said, “The CBI and police had arrested 34 people and just 11 were charge-sheeted. The court has acquitted three people. I hope they punish the rest with a death sentence or a life imprisonment.”

Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil has tried to soothe Dalit tempers and said the government would ask the CBI to seek legal opinion and challenge the acquittal of the three accused. “We will demand stern punishments for the accused,” he said.

MPCC general secretary Nitin Rau, who is a Dalit MLA from Nagpur, said he had been flooded with angry calls. “The court has struck down the charges under the atrocities act. My followers are repeatedly asking me why the Act was formulated. Besides, I am also surprised that three people were acquitted. During the debate it was also said Bhaiyalal Bhotmange’s daughter was not molested. If she was not molested, why were her clothes removed. We are not happy with the verdict. I am unhappy,” Rau said.

Rajendra Gavai of the RPI (Gavai) said if the police had been prompt, alert and cautious, all 11 people would have been proved guilty and evidence of rape and atrocity against SC/ST would have been also obtained.

Find out more information about the Khairlanji Murders.

Posted on: October 7, 2008

 


India’s Anti-Christian Violence Unparalleled Among World Democracies

For Immediate Release

Orissa violence continues unabated and enters seventh week. Despite Supreme Court ruling, police neglect duties.

NEW DELHI – October 4, 2008 – Despite the deployment of thousands of central and state law enforcement troops, the violence in Orissa continues to inflict daily casualties and massive damage to Christian properties.

Rev. Madhu Chandra, All India Christian Council (aicc) Regional Secretary, said, “The death tolls are climbing, but less than a hundred are confirmed. Perhaps this is why the Orissa attacks haven’t gained international attention the worst violation of the freedom of religion in any democracy in recent history. What most people don’t realize is the goal of the attackers is to inspire fear. The attackers believe India is only for Hindus and their stated purpose is to convert people to Hinduism or force them to leave. To accomplish this, they only need to kill one or two people in each village or church. This is clearly terrorism and ethnic cleansing, but few Indian leaders are admitting it.” Most of the victims are Dalits, formerly known as untouchables, from a tribe called Pano.

Dr. Joseph D’souza, aicc president, said, “The events of the last month, not only the anti-Christian attacks but the negligence of government, would be sad if it happened in a dictatorship or a totalitarian regime. The fact that it’s happening in the world’s largest democracy makes it infinitely sadder.”

Some police, mostly in rural areas, are neglecting their duties. For example, a Roman Catholic nun was raped amidst mob violence on Aug. 25, 2008, in Kanjemandi village between Raikia and Balliguda, Kandhamal District, Orissa. A medical examination of the nun conducted that night at the Balliguda Hospital confirmed rape. Both the victim and a priest, who tried to defend her and was severely beaten, tried to file cases in the Nuagaon police station. Their “First Information Report” (FIR) was rejected. Eventually, the same FIR was accepted at the Balliguda police station. But, in spite of numerous eye witnesses, police didn’t investigate until 38 days after the attack and made four arrests yesterday.
India’s Supreme Court said on Aug. 8, 2008 that any police officer who turns away a person without registering his or her complaint could face contempt of court charges and imprisonment (see “Cops understand only crack of whip, says Supreme Court” by Dhananjay Mahapatra, Times of India, Aug. 9, 2008). Justice B.N. Agarwal and Justice G.S. Singhvi instructed victims to appeal to their local chief judicial magistrate or the chief metropolitan magistrate. Ironically, the decision was scheduled for review on Aug. 25th, the same day as the attack on the nun.

“We demand that the officials in Orissa follow the law. We know multiple cases where Christians have tried to file cases with police after being attacked and the police turned them away. Police say they are overwhelmed and don’t have time to file cases or investigate since they must focus on maintaining order. But surely they realize that, unless crimes are promptly punished, the perpetrators are indirectly encouraged to continue their crimes. Justice is being denied to hundreds of victims,” said Chandra.

There has been no news about a second rape case. A young nun of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Roman Catholic diocese working at Jan Vikas Kendra, a social service centre near Nuagaon, was reportedly gang raped by mobs on Aug. 24, 2008.

Similar violence lasted about a week over Christmas 2007. Some are calling it “Christian-Hindu clashes” but media reports and aicc Orissa state leaders confirm that Christians are the overwhelming victims and are not instigating attacks. There are scattered reports of Christians firing guns in self-defense. The current violence is entering its seventh week since it began on Aug. 23, 2008 after the killing of a controversial swami by unknown assailants. Extremist groups blamed Christians for the murder.

The violence spread to at least ten other states and has affected hundreds of churches and thousands of Indian Christians. Within Orissa, the violence spread to almost half of the districts, and then was contained to Kandhamal District. But now attacks are spreading again with incidents reported in Gajapati and Boudh districts in the last few days.

Other examples of recent violence include:
Sept. 26th – G. Udayagiri, Kandhamal District: A young Christian man named Rajesh Digal was on his way home from Chennai. While walking with his Hindu friend, they were attacked. The Hindu man was stabbed but escaped. Rajesh was buried alive.
Sept. 30th – Rudangia, Kandhamal District: About 60 houses of Christians were burned in the morning, and one Christian lady was shot and killed while seven others were injured.
Oct. 2nd – Sindhipakali, Kandhamal District: At 8 p.m., mobs attacked the village and set Christian houses on fire. They stabbed and killed a father and his teenage son in 9th standard (grade). Both were Dalit Christians.

Across Orissa, aicc leaders have reliable reports of 315 villages damaged, 4,640 Christian houses burnt, 53,000 Christians homeless, 57 people killed including at least 2 pastors, 10 priests/pastors/nuns seriously injured, 18,000 Christians injured, 2 nuns gang-raped, 149 churches destroyed, 13 Christian schools and colleges damaged.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders

For more information, contact:
Madhu Chandra, aicc Regional Secretary, New Delhi
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
 

Posted on: October 4, 2008

 


India"s Civil Society Defends Christians in New Delhi Rally

About 15,000 people joined Peace & Solidarity Rally on International Day of Non-Violence. “Killers of Mahatma Gandhi are the same killers of Christians in India,” said Swami Agnivesh. Union Minister Lalu Prasad promised to bring up the anti-Christian violence in Parliament. Over 50,000 homeless Dalit & Tribal Christians in Orissa demanded refugee status from UNHCR

imageNEW DELHI – October 2, 2008 – About 15,000 Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and Buddhists including politicians and civil society leaders joined the Peace & Solidarity Rally on the International Day of Non-Violence which falls on the 139th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, India’s ‘Father of the Nation’. The protest highlighted recent anti-Christian violence in India.

Addressing the rally, Swami Agnivesh said, “The very killers of Mahatma Gandhi are the same killers and abusers of Christians in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of the country. The killers – the Hindutva fascists – do not represent the peace loving Hindu society. Rather they are damaging the Sanatam Dharma [Hindu way of life].”

India’s Union Minister of Railways, Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav, broke his silence over anti-Christian violence across India. Addressing the rally, he said, “I will personally meet the Prime Minister and discuss the implementation of Article 355. I will also bring up the anti-Christian violence in Parliament and debate the hatred of Hindutva forces.” Article 355 of India’s Constitution allows the central government to warn a state government to stop internal disturbances or face federal action and possible dismissal.

In the morning, the Chief Minister of Delhi, Mrs. Sheila Dixit, showed her solidarity and expressed concern and pain over the anti-Christian violence. She condemned the Hindu fanatics who are responsible for widespread crimes and causing damage to properties owned by the Christian minority.

Other dignitaries who participated in the rally included Mr. Oscar Fernandez, Union Minister of Labor; Mrs. Teesta Setalvad, General Secretary of Mumbai-based Citizens For Justice & Peace; Dr. Udit Raj, Chairman, All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste / Scheduled Tribe Organisations; Dr. Valson Thampu, Principal of the prestigious St. Stephen’s College of New Delhi; Mr. Sitaram Yechury, senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist); Ms. Shabnam Hashmi, senior leader of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy). There were additional speakers from Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu communities.

The rally concluded seven days of a “Sit-in Protest” organized by the Christians of Delhi and the NCR (National Capital Region). Major contributors included the Delhi Federation of Catholics and the All India Christian Council (aicc). Beginning on Sept. 26, 2008 at 10 a.m and ending today at 6 p.m., there was 152 hours of constant prayer and protest at Jantar Mantar – a park in the center of New Delhi – to express solidarity with victims. Most of the victims are Dalits, formerly called untouchables and officially categorized as Scheduled Castes by India’s government.

Rally participants shouted “Ban Terrorists, Ban Bajrang Dal,” “Ban Vishwa Hindu Parishad,” and “Ban Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh” as they marched along a 5 km route from Jantar Mantar to Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Since the surge in violence beginning in rural Orissa on Aug. 23, 2008 after the murder of a controversial Hindu swami by unknown assailants, civil society groups, human rights activists, and various religious leaders have increasingly called for these Hindutva fundamentalist groups to be banned as terrorists.

Yesterday, a delegation led by noted film maker Mahesh Bhatt along with Christian victims from Orissa met the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in New Delhi and demanded refugee status for over 50,000 homeless Christians. The delegation included Dr. Abraham Mathai from the Indian Christian Voice and Dr. John Dayal, aicc Secretary General.

The toll of violence against Christians from Aug. 23 to Oct. 2, 2008:
BIHAR: 1 Church damaged; CHHATTISGARH: 4 Nuns assaulted; JHARKHAND: 1 Church attacked; KARNATAKA: 4 (of 29) Districts affected, 35 Churches damaged or destroyed, 20 Nuns and women injured by police; KERALA: 4 Churches damaged; MADHYA PRADESH: 4 Churches destroyed or damaged and 4 schools vandalized; NEW DELHI: 2 Churches damaged; ORISSA: 14 (of 30) Districts affected, 315 Villages damaged, 4,640 Houses burnt, 53,000 Homeless, 57 People killed including at least 2 pastors, 10 Priests/Pastors/Nuns injured, 18,000 Men, women, children injured, 2 Women gang-raped, 149 Churches destroyed, 13 Schools and colleges damaged; PUNJAB: 3 Christians harassed and imprisoned by police on false charges; TAMIL NADU: 4 Churches damaged; UTTAR PRADESH: 3 Pastors and a pastor’s wife beaten; and UTTARAKHAND: 2 Christians murdered.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For immediate release

Posted on: October 2, 2008

 


Flood victims face caste discrimination

Original article from BBC News.

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Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless after floods hit the Indian state of Bihar last month. Some of the victims face the additional hardships that come from being members of the low caste dalit community. Rajan Khosla of the charity Christian Aid has been meeting some of them in the village of Mirzawaa, where 500 families live in temporary shelters.

“Let me be born again as an animal rather than as a harijan (dalit). We face more humiliation than they,” says Tetar Rishidev, a dalit from Mirzawaa village, in the district of Supaul.

After the floods in Bihar millions of people lost their homes, belongings and even family members. But for the dalits of Bihar there is further misery: the caste system.

In Mirzawaa village, Sakal Sadah is a dalit.

Today – unusually – he is happy. There is a food distribution and his family will get food. His children have been surviving on some leftover rice once in a day.

Sakal Sadah is a landless agriculture labourer and earns about 40 rupees (80 cents) for a 12-hour day.

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Now he’s worried: “Where will I get work now? Everywhere is water. No one is going to employ me, I am a harijan.”

Hundreds of dalit families are in the same situation as Sakal: they have been hardest hit by the Bihar floods.

In this emergency, when everyone should be provided with food, certain groups are denied access.

The plight of these communities in remote, rural areas is very serious – especially in the feudal state of Bihar.

They cling to the little they have. Many families have left behind one male member to keep an eye on their house and belongings.

Segregated society

Asdev Sadah, an elderly dalit, stayed behind to guard the house of his upper caste employer.

“I used to work in their fields,” he said.

“They wanted me to watch their house and belongings. I have to listen to them. They will provide my family food and work once they come back.

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“I have nothing left in my house – because it was made of mud it has already collapsed. My malik’s (employer’s) house is strong and they have stuff kept inside.”

It seems a strange sort of society where an old man stays back, without food or shelter, taking numerous risks to guard the house of his feudal lord.

But Asdev no doubt knows full well that in this segregated society, there is no other support system for him and his family.

The relief camp in Sabela School in Madhepura is run by one of Christian Aid’s partner organisations who are doing all they can to help.

It was set up because organisers knew there were many dalit villages in the area.

I met Jamuna Devi and Puliya Musamaar here.

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They told me that they were not allowed to use the hand pump to get water as it belonged to upper caste people.

The same upper caste people also asked the camp organisers to move displaced people away because as dalits they would contaminate the entire place. Their request was refused.

“When will people understand we are also human beings?” Puliya asked. “We need food and water, our children also feel hungry.”

I asked one of the aid agencies running another relief camp whether they would have a dalit cook.

Their response was negative. They felt that not everyone would eat food cooked by dalits.

Christian Aid and its partner organisations are including two dalits in the cooking teams in the relief camps they run – thus ensuring that they are not excluded.

Everyone needs food in this crisis situation, so why should people like Sakal Sadah, Jamuna Devi and Puliya Musamaar be so discriminated against?

And if Asdev Sadah can work in the fields and loyally guard the house of his higher-caste employee, then why people should refuse to eat food cooked by them?

We have to challenge the system. I know the problem is gigantic. But efforts need to be made. Each one of us has to make a step forward.

Another aid agency working in this area assured me that they tried to treat displaced people equally.

The critical point is that while equality may be an accepted philosophy it can only happen once people also agree in practice to be equals.

Equality means that all people should get food and their rights and dignity are respected.

But flooding and discrimination seem to have taken those rights away.

Posted on: September 12, 2008

 


United States Legislators Concerned about Violence Targeting Christians in Orissa

For immediate release

HYDERABAD – September 6, 2008 – Seven United States members of the House of Representatives sent a letter on Sept. 4, 2008, to India’s Ambassador to the U.S., Ronen Sen, expressing concern about attacks on Christians in Orissa state. Also, on Sept. 3, 2008, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom called for action to stop the violence and accountability within India.

There are still sporadic reports of anti-Christian attacks from the eastern state of Orissa. The violence has entered its 15th day despite the emergency deployment of Central law enforcement troops. Attacks began on Aug. 23, 2008, after the murder of a controversial Hindu swami by unknown assailants.

Dr. Joseph D’souza, President of the All India Christian Council (aicc) said, “The global community is alarmed at the breakdown of law and order in Orissa, and rightly so. The widespread, continuing attacks on innocent Christians and violations of their human rights is unprecedented in India’s history. We welcome the concern of US politicians and all global citizens who believe in freedom of religion. As a proud Indian, I’m grieved that our democratic ideals are being hijacked by religious extremists.”

The seven American legislators were: Trent Franks, Chris Smith, Bill Sali, Robert Aderholt, Bob Inglis, Mark Souder, and Joseph R. Pitts. Excerpts of the letter: “We unequivocally condemn the murder of the Swami, yet we are also appalled to see how mob violence has taken root so quickly once again… The reports of brutal killings and the widespread destruction of property…are extremely disturbing and we strongly urge the Government of India to maintain a strong security presence to guarantee the protection of vulnerable communities which are facing the immediate risk of violence and death. …We urge the Government of India to take immediate steps to investigate these events and bring justice for the victims of the violence. In order to prevent future attacks, it is imperative that the government also address the climate fostering these attacks. India, with its great religious diversity, faces considerable challenges with communalism, but a democratic government must work to ensure the security and freedom of all its citizens.”

Past international condemnation includes last week’s statement by the Italian government and the Vatican as well as a joint letter by Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and Dalit Freedom Network to the U.K. Foreign Secretary, U.S. Secretary of State, French Foreign Minister, and European Commissioner for External Relations. “We also welcome the condemnation of the riots by civil society Hindu leaders like Swami Agnivesh, President of the World Council of Arya Samaj, and Mahesh Bhatt, noted Bollywood film producer, and others,” said D’souza. On Friday, Sept. 5, 2008, Swami Agnivesh returned from a fact finding trip to Orissa and told reporters in Delhi that the attacks on Christians were “very similar” to the 2002 violence against Muslims in Gujarat.

On Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008, India’s Supreme Court instructed the Orissa government to control the violence, and the Orissa authorities promised to halt a procession by the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council) on Sept. 7, 2008. However, VHP leaders told Indian journalist they still planned to hold the “Shraad Yatra” on the 16th day of the swami’s death, a traditional funeral rite performed by Hindu sadhus. Previously, Christian leaders from all major denominations and church networks called for a day of prayer and fasting across India on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008.

The Supreme Court was hearing a case filed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar seeking a Central government investigation into the riots. The Central government publicly approved the idea, but the Orissa state government must initiate a request for the probe and has, so far, declined. The only other way to start an investigation is through a court order.

On Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008, Minister of Home Affairs Shivraj Patil visited the epicenter of the violence, Kandhamal District, and promised compensation for the victims.
Lakshmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu swami and VHP leader, was killed by unknown assailants on Aug. 23, 2008. VHP leaders publicly blamed Christians and mobs attacked Christians in at least 12 of 30 districts in the eastern state of Orissa. Christian leaders reported, as of Sept. 3, 2008, at least 4,014 Christian homes destroyed in 300 villages, an estimated 50,000 people displaced, two pastors and 24 other Christians killed, one nun gang raped, and over a hundred churches burned. See dedicated webpage at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2332/45/

From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.
The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

Posted on: September 9, 2008

 


Citizen’s Delegation meets President of India; Demands Central Government Action on Orissa

New Delhi, September 1, 2008, 18:25 hrs

A Citizen’s Delegation met President Pratibha Patil on Monday morning calling upon her to enforce Article 355 of the Constitution of India on Orissa so that the Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik administration takes adequate measures to protect Christians in the state from Hindutva violence.

The best legal opinion available. according to the delegation, was Article 355 which calls for imposition of President’s rule and New Delhi takes over reins of power. Article 355 reminds both New Delhi and state governments of their duties to protect States against internal disturbance and should be brought into force now.

The delegation reminded the President that the violence that has continued against Christians in Orissa from 23rd August till today justifies the use of this Article. The violence far exceeds that of Christians 2007, the delegation told the President, reminding her that she had a big role to play at this juncture.

In fact, violence has spilled out of Orissa into neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. In Orissa, it is not confined to Kandhamal but has affected other districts. In Kandhamal, fifty thousand people are hiding in forests or are in a few refugee camps, hiding from murderous gangs seeking to kill them or convert them to Hinduism, Over 4,000 houses have been completely destroyed apart from close to a hundred small and big churches which have been torched.

(Picture: Delegation meeting the President of India, Sep 1, 2008) image

The Citizen’s Delegation, the first such to meet the President, was led by film maker Mahesh Bhatt , Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind President Maulana Mahmood Madani, MP, and Orissa Archbishop Raphael Cheenath. National Integration Council member Dr. John Dayal, Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Maharashtra Government State Minorities Commission vice chairman Dr. Abraham Mathai, Jamiat leader Mohd Faruqi, All India Christian Council regional secretary Rev. Madhu Chandra, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese Federation President Adv. Jenis Francis and Mumbai’s Catholic Social Forum secretary general Joseph Dias were the other members.

The President gave the delegation a patient hearing and said she would have their demand for Article 355 examined. She said the government had briefed her on steps which had already been taken. Mr. Bhatt told the President that the State government was in a coma; its police totally complicit in the violence and the Sangh Parivar was running havoc.

Maulana Madani said it was a matter of security of India’s minorities. It was India’s concern for its minorities that had brought it respect internationally, and it was the object of deep concern globally. Archbishop Cheenath, Dr John Dayal and Dr Mathai briefed the President in detail about the Sangh violence in the state which has continued after the murder of the VHP vice President Lakshmanananda Saraswati.

Note: Attached were excerpts from letter to the President of India. See: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2357/47/

Following are excerpts from the Memorandum Citizen’s Memorandum to the President of India:

Letter to the President of India from Citizen’s Delegation
 
Following are excerpts from the Citizen’s Memorandum to the President of India:

September 1, 2008
Shrimati Pratibha Patil
The President of India

Your Excellency,

You are aware of the still continuing carnage against the Christian community, mostly Dalits and Tribals, in the Kandhamal district of Orissa and in several other districts including the state capital of Bhubaneswar since 23rd August 2003 following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, reportedly by Maoist groups who have been operating in the state for some time. The violence has now spread to some other states, especially Madhya Pradesh.

Nine months after attacks in Kandhamal District on Christians of Dalit, Hill peoples and Tribal ethnicity celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we are deeply saddened by a repeat of the violence in the month of India’s Independence. The Christmas 2007 attacks claimed the lives of at least four Christians, and we verified the destruction of at least 105 churches and 730 Christian homes. The current spate of violence will exceed these totals as it continues to spread into other districts. Our estimate from Ground Zero is of close to two dozen people dead, one a Hindu girl burnt to death working for a Christian orphanage, a Nun has been gang raped, religious men and women personnel humiliated, beaten, tortured, some close to death, while policemen have looked on, or have been absent. We appeal for the restoration of law and order. But the root cause must also be addressed.

We, the secular civil society community, perceive that the great nation of India is at a tipping point. The groups, which favour a “Hindu Rashtra”, have made Orissa their laboratory, as they earlier did Gujarat. The so-called saffronisation of the state has been the subject of well-documented academic and socio-political studies. We entreat you, as President of the Republic, to enforce the rule of law upon Sangh Parivar organisations which blatantly flaunt their divisive agenda. Specifically, we call upon you to bring the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, and Bajrang Dal under the rule of law.

As Orissa authorities have repeatedly said there was ample circumstantial evidence of Maoist involvement in the killing of VHP leader Lakshmananada Saraswati and four others on August 23rd. Additionally, someone who identified himself as Azad, a leader of Maoist outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army claim responsibility for the killing as Times of India carries the news on August 30 referring to an interview with a leading Oriya daily on August 29.[1]

Yet Praveen Togadia, VHP general secretary, told an international journalist on August 27, “It is clear that the church killed the Swami.”[2] Gouri Prasad Rath, Orissa state VHP secretary, said, “This attack is the handiwork of the Christians.”[3] Subhash Chavan, national co-convener of the Bajrang Dal, said, “The police are trying to hide the truth by blaming the Maoists.”[4] An unnamed RSS spokesperson said, “This is an attack by the agents of Christian missionaries, whose attempts at forcible conversions the Swamiji countered.”[5] RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav told CNN IBN on Tuesday night6 that Christians were behind the murders. Perhaps based on a media report7, Madhav The final word lay with RSS supreme Kupahalli Sudershan who in a Press Statement faxed to the Media called the late VHP vice president a martyr for “stopping Christians from carrying on coversions.”

These types of irresponsible statements must be met with the full force of the law. They are all culpable for penal action under IPC 295A for the crime of creating enmity between communities and religions. This would benefit not only Orissa, but the nation.

We sincerely wish Swami Saraswati was not murdered and he still might be alive if the state government had followed the recommendations of the National Commission for Minorities. The NCM urged the authorities to examine the speeches of Swami Lakshmananada to determine whether they amount to incitement to violence.[8] [9] We are confident that, if this had been done, the swami would have been jailed and protected from coming to any harm.

Your Excellency, the violence in Orissa continues without adequate police forces to stop mobs which break curfew and harm innocent civilians, chasing our fellow countrymen and women like animals in the forests where they have taken refuge since August 24. Today the irresponsible leaders of hardliner Hindu nationalist groups are damaging our great democracy and secularism of the nation.

We request you to order the Union Government and the State Administration to take legal action against the irresponsible organisations which called the bundh on Monday, Aug. 25, 2008 and have passively watched their members wreak havoc. They must, of course, fully investigate the murder of the VHP vice president.

This is to request you to use your powers as President of India, and the tremendous force of your good offices, to impress on the Central Government to rush adequate Union forces, including contingents of the Armed Forces if required, to restore law and order and governance in the Kandhamal region.

The consequences of any further delay, we the secular civil society fear, may be catastrophic for the small Christian community in the State in particular, for peace in Orissa in general, and for the fair name of India as a secular country

Yours Sincerely and Most Respectfully,

[The delegation included: Bollywood film producer Mahesh Bhatt, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind President Maulana Mahmood Madani, MP, Orissa Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, National Integration Council member Dr. John Dayal, Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Maharashtra Government State Minorities Commission vice chairman Dr. Abraham Mathai, Jamiat leader Mohd Faruqi, All India Christian Council regional secretary Rev. Madhu Chandra, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese Federation President Adv. Jenis Francis, and Mumbai’s Catholic Social Forum secretary general Joseph Dias]

[1] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Maoists_claim_Orissa_killing/articleshow/3423908.cms
[2] “Indian state erupts in violence after Hindu shot”, by Saeed Ahmed, CNN, Aug. 27, 2008.
[3] “Orissa on edge, VHP scoffs at Maoist theory”, see above
[4] “Orissa tragedy takes a backseat, hunt starts for scapegoat”, by Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times, Aug. 25, 2008.
[5] “Orissa: Bandh-related violence claims 9,” by Krishnakumar P., Rediff.com, Aug. 26, 2008.
[6] “Blind Faith? Fragile Peace Blown to Bits”, CNN-IBN debate, Aug. 26, 2008, 10 p.m. IST.
[7] “Widespread anger in Kandhamal”, The Pioneer, Aug. 25, 2008.
[8] “This mischievous [VHP & Sangh Parivar anti-conversion] campaign has created an atmosphere of prejudice and suspicion against the Christian community and Christian priests and organizations. The role of the Sangh Parivar activists and the anti-conversion campaign in fomenting organized violence against the Christian Community deserves close scrutiny.” From “Report of the NCM visit to Orissa, 6-8 January 2008”, http://ncm.nic.in/pdf/orissa%20report.pdf.
[9] “The recommendation made by the NCM team that visited Orissa in January, 2008 that the State Government must look into the speeches of Swami Lakshmanananda to determine whether they amount to incitement to violence does not appear to have been acted upon.” From “Report on the Visit of the Vice Chairperson, NCM to Orissa, 21-24 April 2008”, http://ncm.nic.in/pdf/VC%20Tour%20Report%20of%20Orissa.pdf.
 
The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.
 
Released by

The All India Christian Council
Madhu Chandra
Regional Secretary, New Delhi

Posted on: September 2, 2008

 


Even in flood, India’s `untouchables’ last rescued

Original article from the Associated Press by Gavin Rabinowitz.

In the two weeks since a monsoon-swollen river burst its banks, ancient prejudices have run just as deep as the floodwaters. India’s “untouchables” are the last to be rescued — if at all — from a deluge that has killed dozens and made 1.2 million homeless.

Dalits, the social outcasts at the bottom of the Hindu caste ladder, have borne the brunt of the devastation as the rampaging Kosi River swamped hundreds of square miles in northern India after it overflowed and shifted its course dozens of miles to the east.

On Sunday, one Dalit, Mohan Parwan ran up and down a half destroyed bridge that has become the headquarters for rescue operations in this town near the border with Nepal, desperately scanning arriving boats for signs of his family.

Dozens came in but each time he was disappointed.

Parwan, 43, is from a Dalit village just 2 miles away but completely cut off by a deep lake created by the swirling waters. As the village headman, he was put on the first rescue boat that came and was promised his wife, four children and the rest of the community would follow.

“It’s been six days and since then no boat has come from the village,” he said, tears welling in is eyes.

Dalits have long been shunned, holding a status so low they are considered outside the complex caste system that is all pervasive in India, dividing people into hundreds of groups defined by livelihood, class and ethnicity.

Even India’s emergence as a global force — fueled by it’s economic growth and high-tech hubs — has failed to break down the barriers and stigmas that hold them down.

When it comes to rescue operations, it appears Dalits are at the bottom, too.

In Triveniganj, Dalits huddled together in a small group at the end of the bridge away from everyone else. They said rescuers were saving the upper castes and the rich first, leaving their people to suffer without food and clean water.

“We are 200 people on a roof for days. Two children fell in and drowned. No one is coming to help us,” said Kishore Ram, 22, who got out on one of the few boats to visit his village.

“The officials don’t listen to us little people. We can’t offer bribes and influence, I’m just a poor student,” Ram said.

Hearing about the flood, Prithvi Chand Baswan, a 38-year-old Dalit, rushed home from the neighboring state of Punjab where he works as a farm laborer, searching for his wife and six children, ages 3 to 12. Four miles from home, he was stopped by flooding.

“People from the village say they are sheltering in the temple, but I can’t get to them and they won’t send a boat for a Dalit village,” he said, holding his head in despair.

Ravindra Prasad Singh, a state government official coordinating rescue work in Triveniganj, about 875 miles east of New Delhi, the capital, denied that Dalits were being ignored.

“It’s ridiculous. They are lying,” he said, but he could not explain why only a single boat of Dalits had come in during all of Sunday afternoon even though they make up more than half the region’s people.

On Monday, other government officials acknowledged there was a serious problem with Dalits being ignored, but said they were working to fix it.

“We are aware of these complaints,” said Prataya Amrit, a top disaster management official in Bihar state, the scene of the flooding.

Amrit said greater resources were being sent to Dalit majority areas like Triveniganj and army and navy officers were now handling rescues to ensure less abuses.

The military “presence will instill a lot of confidence,” he said. “In an operation of this magnitude you can’t distinguish between rich and poor.”

Officials also commandeered private boats in an effort to prevent richer and higher castes from monopolizing the vessels.

India’s treatment of Dalits is a long and bitter history of good intentions and little progress.

Caste discrimination has been outlawed for more than a half century, and a quota system was established with the aim of giving Dalits a fair share of government jobs and places in schools. But their plight remains dire.

Most Dalits, like Parwan, live in destitute villages of rickety mud and thatch huts with no electricity or running water, kept down by ancient prejudice and caste-based politics.

In much of rural India, people from lower castes are barred from using upper-caste drinking wells, kept out of temples and denied spots in village. Ignoring the prohibitions is often met with violence.

In times of calamity, their situation is no better.

“Caste hierarchy is a source of deep emotions in India. In the face of these emotions it is difficult for the law or the army to do anything,” said Chandrabhan Prasad, a New Delhi-based caste expert. “The rescuers have their caste loyalty and will try rescue their own first.”

Faced with indifference and even hostility from many officials, one group of Dalits gave up waiting for help and waded into the neck-deep water in search of their kin.

“What can we do?” Parwan said, after being angrily shooed away by Singh for again asking to be given a boat to help his village.

“I’m just a Harijan,” Parwan added, using a euphemism for Dalits coined by Indian pacifist icon Mohandas K. Gandhi. It means “child of God.”

Posted on: September 1, 2008

 


Communal violence is sequel to Dalit assertion

Original article from the Deccan Herald by R Akhileshwari, DH News Service, Hyderabad.

The violence in Orissa against Christians is not communal as it is being generally portrayed, rather it is against the perceived empowerment of the Dalits, according to human rights activists.

Speaking to Deccan Herald on phone from the affected areas, the AP-based activists explained that the anger against the Dalits and Tribals, who have been the main targets of Hindu fundamentalist groups and organisations, was against the increasing empowerment of the traditionally oppressed people.

“The Church is seen as the instrument of this change and is therefore being targeted,” said Father Thomas Palliphanem of the A.P based People’s Action for Rural Awakening.

Dalit assertion that is visible in many ways like wearing better clothes and speaking English language is not to the liking of the entrenched merchant-fringe Hindu fundamentalist groups who have aligned themselves to ‘teach a lesson’ to the Dalits, according to the activists.

Economic Reason:

Dr Sirivella Prasad, general secretary of the National Dalit Movement for Justice who has been visiting the affected areas since last December when the attacks began, said the visible economic improvement in the status of Dalits and Adivasi families was not to the liking of the upper castes.

For instance, in Brahmanigam village in Kandhamal district where the attacks started last December, the first and foremost targets of the attackers were the shops belonging to a group of young men who formed “Ambedkar Vanijya Sangh”.

“The violence then slowly spread to institutions which are supporting this process of empowerment which is mainly the Church,” said Dr. Prasad.

In another village, Barakama which like Brahmanigam has 90 per cent Christian population, the youth told the human rights activists that wearing “good clothes” and speaking English fluently was ‘unbearable’ for the Hindu upper castes. “By giving a communal colour to the attacks, everybody is comfortable,” Dr. Prasad observed.

Meanwhile, 5000-odd Christian schools and colleges in Andhra Pradesh were shut on Friday in protest against the attacks on Christians in Orissa.

According to the All India Christian Council here, about 50,000 Christian denominational institutions were closed in response to a joint call for by All India Christian Council, Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the Evangelical Fellowship of India and the National Council of Churches in India.

Christian leaders are also calling for a day’s prayer and fasting across India on the coming September 7.

Posted on: August 30, 2008

 


Massive rally in India’s capitol and nation-wide closure of Christian schools

For immediate release

New Delhi, August 29, 2008

Reports of attacks from the eastern state of Orissa are decreasing, but many rural villages remain cut off from communication and being attacked at night. Outside Orissa, the Indian Christian community engaged in several peaceful protest actions to highlight the breakdown of the rule of law and governance. After six days of rioting, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, broke his silence and called the violence a “national shame”.
 

“We are thankful that we did not receive any reports of new attacks last night. However, there are literally thousands of displaced Christians whose homes were destroyed in the mob violence. Hundreds more are afraid to return home,” said Rev. P.R. Parichha, All India Christian Council (aicc) Orissa state president. “The violence in towns and cities seems to be over, but the villages face the strong possibility of more attacks since security forces are spread thin. We still are requesting military intervention,” said Parichha.

Media reports said Orissa officials estimate 4,000 Christian families are homeless. The death toll, currently at 17, is expected to raise as troops secure rural areas. The violence, which at one point spread across 12 of 30 districts in the state, now seems to be contained to Kandhamal District, the epicenter of similar attacks during Christmas 2007.

In protest of the collapse of governance and the rule of law in Orissa, about 10,000 Christians rallied in New Delhi this morning and were joined by Muslims, Buddhists, and progressive Hindus. Protestors tried to march to Orissa Bhavan (the official state government guest house in the capitol), but police issued a localized curfew to stop the rally. Attendees were forced to regroup at the Teen Murti traffic circle, but eventually reached Orissa Bhavan.

Udit Raj, a major Dalit leader, and other non-Christian human rights activists clearly explained that the violence in Orissa is not because Christians are fraudulently converting people. That allegation is simply lie and hate propaganda.”

Civil society leaders suggested India needs an investigation into why Hindu nationalist organizations – who have converted tribals and Dalits in a major campaign – are not being held accountable under Orissa’s 1967 Freedom of Religion Act. “We must confront the fictional idea of “re-conversions”, created by Hindutva activists, which ignores the fact that these people’s ancestors were animists and not Hindus,” said Rev. Madhu Chandra, aicc Regional Secretary and a member of the rally’s organizing committee.

Also, an estimated 30,000 Christian schools across India closed their doors on Friday. The goal was to make millions of children – and their parents – aware of the evil of communal violence and the damage it is doing to the world’s largest democracy. Aicc and major church networks which called for the closure encouraged people to pray for victims as well as perpetrators. Much of the Indian press inaccurately reported that only Roman Catholic schools were closed.

Christian leaders are also calling for a day of prayer and fasting across India on September 7, 2008.

In the aftermath of the murder of a Hindu swami by unknown assailants on August 23, 2008, mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. Media reports and eye witness accounts from aicc leaders indicate thousands of Christian properties burnt, sexual assaults of nuns, and pastors killed in their homes. See dedicated webpage at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2332/45/

From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For more information, contact Sam Paul, aicc Secretary, Public Affairs, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), +91-9989697778

Release by

Madhu Chandra
Regional Secretary

Posted on: August 29, 2008

 


Unprecedented Anti-Christian Violence Spirals Out of Control in India

HYDERABAD, August 28, 2008, 23:15 hrs

For immediate release
 
Reports from eastern India of burning Christian homes, murdered pastors, and massive destruction of Christian property continued for a sixth day. All India Christian Council (aicc) leaders in Orissa state reported 17 Christians are dead and expect the figure to rise when communication is made with remote regions.

“Differences over religion cannot be blamed for these crimes. We are distressed at the defiance of law and order by Hindu fundamentalist leaders and their public comments which are spreading lies and hate. Their unpardonable excuse is that followers are uncontrollably angry about Christian conversions in the region,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, aicc President. “We are also deeply troubled by the state and central government’s inadequate response. The fact that identical attacks happened in the same area exactly nine months ago is unbelievable. What will convince authorities to protect human rights and enforce constitutional guarantees?”

Although some state authorities claimed there were no new attacks, the situation continues to spiral out of control, especially in rural villages. Yesterday police were given shoot on sight orders in Kandhamal District, the epicenter of the violence, because mobs were violating curfews. Also, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Prakash Jaiswal, was supposed to visit affected areas. But his trip was canceled due to security concerns. Aicc had reliable reports of increased violence in Gajapati District in the southern part of the state.

Today Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), and Dalit Freedom Network (DFN) sent joint letters to the U.K. Foreign Secretary, U.S. Secretary of State, French Foreign Minister, and European Commissioner for External Relations urging them to issue statements of concern about the anti-Christian attacks in Orissa. CSW and DFN are aicc partners in Britain and the USA, respectively. France currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Yesterday, in his afternoon address at Vatican Square, Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply saddened by the violence against India’s Christians. A senior Vatican official called the attacks “a sin against God and humanity” according to one newspaper.

A seven member inter-denominational delegation from the aicc Orissa state chapter met with the governor, Mr. Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, for about 30 minutes this afternoon. “We apprised him of the situation and requested emergency deployment of the army, compensation for the victims, rebuilding of houses and churches, construction of relief camps, and restoration of the rule of law,” said Rev. P.R. Parichha, aicc Orissa state president. This evening the aicc Secretary General was scheduled to meet Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the ruling Indian National Congress Party in Delhi.

The aicc is supporting the call from major Indian church networks to close all of India’s Christian schools on Friday, August 29, 2008. The groups want children – and parents – to learn about the situation in Orissa and realize that communal divisions are harmful for India. They have encouraged people to pray for victims as well as perpetrators. It is estimated that about 30,000 schools will close their doors across India.

Christian leaders are also calling for a day of prayer and fasting across India on September 7, 2008.

In the aftermath of the murder of a Hindu swami by unknown assailants on August 23, 2008, mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. On Monday, a 12 hour strike called by hardliner Hindu nationalist organizations resulted in the spread of violence. Media reports and eye witness accounts indicate thousands of Christian properties burnt, sexual assaults of nuns, and pastors killed in their homes. See dedicated webpage at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2332/45/

From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For more information, contact Sam Paul, aicc Secretary, Public Affairs, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), +91-9989697778
 
Release by
 
Madhu Chandra
Regional Secretary
9868184939

Posted on: August 28, 2008

 


Indian state erupts in violence after Hindu shot

Original article from CNN, by Saeed Ahmed.

image

The remote east Indian state of Orissa, historically a tinderbox of Hindu-Christian tensions, erupted in violence this week after gunmen killed a Hindu leader and mobs burned churches in retaliation.

Four days of communal clashes left at least nine people dead. Authorities have imposed a curfew and ordered security forces to shoot violators on sight.

Pope Benedict XVI “firmly condemned” the fighting and urged the state’s residents to “re-establish with the members of the various communities the peaceful cohabitation and the harmony that has always been the distinctive mark of the Indian society.”

The Hindu leader, Laxmananda Saraswati, and four others were killed Saturday in the Kandhamal district when up to 30 gunmen barged into a Hindu school and opened fire, Orissa’s chief minister’s office said.

Authorities have not definitively determined who killed Saraswati, but they detained five Christian people after the incident, said Sukanta Panda, spokesman for the chief minister.

The government said the killings may have been the work of Maoist rebels, but hardline Hindus blamed the Christian minority.

They took to the streets in anger, rampaging through predominantly Christian neighborhoods, ransacking shops and torching houses. They chopped down trees to block roads, making it difficult for police to reach trouble spots. Christian residents fought back.

By Wednesday, an eerie calm prevailed, but both Hindu and Christian leaders said they were bracing for the worst.

“The state is a mute spectator to the violence that has been unleashed in the Christian community,” Joseph D’Souza, president of the All India Christian Council, said Wednesday.

Amit Sharma of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) said Hindu people in the area had taken the death of the Swami (religious leader) “very seriously, and now they are going to pay them back.”

Orissa, on the east coast of India, is a poor state with a population of about 36.7 million: 94 percent are Hindu, with little more than 2 percent Christian.

However, for thousands, converting to another religion—such as Christianity or Islam—is the only way out of the confines of Hinduism’s centuries-old complex caste system.

The caste system dictates a Hindu’s lot in life, elevating some to positions as priests and labeling others as “untouchables.”

Some Hindu groups accuse missionaries of bribing or forcing Hindus into converting.

“There is no forcible conversion,” said D’Souza of the All India Christian Council. “This is nothing but pure political hate propaganda against the Christians when the root problem is, of course, caste oppression.”

The simmering anger sometimes boils over, with deadly consequences.

In 1999, a Hindu mob burned to death an Australian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two children while they slept in their car.

At Christmas, clashing groups killed four people and burned several churches in Kandhamal.

D’Souza said Saraswati “piloted” the Christmas communal violence and had carried out a “vicious campaign against the Christians.”

Sharma said missionaries were threatened by Saraswati’s growing influence.

“He was doing a good job of propagating the bright points of Hinduism, and the missionaries were not able to convert the tribal people as effectively as they were doing previously,” Sharma said. “So they decided to do away with him.”

Investigators, however, have raised the possibility that Maoists rebels may be to blame.

The rebels, who claim to be fighting for the poor and the dispossessed, have been battling the government in an insurgency that has resulted in thousands of casualties since the late 1960s.

However, Hindu groups insist Christians was behind Saraswati’s death.

“It is clear that the church killed the Swami,” said the Hindu council’s general secretary, Praveen Togadia. “The rest of what happened is something the government needs to investigate and tell the people of India.”

On Monday, Hindu hard-liners declared a general strike, prompting banks and markets to close across the state.

Mourners marched to a Christian orphanage and set it on fire. A 20-year-old woman who was teaching children burned to death, Panda said.

The next day, armed Hindus and Christians fired at each other, resulting in four deaths, he said.

Both sides said the communal violence had destroyed Christian churches and Hindu temples.

The violence spread to the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, about 140 miles (225 km) away.

Father Pius Fernandes said mobs threw stones at a children’s school and ransacked a nearby college.

“I would say the violence is seven times worse [than in December],” he said. “I mean, the government is trying its best. But it’s like a mad frenzy. They are just destroying everything.”

Posted on: August 27, 2008

 


Updated List of Violence Against Dalit Christians in Orissa

The aicc is maintaing this list to keep the world informed of the ongoing persecution of Christians, largely Dalits or Tribals, in India. This list is being updated daily as more incidents occur. Go to this link to see this list.

If you would like to help the victims, please click on the donate button now.

Posted on: August 27, 2008

 


Tragic & Widespread Anti-Christian Violence in Eastern India

For immediate release

Government authorities unable to stop Hindu nationalists from wreaking havoc

HYDERABAD – August 26, 2008 – In the aftermath of the murder of a Hindu swami by unknown assailants, mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. On Monday, a 12 hour strike called by hardliner Hindu nationalist organizations resulted in spreading violence. Media reports and eye witness accounts indicate several Christians were killed and hundreds of Christian properties burnt.

“Local leaders of the All India Christian Councill have lost count of the churches damaged, Christian homes vandalized, and pastors or priests beaten. On August 26, 1910, Mother Teresa was born. Today, exactly 98 years later, we are deeply saddened that her legacy of peace and compassion are being ignored by society in the state of Orissa,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, President of the All India Christian Council (aicc).

Large numbers of police and Rapid Action Force troops were deployed over the weekend, yet twelve of thirty districts were reportedly affected by the violence. According to reports collected by the aicc, at least five people have died, one nun was raped, and hundreds of churches, Christian homes, Christian non-profit organizations’ offices, and Christian schools were heavily damaged or destroyed. See list at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2325/45/
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Hindu Council) leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati was killed during an attack at an ashram in the hills of Kandhamal District, Orissa, on August 23, 2008, Saturday night. The elderly swami spent several decades in the district. He routinely criticized missionaries for conversion activities and sought to “re-convert” tribals and Dalits. aicc leaders as well as major networks of churches in India, including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and the Evangelical Fellowship of India, condemned the killing of the swami and called for his attackers to be arrested and punished.

D’souza said, “The Orissa state government must restore order and prevent VHP activists from carrying out attacks and violating the rule of law. Then they must file cases against the perpetrators and push for rapid convictions. Lastly, we need fair and just compensation to victims, and we appeal to the Prime Minister to visit the victims as soon as possible.” “Today hardliner Hindu nationalists say they cannot control their followers who are simply unleashing their frustration with unethical missionaries. Police say they cannot put officers in every village to protect Christians. Behind all the excuses, the reality is that there is a complete collapse of governance in Orissa,” said John Dayal, aicc Secretary General and Member of the National Integration Council. “It is the duty of the President and Prime Minister of India – as well as state governments – to protect the life, liberty, and property of every citizen. We hope and pray they will act before more innocent people are killed.”

Yesterday, on Aug. 25, 2008, the aicc appealed in writing to various authorities including the Prime Minister, President, Minister of Home Affairs, and various Orissa state government officials such as the Chief Minister and Home Secretary. A delegation of both Protestant and Catholic Christians met the Minister of Home Affairs, Shivraj V. Patil, yesterday, Monday, evening. He offered federal resources but said he was awaiting the required request from the state government.

Orissa is ruled by a coalition government which includes the Bharatiya Janata Party, widely known as a party which embraces the creation of a Hindu homeland. Unlike many other states, Orissa has not set up a state commission for minorities which would investigate discrimination and violence against non-Hindu religious adherents.

From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Several dozen women were sexually harassed and assaulted, and more than 40 shops belonging to Christians were looted and destroyed. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

India’s National Commission for Minorities issued a report after visiting Orissa on January 6-8, 2008 and again on April 21-24, 2008. They noted that caste-based discrimination played a role as well as an anti-conversion campaign conducted by Hindu extremists which “has aimed to prevent the conversion of tribals and Dalits to Christianity.” They faulted state government officials for not preventing the violence. Aicc leaders issued two reports. For these reports and other resources, please visit: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1947/45

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For more information, contact Dr. Sam Paul, aicc Secretary Public Affairs

Posted on: August 26, 2008

 


The Outsiders

Original article from Tehelka.com by SHOBHITA NAITHANI.

FOR AKSHAY (name changed), his admission in 2002 to the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, (IIT-D) was an achievement whose magnitude has less to do with his being Dalit than with the fact that he has battled schizophrenia since his early teens. Diagnosed in 1997, Akshay has been through years of therapy, which his doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) have certified to have had 95 percent success. His struggle with this complex, mind-debilitating illness, however, meant that it took him six years to reach third-year studies at India’s premier engineering institute.

This May, Akshay went to his professor of Applied Mechanics to request an attendance waiver because he hadn’t been keeping well. A sensitive response is what one would have expected, particularly from a person of the sophisticated calibre IIT professors can be thought to possess. What Akshay received, instead, was a reprimand of stunning crudity. “Every second beggar on the street is a schizophrenic,” he claims the professor told him. “IIT has no room for such people. Degree engineer ko milti hai, bimaar ko nahin (engineers get degrees, not the sick).” Then came the crowning blow: “The only reason you’re here is because of reservations.” The stunned 24-year-old stood speechless.

But worse was to come. Akshay’s name, along with those of 19 other IIT-D undergraduates, was struck off the institute’s rolls earlier this month because his “performance was below the required minimum level for continuation”. This is the first time the institute has asked so many students to leave; 12 of them are Dalits. Akshay, a bank clerk’s son from Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh, doesn’t deny the fact that he hadn’t done well, but insists that the institute must examine the reasons for his poor show. “I sought support but all I got was a dressing-down for being a Dalit,” he says. “I can’t get over that, and I can’t understand why the faculty is not more supportive.”

Along with AIIMS, IIT-D was at the vanguard of anti-reservation protests in 2006, when the human resources development ministry sought to expand reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in State-funded institutions of higher learning. The anti-quota campaign reached a nadir of vulgarity when IIT-D students took to articulating their protest by pretending in public places to mend shoes and sweep roads, implying that these “low” professions (to which Dalits have traditionally been confined) would be the upper-caste IIT aspirant’s only career options were the quota law to be enforced. Propaganda through SMS and e-mail was a highlight of the campaign — these and other inspired ideas were, it was later found, the brainchild of a Gurgaon-based public relations firm, which had offered to help out.

Resentment of backward-caste students is apparently endemic at IIT-D, and comes not just from peers but the faculty as well. Where professors are meant to guide students through the institute’s demanding course work, many of them actively demoralise those from disadvantaged backgrounds. “The IITs were never democratic,” avers a former student, who asked not to be named. “I don’t mean in terms of functioning, but in their attitude towards students.”

The 20 students expelled this year were also obliged to vacate their hostels without delay. Some left without questioning. One decided to fight back. Last December, Ravinder Kumar Ravi achieved passing marks in a subject he was later informed he had failed. He approached the Dean with the initial mark sheet, but, he says, “the Dean took no heed and said the teacher’s word was final”. He then went to the teacher concerned (whom he doesn’t wish to name); she subsequently e-mailed the Dean to explain that the discrepancy had occurred because she had missed one of Ravi’s assignments, which had caused his grade to fall from D to E. “Is it not perverse that the same teacher who gave me passing marks at first found cause to fail me later?” Ravi asks.

Read the rest of the article.

Posted on: June 29, 2008

 


Bihar, where water’s divided on basis of caste

By Prabhakar Kumar via CNN-IBN.

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(WATER WOES: Muslims, backward castes and upper castes all have separate wells in Bihar’s Vaishali district.)

It’s a known fact that in some areas of Bihar, people from different castes live in separate colonies. But the caste divide doesn’t end there. Now water too is being divided on the basis of caste.

Kulhara village in Bihar’s Vaishali district has six drinking water wells. And in the scorching summer, Janpatia Devi’s family doesn’t have a drop to drink. That’s because she is a Dalit, and the well in the village meant only for her community has gone dry.

Wells — the only source of drinking water in this village — are divided on the basis of caste. but Dalits get the worst deal.

“The water is not potable at all. It is dirty but we have no other choice,” Sunita Devi, a distraught villager, says.

And dry wells mean a half-kilometre trek to nearby villages to fetch water.

“There are three wells. One well’s water is not potable and people don’t let us draw water from the other two. I went there yesterday but they threw my bucket,” Binda Devi, another villager, says.

With nothing being done so far to stop this mindless division, caste has also coloured the village waters.

Posted on: May 30, 2008

 


Dalits remain unempowered

By Rashme Sehgal via The Asian Age.

Panchayati raj has allowed a critical mass of 5.4 lakh dalits enter the mainstream panchayat system but they remain an unempowered lot. A report on the state of panchayats (2007-8) has highlighted that the practice of untouchability continues even during gram panchayat meetings where they are made to sit separately and drink tea and water from separate glasses.

The report, sponsored by the ministry of panchayati raj, cites examples of several violent incidents in which dalits have tried to assert their rights.

One such example is of a dalit sarpanch Bholaram, who was battered to death in the village of Phooljhar close to Raipur because the villagers were not happy with a dalit sarpanch.

Even in a state like Tamil Nadu , there have been complaints of dalit panchayat members being done to death by uppercaste Hindus.

Ten Scheduled Caste panchayat presidents in Tirunelvelli district have recently complained that their lives are under threat from uppercastes.

Four villages in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu which saw Dalits elected are witnessing accelerated caste tension.

Following panchayat elections in October 2006, P. Jaggaiyan, president of Nakkalamuthanpatti village was done to death because he refused to oblige the `upper caste vice-president ‘ by being a rubber stamp president. This was followed by the death in suspicious circumstances of M. Servaran, president of the Maruthankinaru village panchayat. He was found dead near his house on February 9 2007.

Several other dalit panchayat heads in different districts of Tamil Nadu complain of not being allowed to function by their deputies and other caste members.

Dalit women also face similar discrimination. The report cites the example of Savita Ben, sarpanch of saddha gram panchayat in Himmatnagar taluka of Sabarkantha district in Gujarat who took part in several development activities but was suspended from her post on one pretext or the other.

Another way to prevent dalit members from functioning is to introduce no-confidence motions against them. Last year, 34 no-confidence motions were introduced against dalit heads of panchayats in Chattisgarh alone.

This has led a Dalit Mukti Morcha activist to conclude that `whenever dalits come to power, their posts are declared null and void so as to prevent them from exercising their rights’.

This problem is heightened by the fact that the majority of elected SC representatives in the BIMARU states are illiterate. State governments have set up social justice committees to protect the interests of SCs, STs and backward classes but these committees remain only on paper.

Posted on: May 30, 2008

 


Dalit woman manual scavenger Film

Originally posted on WNN.

This 2003 film, shows the degrading conditions for a Dalit woman manual scavenger. Without protective gloves, masks or shoes she works to clean the dry latrines.

Posted on: May 16, 2008

 


Spring 08 Newsletter

Download the Spring 08 Newsletter to find out the latest news on DFN’s involvement with the Dalits in India.

Posted on: May 11, 2008

 


A 6 year old girl thrown on fire for being ‘lowest class’

Original article from CNN.com.

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Dalits, or “untouchables,” are victims of discrimination in India despite laws aimed at eliminating prejudice.

A man, incensed that a 6-year-old girl chose to walk through a path reserved for upper caste villagers, pushed her into burning embers, police in north India said Wednesday. She was seriously burned.

The girl is a Dalit, or an “untouchable,” according to India’s traditional caste system.

India’s constitution outlaws caste-based discrimination, and barriers have broken down in large cities. Prejudice, however, persists in some rural areas of the country.

The girl was walking with her mother down a path in the city of Mathura when she was accosted by a man in his late teens, said police superintendent R.K. Chaturvedi.

“He scolded them both and pushed her,” Chaturvedi said. The girl fell about 3 to 4 feet into pile of burning embers by the side of the road.

The girl remained in critical condition Wednesday.

The man confessed to the crime and was charged with attempted murder, Chaturvedi said.

The assault took place in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, about 150 km (93 miles) south of Delhi. The state is governed by Mayawati, a woman who goes by one name and is India’s most powerful Dalit politician.

Her Bahujan Samaj Party seeks to get more political representation for Dalits, who are considered so low in the social order that they don’t even rank among the four classes that make up the caste system.

Hindus believe there are five main groups of people, four of which sprang from the body of the first man.

The Brahmin class comes from the mouth. They are the priests and holy men, the most elevated of the castes.

Next is the Ksatriyas, the kings, warriors and soldiers created from the arms.

The Vaisyas come from the thighs. They are the merchants and traders of society.

And the Sudras, or laborers, come from the feet.

The last group is the Dalits, or the “untouchables.” They’re considered too impure to have come from the primordial being. Untouchables are often forced to work in menial jobs. They drink from separate wells. They use different entry ways, coming and going from buildings.

They number about 250 million in India, about 25 percent of the population, according to the Colorado, U.S.-based Dalit Freedom Network.

“Dalits are seen to pollute higher caste people if they come in touch with them, hence the ‘untouchables,’” the group says on its Web site. “If a higher caste Hindu is touched by, or even had a Dalit’s shadow fall across them, they consider themselves to be polluted and have to go through a rigorous series of rituals to be cleansed.”

Recent weeks has seen a rise in violence against Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, CNN’s sister network, CNN-IBN, reported Wednesday.

Posted on: May 1, 2008

 


Dalit beaten by upper caste villagers for smoking

Original article from IBN Live.
by Hemender Sharma

Halki Bai, a Dalit woman from Madhya Pradesh’s Biharipura village, does not have any idea where her husband and son have gone. The only thing she remembers is an attack on their house allegedly by the village Thakurs.

She said her husband was mercilessly beaten up and asked to leave the village with a warning not to show his face again.

“The Thakurs do not behave properly with us. It is not just this incident, they do not allow us to fetch water and we are forced to carry our shoes on our heads while passing in front of their houses,” Halki Bai said.

The immediate provocation for the Thakurs’ action was apparently a Dalit smoking without taking permission during a funeral procession. Halki Bai is not the only woman whose husband has been forced out of the village. All male members of the 15 Dalit families in the village have fled and individually reported to the police.

On Saturday, it was the turn of Chaaokiri Chaudhary who alleged the police refused to listen to any complaint against the Thakurs. “I have been forced out of the village. I want justice. I want to go back,” Chakori said.

Meanwhile, SP of Jabalpur Markand Devaskar denied the allegations by the Dalits and said, “There are some complaints and we have taken action but there is nothing like Thakurs forcing the Dalits out of the village.”

Almost all political parties including the ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh are trying to woo Dalits to make a good votebank. These votes can make the decisive difference but when it comes to making a difference in the life of a Dalit, no one seems to be bothered.

(With inputs from Deepesh in Jabalpur)

Posted on: April 20, 2008

 


Dalit throats the most thirsty

Original article from The Times of India.

On Ambedkar Jayanti, Dalits in Babajipura village, 40 km from Surendranagar, were hesitantly standing near the village well, hoping that a higher caste person would come and draw water for them. Dalits themselves are not allowed to draw water here.

On Monday, TOI visited two villages in Saurashtra where caste still decides who gets access to drinking water. The lower you are in the caste hierarchy, the thirstier you are likely to be in this semi-arid region.

In Babajipura – a village dominated by Koli Patels – Dalits have their separate well, but the water was contaminated last month, allegedly by some miscreants. They now have to rely on the mercy of higher caste people to get water from the other well.

“Villagers decided that Dalits could take water from their well but they cannot draw it themselves,”say Laxman Shenva.

A Dalit woman from the village said, “We have to hope that a woman with a good heart comes that way while we are waiting and agrees to draw water for us. Some people even refuse us.”

In Tavi village, 18 km from Lakhtar, Dalits were given water connections 10 years ago. But, they got water for only for the first four days! Says Nandu Vadher, a Dalit, in the village dominated by Rajputs, “Our pipeline has been blocked by upper caste people.”

The well meant for Dalits has also been contaminated. Because they are not allowed to even venture near the other well – located in an upper caste neighbourhood – they now have go to the Narmada canal two km away and draw water from there.

Posted on: April 15, 2008

 


Dalits threaten suicide over caste wall

Original article by NDTV.com.
By Prasad Kathe

Around 100 Dalit families in Maharashtra’s Satara district threatened to commit suicide on Monday – Dr Ambedkar’s birthday.

The Dalits are protesting against a 150 meter long wall erected by upper caste people from their village. The wall confines the Dalits to one area.

The situation was brought under control by the police but the root cause of the problem – the wall – persists.

The wall separates Bhim Nagar from Darre Nagar – the Dalits from those of the upper caste Marathas.

Built three years ago, villagers from Bhim Nagar allege the wall encroaches upon their part of the village and it blocks their access to a community hall, which was built for them.

‘’We want access into the community halls. But we will abide by the courts order,’’ said Uttam Kamble, member, Bhim Nagar Panchayat.

But solving the dispute is not going to be simple. The upper caste community has won a court order that allowed them the construction of the wall

But the Dalits still believe their cause is just and the wall must go. It is this desperation that led them to threatened mass suicide before the police brought the situation under control.

Maharashtra led the campaign against social discrimination under Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. But on the day of his 107th birth anniversary, a protest has brought to attention the forces that continue to divide people, which shows that much still remains to be done to bring in social equality.

Posted on: April 14, 2008

 


A house divided

Original article from Frontline Magazine, by S. VISWANATHAN.

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PHOTOGRAPH: Social Awareness Society for Youth
Victims of caste violence at Eraiyur.

This year’s Holy Week (March 16 to 22), the week that precedes Easter Sunday, was observed as “untouchability protest week” in parts of northern Tamil Nadu. This was in response to a call given by the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and the Dalit Christians’ Liberation Movement to highlight the plight of Dalits in the Christian community. At least 10 churches in Cuddalore and Villupuram districts had to go without or curtail the ceremonies that usually begin with Palm Sunday, celebrated in commemoration of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. In some places Dalits hoisted black flags atop churches and in a few others they locked up the places of worship. Demanding justice to Dalit Christians, VCK general secretary Thol. Thirumavalavan led a demonstration on March 19 near the Bishop’s House in Puducherry, the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore.

The immediate provocation for the protest was violence against Dalits by “upper caste” (Vanniar) Christians at Eraiyur in Villupuram district on March 9. In the police firing that followed, two Vanniar Christians were killed.

Dalit Christians of the village have been on a fast since March 7 demanding that the Archbishop recognise the Sagaya Matha Chapel they had built for a new Dalit parish in the village. Their complaint was that they were not treated as equals by the Vanniar Christians within the Church of Our Lady of Rosary, the present Eraiyur parish church, located in the centre of Eraiyur. Archbishop Anthony Aanandarayar was firm that there could not be two churches for the same order in one village.

On the third day of the fast, on March 9, angry Vanniar Christians carrying sticks, poles, iron rods, stones and other weapons stormed the Dalit colony in the village. Over 30 Dalits were injured and about 80 of their houses were damaged.

The two Vanniar Christians killed in police firing were innocent onlookers, it is said. In the mob retaliation, seven police personnel, including the Superintendent of Police, A. Amal Raj, were injured. The State government has ordered payment of compensation to the families of the firing victims, although the Dalits, who were injured and lost property, are yet to receive any assistance from the government. Worse, they complained, the Vanniar Christians had subsequently imposed a social and economic boycott of the Dalits. Most of the Dalits in the village are agricultural workers who depend on the land-owning majority community (Vanniars) for their livelihood, and they are now jobless.

Vanniar Christians, who are angry about the police firing, accused the clergy of standing in the way of “maintaining certain traditional practices” and threatened to convert to Hinduism. The Archdiocese has initiated a dialogue with Vanniar Christians and Dalit Christians. Meanwhile, the parish church administration has ordered the closure of the church until the return of peace. The Eraiyur parish has a 300-year-old history behind it. Eraiyur is one of the earliest Tamil Nadu villages in which Christianity took root in the second half of the 17th century. A note on the parish, published on the website of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore states: “The first Catholic community was established in the 17th century when Christianity began to grow around 1660. Eraiyur began to grow in Catholic faith.”

“The building up of the first Catholic community,” the note further says, “was the hard work of Rev. Fr. Freyre who was a Jesuit priest.” The priest went to Eraiyur around 1679 and met the people in and around the village. They used a small house as the place of worship. “But because of the rule of Maratiar [Marathas] these people were tortured and also because of a great famine they began to move away from Eraiyur and settled near Salem. It is not known when the second Catholic community in Eraiyur was built,” the note says. It, however, mentions Fr. Beschi among the priests who stayed in the village and converted more people to Christianity.

Fr. Costanzo Beschi (1680-1746), a Jesuit missionary from Italy, gave himself a Tamil name, Veeramaamunivar, and authored a classical Tamil epic, Thempavani, in honour of St. Joseph. Eraiyur became a separate parish in 1870. The Church of Our Lady of Rosary at Eraiyur was built in 1894.

Dalits account for about 70 per cent of the 25 million Christians in India, but caste-based discrimination against them is not uncommon. This despite repeated appeals from the Church leadership against such practices. Eraiyur is no exception to discrimination, particularly because Dalits, both Christian and Hindu, are in a minority in the village dominated by Christian Vanniars. (Christian Vanniars number about 20,000; the Christian Dalit population is less than 1,500.) There have been instances of caste clashes in the Eraiyur parish, which has the distinction of having produced 30 priests and 55 nuns.

Read the rest of the article.

Posted on: April 9, 2008

 


Dalit women forced to swallow excreta

Original article from Times Of India.

DHANBAD: Days after a widow was paraded naked in a village here for entering a temple, two Dalit widows have been forced to swallow human excreta by villagers who blamed them for being responsible for an outbreak of chicken pox.

Police arrested four people on Sunday for violating the Jharkhand Anti-Witchcraft Act, 2001 and Prevention of Atrocities on SC/ST Act after they tortured Rashmi Devi (60) and Samri Devi (65) in Manaydih village, 15 km from Dhanbad. Samri Devi is a sweeper in a local branch of a nationalized bank.

“It was because of superstition. The villagers, including the son of one of the victims, believed the elderly women were practicing witchcraft,” said Vinod Kumar, an officer at Barwaadda police station.

The trouble started after the four-year-old son of Koleshwar Das, one of the villagers, died two days ago. The family of Das suspected it was because of the “witchcraft” of the two elderly women.

The villagers caught the women on Saturday forced them to eat human excreta. They alleged that the women were a “curse on the village” and chicken pox had spread in the area because of them.

Last Thursday, another widow from a backward community was paraded naked in Ranwatand village, 35 km from Dhanbad, for entering the village temple. The culprits said a widow had “no right to enter a temple”.

Posted on: April 7, 2008

 


Atrocities in Bihar on the Rise

Original article from The Times of India.

Altogether 3,091 cases of atrocities on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are pending in Bihar till January 2008.

According to official figures available from the state headquarters in Patna, of the 3091 cases, 378 cases were reported from Muzaffapur.

In 2007, there was rise in cases of atrocities on them as compared to previous years, official sources admitted.

Altogether 1932 cases of atrocities on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes were registered during 2007 against 1729 in 2006.

Of the cases registered during 2007, one related to murder, 11 to rape, 8 arson, and 67 under the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act 1989 and others under the Indian Penal Code.

Posted on: March 21, 2008

 


Dalit kids face bias: Group

Original article from The Asian Age newspaper.
By RABINDRA NATH CHOUDHURY

Bhubaneswar, March 19 : Dalit children are being treated as untouchables in the government-run schools in a coastal district of Orissa. They are not permitted to sit with the upper-caste children while taking mid-day meal.

This shocking disclosure was made by the Ambedkar-Lohia Vichar Manch, a rights body espousing the cause of the dalits in the state. A fact-finding team of the body, which visited the government-run schools in the coastal district of Kendrapara recently, found how small children belonging to scheduled castes are facing caste bias in these primary educational institutions.

The team has submitted its report to the National Commission for Scheduled Caste seeking action against the authorities of these schools for treating dalit children shabbily.

“The caste bias has permeated into social milieu mainly in villages. Ironically, it is in the government-run primary schools that impressionable minds of small children are vitiated in caste cauldron,” the fact-finding report stated.

“In some schools, the dalit children are served mid-day meal only after the children belonging to general castes have taken their lunch, ” the report said.

Posted on: March 19, 2008

 


Caste difference contributes to violence against Dalit women - Central India

Posted on: March 17, 2008

 


NDTV News Report

Linked from WNN.

Dalit women and their families in Bapcha village in Shajapur district of Madhya Pradesh are living in fear. The pressure from the powerful is so strong that violence is usually not reported or greatly “under-reported”. This is an NDTV news production from Sept 2007.

Posted on: March 17, 2008

 


Created Equal?

Linked from Listen Up TV.

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Listen to the program

A multi-million dollar kidney transplant scam and its victims. We’ll examine religious realities in India that set people up to be sold for body parts.

We’ll also examine atrocious vulnerabilities amongst the poorest people in the world’s largest democracy. India is prosecuting the latest of an underground kidney trafficking ring that shocked the world.

Today we’ll learn about the people targeted for exploitation: those known as Dalits and scheduled caste’s. We’ll find out why they’re vulnerable to the most violent of human rights abuses. And we’ll hear a plea to speak out on their behalf after the trail of their misery found its way to Canada.

THE CONTEXT

A suspected mastermind accused of a shocking crime. Amit Kumar, is alleged to have coordinated the theft of human kidneys for sale in markets around the globe. Over 500 people from underprivileged castes in India were victimized in the scandal. Some desperate for money, sold their kidneys. Others were forced at gunpoint and drugged as their kidneys were surgically removed, then sold to wealthy recipients around the world.

In India, it’s led to nationwide revulsion. Charges of “crimes against life and health” were laid against Kumar, who made his home in Canada where he was known as a medical doctor and where he kept his money and family.

Indian police said teams of kidney scouts roamed labour markets in Delhi and cities in India’s poorest state, searching for potential donors for the kidney scam. Implicated in the case are 20 paramedics, five nurses, three hospitals, 10 clinics and seven police charged with accepting bribes.

Kumar denies all wrong doing. News reports here, say emails he had been receiving suggest Kumar was getting transplant inquiries from Canada.

Posted on: March 16, 2008

 


Dalits face discrimination in southern Tamil Nadu

Original article from webindia123.com.

When young Raji, a Dalit, took her one-and-a-half-year-old son to the vaccination centre in her village in southern Tamil Nadu, the baby was denied polio drops. Two new studies have found that despite all the talk of equitable distribution of resources, the condition of Dalits in the region remains dismal.

The pulse polio campaign, for instance, is a free nationwide drive of the government meant to cut across caste and religion to eradicate polio. But if you are a Dalit like Raji, your baby can be denied even these life-saving drops.

Raji’s family belongs to Keelavilanchampatti village in Sivaganga district, about 550 km south of Chennai.

After the child was denied polio drops Feb 10, an outcry in the local media made the police register cases against six people in the village. Raji’s son was then given the polio drops under the hawk eye of the police.

But the story of discrimination was far from over.

Four Dalit families in this village, including Raji’s parents, were given two acres of land under a government free-land scheme some eight months ago. The upper castes wanted the families to donate their land to the village, which the Dalit families refused to do.

As a result, the Dalit families and their relatives were boycotted by the village and not allowed to take even water from the village taps.

In Madurai district’s Vadugapatti village, to bury their dead Dalits have to walk half a kilometre on a narrow bund strewn with thorns that separates an upper caste man’s rice field.

“The thorn bushes were planted to prevent Dalits from touching the paddy crop,” Muthaiya, 70, told local media.

“I want to be buried in peace. I don’t want fights with big caste Hindu landowners over my body.”

“Even to get ration, we had to get a separate shop. Upper caste people did not allow us to collect ration from the common village public distribution shop. There is always a fight if we try to do that,” he added.

At a time when Tamil Nadu posts a seven percent growth rate and 75 percent literacy, stories of anti-Dalit atrocities continues to appear in the local media here.

On Feb 2, a Dalit girl, 16, was kidnapped from Kachirayanpatti village near Madurai and raped by an upper caste man. The girl’s father, Andisamy, complained to police and the girl underwent a medical check up at the government hospital in Madurai, which confirmed rape.

But police took no action against the culprit identified by the victim.

The Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front has done a random survey across 20 of Tamil Nadu’s 30 districts, and is now preparing to launch a state-wide campaign to abolish manual scavenging, which still continues.

The Front’s study found that eight million Dalit households lacked proper toilet facilities. Human waste is still carried here as “headload”, the study said.

Releasing the study here last week, P. Mohan, Madurai MP, told the media 107 teams had surveyed the living conditions of Dalits in 47 villages in February second week and found all of them practise untouchability. “Discrimination comes in many forms and is practised in ways unknown before,” the member said.

In Andarkottaram and Thaniamangalam villages, postmen do not deliver post to Dalits and barbers and washer-men refuse them their services.

In Uthapuram village, a 500-m long wall separates Dalit houses from the rest of the village.

The “double tumbler” system is in vogue, a practice by which Dalits are served tea/water in separate tumblers or coconut shells at teashops.

Dalits cannot join temple festivals, use footwear and their bulls cannot win in `jallikattu’ runs.

A Madurai-based NGO, Evidence, this week released yet another study of Dindigul district that said, “Untouchability is practised in all 60 reserved administrative units (panchayats) in the district”.

The Government Statistical Handbook 2006 inspired the study carried out by Evidence. The handbook had recorded 60 panchayats in this district as “atrocity-prone”.

“This prompted us to look at the districts carefully,” Evidence director A. Kathir told the media here. The Handbook says 538 villages in Tamil Nadu are “atrocity prone” and 152 of these are highly sensitive caste conflict hotspots.

After surveys in January and February, Kathir said, “Not just 500 but as many as 4,000 such villages exist in Tamil Nadu.”

Posted on: February 27, 2008

 


Orissa govt failed to protect Christians: panel

Original source from IBN Live.

New Delhi:

Commission members Dilip Padgaonkar and Zoya Hasan, who toured Khandamal to probe allegations by Christians, said in Delhi on Thursday that the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) “vitiated” the atmosphere in the district but refrained from blaming it for the attacks.

“The Government and the local officials had been warned of trouble as early as on December 22 but they did not take any action and the result was the large-scale violence,” said Padgaonkar in a press conference.

“It was an organised and pre-planned attack on the Christian community,” he said.

An important reason for the violence was the rivalry between the Kui tribals and Pana Christians. “Some Christian groups (Panas) have been asking for inclusion in the scheduled tribe (ST) category to get benefit from the reservations that go with the status,” Hasan said.

The Kuis are against this demand on the ground that they are ethnically different from the Panas. “Kuis have also been agitated because Scheduled Caste (SC) Christians allegedly obtained false certificates to benefit from the reservations,” Hasan said.

Padgaonkar said two strikes called by two separate organisations on December 26 fuelled the violence. Another important factor was the anti-conversion campaign conducted by VHP and Sangh Parivar for the last few years.

When asked whether the riots were planned, Padgaonkar said, “There was enough evidence to suggest that the outbreak of violence in Khandamal was organised.”

“An anti-Christian atmosphere was created and there was large-scale destruction of Christian property.” He alleged that the local administration did not take appropriate and quick measures to control the mob.

Padgaonkar said 2,000 trees were cut in two hours to block roads leading to the riot-affected areas. “This was done to delay the patrol parties from reaching the riot-affected areas. It shows that the riots were organised,” he was quoted by IANS as saying.

“Rehabilitation package announced by the Orissa government should be reviewed to provide rehabilitation keeping in view the actual loss suffered by the victims of violence,” the delegation members said.

Posted on: January 17, 2008

 


Rally taken out against Kandhamal violence

Original source from a staff reporter of The Hindu Newspaper.

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(Photo: Ashoke Chakrabarty)
IN PROTEST MODE: Activists of All India Confederation of SC/ST taking out a rally against Kandhamal violence in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

BHUBANESWAR: A fortnight after the communal violence engulfed several remote villages of Orissa’s Kandhamal district, church leaders and hundreds of villages, who claimed to be victims, staged a demonstration here on Thursday raising slogans against ‘sangh parivar groups and apathetic State administration.’

All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations (AICSO) and All India Christian Council (AICC) took out the rally which was participated by several leaders from Christian community from Master Canteen Square to Lower PMG Square.

Speaking to media, AICSO Chairman Udit Raj said: “I don’t think that the State government, led by Naveen Patnaik, is a secular government since BJP is the ruling alliance.”

He flayed the State government for its reported announcement of probe into violence through the perspective of involvement of Left wing extremists. “The State government does not have any proof of any NGO having links with extremists groups. And they even lack evidence of connection with naxalite groups with churches. The allegations are baseless,” Mr. Raj said. State government should produce proof of its claims, he dared.

Several priests of Churches described as to how the victims of violence spent their days of horror in forests.

They said several families had to consume roots and leaves and drink dews deposited on leaves.The State-level coordination committee on communal harmony, which met here on Thursday, recommended putting a grievance redressal mechanism in place for the communal disturbances. Moreover, such forum should also be activated in panchayat, block and district level in order to act proactive manner to prevent communal disturbance in the State, it said.

Meanwhile, Orissa State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA), which was pressed into service to carry out relief and rehabilitation programmes after violence broke out, said distribution of food, winter clothes and other necessary articles were going on in full swing.

Single window system approach had been adopted for distribution of relief and all types of facilities were made available at the three relief camps, it said.

Posted on: January 11, 2008

 


Speakers at Historic Rally Demand Orissa Government Tell Truth about Christmas Attacks on Christians

Written by AICC
Thursday, 10 January 2008

For immediate release

About 10,000 protestors from all religious backgrounds; speakers slam Orissa government for blaming Naxalites involvement and limiting Christian NGOs relief efforts

BHUBANESWAR – Jan. 10, 2008 – Today about 9,000-10,000 people marched to the Orissa State Assembly building in Bhubaneswar to protest Christmas attacks on Christians and demand justice for victims. Rally speakers demanded the Orissa state government stop making allegations about Christian association with an outlawed Maoist rebel movement and allow Christian churches and groups to provide direct relief to victims.

“Some people have characterized the violence as a Hindu-Christian clash. This is wrong. Dalit Christians were clearly the targets and innocent victims. The state government has also made baseless accusations that some Christian NGOs are aligned with Naxalites. The authorities must write a white paper or give proof about these sensitive issues instead of spreading rumors,” said Dr. Udit Raj, National Chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations. Naxalites are Maoist rebels who often attack government installations throughout central India. Most are disenfranchised Dalits or Tribals.

Christian leaders expressed concern about relief efforts for the devastated Christians in Kandhamal District. “Orissa’s government should allow direct relief projects by churches and Christian NGOs. Currently, we are being told we can only distribute blankets, food and other supplies through the District Collectors. We are deeply concerned this will delay needed assistance and could create opportunities for discrimination or corruption,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, President, All India Christian Council (aicc). “There is no logical reason to ban the direct involvement of established, peaceful Christian organisations that are already registered with the government.”

Bishop Joab Lohara of the Free Methodist Church said, “We are worried about reports that aid to the homeless Christians still in relief camps is not being fairly distributed. We appeal to authorities to be even-handed in their compensation to victims of this horrific violence. They have suffered enough already.”

The “Stop Violence Against Christians Rally” was sponsored by the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations and the aicc. Protestors met at Master Canteen Chowk and marched to the Orissa State Assembly. Speakers included Raj, D’souza, Lohara, as well as Muslims, progressive Hindus, and Buddhists.

Rally organisers also announced they would set up a “Communal Harmony Monitoring Group” which will closely watch relief and compensation for victims and report progress to the national offices of the aicc and SC/ST Confederation. Dr. Udit Raj also demanded that any enquiry commissions set up by the Orissa government include representatives from both the aicc and SC/ST Confederation since they represent Christians and Dalits, respectively.

In the last few days, aicc leaders released two fact finding reports on the anti-Christian violence after visits to rural Orissa. Newly confirmed cases of arson, murder, and assault make this violence qualify as the largest attack on the Christian community in the history of democratic India. Both reports show that the Dalits – formerly known as untouchables – were the main group affected by the violence. Reports are at:

http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1826/45/ and

http://groups.google.com/group/JohnDayal/browse_thread/thread/17aef1aebe4f1e70

According to media reports, three investigators appointed by India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are currently in Orissa. A Christian delegation, including an aicc leader, met with the NHRC chairman on Dec. 31, 2007 in New Delhi to request the visit.

The violence allegedly began when Christians in Bamunigaon village in Kandhamal district of Orissa began to celebrate Christmas Eve on Dec. 24, 2007. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a quarrel ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was attacked by unknown assailants—he alleged they were Christians. The next day a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-affiliated group called for a strike and VHP members began attacking Christians across the state.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For more information, contact:
Benjamin Marsh
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(919) 841-8280

Posted on: January 10, 2008

 


Upper caste girl’s relatives pierce Dalit boy’s eyes

Original article from IBN Live.

The Nanded district police have arrested six of the girl’s 12 relatives allegedly involved in the assault under the Atrocities on Scheduled Castes (Prevention) Act and are on the lookout for others accused of the assault, sources said.

The enraged relatives of the 15-year old girl, Premala Jadhav, who admitted the dalit youth Chandrakant Gaikwad and his friend Milind Jondhale in two hospitals in Nanded in an apparent attempt to keep the crime under wraps, also warned Gaikwad’s parents against approaching the police, according to the sources.

Chandrakant and Milind told the police that Premala’s relatives caught them in Milind’s house in Khamareddy in Andhra Pradesh, where the three had fled last Saturday, and brought them to Sategaon in a jeep.

The assaulters had gagged Chandrakant and Milind while beating them all through the night of January 5 and piercing their eyes, said the police sources.

“When we fainted from severe thrashing, they sprinkled water on our faces to bring us back to consciousness and beat us up again,” the sources quoted Chandrakant and Mlind as saying.

“We have made the arrests on the basis of the two young men’s statement and started interrogating the accused in what looks like a clear case of atrocity falling under the ambit of the act,” Superintendent of Police Ravindra Singhal said.

Singhal said, while it is true that Chandrakant has sustained injuries in both his eyes and Milind in one, the version that their eyes were pierced is not true.

“The hospital authorities are yet to tell us about the severity of the wounds and whether the two young men stand a chance of regaining their eyesight,” he added.

While Chandrakant’s parents refrained from registering a complaint for fear of reprisal, the police took the action on their own following a tip-off received by Deputy Superintendent of Police Vasant Jadhav, the sources said.

Posted on: January 9, 2008

 


Dalit beaten for trying to enter UP temple

Originally article from The Times of India.

Shailendra Tiwari, the priest, allegedly attacked and abused the Dalit, Sudhir Kumar of Gangapur village under Bidhnoo police station, as he tried to enter the temple for a puja at the local temple. He was accompanied by three friends – two men named Bablu, both from Gangapur, and Dharmendra of Rajivnagar.

Tiwari did not act alone; he had his friends Rajan Dixit and Shiv Singh Yadav join him in physically attacking and preventing Sudhir and his friends from entering the temple. “They not only assaulted us but also threatened us with dire consequences and demanded money to purify the temple,” said Sudhir. “The priests used filthy language against us,” he further alleged.

News of the assault created immediate tension in the village with Dalits holding a meeting in which they decided to inform senior district administration officials about the incident and renew attempts to enter the temple.

“We requested the police officers to act against the priest and others involved in beating up Sudhir,” a village Dalit said. “We are going to enter the temple,” he added.

The incident took place in an area where the Dalit-Brahman collaboration had worked well for the BSP, enabling it to sweep the constituencies in rural Kanpur. BSP’s Brahmin candidate, Anil Shukla Warsi, won the by-election for the Bilhaur Lok Sabha seat. His wife, Pratibha Shukla, represents Chaubepur in the assembly.

Posted on: January 9, 2008

 


Facts Emerge on Christmas Violence in Orissa: 730 Homes, 95 Churches Destroyed, 4 Dead, More Missing

For immediate release:

Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India – All India Christian Council (aicc) leaders released two reports on the anti-Christian violence in Orissa which began on Christmas Eve. Newly confirmed cases of arson, murder, and assault make this violence qualify as the largest attack on the Christian community in the history of democratic India. Both reports show that the Dalits – formerly known as untouchables – were the main group affected by the violence.
Four leaders from aicc chapters in Orissa visited the affected villages from January 3-5 and released their report on Jan. 7, 2008. The report says 95 churches were vandalized or destroyed, 730 Christian homes burnt, and four Christians killed with many still missing and presumed dead. To view the entire Fact Finding Report, see:http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/1826/45/

On Jan. 5, 2008, aicc Secretary-General John Dayal released a white paper after visiting the area. Advocate Nicholas Barla, a lawyer and human rights expert, and Mr. Hemant Nayak, a social scientist and human rights and development activist, were also part of the fact finding team. They concluded that the attacks on Christians included simultaneous, planned violence by extremist Hindutva supporters and complicity and consistent incompetence by police and local authorities. To view the entire white paper, see:http://groups.google.com/group/JohnDayal/browse_thread/thread/17aef1aebe4f1e70

According to media reports, two members from India’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM), Dileep Padgaonkar and Zoya Hasan, are currently in Orissa to investigate the violence. Aicc leaders met with the NCM chairman on Dec. 27, 2007 in New Delhi.

“We are saddened to acknowledge the violence in Orissa will go into the history books as an unprecedented attack on Christians in India. The tragedy is deepened by proof that the violence was avoidable if the authorities had enforced the rule of law,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, aicc President.

Together with the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations led by Dr. Udit Raj, the aicc will hold a “Stop Violence Against Christians Rally” in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, on January 10, 2008. Protestors will meet at 10am at Master Canteen Chowk and march to the Orissa State Assembly for a public meeting. Confirmed speakers include Dr. Udit Raj, Dr. Joseph D’souza, Bishop Joab Lohara of the Free Methodist Church, and victims from Orissa.

“Many have expressed outrage with the authorities and Hindutva extremists whose actions hurt innocent people during Christmas – a season of peace across the world. But we must express our anger and frustration in a peaceful manner. I invite all Indian citizens of good will to join the “Stop Violence Against Christians Rally” on Thursday,” said D’souza.

The violence allegedly began when Christians in Bamunigaon village in Kandhamal district of Orissa began to celebrate Christmas Eve. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a quarrel ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was attacked by unknown assailants—he alleged they were Christians. The next day a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-affiliated group called for a strike and VHP members began attacking Christians across the state.

The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

The Dalit Freedom Network’s mission is to partner with the Dalits (India’s Untouchables) in their quest for religious freedom, social justice, and human dignity by mobilizing human, informational, and financial resources. Their website is: www.dalitnetwork.org

Posted on: January 8, 2008

 


Fact Finding Report by aicc Orissa Chapter

Posted on: January 7, 2008

 


Chennai Leaders Express Solidarity with Fresh Victims of Anti-Christian Attacks in Orissa

HYDERABAD – Jan. 2, 2008 – Today the All India Christian Council (aicc) led a rally in Chennai to protest the anti-Christian violence in Orissa. Several civil society leaders, including Dalit and Muslim leaders, expressed solidarity with the victims. Meanwhile, violence resumed overnight including attacks on at least two Christian villages and the estimated death toll has increased.

Today’s rally in Chennai, opposite the Central General Hospital and in front of Memorial House, included about 1,000 leaders from both Christian and non-Christian organisations. Pastor Titus Kumar of Vision for Orissa gave an eye-witness report with video footage of the destruction and havoc caused by extremists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Other speakers included: Dr. Joseph D’souza, aicc President; Rev. K.B. Edison, aicc Tamil Nadu chapter President; Bishop Ezra Sargunam, Evangelical Church of India; and Mr. Umar Farooque, the Islamic Federation for Change.
“Although the government and media are saying the attacks on Christians have stopped, rural pastors with mobile phones contacted us in the last few hours with news of fresh attacks. We are devastated to report that there were at least two attacks last night,” said Dr. D’souza. “As I talk with Christians in Orissa, it is clear the death toll has been underestimated. We have reliable but unconfirmed reports of up to 70 Christians killed or missing and presumed dead.” Official reports from the Orissa authorities have put the death count at about four to six people.
Independent act finding teams continue to be blocked from entering affected areas. Police allegedly cannot access troubled rural areas due to roadblocks. The federal government has only dispatched a handful of troops, reportedly because the Orissa government is not requesting assistance. However, media reports said the Minister of Home Affairs visited the area today, but his findings have not been released. Aicc leaders in New Delhi were told the National Commission for Minorities scheduled a team to arrive on Jan. 8, 2008, and the National Human Rights Commission is deputing a team as soon as possible.

At the rally, many cries were heard for the state government of Chief Minister Neevan Patnaik to step down in light of continuing attacks against Christians – most of whom are Dalits and Tribals. Also, leaders demanded that the Orissa government increase the promised amount of compensation for families of those murdered from 100,000 to 500,000 rupees.

“The Orissa police and politicians seem focused on blaming Christians or Naxals for the violence. We anticipate the findings of Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. We implore authorities to act now and save innocent lives instead of assigning blame. We condemn any violence – whether done by Hindus or by Christians. But the world must know that, contrary to media reports, there is no evidence that Christians attacked Hindus—including Swami Saraswati,” said Sam Paul, aicc Secretary of Public Affairs.

The violence allegedly began when Christians in Bamunigaon village in Kandhamal district of Orissa began to celebrate Christmas Eve. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a fight ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was attacked by unknown assailants—he alleged they were Christians—near Daringbadi while he was traveling. The next day the VHP called for a strike and its members began attacking Christians across the state.

Reports collected by the aicc as of Dec. 30, 2007, indicated 65 churches burned down, 600 Christian homes destroyed, hundreds of Christians forced to flee into forests to save their lives, and thousands homeless. The aicc obtained a copy of the complaint filed with police in Bamunigaon village by Roman Catholic priest Thomas Nayak, whose church was one of the first attacked on Christmas Eve. He names twenty-two attackers who are all allegedly part of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), a sister group to the VHP, and says that Swami Saraswati visited the area on Dec. 9, 2007 and planned the attacks.

The aicc and the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations will organise a protest rally in Bubhaneshwar, Orissa, on January 10, 2008. Details are to be announced soon. A press conference yesterday, Jan. 1, 2008, in Bubhaneshwar included statements by film maker Mahesh Bhatt, National Integration Council member John Dayal (also aicc Secretary-General), and Abraham Mathai, Vice Chairman of the State Commission for Minorities, Maharashtra.

The aicc will engage in relief work as soon as curfews are lifted and the affected villages are accessible. Relief plans call for rebuilding churches, Christian homes, and distribution of blankets and food for people who have been hiding in forests for days.

The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

Posted on: January 2, 2008

 


Black Christmas


image
The police guarding a church at Darigibadi in Phulbani district, on December 26.

On December 24, when the world was preparing to celebrate Christmas, the Kui-speaking tribal people of Orissa’s Kandhamal district were getting ready for a 36-hour bandh beginning the next morning. But even as preparations were on, the bomb of hatred that had been ticking for long went off, ripping the communal fabric of the district.

Trouble apparently began when a section of Hindus opposed the preparations for Christmas. Following this, a group of Christians allegedly attacked Swami Lakshmananda, a local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, who was on his way to perform a yagna in the Brahmanigaon area of the district. Activists of the VHP retaliated by setting ablaze churches and other Christian institutions, and houses belonging to members of the community. The VHP also called for a four-hour, State-wide bandh the next day in protest against the attack on its leader. The bandh coincided with the one that was called by the Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samiti.

The Kui Samaj has been agitating against the alleged granting of Scheduled Tribe (S.T.) status to Dalits in the district, which has a sizable Christian population. The vast majority of the Dalits in Kandhamal are Christian whereas only a small section of the tribal population has embraced Christianity. The divide between the tribal people and the Dalits has widened in recent years with the VHP repeatedly contending that religious conversion was at the root of the trouble in the central Orissa district.

As the agitating tribal people felled trees on all roads leading to the district on December 24 night to enforce their bandh beginning from the next day, VHP activists put their organisation’s stamp on the Kui Samaj agitation and went about vandalising churches and prayer houses.

Prayers were not held in any church in Kandhamal on Christmas day. One person was killed and over 30 people were injured in the clashes between the two communities.

Caught unawares, the administration imposed a curfew on Phulbani, the district headquarters, and three other towns – Brahmanigaon, Baliguda and Daringibadi. Prohibitory orders were enforced in the remaining areas of the district. In Bhubaneswar, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to the people of Kandhamal to maintain peace and harmony.

It was only on December 26 that the State government took up the matter seriously and deployed additional forces in different parts of the district. The situation, however, did not show any improvement as the police could not enter most of the areas because of roadblocks put up by Kui Samaj members.

When Kandhamal was burning, on December 26, leaders of the ruling Biju Janata Dal were busy at a massive rally in the State capital, Bhubaneswar, on the occasion of the 10th foundation day of the party. At the rally, Naveen Patnaik, who is also the BJD president, reiterated his party’s resolve to realise the dream of his father, the late Biju Patnaik, of building a prosperous Orissa.

Patnaik, however, took time off and reviewed the Kandhamal situation at the State Secretariat twice that day. The government said three companies of the Central Reserve Police Force had been called in from other places in the State to restore peace in Kandhamal.

As Kandhamal remained cut off from the rest of the world for the fourth day on December 27, the Chief Minister flew to Phulbani and held a review meeting, which was attended by Director General of Police Gopal Chandra Nanda and top officials of the police and the administration.

On his return, Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar that the situation in the district had normalised to a great extent. Admitting that churches and prayer houses had been damaged or burnt down in the district, he said more than two dozen people were arrested and action was being initiated against the offenders. In reference to the tribal agitation, Patnaik said that his government would look into the grievances and take necessary steps to resolve the issue.

Patnaik, however, appeared to be unaware of the fresh violence that was occurring around the same time in Kandhamal. By evening, reports started pouring in that at least a dozen more churches and prayer houses had been burnt during the day. Besides, three persons were reportedly killed in police firing when an armed mob, said to be VHP supporters, attacked the Brahmanigaon police station. A mob attacked the police station after the police personnel tried to prevent them from attacking members of the Christian community. A senior officer was injured in the police station attack. Fresh trouble began in Brahmanigaon after the body of a child was recovered from the locality earlier in the day.


KAMAL SINGH/PTI

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An All India Christian Council demonstration in New Delhi on December 27 demanding that the safety of Christians in Orissa be ensured.

Confirming the death of three persons in police firing, a top official said that the police had opened fire in self-defence. Confronted with reports of the damaging and burning down of more than 40 churches and prayer houses by December 27 evening, he said the exact details were not available. It was difficult for the administration to keep track of incidents taking place in remote hilly areas, he explained.

Police stations were also attacked at Phiringia and Tikabali and many police vehicles were burnt by mobs. It was difficult to assess as to whether the attackers were Sangh Parivar members or Kui tribal people, an official observed.

On December 27, a delegation led by Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, met the Chief Minister and submitted a memorandum stating that Christians were not safe in Kandhamal. The representatives of the community, who claimed that at least 50 churches had been damaged over the previous four days, also demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the incidents. The VHP alleged that Hindu places of worship were also attacked in some places.

As violence continued in Kandhamal, the Opposition parties and other organisations criticised the government for its failure to maintain law and order. They also blamed Patnaik for being soft on the Sangh Parivar because the Bharatiya Janata Party was a partner in the two-party coalition government.

Four days after Kandhamal smouldered, Patnaik went on a damage-control exercise. He ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence in Kandhamal on December 28. He, however, clarified that only one person had been killed in police firing the previous day and not three persons as had been reported in the media. Only one body had been recovered, he added.

Soon after Patnaik ordered the judicial inquiry, Steel and Mines Minister Padmanabha Behera, who hails from the violence-hit district, resigned from his post. The government also appointed a new District Collector for Kandhamal.

The dropping of Behera from the Cabinet was one of the demands put forward by the Kui tribal people. Behera belongs to the Dalit community. The Kuis have also been demanding the appointment of a direct Indian Administrative Service officer as Collector instead of an officer who was promoted to the cadre.

Posted on: January 2, 2008

 


Details emerge in deadly Oak Forest arson case

BY STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporter


image
(STNG)

In a hearing at the Markham courthouse Tuesday morning, Subhash Chander was ordered held without bond by Cook County Judge Martin McDonough in connection with the arson and murder of Chander’s pregnant daughter Monika Rani, 22; her husband Rajesh Kumar, 30; and their son Vansh.

He was charged Monday night with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of intentional homicide of an unborn child in the Oak Forest blaze. It was unclear whether a second man questioned in the fire would be charged.

The fire that gutted a 36-unit building was set Saturday night at the Le Claire Station Apartments in Oak Forest.

The fire had some residents jumping from second-floor balconies to escape the flames and left dozens of people homeless.

Witnesses saw two men pouring accelerant in the hallway outside the Aroras’ apartment moments before flames engulfed the building. Lab tests completed Monday by Illinois State Police showed that the accelerant was gasoline and that it matched gasoline found on the clothes of the two suspects.

Earlier Monday, Oak Forest Police Chief Dennis Olszewski had declined to say whether the men were related to the victims. Police said the investigation was hampered because the suspects didn’t speak English well.

Rani’s uncle lived in the same building as the young family and her father lived in a building 50 yards away—two doors down from a second apartment Rani and Arora shared until August, friends said.

Arora, who worked at gas stations in Chicago Heights and Steger for five years, was “a good person,” Raj Bains, who owns gas stations in the area, said. When customers heard news of the cashier’s death, many were moved to tears, Bains said.


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Subhash Chander, 57, was ordered held without bond in connection with the arson and murder of his pregnant daughter in Oak Forest. (STNG)

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The victims of the weekend arson at a south suburban apartment complex were identified as Monika Rani, 22, Rajesh Arora, 30, and their son Vansh, 3. (STNG)

Posted on: January 1, 2008

 


Suffering of Orissa’s Christians Presented to National Human Rights Commission of India

Note: As the majority of Christians in India are Dalits, DFN takes a special interest in publicizing cases of persecution of Christians, as well as any form of religious persecution among the Dailts of India, whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Sikhs.

Press Release from the All India Christian Council

For Immediate Release

HYDERABAD – Dec. 31, 2007 –Today a Christian delegation met with Justice Shri S. Rajendra Babu, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in New Delhi. The delegation requested action to stop violence against Christians in Orissa and help victims recover. The chairman promised to send a fact finding team immediately. At the same time, two fact finding teams which include aicc leaders continue to be turned away by Orissa police.
The delegation led by Archbishop Vincent Cancessao included: Dr. Udit Raj, National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations; Fr. Dominic Emmanuel, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI); Rt. Rev. Karam Masih, former Bishop of the Church of North India (CNI); Ms. Lansinglu Rongmei, Christian Legal Association (CLA); and Mr. Madhu Chandra, Regional Secretary of the All India Christian Council (aicc). They delivered a memorandum with fourteen recommended actions to deal with anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district and other parts of rural Orissa which erupted on December 24, 2007.
“Our leaders in Orissa and media reports both indicate that attacks on Christians were not spontaneous but preplanned by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Hindutva groups. Also, the state government misled the people of India by making repeated statements that the situation was under control. It is tragic. Orissa burned while politicians talked,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, aicc President. “It seems that most attacks have ceased and now it’s time for all parties and all authorities to help the innocent victims,” said D’souza.
Dr. Udit Raj, National Chairman of the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations and a Buddhist, said, “Hindutva leaders say the violence is a response to conversions by Christian missionaries. But this is a lie. Christian missionaries are targeted by Hindutva and upper caste forces because Christians truly provide education and social upliftment services to Dalits and tribals in rural Orissa.”

Massive violence against Christians began on Dec. 24th, Christmas Eve. As of Dec. 30, 2007, the aicc had collected reports of 65 churches burned down, 600 Christian homes destroyed, hundreds of Christians forced to flee into forests to save their lives, and thousands homeless. Despite promises by state and central government leaders during meetings with aicc leaders, the violence continued for at least six days.

“According to some reports, the Orissa government has promised to give 1 lakh (about USD $2,631) compensation to the families of people who died. If true, we welcome this first step. However, Christian leaders have been united in asking authorities for at least 5 lakhs (about USD $13,158) per victim and we hope this request is honored,” said Sam Paul, aicc Secretary, Public Affairs.
An aicc fact finding team headed by John Dayal, aicc Secretary-General and Member of the National Integration Council, tried to reach the hardest hit areas over the weekend. On the evening of Dec. 29, 2007, Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapoor turned away the team while they were passing through the town of Phulbani. Efforts by another Christian delegation to visit Baminigaon on Dec. 30, 2007, called the epicentre of the trouble, were unsuccessful as well due to police curfews.
John Dayal, aicc Secretary-General and member of the National Integration Council, said, “First-hand accounts of the violence in the Kandhamal district are needed because rumors, absence of authentic media reports, and often inaccurate government accounts of the casualties have left people confused. Our fact finding is important part of building long term peace and harmony and to ensure proper relief, compensation, and rehabilitation.”

Timeline of past events:
•On Dec. 31, 2007 a delegation including an aicc leader met Justice Shri S. Rajendra Babu, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, in New Delhi.
•On Dec. 30, 2007 candle-light vigils and protest marches were held by Christians in many cities including Delhi (est. attendance 4,000) and Hyderabad.
•On Dec. 30, 2007 the aicc Jharkhand chapter delivered a memo to the state Chief Minister and Governor to request action.
•On Dec. 29, 2007 a delegation including aicc leaders met the Vice President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, in New Delhi and appealed for action by the Central Government.
•On Dec. 29, 2007 a six-person fact-finding team headed by aicc Secretary-General John Dayal is turned back by Orissa police.
•On Dec. 28, 2007 John Dayal reaches Bhubaneswar and holds press conference along with aicc Orissa chapter President Rev. P.R. Parichha and other Christian leaders.
•On Dec. 28, 2007 the Governor of Chennai received a memorandum from the aicc Tamil Nadu chapter demanding action.
•On Dec. 27, 2007 large rallies of Christians and non-Christian civil society leaders were held in numerous cities across India including about 1,000 people in New Delhi.
•On Dec. 27, 2007 a delegation including aicc leaders met the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mohamed Shafi Qureshi, in New Delhi.
•On Dec. 27, 2007 a delegation including aicc leaders met the Minister of Home Affairs, Shivraj V. Patil, in New Delhi.
•On Dec. 27, 2007 an aicc-led delegation met the Orissa Chief Minister, Neevan Patnaik.
•On Dec. 25, 2007 Sam Paul, aicc Secretary, Public Affairs appeals to the President of India in writing.
•On Dec. 24, 2007 John Dayal, aicc Secretary-General appeals to the Prime Minister of India and other officials in writing.

The violence allegedly began when Christians in a village 150 kms from Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, began to celebrate Christmas Eve. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a fight ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was attacked by unknown assailants—allegedly Christians—near Daringbadi while he was travelling. The next day the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for a strike and its members began attacking Christians across the state.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

For more information, contact:
Benjamin Marsh
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(919) 841-8280

For immediate release

Posted on: December 31, 2007

 


Fact Finding Teams Tell of Unprecedented Anti-Christian Violence in Orissa

HYDERABAD Dec. 30, 2007


Roads continue to be blocked by Hindutva fundamentalists and police curfews prevent fact finding teams from traveling. Confirmed reports from one village give a sense of the carnage which is likely being under-reported. In Barkhama, a village near Baliguda in Kandhamal district, three pastors emerged after hiding in the jungle for five days and reported: – over 100 Christian homes destroyed – two Christians killed and burnt in front of the local church and another murdered in a market on Christmas Eve – at least fifteen Christians missing and suspected to be killed and buried in the nearby forest


An aicc fact finding team headed by John Dayal, aicc Secretary-General and Member of the National Integration Council, has been unable to reach the hardest hit areas due to police curfews. On Dec. 29, 2007, Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapur forced the team to leave the affected areas due to safety concerns. Efforts by a Christian delegation to visit Baminigaon, called the epicentre of the trouble, were unsuccessful as well.


We continue to plead with leaders of the worlds largest democracy to uphold the rule of law and protect Christians in rural Orissa. The governments actions seem to be too little, too late. We are distressed that radical Hindutva groups justify their violent attacks on innocent victims especially children by saying they are protesting forced or fraudulent conversions. Similar claims over the past decade have always been proven false. But the bottom line is that religious differences are never an excuse for violence, said Dr. Joseph Dsouza, aicc President.


We are deeply worried by media reports that police and other local authorities in Orissa stood by and watched attacks on Christians. Some media commentators have said the violence is a combination of politics, caste-based discrimination, and religious vendettas. Whatever the motivation, we must not forget that innocent people mostly Dalits and tribals are suffering right now, said Sam Paul, aicc Secretary, Public Affairs.


Upcoming events:

– a Christian delegation including aicc leaders will meet Justice Shri S. Rajendra Babu, Chairman of India’s National Human Rights Commission on Dec. 31, 2007 at 12:30pm

– a major protest rally to be held in Chennai, Tamil Nadu onJanuary 2, 2008

– another rally is planned for in Bhubaneswar, Orissa to be organized by aicc and the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations; details to be announced.



Past events:

– On Dec. 30, 2007, candle-light vigils and protest marches were held by Christians in many cities including Delhi and Hyderabad.

– On Dec. 30, 2007 the aicc Jharkhand chapter delivered a memo to the state Chief Minister and Governor to request action.

– On Dec. 29, 2007 the Governor of Chennai received a memorandum from the aicc Tamil Nadu chapter demanding action.

– On Dec. 29, 2007 a delegation including aicc leaders met the Vice President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, and appealed for action by the Central Government.

– On Dec. 27, 2007, large rallies of Christians and non-Christian civil society leaders were held in numerous cities across India including about 1,000 people in New Delhi.

– On Dec. 27, 2007, a delegation including aicc leaders met the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mohamed Shafi Qureshi.

– On Dec. 27, 2007, a delegation including aicc leaders met the Minister of Home Affairs, Shivraj V. Patil.

– On Dec. 27, 2007, an aicc-led delegation met the Orissa Chief Minister, Neevan Patnaik.



The violence allegedly began when Christians in a village 150 kms from Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, began to celebrate Christmas Eve. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a fight ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was attacked by unknown assailants—allegedly Christians—near Daringbadi while he was travelling. The next day the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for a strike and its members began attacking Christians across the state.


The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.


The Dalit Freedom Networks mission is to partner with the Dalits (Indias Untouchables) in their quest for religious freedom, social justice, and human dignity by mobilizing human, informational, and financial resources. Their website is:

Posted on: December 30, 2007

 


All India Christian Council appeals attack on Christians in Orissa

Greetings from the All India Christian Council.

Our Orissa Chapter had been in touch with us about the massive destruction and fear caused by the fundamentalist forces of Orissa in the Districts of Kandhmal and Phulbani.

Since 24th December 2007 just in two days time where the celebrations of Christmas are disturbed at gunpoint, I was informed that 13 Churches in total were demolished or razed to the ground and 3 Christians shot dead and several others injured.

Our local leaders tried to contact the The District Collector and the Superintendent of Police of the District of Kandhamal who are confessing their inability to stop the violence and bloodshed of the Christians and are unable to maintain the law and order.

The District collector and Superintendent of Police of Phulbani have warned our Christian pastors not to come near the Christian places as they are unable to provide security to them. The situation is getting worse by hour and I request your kind intervention in this matter.

If the State Government is unable to control the situation the deployment of Army should not be ruled out before more people get killed and to restore peace and order in the Districts. The affected are poor Christians that are celebrating the birth of Jesus and are soft targets of the RSS and Sangh Parivar fundamentalist elements in the local places.

Madam, I am obtaining the full details of the Churches demolished in a few hours which will be passed on to you.

Thanking you for your kind intervention.

Sincerely Yours,

For more information, contact:
Benjamin Marsh
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(919) 841-8280

Posted on: December 25, 2007

 


DFN Social Justice Updates

Dalit widow fired from position as cook because students refused to eat food prepared by her “polluted” hands
On December 16th 2007, school officials fired a Dalit cook because students had refused their mid-day meals. While the older students attempted to justify their decision by claiming that the food was “unhygienic,” an investigation revealed that the food was perfectly acceptable to consume. Younger children were more open with their reasons, and declared that they would not eat food prepared by a lower caste woman. Officials believe the boycott is being encouraged by a high-caste village leader and are hesitant to re-hire another Dalit cook for fear that the protests will continue. Their willingness to surrender to community pressures is evidence of the persistence and power of caste-stigma.
Read More here.

Dalit leader murdered by strangulation
On December 14th, 2007 a Dalit village leader in Lapra was strangled to death by “unidentified assailants.” His body was found near a canal the next morning. The police chief claims the death is related to “old rivalries” and will not acknowledge the role caste played in the attack.
Read More here.

Gap between male and female literacy rates is growing, especially in India
A UN report released Wednesday addressed the increasing literacy gap between male and female children of the world. According to the report, South Asian countries, including India, are among the worst for educational equality. Poverty is cited as the primary reason for the disparity, as many poor families who rely on their children for labor and income will send only their sons to school. The report emphasizes that education and employment opportunities will play a vital role in the economic development of these countries, but suggests that the continued exclusion of females from this process could have severe consequences.
Read More here.

The situation for the GSCC pastor in Bihar continues to worsen
If it was not enough for the GSCC pastor in Bihar to be physically attacked and thrown into jail for his commitment to follow Christ, he and his wife are now facing urgent medical problems. While he is suffering from a kidney stone that may require an operation, his wife is in immediate need of surgery for a gal bladder stone. Her surgery will cost Rps. 12,000 or more. Because the pastor was forced to pay Rps. 700 for his release from jail, they have no money for the medical treatments they so desperately need.

Posted on: December 21, 2007

 


A gift for India’s inter-caste couples

By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 4, 2007

BAIRAGHAR, India — Plenty of women may feel they deserve an award for marrying their husbands, but Madhavi Arwar is actually getting one—from the Indian government, no less.image

Not that her husband, Chandrashekhar, is a bad sort. In fact, he’s a good-looking guy, holds a steady job at an insurance company and dotes on their apple-cheeked son.

But he is also a Dalit, or an “untouchable,” the lowest of the low under India’s ancient caste system. Madhavi is not a Dalit, and for marrying “down” the social ladder, she is entitled to $250 in cash, plus a certificate of appreciation.

“I was a bit amazed that even for a thing like marriage, they were giving money,” Madhavi, 33, said as she sat in her living room here in central India.

The windfall is part of the government’s campaign to chop away at the barriers of caste, the complex hierarchy wherein a person’s place in society is determined purely by birth.

As India struggles to modernize and transform itself into an important world player economically, officials know they need to erase these age-old divisions and expand opportunities for social mobility for all the country’s 1.1 billion people, including the majority who have historically been considered low-caste and oppressed.

Mandatory quotas in education and public-sector jobs have been in place for years. Now private companies, the engine of India’s rapid economic growth, are also looking to train and hire more employees from lower-caste backgrounds.

The integration efforts have enjoyed some success, especially in booming….read full article by clicking here.

Posted on: November 5, 2007

 


Thrown out of hospital, two Dalit women die

From The Times of India, Nov. 2, 2007.

KANPUR: If it was expected that atrocities against Dalits would become a thing of the past after their icon Mayawati came to power with a BSP majority in UP, it was misplaced because in a shocking incident, two Dalit women died after being thrown out of a government hospital here on Thursday.

What will send the state government particularly into a tizzy is that the gruesome assault took place not in some remote district but right in the heart of UP, and that too for the inability of the two women to bribe government health officials with a paltry Rs 1,000 each barely two hours after they gave birth to two babies.

While the incident speaks volumes about corruption in the health department, it also underlines the continuing humiliation of Dalits.

Devorati (25), who gave birth to a boy around 5 pm, was the first to die. Her husband Dilip had admitted her to the hospital after bribing an official with Rs 500. As per government norms, admission to hospitals is free and women coming for delivery should get Rs 1,400 as an allowance. But on the contrary, Dilip was asked to pay an additional Rs 1,000.

“Soon after childbirth, the medical staff demanded Rs 1,000. When I said I had no money, they threw out my wife despite the fact that she was bleeding and had not regained consciousness,” said Dilip. Back in the village, Devorati’s condition deteriorated rapidly and died.

Within hours, Kamla, wife of Ramprakash of Ambarpur village, too was thrown out of the hospital just after she gave birth to a girl child when her family members refused to pay a bribe of Rs 500 and instead demanded Rs 1,400 under the Janani-Suraksha Yojna meant for pregnant women under BPL category.

Enraged by their deaths, villagers laid a siege on the hospital and thrashed the staff. Kanpur Dehat DM O P N Singh told TOI, “ADM (City) Anurag Patel has been asked to conduct an inquiry. I have received complaints about doctors’ not coming to the hospital and demanding bribe.”

Posted on: November 2, 2007

 


The caste system - India’s apartheid?

by Balakrishnan Rajagopal,
From The Hindu

In what was perhaps a controversial but telling comparison, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on December 27, 2006, likened discrimination against Dalits in India to the apartheid system in South Africa. A couple of months later, in February, Indian officials were busily denying the existence of caste discrimination and untouchability, in February 2007 in New York, before a leading U.N. human rights body — the committee in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Indian Solicitor General flatly denied that caste discrimination was something the outside world should care about. This attitude of the Indian bureaucracy flatly flies in the face of not only the Prime Minister’s own statement, it does not fit in with India’s own track record in dealing with caste discrimination against Dalits, which should not make it act defensively but should make it more determined to wipe out such practices. This attitude also reveals a knee-jerk negativist mindset that the Indian foreign policy establishment has developed over the years towards international human rights, which needs to change.

It is well known that caste discrimination against Dalits is rampant in India. In an overt form, it is both a political reality and social fact. Dalits are subjected to violence, especially in rural areas, their women raped, and their land stolen. Dalits perform the most dangerous and odious forms of labor in Indian society including that of manual scavenging (removing human or animal waste) or performing low-end ‘dirty’ wage labor in tanneries. For the past two years, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team has been working with Navsarjan, a leading Dalit rights NGO (non-governmental organization) in Gujarat, documenting the socio-economic and health consequences of manual scavenging in Gujarat, and has designed new technological and planning solutions to the problem that go beyond the simple adoption of more anti-discrimination or sector-specific laws and policies. In Gujarat, the legal route has been pursued as much as possible, through public interest litigation and government orders. Nevertheless, the data reveal that the number of manual scavengers has kept increasing and is likely to be between 50,000 and 60,000 in Gujarat alone. Research indicates that social and economic discrimination against Dalits persists to an alarming degree despite all the laws in the books. For example, in the village of Paliyad in Gujarat, where the MIT-Navsarjan team has been working, data indicate that more than 40 per cent of manual scavengers are frequently or always denied access to the marketplace, thus preventing normal economic activity or labor mobility.

Dalits are poorly represented in the professions, business, media, and the higher levels of the government including the police, the army, and the judiciary. Recent studies based on available data indicate, for example, that 47 per cent of the Chief Justices of India have been Brahmins (who constitute 6.4 per cent of the population) as have been 40 per cent of all the other judges. There is also rampant social discrimination against Dalits, including through the caste-ridden system of ‘arranged’ marriages. There is little social mixing of forward castes with the Dalits through shared festivals or even routine social interaction. Residential areas tend to be segregated along caste lines, especially in rural areas where most people still live. Caste discrimination against Dalits is deep-rooted in society and the economy and quick-fix solutions through the law alone will not help. Measures against discrimination are complicated by the fact that there is increasing evidence of intra-caste differentiation among Dalits, with some sub-castes like manual scavengers suffering significantly more discrimination. For example, in the village of Paliyad, the water source for 47 per cent of manual scavengers is a 30-minute or longer walk from their homes, while for a majority of non-scavenger Dalits that time is only five minutes or less of travel. Distance to water collection affects health, economic productivity, and gender equality.

The Indian government delegation that appeared before the U.N. human rights body cited a litany of laws that have been passed to end caste discrimination and atrocities against Dalits. This much is, in fact, true and India should certainly take much pride in the establishment of a formal system of equality through laws. The political gains made by Dalit parties in recent years can also be celebrated as a healthy example of the virtues of Indian democracy in ending social ills. But, in practice, these laws are poorly implemented. The Indian delegation refused to share data on implementation with the U.N. body, which it is legally obligated to do. Instead, the government delegation argued that ‘descent-based discrimination’ does not constitute racial discrimination under the specific U.N. treaty in question, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

This is a misguided position. India’s own Prime Minister has compared caste discrimination to apartheid, which is the worst example of racial discrimination. India should also not forget that its current position goes against much of the history of the last 50 years of human rights law making. The irony is that it was India that suggested the definition in the CERD be expanded for ‘descent-based discrimination’ to include caste when the treaty was being drafted. India’s current position simply disavows its own history.

India’s position before the U.N. human rights body also typifies its overall attitude towards the place of human rights in its foreign policy. Nervous, Third Worldist, lacking confidence in its own democratic credentials, India constantly sides with the likes of Zimbabwe and Sudan at the U.N. on human rights issues. In international politics, as in domestic life, one is often judged by the company one keeps. There is no reason why India should not recover the moral high ground it occupied in the first few decades after Independence, suffused with the glow of Gandhian anti-colonialism, and often taking a leading position on human rights issues of the day. Instead, it has abandoned the human rights agenda to the west. On the issue of caste discrimination against Dalits, India’s recalcitrant and nervous attitude is only reminiscent of similar attitudes adopted by the government of the U.S. in its treatment of minorities or the white South African state over apartheid. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister aptly compared caste discrimination to apartheid.

Nervousness about being accused of racial discrimination is understandable but the Indian bureaucracy is too quick in biting its finger nails. The Prime Minister’s reference to apartheid should fan the flames of moral outrage at caste discrimination, rather than acting as a panic button. India has a proud history of battling South African apartheid and was the first nation to put the apartheid issue on the agenda of the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, when no nation dared to criticise the ‘internal affairs’ of other nations. Having taken a principled stand in foreign policy against racial discrimination and apartheid, India should not hide behind a false sense of Third World sovereignty in discussing the real problems of how to effectively end caste discrimination in a complex society.

How to end caste discrimination against Dalits is a profound issue because its roots go to the structural importance of caste for the operation of Indian society and the economy itself. After decades of legislating to end caste discrimination, it is legitimate now to ask: can one end caste discrimination without ending caste itself? If so, what does that imply for policy making and law? Caste discrimination exists because people continue to believe in caste. Indian democracy is, paradoxically, a culprit. By encouraging the formation of democratic participation along the lines of identity, caste is, in fact, reinforced every time India goes to the polls. The recent electoral gains of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh must be seen in the context of this double-edged nature of caste. It may be hard to imagine Indian society and state outside of the system of caste. Even Dalit Christians, Sikhs, and Muslims find that caste discrimination continues to exist after they have acquired different religious identities. Yet caste discrimination against Dalits, in all its forms, is a stain on the idea of a modern India, and needs to be eliminated effectively.

While the Indian Constitution outlawed untouchability and caste discrimination, it did not abolish caste itself. This was realized by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, who called for the ‘annihilation of caste’ itself. It may be time for the government and society to reorient themselves towards this goal and begin the process of ending India’s system of apartheid.

(The writer is Ford International Associate Professor of Law and Development and Director, MIT Program on Human Rights and Justice. He is currently leading a collaborative effort between MIT and Navsarjan, a major Dalit NGO in Gujarat, on the elimination of manual scavenging.)

Posted on: August 21, 2007

 


Manual Scavengers, Victims of Caste Pyramid

From CNN-IBN

New Delhi: The focus on this week’s 30 Minutes is perhaps the most degrading practice of 21st century in India – a practice that deprives thousands of their fundamental right to live with dignity.

Meet Bhuri with her broom and a basket, every morning she makes her way to the upper caste houses in her village – Gohad in Madhya Pradesh.

Her job is to clean toilets, pick other people’s excreta. Bhuri is a manual scavenger. She has been scavenging for last 10 years soon after she got married.

Bhuri says, “I used to hate the foul smell, I used to vomit after a while I got used to it. Now it’s not a problem.”

Molded into submission Bhuri has responsibilities – the four children and a husband who barely makes enough money to keep the home fires burning. “My husband gambles and drinks. I go to work and he just drinks. Sometimes I have to beg for food to feed my children, “ Bhuri adds.

The Valmikis of Madhya Pradesh, the Bhangis of Gujarat, Pakhis in Andhra and the Sikkaliars of Tamil Nadu are all manual scavengers.

Their daily job is to pick up other people’s excreta from dry toilets using brooms and baskets. This is not something they choose to do but something they’re born into – because they are at the very bottom of the caste pyramid.

More than 50 such women in Gohad go to work with brooms and baskets every morning. They’re all from Dalit sub castes. They all got married into scavenging families. And the job came as a legacy – passed on from the mother-in-law to the daughter-in-law.

Ladkunwar, who was working as a scavenger says, “I had to do it because women in the family did it. My mother-in-law forced me into it.”

Cleaning dry toilets and manually removing human waste is a violation of human rights and dignity and a punishable offence. The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act of 1993 says – offenders can face a jail term of up to one year or fined Rs 2000.

But 15 years on, the ground reality is that this law is far from being implemented.

Valmikis don’t have too many options. If they wish to take up another occupation, it is not allowed. Born into a Valmiki family you can only become a sweeper or a scavenger.

Even a minute in this overpowering stench seems too long but thousands across the country have been doing this every morning for years now. These women go through the worse possible form of caste oppression. Even in the 21st century, caste hierarchy and untouchability prevent them from rising to any other job.

“There’s no other work for Valmikis in this village because we’re untouchable. Who will give us a respectable job?” Ladkunwar questions.

Shame comes with very little money these scavengers scrape a meager Rs 10 to Rs 20 per month from every house they clean. Come afternoon and they go back to the same houses this time scavenging for food.

Bismillah, a resident of Gohad, believes in God and in the caste-system. Picking up human waste is the domain of the downtrodden. Ironically, till some time back, Bismillah was herself discriminated against – for belonging to the minority community.

Bismillah says, “Who will clean? If the sweeper gets better work then who will do this work?”

Click here to view the IBN video on Manual Scavenging

Posted on: July 23, 2007

 


Scavenging Deeply Rooted in Caste System

From CNN-IBN

New Delhi: The country has not been able to do away with the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging because the issue is not just about poverty or lack of awareness. Manual scavenging is deeply rooted in caste and attempts to stop the practice are still resisted.

CNN-IBN travelled to another village – Navrol in Madhya Pradesh to meet Shantibai. She’s a manual scavenger and she hates her job. She has been doing this for 20 years because this is what her ancestors did.

Shantibai says, “We have been doing this for years. Our ancestors did it so we’re also doing it.”

For this work that she finds extremely repulsive, Shantibai is not even paid regularly.

“We get food grains when the crop is good. This year there was a hailstorm, what will we get?” Shantibai adds. Here in Navrol, manual scavengers are paid in kind. During harvest, they’re given food grains in exchange of an entire year of work. But many like Shantibai have not received anything in the last 2-3 years due to crop failure.

And being Valmikis, they’re at the bottom of the caste ladder and are not allowed to do any other work.

Shantibai tried her best to shrug the scavenger’s tag but people in her village wouldn’t allow ‘the untouchable’ to touch another job.

But all hope is not lost. Many have taken up the struggle against manual scavenging and the caste system and regained some of their lost dignity.

Battobai from Malanpur in Madhya Pradesh has found her lost voice. After marriage, she was forced into scavenging by her mother in law. Often locked up and denied food when she refused to work.

But last year her case was taken up by a local NGO and she successfully quit scavenging. Today she knocks doors of other scavenger women cajoling them to a better life.

Battobai says, “I tell people what will they eat in a salary of Rs 10 per month from each house? I tell them if they quit this job, they can earn up to Rs 50 a day.”

But even after quitting this work, Battobai finds that untouchability remains untouched.

“They say just because we’re not scavenging anymore we can’t become Thakurs. We will always remain Bhangis,” Battobai adds.

Ramvati also a manual scavenger gave up the disgraceful work two years ago. She’d much rather sweep the local police station than go back to cleaning other people’s toilets.

Battobai and Ramvati may have had the courage to fight the system. But activists say, even today the country has as many as 13 lakh manual scavengers.

Safai Karamchari Andolan convenor Bezwada Wilson says, “We have enough money to convert the toilets. The main problem is we want to start we actually practice untouchability everywhere. Even the civil society and the government -everybody feel that, untouchables when they are cleaning the dry latrines there’s nothing wrong because they are meant for that. They can only do these jobs.”

And sure enough the local government in Gohad, Madhya Pradesh refuses to even acknowledge the presence of manual scavengers in the area.

Gohad BJP MLA Lal Singh Arya says, “There is not a single manual scavenger in Gohad.”

So even as laws are being flouted and human rights violated, the state simply chooses to look away.

Posted on: July 23, 2007

 


Inter-caste marriage means death for Haryana couple

From CNN-IBN

New Delhi: They fell in love and are now paying a price for that.

A panchayat in Haryana has given death sentence to a married couple for tying the knot despite coming from different castes.

Manoj, a dalit hailing from Nooh village of Haryana, married Rimpy, a girl from the influential Saini community of the state at an Arya Samaj temple in Delhi on June 18 defying opposition from the girl’s family.

The marriage raised the hackles of the elders in Nooh village, who issued a death fatwa of sorts on the couple.

Since then Manoj and Rimpy have been running for their lives and reached Hauz Khas police station in New Delhi on Wednesday.

“We are running for our lives. Sainis want us dead. Girl’s father has been threatening to kill us,” says Manoj’s grandmother, Lakshmi.

The couple says they got their marriage registered in the Tis Hazari Court on the June 19 and sent a copy of the certificate to the Nooh police station.

However, they claim police still filed a case of kidnapping against Manoj.

“They lodged a false FIR against Manoj on the 20th despite the papers having reached the police station on 19th,” says Manoj’s friend.

The Delhi Police initially sent Manoj and Rimpy back to Nooh. But after women’s rights activists intervened, they were called back to Delhi. The two are now under police protection.

Posted on: July 20, 2007

 


Jobs, facilities elude UP Dalits

From the Times of India

LUCKNOW: In a state headed by a powerful Dalit leader, the community members are yet to gain much in terms of employment, land or other facilities that could push them socially upward. Even cases of atrocity against Dalits have not gone down drastically in the past few months.

For the past few years, the government’s efforts to procure surplus land and distribute them among Dalits have remained on paper only.

In 1999, the government had asked district magistrates to give detailed reports about surplus land which could be distributed among Dalits. After persistent persuasion of several years by the government, most of the DMs said that there was not enough land to be distributed among Dalits.

The state had 1.36 crore landless people who were promised small patches of land by various governments but not one could be given till now, according to official sources.

Only three DMs said that there was some land which could be given to Dalits. Interestingly, the government always maintained that there was enough land to be given to Dalits.

Further, though the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme — providing for 100 days job to rural poor—is being implemented in 22 districts in the state, many Dalits fail to avail this facility because their names do not figure in BPL cards. Without their names in the BPL cards, they cannot be given jobs. This has left thousands of Dalits scurrying for rural jobs which should have been given to them.

Of the total population of the Dalits, nearly 26 per cent are daily wage earners. This percentage has refused to go down during successive governments.

In the past three months, cases of atrocity against Dalits have not decreased, said SR Darapuri of Ambedkar Mahsabha.

At least in half a dozen cases where crime were committed against Dalit women, the government did not act on time, he added. Darapuri felt that unless Dalits “retaliate in affective manner”, their plight would not improve irrespective of claims made by political leaders.

Posted on: July 18, 2007

 


Will Dalit Christians Get Justice?

by M. Madhu Chandra
16 July, 2DalitDalit7

1. Introduction

After constitutional denial of Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity and Muslims after the Presidential Order 1950, a million dollar question remains in the minds of Indian 74257 Christians ̶Dalit;Will the Judicial system of India give justice to Indian Dalit Christians now after 57 years of injustice done to them?”

After much prolong delay, Commission for Minority Religion and Linguistic Minority known as Dalit/#misra_commission" title="Misra Commission">Misra Commission has finally submitted its report to Dalit/#united_progressive_alliance" title="United Progressive Alliance">United Progressive Alliance Government with recommendation that Dalit Christians and Muslims suffer socio-economic and educational backwardness, who should be given back the Scheduled Caste status and its beneficiaries to them. Upon its report and recommendation, Supreme Court of India is to give its judgment on July 19, 2DalitDalit7.

India’s 75% Christians belong to Scheduled Caste communities, whose statutory and benefits available in Constitutional were denied after 195Dalit Presidential Order.

The debate on Dalit Christian reservation has been ongoing for many decades in spite of repeated assurance given to Dalit Christian communities to be included in Dalit/#constitution_scheduled_castes_order_195Dalit" title="Constitution Scheduled Caste Order 195Dalit">Constitution Scheduled Caste Order 195Dalit.

The fundamental, birth and constitutional rights of Christians from Scheduled Caste origins have been denied for last 57 years. Looking at then and now background of Dalit Christians’ demand for Scheduled Caste status, we will able to conclude to say that Justice Misra Commission setup by present UPA government is unnecessary commission because enough commissions before it, have done the necessary research and submitted with recommendation to provide Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians.

2. Background of Dalit Christian Reservation Movement

For first time, Indian’s lowest Dalit/#caste" title="caste">caste known as ̶Dalit;Dalit/#untouchables" title="Untouchables">Untouchables” or ̶Dalit;Depressed Classes” have been identified as Scheduled Castes introduced by Colonial Government of India in 1935.

In the following year Colonial Government of India (Scheduled Castes) Order 1935 specified, ̶Dalit;No Indian Christian shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.” Since then any Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity lost its Scheduled Caste status, although they remain economically, educationally, socially and politically backward as much as before their conversion.

After India got Independent from Colonial power, while framing Indian Constitution the Presidential Order of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Order 195Dalit, the Scheduled Caste Origins converted to any other faiths or religions different from Hinduism has been left out in Para 3 of Dalit/#article_34Dalit" title="Article 341">Article 341.

Dalit Dalit/#sikhs" title="Sikhs">Sikhs protested to be included in Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order 195Dalit and got after six years’ denial of their birth, fundamental and constitutional rights of being Scheduled Caste origin converted to Sikhism. They were listed in Presidential SC/ST Order 195Dalit by amending Para 3 of Article 341 in 1956.

Dalit Dalit/#buddhism" title="Buddhists">Buddhists remained their birth, fundamental, constitutional rights of scheduled caste status denied for 4Dalit years until the Para 3 of Article 341 was amended in 199Dalit to include Scheduled Caste origins converted to Buddhism.

Every time Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhist demanded to be included in Constitution (Scheduled Caste) Order 195Dalit, assurances were also given repeatedly to Scheduled Caste origins converted to Christianity. The birth rights of Dalit Christians have been kept suppressed for 57 years that too without any assurance either from legislate nor political heads.

To read more, click Dalit7Dalit7.htm" title="here"target="_blank">here

Posted on: July 17, 2007

 


Panchayat denies tap water to Orissa Dalits

From the Times of India

BALANGIR: An Orissa panchayat has prevented at least 16 Dalit families from consuming tap water on grounds of untouchability. Bileisarda village panchayat in Balangir has kept pending the pipe-water connection to Harijanpada, though eight other wards of the panchayat have been given pipe-water connections.

Sources said the sarpanch allegedly refused to connect Harijanpada with the same pipe that supplies water to houses of upper caste people. The panchayat, which started laying down pipes in 2005 for fetching water from Suktel river, only completed the work this summer.

“Still, we have been denied water as the sarpanch won’t take up the issue with the high caste people,” said Sarmila Chhatria of Harijanpada. “Despite drawing the attention of the district administration, no official has turned up at our village,” said another Dalit, Tulsiram Bag. The sarpanch belongs to the higher Dumbal (Kshatriya) caste.

He said, “We even requested the sarpanch many times to repair the tube well, but to no avail.”While sarpanch Tapa-swini Biswal refused to speak, her husband Jamidar Biswal told TOI that his wife was elected a few months ago but she did not know much about village politics.

Posted on: July 17, 2007

 


Woman Gives Birth Under Tree as Doctor Refuses Treatment

From the Daily News and Analysis of India

Jagatsinghpur: A woman gave birth to a child under a tree near a government hospital in Orissa after a doctor refused to attend to her as her husband failed to pay a fee of Rs.2,000.

The shocking incident took place Tuesday in the coastal Jagatsinghpur district, around 100 km from Bhubaneswar , but came to light after the women’s husband lodged a police complaint against the doctor Wednesday.

Ranju Sethi, 23, a poor dalit woman from Jhimani village, came to the government-run Community Health Centre at Kujang town with her husband after she started experiencing labor pains.

Abhaya Kumar Dash, a doctor at the center, demanded Rs.2,000 to admit Ranju to the hospital, her husband Gandhrab Sethi told the police.

“When I expressed my inability to pay the amount the doctor abused us and refused to admit my wife in the hospital.

“Finally my wife could not bear the labor pain and delivered a baby under a tree outside the hospital,” he said.

At least 200 locals surrounded the hospital Tuesday evening and demanded immediate action against the doctor, who fled the hospital.

“We are investigating the case and a report will be submitted to the chief district medical officer within two days,” said Binod Kumar Mishra, head of the hospital.

Posted on: July 12, 2007

 


A “Reign of Terror” in Rajasthan

by a special correspondent of The Hindu

JAIPUR: A Dalit man was allegedly murdered near Bilia village in Bhilwara district of Rajasthan this past week on his wife’s refusal to withdraw a rape case against a person belonging to the dominant Gujjar caste. With the prime accused now absconding, Dalits in the region claim that Gujjars are threatening them with dire consequences.

A fact-finding team of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), which visited Bilia earlier this week, found that the brutal murder of Banna Bairwa was the direct outcome of his struggle to get justice for his wife, while police were trying to hush up the rape case and shield the accused, Bhanwarlal Gujjar.

Bhanwarlal, accompanied by two other persons, allegedly followed Banna Bairwa, who was going from Bilia to Sadas village along with two of his friends on a motorcycle on July 6. Bhanwarlal allegedly fired at Banna Bairwa from point blank range, killing him on the spot. Dwarka Raigar, accompanying Banna Bairwa, was seriously injured in the incident.

Pressure on police

NCDHR State monitoring secretary Suman Dewathia alleged here on Wednesday that Gujjars had unleashed a reign of terror in the region and were pressuring police not to arrest the accused, who has since absconded. Police have taken no action to protect the victim’s family and have not even supplied them with a copy of the first information report.

The 12-member fact-finding team, after examining medical reports and documents and interacting with the Dalit community, victim’s family members, eyewitnesses and those defending the accused, reached the conclusion that Banna Bairwa was killed because he and his wife were demanding stringent action against Bhanwarlal on the rape complaint they had lodged against him in Phulia Kalan police station a few months ago.

A delegation of NCDHR, Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR) and Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Abhiyan met the Bhilwara Collector, Hemant Gera, and Superintendent of Police, Mohan Singh, demanding immediate arrest of Bhanwarlal and his accomplices and probe the case in an impartial manner “without succumbing to political pressure”.

CDR Director Satish Kumar regretted that no senior official had visited the village since the murder took place, nor was any action taken to provide security to the victim’s family. “The family of the deceased is entitled to get an immediate financial assistance of Rs.1.5 lakh under Rule 12(4) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,” he said.

Posted on: July 12, 2007

 


Protect witnesses in cases of atrocities against Dalits

from The Hindu

Bangalore: The acquittal of all the accused in the Kambalapalli massacre in which seven Dalits were burnt to death is not an exception. The Karnataka State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes has found that the accused in 98 per cent of cases of atrocities against Dalits were allowed to go scot-free. The reason: witnesses do not turn up for fear of being attacked.

This was disclosed by commission Chairman Nehru C. Olekar at a press conference here on Tuesday after a meeting with representatives of various Dalit organizations. The commission sought their views on the condition of the people from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the jurisdiction of the Bangalore Zilla Panchayat.

Mr. Olekar said the commission would recommend to the Government to provide security to witnesses. However, around 10 per cent of complaints of atrocities were found to be false. There were around 500 cases of atrocities pending in each district.

Strangely, the commission had hardly come across cases of Dalits being ostracized. Three such cases had been reported in the State, including two in Kolar district.

He said 446 atrocity cases were reported in five years in Bangalore Rural district. The taluk-wise break up is: Channapatna – 32, Devanahalli – 44, Doddballapur – 22, Hoskote – 133, Kanakapura – 88, Magadi – 47, Nelamangala – 143 and Ramanagaram – 43.

Confirmation

Mr. Olekar said the commission had taken up the case of confirmation of the services of municipal cleaners (pourakarmikas) in the State with the Legislature Committee on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The working conditions of the municipal cleaners in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (around 8,000) were so bad that they were paid just Rs. 1,200 a month, whereas their counterparts in the Gulbarga City Corporation were paid Rs. 4,900. He said the Government would be asked to stop hiring cleaners through contractors. Instead the workers should be paid directly by the civic body.

Another serious problem Dalits were facing in the State was the inordinate delay in the regularization of unauthorized cultivation by them on government land. Each district had 2,000 to 3,000 such cases that had pending for years.

He said the Government would be asked to regularize such cultivation, barring those on forest land.

Mr. Olekar expressed displeasure over the absence of the Deputy Commissioner of Bangalore Rural district from the meeting. He would write to the Government to take action against the official, he said.

Some Dalit organizations had complained that beneficiaries were not getting subsidies, the Chairman said. The Government would be asked to build one hostel in each of the eight taluks in the district to accommodate post-matric students. The Government would also be asked to remove youths staying in hostels for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, who were not students.

The commission would ask the Government to conduct a Statewide survey on the academic performance of students staying in such hostels. This was to refute the criticism that they were enjoying government largesse without improving their academic performance.

Internal quota

Mr. Olekar supported the demand of organizations representing people from the Madiga, Bhovi and Korama communities for internal reservation to prevent a few influential sections among the Dalits from cornering all the benefits.

The Commission had so far visited 12 districts and would be visiting the other districts. It would give its report to the Government before August 20, he said.

Posted on: July 5, 2007

 


After 22 years, justice fails Dalits

by Rakesh Bhatnagar
Article originally appeared at DNAIndia, July 05, 2007.

NEW DELHI: Twenty-two years after around 20 upper caste Hindus were accused of meting out inhuman treatment to the body of a Dalit which had been brought for cremation, the Uttarakhand [Uttaranchal] high court has acquitted all of them. Reason: the sessions court’s records had been “weeded out” in 1999 and, thus, could not be reconstructed.

A copy of this unprecedented judgment delivered by Justice Dharam Veer last week has been made available in Delhi now.

The case involves a Dalit called Barfu, who had lodged a police complaint in 1985 that some 200 Hindus had attacked mourners carrying his father Bachu’s body for the last rites in village Dugadda, the place where Bachu wanted to be cremated.

Enraged axe-wielding caste Hindus allegedly obstructed the funeral procession. They are also alleged to have insulted the body and abused the mourners. The complaint said the caste Hindus declared that the ‘body’ of a scheduled caste member couldn’t be cremated at Dugadda because “it was a cremation ground for Savarna Hindus.”

The court verdict noted that the cremation was thwarted as the Hindus practiced untouchability. “The women cut the rope and threw the body on the roadside,” the judgment noted.

“The accused fought with Bachu’s son and other mourners . . . The body was left and mourners ran for safety,” the court noted. For three days, Barfu tried to recover his father’s body, but failed.

On the fourth day, Bachu, accompanied by the police, found the body lying on the roadside in the Hindu-controlled area where it had been thrown.

The police later registered a case against two dozen people charging them with hurting the religious sentiments of Dalits, practicing untouchability and defying the Protection of Civil Rights Act.

A trial court convicted the accused, and the verdict was upheld by a sessions court. The latter held the accused guilty of practicing untouchability and of committing various other offences under the rarely applied Protection of Civil Rights Act.

The accused then sought a retrial. In response to the HC judge’s order seeking case records in 2002, the person in charge of the record room replied in 2006 saying “the record of the case has been weeded out on October 15, 1999”. The HC then noted that the records couldn’t be “reconstructed” to appreciate the evidence.

Posted on: July 5, 2007

 


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