India arrests five after raped women hung from mango tree (Telegraph (U.K.))
“Five men, including two police officers, have been arrested in relation to the gang-rape and murder of two teenage cousins found hanging from a tree in northern India earlier this week.
“The girls, aged 14 and 15, who are members of India’s lowest dalit ‘untouchable’ caste, had been kidnapped by a upper caste men on Tuesday evening after they left their homes to go to the toilet in a nearby field. Their families searched in vain for them and they were found dead the following morning.
“The images of their bodies hanging from a mango tree caused revulsion throughout the world and highlighted the violence and persecution suffered by ‘dalits’ in India’s Hindu caste system. [...]
“The arrest of two police officers for alleged complicity in the murders and dereliction of duty followed a complaint by the father of one of the victims who said when he reported his daughter missing he was abused by local constables who refused to search for her. His daughter could have been saved had the police reacted quickly to his request, he said.
“The father claimed caste prejudice – the police officers arrested are from the same higher Yadav caste as the three men accused of the girls’ rape and murder – was a factor in their attitude.”
‘Our ambitious girl’: The village where cousins were raped and hanged (BBC, May 30, 2014):
“The mother of the younger girl showed me her daughter's school notebooks lined with neat Hindi script.
“She said that her daughter always wanted to do something more with her life than get married. She wanted to work and get a job.
“‘She wanted to study until college just like the boys in the village,’ her mother said.
“She had told her daughter that she would be allowed to progress with her studies unhindered because she was the youngest girl in the family.
“The mother said that in her generation women did not work but they have tried hard to educate their children.
“She was composed but also full of anger. The mother of the older girl was howling and unable to speak. [...]
“The girl's father is poor farm labourer.
“When he went to the police outpost at the village one of the men seen by the neighbour harassing his daughter was with them.
“The father claims that police then ridiculed him for his low-caste status. ‘The first thing I was asked was my caste. When I told them they started abusing me,’ he said.
“Even though the accused and the victims are from the same broad category known as ‘Other backward classes’ the victims were lower down within that hierarchy.
“The father said he had to go down on all fours and literally beg the police.
“He said the officers and the man with them kept laughing and told them to go home and the girls would be back in two hours.”
“The overwhelming victor in India’s parliamentary elections that concluded on May 12 was the reactionary Hindu-supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is responsible for one of the bloodiest anti-Muslim pogroms in the country’s recent history. The new prime minister, BJP head Narendra Modi, was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 when his party spearheaded a communal massacre in that state that left over 2,000 dead, most of them Muslims. Now, having won 282 of the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament, Modi’s BJP has a decisive majority, the first time in 30 years that any party has had such a mandate. In the words of one party veteran, the BJP is set to tackle ‘corruption, inflation and Muslims.’
“Modi’s victory unseated the Congress party, which had governed India for all but 13 years since the country gained its independence from the British Empire in 1947. The Indian National Congress, commonly known as Congress, is the traditional organization of the Indian bourgeoisie that was led by ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi, and since independence by the family dynasty that began with Jawaharlal Nehru. Trading on having led mass struggles against the British colonial overlords, Congress cultivated an image of India as ‘the world’s largest democracy’ and of itself as a secular party able to surmount the country’s bitter national, ethnic, religious and caste divisions. In reality, Congress has presided over the suppression of numerous regional-separatist and leftist insurgencies while offering up minorities as scapegoats for conditions in what is one of the most impoverished and oppressed areas of the world.
“By repeatedly playing the Hindu communalist card, Congress put wind in the sails of the vile chauvinism pushed by the BJP. Congress itself has incited communal massacres, most notoriously in 1984 when prominent Congress politicians led lynch mobs in Delhi against the Sikh minority, killing more than 3,000 people. Its role in instigating the massacre—and in covering up its guilt for 30 years—gives the lie to any notion that Congress provides an alternative to BJP communalism.
“Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organization whose founders were inspired by the fascist movements in Europe, believing that Nazi Germany had manifested ‘race pride at its highest.’ Madhav Golwalkar, an early leader of the RSS, expressed in a 1938 book the racist contempt for minorities in India that is inherent in Hindutva, the virulent nationalism based on Hindu fundamentalism:
“The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights.”
“Modi’s well-funded PR machine has worked overtime to prettify his ideology and sweep his dirty deeds under the rug. Based on his promises to develop industry and create jobs on the model of his home state of Gujarat, Modi’s campaign attracted in particular a considerable number of votes from youth in a country where the median age is 27 years. Even though his electoral support went beyond his right-wing Hindu constituency, the victory of an openly communalist party will mean intensified communalist terror, particularly against Muslims, who make up nearly 15 percent of the population. The BJP’s glorification of Hindutva will also fuel a reactionary backlash against women—both in the villages, where caste oppression legitimizes rape of dalit (‘untouchable’) women by higher-caste men, and in the cities, where women who work outside the home or wear Western clothes are considered fair game due to their lack of ‘modesty.’
India: Marginalized Children Denied Education (Human Rights Watch press release)
“The 77-page report, ‘‘They Say We’re Dirty’: Denying an Education to India’s Marginalized,’ documents discrimination by school authorities in four Indian states against Dalit, tribal, and Muslim children. The discrimination creates an unwelcome atmosphere that can lead to truancy and eventually may lead the child to stop going to school.
“‘The teacher tells us to sit on the other side,’ said ‘Pankaj,’ an eight-year-old tribal boy from Uttar Pradesh. ‘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.”’
“Marginalized groups continue to face discrimination in India despite constitutional guarantees and laws prohibiting discrimination, Human Rights Watch said. School authorities reinforce age-old discriminatory attitudes based on caste, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Children from Dalit, tribal, and Muslim communities are often made to sit at the back of the class or in separate rooms, insulted by the use of derogatory names, denied leadership roles, and served food last.They are even told to clean toilets, while children from traditionally privileged groups are not. [...]
“‘Whenever the teachers are angry, they call us Mullahs. The Hindu boys also call us Mullahs because our fathers have beards. We feel insulted when they refer to us like this.’ – Javed, a 10-year-old Muslim boy, Delhi
“‘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.’ – Shyam, a 14-year-old Dalit boy, Uttar Pradesh
“‘We were asked to massage a teacher’s legs. If we refused, he used to beat us. There was a toilet for teachers, which is the one we had to clean.’ – Naresh, a 12-year-old Dalit boy, Bihar”
“As the 30th anniversary of the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar approaches, official documents made public in Britain revealed that Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government aided the Indian military in planning the attack in the Sikh holy city. The documents that were declassified in January include a personal letter from Thatcher expressing support for Indira Gandhi’s policy on the Punjab. Support for the 1984 atrocity against the Sikhs is hardly shocking, coming from the former colonial power that was directly responsible for the first Amritsar massacre. In 1919, under the command of General Reginald Dyer, troops gunned down and killed somewhere between 400 and 1,000 civilians who were gathered in a park. Many had come to celebrate a religious holiday; others came out in defiance of a British ban on political protests against colonial rule. Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron paid a high profile visit to Jallianwala Bagh, the scene of the 1919 Amritsar massacre. Cameron’s hypocritical expression of ‘regret’ was a cheap ploy to garner votes from among Britain’s 500,000 Sikhs.
“The 1984 assault on the Golden Temple ordered by Indira Gandhi’s Congress government in Delhi was an atrocity against all Sikhs. Ostensibly intended to overpower armed Sikh fundamentalists, followers of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had taken up positions in the temple complex, the attack slaughtered as many as 2,000 people, many of them pilgrims, including women and children. The attack made a martyr out of Bhindranwale and dramatically boosted support for religious fundamentalism among Sikhs. In India and abroad, angry protests erupted, often led by reactionaries demanding Khalistan, a theocratic Sikh state. Some 4,000 Sikh soldiers deserted their regiments as the unrest spread to India’s armed forces, over ten per cent of which were Sikh. Throughout Punjab and in cities such as Delhi, Sikhs were arrested and tortured by the thousands. At the time we wrote, ‘the vicious crackdown by the Hindu-chauvinist Gandhi regime was an attack on the entire Sikh community and a bloody lesson to all opponents of the regime. And the repercussions are likely to be immense, and even bloodier, as the reactionary legacy of British imperialist rule continues to wreak havoc upon the Indian masses’ (Spartacist Britain No. 60, August 1984). That legacy was again played out in a communalist frenzy, directed overwhelmingly against the Sikhs, that recalled the horrors of Partition [that divided the subcontinent between majority-Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan in 1947].”
Why Free Speech Loses in India by Jonathan Shainin (The New Yorker (blog))
“This week the picture [of civil rights in India] dimmed a little further, with the news that ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History,’ an eight-hundred-page book by Wendy Doniger, an eminent professor of religion at the University of Chicago, would be removed from Indian book shops. Penguin Books India, which first published the book, in 2009, signed an out-of-court settlement with an advocacy group, the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (‘Movement to Save Education’), who claim to be defending ‘the sentiments of Hindus all over the world.’ The group had filed a civil suit and multiple criminal complaints against Doniger and her publisher; under the terms of the agreement, which includes a bizarre clause requiring Penguin to affirm ‘that it respects all religions worldwide,’ the publisher will cease to sell ‘The Hindus’ in India, and pulp its remaining inventory.
“The original legal notice in the case, sent to Penguin in 2010, alleged that the book ‘is a shallow, distorted, and non-serious presentation of Hinduism … written with a Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in a poor light … The intent is clearly to ridicule, humiliate, and defame the Hindus and denigrate the Hindu traditions.’ Citing a passage in which Doniger refers to Sanskrit texts written ‘at a time of glorious sexual openness and insight,’ the complaint declares that her ‘approach is of a woman hungry of sex.’
“Conservative Hindu groups have been campaigning against Doniger for more than a decade, contending that she misunderstands and deliberately misrepresents Hindu texts and practices, insults Hindu gods in her readings of myth, and crudely focusses, through a psychoanalytic lens and above all else, on sex. [...]
“Assigning blame for this deplorable state of affairs, as with so much else in India, is an exhausting exercise in circularity. In Doniger’s case, it would seem reasonable to start with the man who filed the suit, Dinanath Batra, who has waged a series of legal battles to cleanse Indian textbooks of what he deems ‘objectionable passages.’ But Batra, who is associated with the family of Hindu nationalist organizations connected to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.), has many defenders, who maintain that he has simply sought recourse to which he is entitled by Indian law. (This defense has frequently been accompanied by the disingenuous claim that free speech is not at issue in this case, because the settlement was a voluntary one.)
“So perhaps the law is to blame? This was the crux of Doniger’s own statement, released on Tuesday: the ‘true villain,’ she wrote, was the section of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes, in its words, ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.’ [...]
“On Friday, Penguin India finally released a statement, which suggested that the relevant Indian law ‘will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression.’ This may be true, but it is a claim that should have been tested by seeing the case through to its conclusion.
“In the absence of further clarification from Penguin, we are left with the dispiriting sight of the world’s largest trade publisher—the recently merged Penguin Random House—surrendering to a spurious legal threat from a minor advocacy group. Seen from this perspective, it seems certain that the decision to withdraw the book was not made in Delhi. It is all too easy to imagine that Bertelsmann and Pearson, the European conglomerates that share ownership of the company, concluded that a long legal struggle to defend free speech in India was not worth even a minor cost to the bottom line.”
See also on anti-caste:
India and Pakistan Account For 2000 Honour Killings Every Year (International Business Times)
“Honour killing is the murder of a person accused of bringing shame upon his or her family.
“Out of the 5000 honour killings that occur internationally each year, about 1000 happen in India, and 1000 take place in Pakistan, according to international digital resource centre Honour Based Violence Awareness (HBVA).
“However, where the central criminal justice system is weak or unaffordable, honour killings may be ordered through informal legal systems. This makes the statistics unreliable, as the number of honour killings per year might be much higher than the official reports say.”
“At a time when India was celebrating 65th Republic Day, four Dalit families of a Karnataka village [...] were begging for water and groceries after their fellow upper caste villagers boycotted them.
“Their sin was celebrating Sankranti ahead of its schedule and applying for the post of midday meal cook at a government school in Kolar district’s Kagganahalli village, just over 100km from Bangalore. [...]
“The Dalit community was asked not to apply for the cook’s post in the school, as other communities might not approve of it.
“A fine of Rs 501 on the families found socialising with Dalits; a penalty of Rs 1,001 for sharing water with them; prohibiting grocery shop owners from selling anything to the Dalit families - all these diktats were announced in the village.
“Sixteen Dalit families reside on the periphery of the village. The families of Muniswamappa, Munivenkatappa, Papanna and Krishnappa are now facing a social boycott.”
“A father in Bihar is suing his only son for defamation after he married a woman from a lower caste, saying he has damaged his reputation and social standing.
“Sidhnath Sharma is seeking one lakh in damages from his son Sushant Jasu and wants to prevent him from using the family surname. A court will hear his case this weekend.
“‘For ages, it has been an accepted tradition of arranged marriages within your own caste,’ Mr Sharma, a lawyer from the upper-case Bhumihar group told news agency AFP from his home in the town of Danapur, just outside Patna.
“‘But when my only son ended that, it not only stunned me, it also affected my social status,’ Mr Sharma said on Tuesday.
“His son, a tax official who works in the western state of Gujarat, married his now wife, a bank officer from Danapur, last November.”
Village Council in India Accused of Ordering Rape (New York Times)
“A young woman in West Bengal was gang-raped this week on the order of a village council, to punish her for planning to marry a man from outside the village, according to the Indian police. [...]
“The episode began on Monday when Khaliq Sheikh, the man from outside the village, asked the young woman to marry him, and she accepted his proposal, the police said. When Balai Mardi, the chief of the village, heard about it, he quickly sought to block the marriage.
“According to local news media accounts, villagers went to the young woman’s house and detained Mr. Sheikh, and the next day, he and the young woman were taken to the village square, tied to separate trees and accused of breaking community rules.
“Mr. Mardi ordered the couple to pay fines totaling 27,000 rupees, or about $442, Mr. Yadav said in a telephone interview. Mr. Sheikh paid his portion and was allowed to leave, but when the young woman’s family refused to pay, Mr. Mardi ordered villagers ‘to enjoy her,’ said a police officer who spoke on condition that he not be named.
“She was then raped repeatedly in Mr. Mardi’s mud-and-thatch hut, according to local news reports.
“Mr. Mardi told the young woman and her family that if they reported the rape to the police, the village elders would burn their house down, Mr. Yadav said. [...]
“Village councils are common in rural India. They often enforce strict codes of conduct, and in some cases are deeply involved in deciding who will marry whom. Councils are often worried that marriages to outsiders will dilute communal land claims, among other concerns. Couples who defy the marital codes are sometimes murdered.”
“Indian law prevents discrimination against inter-caste marriage, but, in reality, many remain resistant to such unions in a country where, despite social change and rapid modernisation, tradition still holds sway.
“So-called ‘honour killings’ in which couples are shot, stabbed, lynched or poisoned are still carried out, although in decreasing numbers, as families attempt to defend their reputation thought sullied by a breach of strict caste-based rules. [...]
“Such prejudices mean such inter-caste marriages are few, although the numbers are growing, albeit slowly. Government figures show 9,623 marriages were recorded in 2012 between Dalits and partners from higher groups, compared to 7,617 the year before — a small figure in a country of 1.2 billion people where getting married is considered paramount.
“Local newspapers are full of advertisements from parents seeking partners for their son or daughter from the same caste, and arranged marriages are still common.
“‘Parents may agree with their child's choice (of partner),’ Srinivas Goli, a professor at the Giri Institute of Development Studies in the northern city of Lucknow, tells AFP. ‘But the families’ concerns about the reputation and respect for their families (by the community) often force them to go against’ their child’s choice in such cases, he says.
“Some families themselves fear marginalisation and even physical harm from the rest of the community, particularly in rural and remote areas, if they stand by their children's choices to break caste rules.
“In northern India, male-dominated khap panchayats or village committees wield huge influence in such matters and often act as a kind of moral police.
“Some issue outright bans on inter-caste marriages, while at the same time supporting child marriages within the same caste, according to women’s rights activist Jagmati Sangwan.
“In Haryana state, for example, where khap panchayats are dominant, Dalits are almost entirely landless. And Dalits marrying into higher castes threaten to ‘change the balance of power’ that has been in place for generations, says Sangwan.”
Dalit family flees after feudal lords capture their land (Times of India)
“A dalit family from remote Harpura village of Sarwar block of the district are trying to get shelter going from one village to another these days. They were thrashed and threatened not to enter their village again by feudal lords (samants) so that they can take over their land.
“Dalit Kanaram has a small piece of land in Harpura village and he ploughs the land to grow crops and support his family. ‘On January 3, when I went to dump the cattle dung in the field near my house, Kishanlal Jat, Jagdish Jat and others came and told me that the land belongs to them. When I opposed them, they started hitting me and broke my nose.’
“‘They also hit me on my chest and on parts of my thigh after which I get severe bruises. They threatened to leave the village in 24 hours or to face consequences,’ said Rameshwari Devi, wife of Kanaram.
“She added that during the night, the samants came to her house and beat her husband Kanaram, their eight year-old son Govind and seven-year-old Vishnu and one of her sons got a fracture in his hand, ‘After the beating, we fled from our house early in the morning and went to our relatives’ place. We also approached Sawar police station and after making few rounds, they registered a complaint. Considering the threat, we have no courage to enter own village and house,’ Rameshwari said.
“The woman is worried that since last one week their sons are not able to attend school and are not studying. She added that they left their cattle behind and no one is there to feed them. ‘We cannot live all our life with our relatives and therefore wanted to return back to our village,’ she said. [...]
“The Jats are dominating in this zone and the conflict there is mostly on land as the Bisalpur dam is nearby, the underground water level is good and bear good crops.”
“In tsarist Russia, Gypsies were subjected to police measures and discriminatory laws. In the mid 18th century, Empress Elizabeth issued a decree forbidding Gypsies from entering the capital of St. Petersburg and its environs. In 1783, the Senate sought to prevent Gypsies from moving from one landowner to another. Subsequently, it decreed that wandering Gypsies would be placed under surveillance and returned to their original districts. [...]
“Understanding that the capitalist ruling classes foment racism and nationalism to divide and weaken the workers of different backgrounds and thus to maintain their hold on power, the Bolsheviks irreconcilably opposed anti-Semitism and all national, religious and ethnic oppression. The ‘Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia,’ adopted shortly after the October Revolution, proclaimed ‘the right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination’ and ‘the abolition of any and all national and national-religious privileges and disabilities.’ The declaration committed the workers state to ‘the free development of national minorities and ethnographic groups inhabiting the territory of Russia.’
“Animated by the Bolshevik program of combating national chauvinism and uniting the workers of the world against the capitalist-imperialist system, the early Soviet state made a heroic effort to bring progress, modernity and freedom to the Roma peoples. As historian David M. Crowe remarked in A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia (1994):
The 1920s saw something of a Gypsy renaissance take root in Eastern Europe and Russia as Roma intellectuals struggled to carve out a niche for the Gypsies in the new nations. Though their efforts to create organizations and publish works in Romany were admirable, they were crippled by inexperience and lack of financial support as well as centuries-old prejudice and indifference. The most remarkable, lasting gains for Roma came in the new Soviet Russian state.
“While the Roma in Soviet Russia would go on to progress in ways unimaginable in the capitalist world, their advances were also circumscribed and in part reversed under the Stalinist bureaucracy that seized political control in 1923-24. While the Bolsheviks under V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky had upheld the equality of all nations and languages as part of their program for world socialist revolution, Stalin’s regime would increasingly be marked by Great Russian chauvinism as it promoted the nationalist, anti-Marxist dogma of ‘building socialism in one country.’ Even in 1922, it was Stalin’s assault on the national rights of the Georgians that prompted Lenin to argue for his removal as General Secretary of the Communist Party.
“It is necessary to understand that despite the political counterrevolution, the Soviet Union remained a workers state. Although distorted by the rule of a privileged bureaucracy and subjected to the immense pressures of the hostile imperialist powers, the collectivized, planned economy resulted in enormous social advances for the Soviet peoples, particularly the more benighted, as in Central Asia. In his groundbreaking analysis of the Soviet Union under Stalin, Trotsky observed in The Revolution Betrayed (1936):
It is true that in the sphere of national policy, as in the sphere of economy, the Soviet bureaucracy still continues to carry out a certain part of the progressive work, although with immoderate overhead expenses. This is especially true of the backward nationalities of the Union, which must of necessity pass through a more or less prolonged period of borrowing, imitation and assimilation of what exists.”
“Almost exactly a year after a 23-year-old woman died after being brutally gang raped in Delhi, a 16-year-old girl from Kolkata died this New Year’s Eve after she was allegedly set on fire by friends of the men who gang raped her twice last October. [...]
“Last fall, the victim was raped by a group of six men in an abandoned house near her family’s home in Kolkata. Her parents found her in a field the next morning. The next day her father, a taxi driver, took her to lodge a police report but on the way back she was allegedly kidnapped and gang raped by the same group of men in a taxi to teach her a lesson. She was found lying near a railway station. [...]
“In another horrific incident, a 20-year-old woman from the southern state of Tamil Nadu was gang raped by two different groups of men within the span of a few hours on Christmas Eve; a week after New Delhi held vigils marking the date when India’s most infamous gang rape took place.”
India Rape Cases Colored by Caste (Wall Street Journal)
“Lalasa Devi says that before her attacker grabbed her by the throat, he snarled ‘Chamar,’ the name of the so-called untouchable caste into which she was born. ‘What can you do to me?’
“Then he threw her to the ground and raped her, she says.
“Ms. Devi, a mother of four in her mid-30s, says authorities treated her poorly when she registered a complaint against her alleged assailant, who belongs to a high caste in this small northern Indian village. Nine months after the alleged rape, the man she accused is free on bail, and it isn't clear when a trial will begin.
“‘I’m dying of shame,” she said in a recent interview, covering her head with the corner of her sari. “All I had was my honor... you lose that, you have nothing.” [...]
“Rural, lower-caste women such as Ms. Devi also face pervasive and deeply rooted discrimination against those once called "untouchables"—now known as Dalits, or oppressed people. ‘It’s the mind-set of the dominant castes,’ says Deepika, a Dalit-rights activist in New Delhi who uses only one name. ‘To them, raping a Dalit woman is not a sin.’
“A court in the western state of Rajasthan in 1995 acquitted five men of rape,saying upper-caste men couldn’t have raped a Dalit. The state has asked a higher court to review that case—a request that is still pending.
“Ms. Devi’s home village, Dalan Chapara, has a population of about 1,250, nearly all members of Ms. Devi's Chamar caste, whose forebears were leather tanners, and of the accused’s Rajput caste of traditional landowners.
“A gravel road running through the village divides the castes. For the most part, the Rajput houses are built from concrete and the Dalit houses have thatched roofs. There is no marriage across caste lines.
“Villagers said Dalits aren’t allowed in the homes of higher-caste neighbors. At community events, there is segregated seating and separate sets of glasses and tableware are used. Rajput visitors to Dalit homes won’t eat or drink.
“‘Constitutionally, everyone has equal rights,’ says Bipin Chand, a Dalit primary-school teacher who lives in the village. ‘But socially there is no equality.’”
“India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated a ban on gay sex in the world’s largest democracy, following a four-year period of decriminalization that had helped bring homosexuality into the open in the socially conservative country.
“In 2009 the Delhi High Court ruled unconstitutional a section of the penal code dating back to 1860 that prohibits ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal’ and lifted the ban for consenting adults.
“The Supreme Court threw out that decision, saying only parliament could change Section 377 of the penal code, widely interpreted to refer to homosexual sex. Violation of the law can be punished with up to 10 years in jail.
“The move shocked rights activists around the world, who had expected the court simply to rubber-stamp the earlier ruling. In recent years, India's Supreme Court has made progressive rulings on several issues such as prisoners' rights and child labor. [...]
“India’s Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the government could raise the matter in parliament. The government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seen to broadly support the 2009 ruling, and some ministers said they opposed Wednesday’s rollback.
“But it seems unlikely the government will risk taking a stand on the issue in the short term. General elections are due by next May and the socially conservative Hindu nationalist opposition is already gathering momentum.
“India’s gay culture has opened up in recent years, although the country remains overwhelmingly conservative and sex outside marriage, even among heterosexual couples, is largely frowned upon. India’s first gay pride march took place in the eastern city of Kolkata in 1999 and only around a dozen people attended. [...]
“The 2009 judgmenthad allowed people to organize such events far more openly by protecting gay people from being fired because of their sexuality, and has meant that doctors could no longer refuse to treat homosexuals, activists say.”
See 2009 post on anti-caste:
“The Delhi High Court has ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal,’ should not apply to consensual relations between adults.
“The decision that ‘penile, non-vaginal sex’ should not in itself be considered a crime is good news. While few were prosecuted under Section 377, a People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) report noted that it has been commonly used ‘by the police mostly to victimize gay and bisexual men whom they catch in public areas to extort money and blackmail, despite the fact that blackmail and extortion are criminal offences. Section 377 has also been used to intimidate lesbian women, particularly in the cases of women who have run away together, or if they make their relationship known.’ The law is a direct legacy of British rule, having been introduced in 1861 by the colonial state.
“However, the social effects of this formal extension of democratic rights should not be overestimated. It is not suddenly ‘OK to be gay in India,’ as many headlines have suggested. No more than the article in the Indian constitution prohibiting ‘discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth,’ on which the court’s ruling was based in part, has in fact removed such discrimination. Like the liberation of women and those oppressed by caste, real sexual freedom will require a profound reorganization of the material basis of society. It will take nothing less than the replacement of the family as an economic institution within a collectivized, socialist economy.
“Section 377 has not been repealed. It remains on the books and the court, as part of the same ruling, affirmed its application to cases involving people under eighteen. In a country where forced child marriage remains commonplace, young people are ‘presumed not to be able to consent to a sexual act.’”
And see on anti-caste:
CONGRESS-LED GOVT DEFENDS REACTIONARY, COLONIAL-ERA LAWS (September 27, 2008)
Dharmapuri Inter-caste Couple Allege Attack by Locals (Express News Service)
“G. Suresh, a youth belonging to the intermediate caste and a resident of Veppamarathoor village, married S. Sudha, a Dalit girl of Parayapatti village in Harur taluk, on April 21, 2010 with the consent of their parents.
“While their life was going smooth for two years, trouble started confronting the couple as villagers of Vepamarathoor came to know that Sudha belonged to a Dalit community. Subsequently, villagers ostracised the family of the couple.
“Sudha lodged a complaint with the Bommidi police and a case was registered against 22 persons, including former village panchayat president Ranganathan. However, police did not take any action on the accused.
“As cops did not provide a remedy to their problem, Sudha knocked the doors of Madras High Court on July 26, 2013, seeking adequate protection. The High Court directed the local administration and police to provide protection to the family.
“The couple also petitioned the National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC), which directed the district administration and police to intervene into the issue.
“Following the NCSC direction, Revenue Divisional Officer Menaka, Harur DSP V Sampath visited Veppamarathor village to inquire into the issue. Soon after the officials left the village, villagers reportedly attacked the family members of Sudha.”
See also an earlier anti-caste post on this case:
INTER-CASTE COUPLE FACES SOCIAL BOYCOTT (July 19, 2013)
Report on Recent Dalit Student Suicides at University of Hyderabad (Raju-Venkatesh Solidarity Committee, an alliance of students at the University of Hyderabad)
“On 24th November 2013, Madari Venkatesh, a 3rd year PhD scholar, from Advance Centre for Research in High Energy (ACRHEM), University of Hyderabad (UoH), committed suicide in his hostel room in the campus. Venkatesh came from a Dalit family from Ibrahimpatnam, Andhra Pradesh; probably, a first generation university student. [...]
“M. Venkatesh, after joining UoH for PhD, was not provided a guide and a lab, even after three years, even when other students had started their researches, and published international papers. ACRHEM director, the faculty members, and the management of the university grossly neglected to provide basic academic facilities to a research scholar, thereby, implying a casteist bias in the functioning of the University. Although continuous efforts were made by the deceased in July 2013, through a written request, to provide him a regular guide; his pleas were counter-signed, by the Vice Chancellor (who was the in-charge Director), only to be put in abeyance. In the wake of recurrent suicides in the campus, especially, of marginalized students, student groups came together under the banner ‘Raju-Venkatesh Solidarity Committee.’ [...]
“Venkatesh was worried about the non-allotment of supervisor, and therefore, this must have contributed to the slow pace of his work. However, Venkatesh could publish one paper in a reputed journal, and was about to publish two more. After Prof. S.P. Tewari's retirement, he approached many faculty members, and they had rejected to offer him guidance. On Friday (22nd November 2013), he met a faculty member in school of chemistry, with a request to guide him, and the faculty told him to start the work from the beginning. [...]
“In summary, ACRHEM allotted Prof. Tewari, two years before his retirement, as a guide to Mr. Venkatesh. This is unofficial, and clearly violates the UGC norms, as well as, the University institutional guidelines, as any about-to-be-retiring faculty should not take any new students for guidance. Further, even after repeated pleas by the deceased, efforts were neither made by the director nor the faculty, for the last three years, to allot an official guide, as well as, constitute a doctoral committee for Mr. Venkatesh. [...]
“Even after death, none of the university authorities showed any inclination to console the family members of Mr. Venkatesh. This case is not alone in its occurrence. The problem is cases like this ominously recur.
“Mr. Venkatesh's suicide represents a clear case of discrimination against the marginalized students, especially Dalits, in the campus. Two other Dalit students had committed suicide in similar circumstances: Pulyala Raju from MA Applied Linguistics, from Andhra Pradesh, in April 2013, and Senthil Kumar, a Dalit PhD research scholar in Physics, from Tamil Nadu in April 2008.”
Report of the Fact Finding Committee on the suicide of Mr Venkatesh, Ph D Student, University of Hyderabad (Centre for Dalit Studies (CDS), Hyderabad, India)
“In the presidential election last year, we called for people not to vote for Hollande. Among other things, we pointed to his vowing to wage an ‘implacable’ struggle against undocumented immigrants and to put the Roma in ‘encampments of our own choosing’ to stop them from moving around ‘over and over’ (Le Monde, 15 February 2012). His chief cop minister, Valls, was only following through on these campaign promises when on October 9 he sent the cops onto a school bus looking for Leonarda Dibrani and had her deported for good to Kosovo. She speaks neither Albanian nor Serbian—but she does speak French! Leonarda courageously denounced Hollande’s proposal to let her back into France... without her family.
“The lesson Valls draws from this incident is that the processing of asylum requests must be accelerated, for the explicit purpose of being able to deport people before they have the time to settle in the ‘country of the rights of man.’ Reactionaries and fascists of all sorts have seized the opportunity to urge revision of jus soli [the right of the soil], which under certain conditions grants citizenship to those who were born on French soil.
“Around the same time, the cops deported Khatchik Kachatryan to Armenia. He is the first Parisian high school student deported since 2006—when Sarkozy was in charge of the ministry of police. We demand the immediate return of Leonarda and all her family, as well as Khatchik, and we demand they be granted full legal status: Full citizenship rights for everyone who made it here! Down with the racist witchhunt against the Roma! [...]
“The outrageous treatment of Leonarda epitomizes the violent government campaign against the Roma, who are made scapegoats more than ever in this period of deep economic crisis in order to forestall workers struggle. In France, there are at most a few tens of thousands of Roma from the Balkans, and they are essentially excluded from the proletariat. But for the workers movement to accept attacks against the Roma would make it vulnerable to efforts to divide the working class itself along ethnic, racial and sexual lines, while reinforcing the arsenal of police repression directed against workers.
“Manuel Valls, forever in search of a new racist provocation, declared that the Roma were incapable of ‘integrating’ into a civilized society like France. During World War II, the Nazis characterized them as ‘subhuman,’ but here in France the laws invoked to lock up the Roma in camps under the Vichy government were in fact enacted by the Third Republic [1870-1940] before the Nazi occupation. Some Roma remained interned until 1946 under capitalist governments that included Gaullists, Christian Democrats, Social Democrats of the Second International and Stalinists from the French Communist Party (PCF) [see ‘France: Down With Racist Anti-Roma Campaign!’ WV No. 965, 24 September 2010].
“The Roma have been persecuted for centuries, driven from one country to another. In a precapitalist economy, the Gypsies occupied a marginal economic niche as artisans, peddlers and artists. With the development of capitalism, they were pushed to the margins of society, enduring abuses that culminated in the extermination of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies by the Nazis. The truth is that decaying capitalism is incapable of “integrating” the Roma and all the more so in periods of crisis. The French state, including its PCF mayors, chases them from one shantytown to another and then uses the pretext that they are not official residents to refuse to enroll the children in school. When, in spite of these difficulties, children like Leonarda manage to attend school, the state deports them. It refuses the Roma the right to work and then accuses them of living by their wits! Down with restrictions on the right to work imposed by the European Union on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens!
“Only socialist revolution will make possible the full integration of Roma into society with equal rights, as shown by the example of the October 1917 proletarian revolution in Russia that overthrew capitalist rule. The October Revolution destroyed the tsarist empire—that prison house of peoples—and laid the basis for freeing the oppressed nations and ethnic minorities, including the Roma, from the jackboot of Great Russian chauvinism.
“Romania, including under the grotesque Stalinist regime of Ceausescu, and Tito’s Yugoslavia (where Leonarda’s family came from) were bureaucratically deformed workers states. The capitalist ruling class had been driven from power and the resulting collectivized, nationalized economy guaranteed the Roma an improved standard of living and an unprecedented ethnic and national integration. Their level of education began to approach that of the rest of the population and they had not only jobs but also housing and health care. The Roma were recognized as a national minority with the right to be educated in their own language. They were settled and relatively integrated into the proletariat and into the military and state apparatus. When Yugoslavia existed, there were radio and TV programs in the Romany language in Kosovo.”
Two child marriages prevented in Sivaganga (The Hindu)
“Social Defence and Child Welfare Committee officials on Wednesday rescued two prospective child brides, including a 15-year-old Dalit girl, after stopping arrangements being made for their marriages in Sivaganga district. [...]
“At Singampunari near Tirupattur, a 16-year-old Class X dropout was about to be married to Manikandan, a 32-year-old hairdresser on Thursday.
“A 15-year-old Plus One student from T. Pudupatti was scheduled to marry her maternal uncle Sundarapandian (33), working as a bearer in a hotel in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, at Olugamangalam on Friday. [...]
“[The District Probation Officer, Department of Social Defence] said the 16-year-old girl’s stepmother had alleged that the girl was in love with a boy and she wanted to marry her off to a man of their community. [...]
“He said the 15-year-old Dalit girl had scored 450 out of 500 marks in Class X exams and taken up the first group in Plus One. Her father, who was working in Dubai, sent only Rs.6,000 once in three months to the family. Her mother, a construction worker, was finding it difficult to educate her.”
“When Ramesh (name changed) bought a new phone last week, he did not realise that an unexpected technical glitch would trigger a caste-dictated backlash from his teacher at a government higher secondary school here.
“An innocuous call to his friend Kumar (name changed) to exchange his new number on the night of November 7 went to his teacher due to call divert facility. The unexpected technical glitch and the ensuing friendly banter by an unaware Ramesh did not go down well with the teacher P. Arul, a temporary hand appointed by the Parent-Teachers’ Association to teach ‘draughtsman civil’ for Ramesh’s vocational stream in Class 12 at Nadesanar Government Higher Secondary School at Ayakaranpulam in Vedaranyam.
“For the two Dalit boys, despite their apologies, the backlash came in the form of public slap with slippers on the school premises the following morning. The boys were summoned by the teacher, pulled up by their collars, and slapped with slippers outside their classroom.
“A staff member of the school, on condition of anonymity, told The Hindu that the incident took place on Friday morning, outside the class. There were a number of witnesses to it. ‘However, no one has lodged a complaint.’ [...]
“A visibly upset Ramesh has not attended school since the incident. For Kumar, with no father and a mentally unstable mother, there is no recourse. He continues to attend school.”
UP father rapes, kills daughter for ‘honour’ (Pune Mirror, November 7, 2013):
“A 45-year-old man from Uttar Pradesh has been arrested along with his friend in Kashimira, for allegedly raping and killing his 17-year-old daughter. The man told police that she had ‘shamed’ him by eloping with a boy from another community, and that he decided to kill her when he found out she was pregnant.”
Panchkula honour killing: 'Tahira's elder brother dug the grave to bury her mutilated body', says victim's uncle (Daily Bhaskar, October 28, 2013):
“The prime accused Saleem, paternal uncle of Tahira, 15-year-old Muslim girl, who was brutally murdered and whose half burnt body was found buried from a grave in Khangesra village of Barwala block near the Tangri river in Panchkula district made shocking revelations during the police interrogation.
“Saleem, who had confessed that he used a pillow to smother her said that the victim was in love affair with her elder sister’s fiance. ‘Tahira tried to flee with him. The relationship was opposed by her family,’ he asserted, adding, ‘We tried to stop her several times. But couldn't stop her. Finally, I along with her elder brother killed her.’”
No Justice for the Dead in Bangladesh (The Nation)
“Five months on, sweeping promises about improving factory safety and cracking down on illegal subcontracting remain hamstrung by scant resources and a near-total lack of coordination among parties. Victims’ compensation ranges from inconsistent to nonexistent. According to the Bangladesh Institute of Labor Studies, none of the 4,000 families affected by the tragedy have received the full payments promised by the government or the [Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Exporters Association (BGMEA), the powerful trade body that represents the $20 billion-a-year industry]. [...]
“BGMEA vice president Reaz Bin Mahmood concedes that in a country as cash-strapped and chaotic as Bangladesh, inspections are ‘a very scratch process.’ The BGMEA has just ten inspectors. The fire department has eighty but says it needs ten times that. Teams staffed by engineering teachers struggle with inadequate equipment and the labor ministry is trying to hire and train 200 more inspectors in the coming months. In the meantime, there remains no central coordinating body to keep track of what the various agencies are up to. Manufacturers complain that certain factories have been inspected multiple times while others are ignored. [...]
“Some owners say that even third-party auditors dispatched by the major brands take bribes. And even if they’re legitimate, they never look further than the big factories. One owner, whose office boasts certificates for excellent safety standards from H&M, the second-largest garment company in Bangladesh, admits that, under intense pressure to deliver orders in less time, he still has to outsource some stages of production. ‘There are so many uncertainties—strikes, shipment delays, holidays, corrupt officers at the port—that subcontracting will always’ be a part of garment making in Bangladesh. ‘The brands know it,’ he adds, but ‘they pretend they don’t.’”
After Bangladesh Factory Collapse, Bleak Struggle for Survivors (New York Times, December 18, 2013):
“[W]hile the Rana Plaza disaster stirred an international outcry — and shamed many international clothing companies into pledging to help finance safety improvements in other Bangladeshi factories — the people most directly affected are still living without any guarantees of help or financial compensation.
“Families who lost the wages of a son or daughter, husband or wife, are struggling.
“Those who lost limbs, like Ms. Khatun, are uncertain if they will ever walk or hold things again. And many volunteer rescuers like Mr. Forkan and survivors are struggling to deal with debilitating emotional scars.”
And see: on anti-caste:
Dalit boy rescued from bonded labour (The Hindu)
“A nine-year-old Dalit boy who allegedly suffered two years of physical abuse was rescued from the bondage at a village near Karaikudi on Sunday.
“Acting on specific information given by Evidence, a Madurai-based NGO, officials of the revenue department saved the boy from Indira Nagar in Karaikudi, after they raided a cattle shed at Silukkupatti, where he was made to work for 20 hours a day. [...]
“It has been alleged that Kaaleswaran, a caste Hindu from the same village, had got the thumb impression of the boy’s father, Anand, who repairs old utensils, on a blank paper when he was drunk. Kaaleswaran allegedly used the paper as a promissory note stating that Anand had borrowed a loan of Rs.60,000 from him. When Anand denied having taken a loan, the accused threatened to lodge a police complaint, and took his son into his custody.
“‘I was living in a shed, where nearly 200 goats were accommodated. They served me leftover food thrice a day and never paid any wages,’ the boy said. ‘Kaaleswaran used to abuse me every day,’ he added.
“It is said that several attempts taken by the boy’s parents to rescue him in the last two years proved futile as they too were physically and verbally abused every time they visited him. ‘We were scared that Kaaleswaran might kill our son, if we approached the police,’ said the boy’s mother, Meenambal.”
Gang Rape in India, Routine and Invisible: In Mumbai Case, a Group of Assault Suspects Had Little Fear of the Law
by Ellen Barry and Mansi Choksi (New York Times)
“At 5:30 p.m. on that Thursday, four young men were playing cards, as usual, when Mohammed Kasim Sheikh’s cellphone rang and he announced that it was time to go hunting. Prey had been spotted, he told a friend. When the host asked what they were going to hunt, he said, ‘A beautiful deer.’
“As two men rushed out, the host smirked, figuring they did not like losing at cards.
“Two hours later, a 22-year-old photojournalist limped out of a ruined building. She had been raped repeatedly by five men, asked by one to re-enact pornographic acts displayed on a cellphone. After she left, the men dispersed to their wives or mothers, if they had them; it was dinnertime. None of their previous victims had gone to the police. Why should this one?
“The trial in the Mumbai gang-rape case has opened to a drowsy and ill-attended courtroom, without the crush of reporters who documented every twist in a similar case in New Delhi in which a woman died after being gang-raped on a private bus. The accused, barefoot, sit on a bench at the back of the courtroom, observing the arguments with blank expressions, as if they were being conducted in Mandarin. All have pleaded not guilty. They are slight men with ordinary faces, nothing imposing, the kind one might see at any bus stop or tea stall.
“But the Mumbai case provides an unusual glimpse into a group of bored young men who had committed the same crime often enough to develop a routine. The police say the men had committed at least five rapes in the same spot. Their casual confidence reinforces the notion that rape has been a largely invisible crime here, where convictions are infrequent and victims silently go away. Not until their arrest, at a moment when sexual violence has grabbed headlines and risen to the top of the state’s agenda, did the seriousness of the crime sink in. [...]
“One problem is that perpetrators may not view their actions as a grave crime, but something closer to mischief. A survey of more than 10,000 men carried out in six Asian countries — India not among them — and published in The Lancet Global Health journal in September came up with startling data. It found that, when the word ‘rape’ was not used as part of a questionnaire, more than one in 10 men in the region admitted to forcing sex on a woman who was not their partner.
“Asked why, 73 percent said the reason was ‘entitlement.’ Fifty-nine percent said their motivation was ‘entertainment seeking,’ agreeing with the statements ‘I wanted to have fun’ ‘I was bored.’ Flavia Agnes, a Mumbai women’s rights lawyer who has been working on rape cases since the 1970s, said the findings rang true to her experience.
“‘It’s just frivolous; they just do it casually,’ she said. ‘There is so much abject poverty. They just want to have a little fun on the side. That’s it. See, they have nothing to lose.’”
See also on anti-caste:
ON THE DELHI RAPE PROTESTS: SOME RECOMMENDED ARTICLES
(January 6, 2013)
NOTES ON THE DELHI RAPE PROTESTS (January 11, 2013)
Roma, Feared as Kidnappers, See Their Own Children at Risk
(New York Times)
“For centuries across Europe, children were raised on folk tales with a disturbing message: Wander into the woods and you risk being snatched by Gypsies.
“Such a warning seems like an anachronism from medieval times. But the stereotype of the child-stealing Gypsy was reawakened in recent days when a Roma couple in Greece were jailed on accusations that they had abducted a blond, green-eyed girl called Maria — or ‘the blond angel’ in the Greek news media. This week, two blond, blue-eyed Roma children were taken from their parents in Ireland after suspicions that they had been abducted, too.
“The children in Ireland were quickly returned to their families after DNA testing confirmed that the Roma were their parents. In Greece, the police confirmed on Friday that Maria was the child of a Roma couple from Bulgaria. An investigation continues into whether Maria was sold, adopted or given to the couple as they have claimed.
“Whatever the outcome, the Roma say that it is they who now live in fear — of having their children snatched for no reason other than their cultural identity or skin color. The cases, they say, have helped fan a sometimes violent backlash against the roughly 11 million Roma scattered across Europe. In an era of budget cutbacks and high unemployment, politicians on both the left and the right have singled out the Roma as emblematic of the problems of illegal immigration and have questioned whether they can ever be integrated.[...]
“[A]nti-Roma sentiment appears to be spreading. Serbian news media reported this week that a group of skinheads in Novi Sad, Serbia, tried to abduct a Roma child in front of his house last weekend because his skin was fairer than that of his father, Stefan Nikolic.
“In Italy, the anti-immigrant Northern League responded to news of Maria’s supposed abduction this week by demanding inspections of all Roma communities to check for missing children. Gianluca Buonanno, a member of the Northern League in the Italian lower house of Parliament, said he had submitted a petition to the Interior Ministry demanding identification of camp occupants. [...]
“Even before the cases, rights groups say, violence and intimidation against the Roma were intensifying. Earlier this month, a woman threw acid at a 2-year-old Roma boy and his mother in Naples, according to the European Roma Rights Center. In Hungary, at least seven Roma were killed between 2008 and 2010, and Roma leaders have counted dozens of firebomb attacks in the past.
“In Greece, where the far-right Golden Dawn movement has been fanning anti-immigrant fervor, the head of the Greek Union of Roma, Yiannis Halilopoulos, said the sensational coverage in the Greek news media and the racial profiling that followed the removal of Maria had ‘taken us back 100 years.’ [...]
“In the Czech Republic, ultraright parties and their neo-Nazi supporters this year have organized about 30 anti-Roma marches, where some have chanted, ‘Gypsies to the gas chambers,’ rights groups said.
“In France, where the Roma issue has flared amid a debate over immigration, the far-right National Front has made the Roma a central issue ahead of municipal elections in March. Its leaders have warned that if Romanians and Bulgarians were allowed to travel in the European Union’s passport-free Schengen Area, the country could see a flood of Roma immigrants.
“This month,President François Hollande intervened after a 15-year-old Roma girl, whose family was living illegally in France for five years, was pulled off a bus by the authorities and expelled to Kosovo. After loud protests, Mr. Hollande agreed to allow the girl to return, but only if she left her family behind. [...]
“Roma advocates counter that if there is crime among some Roma, it is the byproduct of severe economic deprivation and social exclusion that allowed a minority of unscrupulous ringleaders to exploit poor people desperately eking out an existence on society’s fringes.”
An angel kidnapped by Gypsies? In the absence of all the facts, age-old libels are being replayed by Louise Doughty (The Guardian,
October 22, 2013):
“She is, we have been told repeatedly, the girl Greece is calling ‘the blonde angel’. She is certainly blonde – and she is a young child who deserves concern as all children do, particularly those facing poverty or discrimination. Whether or not she is angelic is a matter of stereotype rather than personality. She is angelic in the eyes of the media only in stark contrast to the circumstances in which she was found: in a Roma camp in Greece, with dark-skinned parents who, DNA tests have revealed, cannot be her birth parents. The pair appeared in court on Monday charged with child abduction, but are said by their lawyer to be distraught at the forcible removal of a child they were raising as their daughter.
“Whatever the truth of Maria's origins, one element of this case is not in doubt. Even before charges were brought, it was widely reported as a case of abduction. The pursuit of Gerry and Kate McCann and the mother of Ben Needham for reaction will have cemented that impression in the eyes of many; they have been ‘given hope’, apparently. Maria’s case may even, it seems, have prompted the seizure by police in Dublin today of another child from a Roma community after members of the public raised concerns that the child may not be biologically related to the couple she was living with.
“Informal adoption is commonplace, particularly in societies where children are raised collectively by extended family units, and families of eight or 10 are not unusual. Across the world, children in economically difficult circumstances are left with grandparents, aunts and uncles, or sometimes given away because the birth parents cannot provide for them. This is hardly a practice unique to Roma society, and it is a long way from deliberate abduction for the purposes of ‘child trafficking’, an assumption that the non-Roma world has been happy to make with impunity.
“This media reporting has to be seen within the context of a blood libel that has dogged Roma communities for centuries. The claim that Jewish people killed Christian children to have human blood for matzos at Passover was used to justify antisemitism throughout the middle ages; in the same way, the age-old myth that Romanies are in the habit of kidnapping white children entered popular folklore around the same time, and has persisted to the present day. [...]
“The racist reporting of the Greek case is all the more bitter to those familiar with Roma history. Renowned expert Prof Thomas Acton says, ‘I know of no documented case of Roma/Gypsies/Travellers stealing non-Gypsy children anywhere.’ Far from Romanies abducting white children, the truth has been the other way around. Hundreds of Yenish Roma boys and girls were forcibly taken by the authorities in Switzerland from 1926 to 1972. The children were placed in orphanages or homes for people with learning difficulties and their families denied all contact with them.”
French schoolchildren march in anger over expulsions
(BBC, Ocotber 17, 2013):
“Thousands of schoolchildren in Paris and other parts of France have been demonstrating in anger over the expulsion of two foreign teenagers.
“Twenty secondary schools in the French capital were disrupted as children joined a march, clenching fists in solidarity with the expelled pupils.
“Some demanded the sacking of Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
“In one case, a Roma schoolgirl was sent to Kosovo and in the other, a student was repatriated to Armenia.
“There has been widespread indignation at the manner in which border police picked up schoolgirl Leonarda Dibrani, whose family had lost its bid for asylum in France after five years in the country.
“Leonarda, 15, was escorted from her school bus by a teacher, in front of other children, in the eastern region of Doubs on 9 October.”
And see further:
French minister Valls defends call for Roma expulsions
(BBC, September 25, 2013):
“French Interior Minister Manuel Valls says he stands by remarks calling for the country’s Roma (Gypsies) to be expelled.
“He said few Roma could ever integrate into French society and ‘the majority’ should be sent ‘back to the borders’.
“But Mr Valls - a dapper 51-year-old who polls suggest is a rising star in Francois Hollande's Socialist administration - said he saw no reason to correct comments that Roma lifestyles were ‘clearly in confrontation’ with French ways of life. [...]
“‘The majority [of Roma] should be delivered back to the borders. We are not here to welcome these people.‘’ [...]
“Mr Valls has encouraged local councils to systematically dismantle illegal Roma slums, and offer the expelled residents free flights back to their countries of origin. [...]
“Mr Valls is himself the Barcelona-born son of Spanish immigrants, Mr Montebourg pointed out on Wednesday.”
And see also:
And see on anti-caste:
Mob ‘attacks’ Dalit area, 13 injured (Indian Express (Chennai))
“A mob of over 60 men and women — all from the dominant Maratha caste — allegedly attacked the Dalit basti of Rajwada in Shevge Dang village, Nashik district, on Sunday, causing serious head injuries to 13 men. [...]
“According to the villagers, the attackers came in tractors, carrying sickles, knives, bricks and boulders. They alleged that their houses were damaged and photographs of B R Ambedkar were desecrated.
“According to reports, the fight ensued over a small accident, when a tempo (auto rickshaw) owned by a person belonging to the Maratha caste rammed into a tree on October 15, injuring several persons travelling in it, including a 50-year-old Dalit woman Lata Bharit.”
Girl killed for honour, parents try to cremate her body secretly (Indian Express (Chennai), October 21, 2013):
“Sasikala, a Caste Hindu, had married Dalit Kottaisamy of Ponnaiyapuram secretly in a temple near Sathirakudi on October 11 against the wishes of her parents and escaped from the district. The duo had been in love for two years while studying in a Muthukulathur college. Afraid of Sasikala’s parents, the couple eloped to Dharapuram with the help of Kottaisamy’s friend Peramaiyan. Meanwhile, Karuppaiya, the girl’s father, filed a missing person complaint with Emaneswaram police. When Sasikala’s relatives learnt the duo was in Dharapuram, they went with former panchayat leader Narayanan and forcibly brought her to their village, said Kottaisamy’s kin. Then the police produced them in court and sent her with her parents.
“The police received a message on Saturday night that Sasikala died after allegedly consuming poison and her father Karuppaiya, mother Kanthaayi and relatives were secretly cremating her body in the graveyard. Raising suspicion over the death, some villagers told the police that her parents would have forced Sasikala to consume poison because she married a Dalit.”
Couple’s elopement triggers Dalit-villagers clash; 2 hurt (Indian Express (Chennai), October 15, 2013):
“In yet another case of caste clash triggered by the elopement of an inter-caste couple, two persons were seriously injured at at Venkatachalapuram near Kovilpatti on Sunday.
“Sources said that one Karuppasamy, a Dalit, and Kasturi, caste Hindu girl, had loved each other and owing to their parents and community opposition, they had eloped from the village a month ago.”
17-year-old girl killed for 'honour,' property (Times of India, October 19, 2013):
“Dismembered body of a teenaged girl, who was missing for the past 20 days, was recovered from a well in Dewas district on Friday. The body hacked to pieces, was stuffed into two gunny bags. The bags were tied to stones to prevent them from floating on water. Police suspect it a case of honour killing.
“Five people, including father and a brother of the girl, were detained.
“The gory killing to salvage 'honour' came to light after the police detained three youths from Khajrana, who reportedly confessed to have taken supari of Rs 5 lakh from the girl's brother Irfan Adam, 25, to kill the girl as she was allegedly having an affair with a boy from other religion.”
Thane girl allegedly assaulted, tonsured for marrying out of caste (NDTV, Ovtober 15, 2013):
“In a shocking incident, a 19-year-old tribal girl has alleged that her head was tonsured and she was beaten by her in-laws at a village in Thane for marrying outside her caste. [...]
“The victim mentioned in her complaint that she had got acquainted with Yogesh while working as a packer at a godown in Bhiwandi town of Thane district.
“Despite opposition from his family, the victim and the boy got married in May this year and were living at her parent’s house in Pali village of Dabhade in Bhiwandi taluka.
“On August 30, the couple went to Yogesh’s home in Maide in Bhiwandi.
“On arriving there, they were tied to a tree and assaulted.
“The complaint also mentioned that one of Yogesh’s brothers took their pictures on his mobile phone after they were ‘punished’ and threatened them.”
Inter-caste love leads to dad ending life (Deccan Chronicle,
October 9, 2013):
“About 500 angry Vanniars blocked the Chennai – Tada road near Cholavaram, about 25 km north of Chennai, on Tuesday night with the body of a Vanniar on learning that his teenaged daughter eloped with a Dalit youth, police said.
“They said Ravi of Jagannathapuram, about a km from Sholavaram, killed himself around 8.30 in the night when he learnt that his 19-year-old daughter eloped with a Dalit youth belonging to nearby Athipattu after telling her family that she was going to her college in Chennai. [...]
“He said the agitators were demanding that the police produce the lovers before them. ‘We are talking to them. It is nighttime. We are telling them to give us some time to find the two,’ he said.
“Locals said Ravi’s brother’s daughter had eloped with a Dalit youth six months back. The couple was yet to be traced. ‘How can we keep quiet when one girl after another from our families vanishes like this?’ asked a middle-aged protester.”
Policing Village Moral Codes as Women Stream to India’s Cities (New York Times)
“The old and new are continually rushing at each other in India, most starkly in places like Haryana, a largely rural, conservative state abutting New Delhi whose residents can commute 20 miles to work in nightclubs and office buildings. But their home villages are sleepy places, whose main streets are patrolled by glossy, lumbering black water buffalo.
“The villages are ruled by khap panchayats, unelected all-male councils that wield strong control over social life, including women’s behavior. That job becomes much harder once the women have left for the city. When one khap leader listed city shops that were allowing young women to store mobile phones and change into Western clothes, another suggested posting informers outside the shops with cameras to capture photographic evidence as women came and went.
“Om Prakash Dhankar, a khap leader who voiced his support for this approach, said measures like these would protect young women from much worse dangers that might follow if they freely cultivated friendships with men. [...]
“A generation ago, women here lived in complete seclusion from men, and could appear in public only wearing a lightweight cloth that completely covered their head and face. Though that tradition is fading, many women are still not allowed to leave the house without permission from a father or husband.
“Haryana’s khaps focus much of their energy on defending a single ancient prohibition: Men and women are not allowed to marry anyone from the same village. The local interpretation of ancient Hindu texts holds villagers to be brothers and sisters, rendering their unions incestuous. Young people defy the ban very rarely, but those who do are sometimes murdered by a gang of male relatives. As much as the khaps condemn these ‘honor killings,’ they are just as adamant about preventing these romances, a quest that involves tight control over women.
“Meena, who left her village several years ago to escape an arranged marriage, said young women there were terrified of the elders in the khap, who scrutinized their behavior and issued a steady stream of criticism. The criticism, in turn, terrified her parents, who feared being ostracized.
“‘They would say, “Why is your daughter going around in the village with her head naked?,”’ she said. ‘If you were walking with your head straight, the khap guys would say, “Look down at the ground, don’t make eye contact. Don’t have irrelevant conversations.”’ [...]
“The possibility of violence ran like a thin blade through [conversations on these matters]: Just last month, a young man and woman studying in Rohtak were killed in public by the woman’s relatives after they were discovered violating the ban on same-village romance. The man was beheaded.
“‘You know,’ said Puja, a 19-year-old student, ‘the first time the parents hear that the girl is roaming around, either they take her home and get her married or else they kill them.’”
See also on anti-caste:
“Suman Tayde, 14-month-old Dipti’s grandmother is growing anxious as the child has gone without milk since Saturday. The village hasn’t run out of supplies, but since October 12, Dalits of Vairagad village in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district have been facing a social boycott. This includes access to the flour mill and other shops in the village.
“On Monday, Suman went to Balaji Kunte, a caste Hindu, and tried to convince him to spare some milk for Dipti. Balaji Kunte’s wife told her, ‘If we give you milk, our caste people would punish us with social boycott.’
“‘We are living on rice. Now they (caste Hindus) are threatening that the road leading to our locality would be blocked’, said Tulsabai Telgote, Suman’s neighbour. ‘Frightened by this, our girls have not stepped out of house since Saturday,’ Tulsabai added.
“On January 26, 2013, caste Hindus in Vairagad refused to allow Dalits to put up B.R. Ambedkar’s photo alongside those of other leaders during the Republic Day ceremony.
“‘We were silent then but on the day of Maha Shivratri in May this year, they uprooted a Panchashil flag (a Buddhist flag) near the Ambedkar statue. They put up a saffron flag in its place’, claims Jagdish Bhandare, an elderly man. Most of the Dalits in Vairagad are landless laborers, and work in farms belonging to caste Hindus. Since the Maha Shivratri incident, labourers from the Dalit locality haven’t been allowed to work in the farms, they claim.”
Dalit man thrashed for not beating drum ‘loudly’ (The Hindu)
“A Dalit man was beaten up allegedly by some persons belonging to an ‘upper caste’ at Kuduragundi village in Hassan taluk for not beating the drum ‘loudly’ during festivities on Monday.
“Kodugayya (52) of Kuduragundi has been admitted to the Hassan Institute of Medical Sciences hospital.
“He suffered injuries to his abdomen and limbs, in addition to losing four teeth.
“Kodugayya’s family beat drums during the Ranganathaswamy jatra held to mark Vijayadashami. Kodugayya told the police that some persons belonging to an ‘upper caste’ told him to beat the drum loudly.
“He said that a few minutes later they thrashed him and kicked him, claiming that he did not follow their instruction.”
See also on anti-caste:
SEVERELY THRASHED FOR REFUSING DEGRADING CASTE DUTY
(December 21, 2012)
After acquittals, fear haunts Dalit hamlet (The Hindu)
“‘They are free and we are trapped,’ says a resident, as many villagers share her fear that they may be targeted again
“On Wednesday night, Baudh Paswan kept tossing and turning in bed, his appetite and sleep gone.
“‘I feel they will come back again,’ he murmured. As they did on the night of December 1, 1997 and began a killing spree. Armed with firearms and swords, members of the Ranvir Sena, militia of the Bhumihar landlords, slaughtered 58 Dalits, including 27 women and 16 children.
“On Wednesday, the Patna High Court acquitted all the 26 accused, setting aside the lower court’s verdict that awarded the death sentence to 16 and life imprisonment to the other 10.
“‘I do not have the strength to fight anymore. After 58 murders, no one is guilty. The courts are theirs, the government is theirs, the lathi [the baton of power] is theirs. The poor have nothing. This is injustice,’ Paswan said, hobbling around on his walking stick. He lost seven of his family members. Some more died later, of grief.
“The sense of victory felt by the Dalit hamlet after the conviction by the trial court has vanished. Now there lurks a threat. Will the doors be broken open again? Will the houses be invaded?
“Haunted by this fear, Sunaina Devi breaks down. ‘Jiska ghar me itna parivar mara hai vo kaise himmat rakhega? [How will the family that has lost so many members find strength?] So many were killed and nothing happened. Now, they [the upper caste] are threatening us, saying they would barge into our houses and beat us with sticks as nothing has happened to them. Since yesterday, sweets have been distributed in the upper caste quarters and firecrackers have gone off. The High Court let them off and left us trapped. We have lost all hope.’
“House after house shares her unease. ‘The whole country knows who killed those 58 people. Only the courts don’t know,’ said Pramila Devi, who lost three women relatives. ‘Last night, they staged celebrations. They are free now. But we have to think whether we will survive.’
“Laxmanpur Bathe is 100 km from Patna, on the banks of the Sone. As in any other village, there are upper caste quarters of Rajputs and Bhumihars and the Dalit hamlet comprising the lower castes of Mallah, Paswan, Ravidas and Rajvanshi. After the massacre, the hamlet got pucca brick houses from the government. But some of the mud huts with broken doors still stand, testifying to the violence.
“Laxman Rajvanshi is a survivor and eyewitness who testified in court. “Give us justice or drown us,” he said.“Asked about the High Court’s observation that witnesses were unreliable, he said: ‘How could I not have recognised them? We stay in the same village and I see them about 10 times a day! We worked on their fields. We had no inkling of this attack, otherwise we would have been alert. The Nitish Kumar government is hand in glove with the feudal elements. He slotted us into the Mahadalit category, collected our votes and then cut our throats.’
Another eyewitness, Ram Ugraharajbanshi, said the assailants divided themselves into two groups. One was a killing squad of 35 persons and the other, of 80 men, stood guard. ‘The armed men had their mouths covered with handkerchiefs. But, of course, we were familiar with their voices.’
“The massacre was one in a series of brutal caste killings that marked the 1990s in Bihar.
“In the backdrop of a peasant struggle, the late Brahmeshwar Singh Mukhiya rallied the land-owning Bhumihars under the banner of Ranvir Sena.
“Violent and brutal confrontations between the Sena and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) were the order of the day.”
Getting away with murder (Frontline, October 30, 2013):
“Bathe is an archetypal village in central Bihar. The upper-caste tola (in this case, a mix of Bhumihars and Rajputs) is visibly affluent with pucca streets and spacious houses. The residents are from the landed class. Agriculture is their main occupation. The other tola in the village is about 100 metres away and is home to Dalits and other backward classes (OBCs). Except for agricultural work, there is absolutely no interaction between the two tolas. Surrounded by agricultural fields on three sides and with the Sone river on the fourth, Bathe presents itself as an idyllic village, far from the noise and pollution of the city. Beneath the surface, however, tensions simmer between the upper castes and the backward castes.
“The Dalits are mostly agricultural workers. Until a few years ago, they were not allowed to sit in a khatiya (cot) even in their own homes and were forced to follow a feudal code of conduct. They could not wear new clothes, smoke cigarettes, ride bicycles or dare to talk with their heads held high. The landlords determined the wages and generally doled out minuscule sums. They seized Gairmazarua land (panchayat land in a village for development activities and Dalit and OBC welfare), illegally, to prevent Dalits and OBCs from using it. Whenever Dalits protested, their women got raped and men got beaten or killed. A landlord who put his labourers under ‘house arrest’ and withheld their wages but refrained from killing them was considered benevolent. The landlords, in effect, had a complete grip over the village economy.
“This was the kind of backdrop that in the late 1970s saw the emergence of naxalite outfits in central Bihar—mainly the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), the Party Unity (PU) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist-Liberation). These organisations took up the issues of wage and dignity of the Dalits and OBCs. Agricultural labourers rallied behind these parties and gathered strength from their ideologies. For the first time, a few parties organised Dalits and OBCs against the age-old and violent feudal structure perpetuated by the upper castes. The MCC and the PU were underground outfits, while CPI (ML-Liberation) contested elections for ‘tactical reasons’. When the massacre took place, Laxmanpur Bathe was a stronghold of the PU, which operated through its front organisation, the Mazdoor Kisan Sangram Samiti (MKSS). Under the MKSS’ leadership, agricultural labourers of Bathe were fighting for a decent minimum wage, a dignified life, and their right to Gairmazarua land. Similar struggles were led by the CPI (ML- Liberation) in Bhojpur and the MCC in Gaya. In 2004, the MCC and the PU merged into the Communist Party of India (Maoist), and at present this outfit operates mostly from Jharkhand. It has lost much of its cadre base in central Bihar.
“In response to the naxalite challenge, many private militias of the landed and dominant castes mushroomed in Bihar through the 1980s. A series of massacres happened in central Bihar, in which these armies specifically targeted Dalit tolas and killed hundreds of people. Many private armies consolidated themselves in the early 1990s and a bigger, well-structured militia emerged. It was called the Ranveer Sena and was led by members of the Bhumihar caste. [...]
“From 1995 to 2000, the Ranveer Sena perpetrated 29 massacres, in which 287 people were killed, according to official records. With time, it expanded its operations beyond Bhojpur to other parts of central Bihar. In many cases, the police allegedly helped the Ranveer Sena to kill communist cadre. The naxalite parties retaliated forcefully in eight instances, but most of these were targeted killings unlike the indiscriminate massacres perpetrated by the Ranveer Sena. The only exception was the 1999 Senari massacre, in which the MCC killed 34 people from the Bhumihar caste. [...]
“The Bathe judgment is the third in a series of acquittals by the Patna High Court. In April 2012, the court set aside a lower court judgment and acquitted all the 23 accused in the Bathani Tola massacre case. Three had been sentenced to death and 20 to life imprisonment by the lower court. In July 2012, 19 of the 20 accused were released by the High Court in the Miyapur massacre case. On March 1, 2013, all the 11 accused were acquitted by the court after they appealed against the lower court decision that sentenced three to death and eight to life imprisonment in the Nagari Bazaar massacre. In two other cases, the Narayanpur and Sendani massacres, the lower court acquitted all the accused in the last two years. In the Senari massacre case, in which the MCC was involved, all the accused were pronounced guilty by the High Court.
“In all the cases against the Ranveer Sena, the High Court found the prosecution witnesses ‘unreliable’ and gave a lot of credence to the argument put forward by the defence lawyer that the first information reports (FIRs) were lodged a few hours after the massacre. It interpreted the ‘delay’ as an indication that it was possibly politically motivated. Critics say that the judgments point to the dual nature of the judiciary: it chose to acquit the accused in all the cases where landlords were implicated and punished the accused in cases where agricultural workers were the accused.”
Bloodthirsty Justice: Laxmanpur Bathe. Bathani Tola. Mianpur. Nagri Bazar. Haibaspur. Shankar Bigha. by Sumati (Newsyaps (via Sanhati), October 27, 2013)
And see on anti-caste:
FINAL VERDICT IN BATHANI TOLA MASSACRE CASE (April 17, 2012)
THE “BUTCHER OF BIHAR”–LEADER OF UPPERCASTE LANDLORDS IN CLASS WAR AGAINST THE LANDLESS, ORGANIZER OF DEATH SQUADS THAT TARGETED HUNDREDS OF IMPOVERISHED, UNTOUCHABLE MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN–DIES IN THE MANNER IN WHICH HE LIVED
(June 2, 2012)
Fearing violent attacks, Dalits desert village (The Hindu)
“The Dalits of Kariyampatti village near Dindigul, about 60 km from here, deserted their houses on Saturday and took shelter at a hillock near Chengalapatti, (away from their hamlet) fearing violent attacks from caste Hindus, allegedly over a temple festival row.
“Perumal (38), a Dalit resident of Nadupatti Colony, claimed that a caste Hindu barged in to his house late on Friday night and threatened to murder his wife for not disclosing the whereabouts of his son, who was involved in a brawl with Vanniyars, a few months ago.
“‘The men abused my wife and left, but they came later and hurled a petrol bomb on my house,’ alleged Perumal. He went on saying, ‘caste Hindus have been intimidating all Dalit families to leave the village. They have damaged several houses in the past few days. The police and revenue officials haven’t taken action against them (Vanniyars),’ he lamented.
“According to police sources, trouble began on July 16, during a temple festival celebrated by the Dalits. A group of Dalit youth wore T-shirts bearing the image of “Ondi Veeran,” a Dalit icon.
“Objecting to this, the Vanniyar youth picked up a quarrel with the Dalits and coerced them to remove the T-shirts.
“A few days later, four Dalit youths were assaulted by a group of Vanniyars, for wearing the T-shirts. The same day, a case was registered and arrests were made on both sides.”
Honour killing: parents confess to daughter’s murder
(Hindustan Times, September 30, 2013):
“In a statement issued on Monday, superintendent of police Sibas Kabiraj said, ‘The victim's parents admitted that they poisoned their daughter and then strangulated her. With the help of close family friends, they tried to cremate her in the morning. Suspecting foul play, the villagers informed the police.’
“According to the police, the victim, who belonged to Gadaria caste (a backward class) was in love with Jaswinder Singh, a mazhabi Sikh (a scheduled caste), but her family was against the inter-caste relationship.
“The couple ran away to Ludhiana in Punjab on September 22, but Manjit’s parents forcibly took her back home the next day.
“On September 29, they killed Manjit for going against the family’s wishes by marrying out of her caste.”
Dalit man murdered allegedly by in-laws, honour killing suspected (IBNLive, September 24, 2013):
“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.”
Yet another doctored riot by Harsh Mander (Hindustan Times)
“A people who have never fought each other in history are today bitterly estranged, fearful and angry. ‘Not even during the Partition riots of 1947 did a drop of blood flow in our villages’, they repeatedly told us. And today, some 50 lie dead, and 50,000 have fled their homes in terror.
“Cramped into makeshift camps in madrasas and mosques, many resolve never to return to the land of their ancestors. The Muzaffarnagar countryside in western Uttar Pradesh is reeling under the gravest communal clash the country has witnessed since the 2002 Gujarat carnage.
“People of diverse faiths who live together do not spontaneously turn against each other. There are three requisites for mass communal violence to occur.
“The first is the deliberate manufacture of hatred. The second is the manufacture of a ‘riot’. The third is a complicit State: no riot can continue beyond a few hours unless the state actively wishes that it does so. [...]
“In Muzaffarnagar, in the patriarchal Jat community, the issue chosen to foment hatred was women’s ‘honour’. The claim was that ‘love jihad’ was being waged, by which Muslim boys were equipped with smart clothes, deodorants and sweet talk to entice Jat girls into ‘love’ traps.
“An unfortunate incident on August 27 in Kawal, in which three young men, one Muslim and two Jat were killed in violent clashes, was deployed as evidence of ‘love jihad’. The claim was that the Muslim youth was killed by the brothers of a Jat girl who he was stalking, and these brothers in turn were killed by a violent Muslim mob.
“BJP MLA Sangeet Som uploaded a video of two boys being killed by a mob in Sialkot, Pakistan, claiming that the footage was of the Jat boys being killed by a Muslim mob. This video was circulated widely through mobile phones, and fuelled mass rage against local Muslims. Later evidence suggests that the death of the three young men resulted instead from a hot-headed clash between the boys after a motorcycle accident.
“The second requirement for communal violence to occur is the manufacture of the riot itself. Building on the groundswell of local Hindu fury against their Muslim neighbours because of their alleged deliberate assaults on the ‘honour’ of Hindu girls, a mahapanchayat on September 7 was convened with the explosive theme ‘Save Your Daughters’.
“Fiery speeches were made against Muslims, and after the frenzied crowd dispersed, they attacked Muslim settlements. In the majority of villages, Muslims were labourers in the sugarcane fields of Jat landowners. Their small houses were set aflame and looted, some were killed, and terrified people fled to the safety of numbers in Muslim majority villages.
“The third prerequisite for a manufactured riot is a complicit State administration, which fails in prevention, control, rescue and relief. The administration took no steps to quell the rumours, arrest those stoking hatred, or prohibit the mahapanchayat. Once violence broke out, the police forces mostly stood watching as the crowds attacked Muslim settlements, without using force or firing to disperse the furious mobs.
“They did not rescue the escaping people; instead survivors depended on Muslim wealthy landowners to protect them as they fled. The administration did not establish relief camps; instead these were organised by the victimised community in Muslim majority villages. We found little presence of the State in these camps: it did not organise sanitation, healthcare, child care or police outposts to record people’s complaints.”
Lessons from Muzaffarnagar (editorial) (Economic and Political Weekly, September 28, 2013):
“The communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas is a warning of the days to come. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is crucial to the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if its prime ministerial aspirant, Narendra Modi, has to have a plausible chance of coming to power. There has been a rise in incidents of communal violence since the Samajwadi Party (SP) government was elected to office last year, but the “riot” earlier this month – when close to 50 people were killed, a few hundred injured and tens of thousands fled from their homes – stands distinct in its scale and is clear evidence of what Paul Brass has termed the ‘institutionalised riot system’. The ‘Gujarat model’ of using the terror of communal violence to forge communal unity among ‘Hindus’ to build an invincible vote bank appears to be the strategy that has been employed [...].
“That the ‘Hindus’ in this riot are largely Jats has been acknowledged. However, Muslims too have caste and class markers. Some reports talk about Muslims being farm labourers, carpenters and blacksmiths to the landowning Jats. That clearly indicates a subservient relation with the dominant caste. In fact, one report quotes a Hindu Jat villager, ‘There will be no peace until the balance of power is sorted out. One community in each village will remain dominant.’ This then raises the question of why the dominant agricultural caste would want to drive out farm labour at the very time when agricultural operations are at their peak and the harvest is only weeks away. Another newspaper reports that Muslims who have run away from their villages to relief camps claim that they have left behind acres of cultivated land with standing crops, but fearing for their lives they would not want to return. The report estimates that in total there would be thousands of acres of such land and most landholders fear that these will now be encroached by members of the dominant caste. Does this indicate that landless lower-caste Muslims are now becoming landed? Or does it mean that a section of the dominant Hindu agricultural caste is willing to forgo the services of its (Muslim) farm labourers, even when labour supply is a problem, only to be able to appropriate prime agricultural land of the landed Muslims?
“The shifting of communal violence to rural areas perhaps cannot be understood without understanding the major changes in agriculture over the last few decades [...]. But it is equally clear that after the Nellie and Bhagalpur killings of the 1980s, this is perhaps the first large-scale rural communal violence and a warning about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s new strategy of breaking out of its urban enclaves.
“This particular incident also built on the other trajectory of reactionary politics in the region – of trying to control the sexuality of women – which has expressed itself regularly in ‘honour’ killings and khap panchayat embargoes on lifestyle. That the present killings, which appear to have a land-labour angle, were planned at a mahapanchayat of Hindu Jat khaps calling for the protection of the ‘honour’ of their women illustrates the continuities between caste, class, patriarchy and property.”
Muzaffarnagar 2013: Violence by Political Design | Report of an independent fact finding group by the Centre for Policy Analysis (September 17, 2013)
Evil Stalks the Land: Fact Finding Report on Muzaffarnagar Riots (September 24, 2013)
30 days and counting... The aftermath of violence in Muzaffarnagar & Shamli Districts, Uttar Pradesh, report by Joint Citizens’ Initiative (October 11, 2013)
The riot route (Frontline, September 18, 2013)
The chilling familiarity of Muzaffarnagar by Farah Naqvi (The Hindu, September 18, 2014)
Communal violence raises fears of turmoil ahead of India election by Amy Kazmin (Financial Times, September 22, 2013)
Muzaffarnagar 2013: Meanings of Violence by Hilal Ahmed (Economic and Political Weekly, October 5, 2013)
Their revenge on her body (The Hindu)
“A Dalit woman in a Patna village was stripped and paraded in the streets by dominant caste men to avenge an affront to their pride.
“They were six. She was all alone. They held her arms, her legs and dragged her out of her house in broad daylight. An entire village watched as six men tore off Sarita Devi’s (named changed) clothes, paraded her in the streets, in a shocking spectacle of humiliation very near to Bihar’s capital city.
“Like scores of Dalit women, her body became the site of revenge for the dominant castes in her village, who sought to strip off her dignity to avenge an ostensible affront to their caste pride.
“Sarita Devi, a washer woman, belongs to the lower dhobi caste. The yadav caste dominates her village (named withheld) in Patna district, whereas there are only two dhobi homes. One of the yadav households accused her 15-year-old son of having an affair with a girl in their family. Later, there was a quarrel between the boy and the girl.
“This acted as a trigger and on February 16, at 7 a.m., the girl’s family and relatives, namely Naval Rai, Atma Rai, Parmatma Rai, Manoj Rai and Sanjay Rai, descended upon Sarita’s hut.
“‘I was brushing my teeth in the courtyard, when they came and held me. They were saying “Dhobi jaat ka hoke itna hai” [You have so much nerve despite being a dhobi.] Then they stripped me. They were taking me to their house to further humiliate me. They asked for my husband and son and threatened to kill me. Manoj was carrying a sword and the rest lathis. Everyone watched as they ripped off my sari and blouse and scratched my body,’ recalled Sarita with tears welling up in her eyes.”
In India, Rapist's Wife Faces Harsh Judge: Tradition (Wall Street Journal)
“Akshay Kumar Singh and three other men were convicted this month of a crime that focused the world’s attention on violence against women in India: the gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in December.
“For the parents of the woman who died, the sentencing brought a measure of closure. For [his wife] Ms. Devi, who is in her 20s, and her 2-year-old son, her husband’s crime and punishment have opened up a chapter of profound uncertainty.
“Ms. Devi expects to be cast out by her in-laws and face ostracism and destitution here in India's conservative hinterland—not because she is married to a convicted murderer, but because she is a woman without a ‘As a widow, my honor will be lost forever,’ she says.
“Her husband’s relatives say they can’t afford to feed her. Her parents say they are too poor to take her back. The customs of purdah practiced in the region make it almost impossible for her to work outside the home.
“‘I am not educated. Our traditions are such that I cannot even step out of the house,’ Ms. Devi said. ‘Who will earn money to feed me and my son?’
“In the village where Ms. Devi lives in eastern Bihar state with her husband’s family, women are kept veiled and largely secluded. They can’t leave home without a male relative. Ms. Devi must wait until dark simply to go into the field behind her house to defecate.
“‘A woman going out for work is not in our tradition,’ says Vinay Singh, Mr. Singh’s older brother. Ms. Devi’s mother-in-law, Malati Devi, is blunter. ‘In our family, women die at home. They never venture outside,’ she says.
“Such attitudes may seem out of character in a country that had its first female prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in the 1960s, and that today boasts high-profile women politicians and executives. But India's countryside, home to nearly 70% of its 1.2 billion people, can be a stifling place, where women live highly circumscribed lives and lack freedoms their urban, middle-class counterparts are starting to enjoy.”
“Nidhi Barak, 20, was lynched by her own family and they broke the limbs of Dharmendra Barak, 23, before beheading him and dumping the body in front of his house. The police have arrested Nidhi’s parents, brother and uncle and are on the lookout for others involved in the killing. [...]
“Nidhi and Dharmendra were studying in Rohtak, 10 km from their village, and were in a relationship for almost three years. When both went missing on Tuesday, Nidhi’s family got in touch with her and persuaded them to return home, with the promise that they would not be harmed. As they returned on Wednesday, Nidhi’s family took them to their house and killed them.
“The families, of the same ‘gotra,’ told the police that the couple eloped on Tuesday to get married in Delhi, 90 km away.
“The brutal killing is yet another reminder of the power ‘khap panchayats’ wield, issuing diktats against marriages within the same ‘gotra’ (clan) and in the same village or even ‘bhaichara’ (brotherhood). In Haryana, there have been numerous cases of couples having defied the Khap diktat and paid the price with their lives.”
In the name of honour, again (Frontline, November 1, 2013):
“Dharmender and Nidhi of Garnawathi village in Rohtak district of Haryana were in the prime of their youth. On September 17, they decided to elope and get married in a court. They left the village clandestinely to an unknown destination in Delhi. They knew the village community would not accept their communion as they shared the same gotra. But they were lured back to the village by a close friend of Dharmender, who is learnt to have been under pressure from the community.
“The couple was running out of money and the friend convinced them that their families were reconciled to their marriage idea. They were murdered on their return to the village. The girl’s parents, uncle and younger brother allegedly tortured and hacked the two of them into pieces. They decapitated the boy and threw his head and torso in front of his modest dwelling and challenged his family to come and claim the remains. None of the residents of the village dared to apprehend the perpetrators of the crime.
“The twin murders came to light when somebody tipped off the police as Nidhi’s body was being prepared for cremation. Some reports said that the bodies were dragged through the village to a send a message across to society, but this could not be confirmed. [...]
“Barring the Left parties and their mass organisations, all the other political parties in the State declined to come out openly and condemn the heinous crime. Billoo, the girl’s father and a former wrestler, proudly claimed before the media that he had done the right thing. [...]
“The people in the village were unanimous in their opinion that the couple had left the girl’s parents with no choice. ‘The girl’s father should have got her married instead of sending her to the city to study. The laws are made for society but our society doesn’t accept it. The age of marriage should be reduced from 18 to 14. This will solve a lot of problems.’ [...]
“[T]he concept of property is very strong in Haryana and the three Js—jar (property), joru (wife) and jameen (land)—are the cornerstones of patriarchy in Haryanvi society. To this extent, and to protect and preserve property, levirate marriages, where the widow is married off to the husband’s brother, are common. It has happened even in cases where the groom was much younger than his widowed sister-in-law.
“Another elderly man from the village said that townspeople found it difficult to understand village customs. ‘There is no concept of brotherhood in the cities. No one cares for the other,’ he said. He said when such transgressions took place, the influential people involved would resort to murder. Among the other forms of ‘punishment’ for those who violate the ‘norms’ are social boycott (hukka-paani band) and economic ‘sanction’, which prevents people from tilling or sowing the fields of the families concerned.”
“‘Acting on the directives of the school authority, the cook in our school forced us sit separately from the upper caste students during mid-day meal. Few days back I was assaulted and humiliated by the lady who prepares our mid-day meal and my fault was that I touched the salt jar. It’s very painful for me to go to the school any further,’ said [thirteen-year-old] Bikram.
“‘Sometimes the food is almost thrown at the plates of dalit students from a distance and frequently most of the food given to upper-class students,’ he added. [...]
“This is not the lone story of discrimination at this particular school in the state. According to a study carried out by Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS), twenty percent of students left hungry as they served inadequate quantity of food. Another 20 percent said dalit children were not allowed to serve food, whereas other 14 percent alleged separate seating arrangements during mid-day meals. Likewise 13 percent pupil complained that food dropped on their plate from a distance.”
See also on anti-caste:
Brothers kill girl for loving dalit man (Indian Express (Chennai))
“In an incident of honour killing on Friday, two brothers of a caste Hindu family were arrested at Seevalaperi here on charges of murdering their sister who fell in love with a Dalit boy.
“Police sources said Gomathi (17) had gone to work in a mill at Puthukottai area in Thoothukudi district and had fallen in love with Murugan (22) of Thiruvenkadanathapuram in Thoothukudi district, also a worker there. Gomathi’s caste Hindu family opposed their marriage as the boy was a Dalit. However, Gomathi went to Murugan’s house on Thursday, and decided to stay with the boy.
“As she did not return to her house, Gomathi’s brothers Murugan (24) and Sudalaimuthu (20) went to Murugan’s house and brought her back by promising that they would help her marry the boy she chose.
“Believing their words, the girl returned home. On Friday, the brothers reported that the girl had committed suicide. But investigation revealed that the brothers had poisoned and then hanged her. Seevalaperi police arrested the duo.”
Dishonour killing in Tirunelveli keeps police on tenterhooks (NDTV, September 17, 2013):
“There's a pall of gloom and fear at the home of Murugan, a Dalit science graduate residing in the Pudukottai village in Tuticorin district. A 17-year-old girl from the upper caste Thevar community, who had eloped with him, was found murdered a few days ago in the neighbouring Tirunelveli district.
“The police suspects the family of the girl to be behind the murder and has arrested her two brothers.
“Murugan, however, hides in fear that he may be attacked next.
“At his home, however, no one is willing to speak out. The family exercises abundant restraint.
“‘They have done no harm to us. Why should we blame anyone for this and make it a big issue? My brother should not have fallen in love with an upper caste girl. He should have found a partner in our own Dalit community,’ Murugan's elder brother Ottaikaran says. [...]
“For years, the Dalits have largely depended on their Thevar landlords for their livelihood in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. And they became easy targets when their menfolk married Thevar women. The early nineties saw bloody communal clashes in the region.
“More recently, upper caste women have become victims of the dishonour killings, with at least six in the last two years alone.”
“A Dalit woman was allegedly beaten up by members of upper caste for drawing potable water from a government-dug deep tube well in their area at a village in Odisha’s Kendrapara district, police said on Wednesday.
“The woman was thrashed by upper caste groups in Pikirali village, about 25 kilometres from Kendrapara, on Monday. The upper caste groups said Dalits were not allowed to draw water from their wells.
“The sole tube well in Dalit Sahi area, which served about 10 Dalit families, had been lying defunct since last month. The poor families were forced to use polluted water from a pond nearby.
“Driven by compulsion, a Dalit woman, Kalpana Sethi, 25, decided to fetch water from a tube well in front of the house of an upper caste person, Bhamara Jena.”
See also on anti-caste:
Caste-based discrimination still pervades Bajura (Republica (Kathmandu))
“Many villages in Bajura have separate drinking water taps for the Dalit and the non-Dalit communities as the caste-based discriminate continues unabated in this hilly district in far-western Nepal.
“Take, for instance, the remote village of Aamkot in Biramhatola VDC. Of the total 60 households in the village, around 45 families belong to the so-called upper castes.
“There are two sets of water taps in this predominately non-Dalit village–borne out of the notion of ‘untouchability’–not to allow the Dalit residents from using the tap meant for the so-called upper castes.
“So deep-rooted is the Hindu religious orthodoxy in the village that the discrimination is not merely confined to the caste system, and extends to gender as well.
“Next to the drinking water taps set up for the Dalits and the non-Dalits, there is yet another tap for menstruating women in the village. [...]
“A woman from the Dalit community said that though some literate upper caste youths were liberal, most of the elderly remain strictly conservative.
“‘To this day, some old people from the so-called upper caste sprinkle water dipped on gold to sanctify their water tap if they saw any of us using their tap,’ she adds. ‘And, it really depresses us and makes us feel humiliated.’
“According to her, things do not end just by purifying the water tap. The so-called non-Dalit locals make it a point to berate them–using foul language. [...]
“In Piluchaur, a common market for around five Village Development Committees, no one from the Dalit community is allowed to spend a night in any of the local hotels, says Bhuwan B.K, a student.
“‘We are not allowed to enter a hotel, and we are forced to eat outside even if we pay for food,’ he bemoans.”
See also on anti-caste:
“The victim was 16 when she was snatched from the street as she walked to school and raped by two men in a moving car.
“She reported the attack to the police but three weeks later, on a date etched on to the wall of her home, her mother disappeared.
“Two days later she was found dead in a canal. Doctors said she too was raped before she was murdered.
“Now the teenager’s fight to see the men accused of her rape sent to jail has pitted her and her family against a hostile neighbourhood.
“They are Dalits, India's lowest caste who are derided as 'untouchables'; the suspects, who police say also raped and killed her mother, are upper caste. [...]
“The victim’s widowed father, a day labourer, said neighbours had repeatedly told them to drop the charges.”
Dalit boy stabbed for talking to non-dalit girl (Times of India)
“A -year-old school going dalit boy was inflicted with multiple injuries on his face for allegedly speaking to a non-dalit girl, aged 14, in Kumaram village near Madurai. [...]
“Police said the boy, N. Gokulakrishnan, was standing on the outskirts of his native Kumaram village near Alanganallur on the night of August 21 and was taking to his uncle Manimaran and relative Bharathi when the girl’s father, a non-dalit of the same village, attacked him. Mani, who came to the spot pulled out a knife and started stabbing the boy on the face. ‘The boy suffered deep cuts on the face, wrist, shoulder and ear. His uncle and relative Bharathi rescued him and fled the place,’ police said. [...]
“Two days before the attack, Mani had visited the house of the 14-year-old boy and threatened him of dire consequences if he continued speaking to his daughter. Subsequently, the boy’s relatives took the boy to Mani's house and explained that he was not harassing the girl. In spite of that, the boy was attacked, alleged the complaint.”
Caste barriers not older than 2000 years - Indians mated across ethnic groups till 2nd century: Study (The Telegraph (Calcutta))
“People across India mixed and mated without class, caste, or ethnic barriers for about 2,300 years until strict endogamy emerged across the subcontinent around the 2nd century AD, a new genetic study has suggested.
“The study by scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and the Harvard Medical School has indicated a staggering level of population admixture that they say had not been previously suspected.
“The scientists said that ancient, pervasive and widespread mixture of genes showed up in the genetic makeup of virtually all of India’s present-day populations — upper-castes, lower-castes, and even tribes such as Bhils of Gujarat, the Kallars of Tamil Nadu, and another tribe from Uttar Pradesh, long viewed as genetically isolated.
“The study, based on the analysis of the genetic make-up of 571 persons from 73 well-defined ethno-linguistic groups — 71 from India and two from Pakistan — has found evidence of widespread population mixture between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago.
“‘With the dawn of endogamy, genetic mixing became rare — that’s what we see in present-day Indian genomes,’ Priya Moorjani, a graduate student at the Harvard Medical School and the first author of the study, told The Telegraph. The findings will be published tomorrow in the American Journal of Human Genetics.”
Genetic Research Suggests Indian Caste System Began 1,900 Years Ago (Slate, August 20, 2013):
“But when did the caste system actually begin? One team of researchers believes the country’s genetic history holds the key. In a recent paper published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, researchers from Harvard, MIT, and the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad assembled what they call the ‘most comprehensive sampling of Indian genetic variation to date,’ using samples collected from 571 individuals belonging to 73 ‘well-defined ethno-linguistic groups.’ The data allowed the authors to trace not just the genetic mixture between these groups but how long ago this mixture occurred.
“Five thousand years ago, the ancestors of modern Indians were comprised primarily of two groups: ancestral North Indians, who related to people of Central Asia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Europe, and ancestral South Indians, who are not closely related to groups outside the subcontinent. The mixture between these two groups and their many subcategories happened mostly between 4,200 and 1,900 years ago, according to the study. The authors note that this period is significant as it was a ‘time of profound change in India, characterized by the deurbanization of the Indus civilization, increasing population density in the central and downstream portions of the Gangetic system, shifts in burial practices, and the likely ﬁrst appearance of Indo-European languages and Vedic religion in the subcontinent.’
“Around 1,900 years ago, the mixture largely stopped, as Indian society moved toward endogamy—the practice of avoiding intermarriage or close relationships between ethnic groups—which reached its most extreme form in the creation of the caste system. As one of the study’s authors told the Times of India, ‘the present-day structure of the caste system came into being only relatively recently in Indian history.’”
But not cast(e) in stone (DNA (Mumbai), August 31, 2013):
“It seems the first set of modern humans to have migrated to the Indian subcontinent were the Andamanese 65,000 to 75,000 years ago. They then migrated to coastal areas in South India and mixed with Dravidian population groups. Scientists refer to these first inhabitants of India as Ancestral South Indians (ASI). The second wave of migration from Africa took place 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. During migration this group probably split into two — one inhabiting Europe and the other heading towards Middle East and then India.
“This group has been dubbed Ancestral North Indians (ANI). This explains why ASIs don’t show any genetic affinity to groups outside the Indian subcontinent and ANIs show 30 to 70 percent genetic affinity to West Asians, Middle Easterners, Europeans and Caucasians. Most Indian population groups descended from a mixture of these two genetically divergent populations — ASI and ANI. This study had major implications for Indian history because it clearly showed that the origin of genetic diversity found in South Asia is much older than 3,500 years when the Indo-Aryans were supposed to have migrated to India. This means, genetically speaking, there was no Aryan invasion at all.
“Now CCMB scientists have been able to put a date to admixture between ASI and ANI — crucial for a fuller understanding of Indian history. The admixture, according to findings of the study published by Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj and colleagues this month, probably took place 1,900 to 4,200 years ago.
“The most remarkable aspect of the mixture is its pervasiveness. It affected not just traditionally upper-caste groups, but also traditionally lower-caste and isolated tribal groups such as Bhils or Palliyars, all of whom are united in their history of genetic mixture in the past few thousand years. The time-frame implies that India experienced a demographic transformation during this period — from being a region in which major population mixture was common to one in which mixture even between closely related groups became rare as reflected in a shift to endogamy (a key attribute of the caste system).
“The fact that Indians evolved from randomly mixed groups suggests that social classifications like the caste system did not exist in the same way before the mixture. In other words, the present-day structure of the caste system came into being only relatively recently. But once established, the caste system became genetically effective because mixture across groups became very rare. The Vysya community from Andhra Pradesh, which has experienced negligible gene flow from neighbouring groups for 3,000 years, is an illustrative example of this. Many population groups have evolved in genetic isolation during this period.”
‘Send us anywhere, but we won’t go back to Mirchpur’ (The Tribune (Chandigarh))
“The Dalit families that fled Hisar’s Mirchpur village after caste violence in 2010 today told a Supreme Court-appointed team they would not return as they feared for their safety. [...]
“‘How can anybody live under constant threat? The situation has not changed much in our village. The Jats are still as inimical to us as they were before. Move out the CRPF deployed in the village and you will see the consequences in two days,’ Ramesh Kumar, a middle-age Dalit man, told the team. About 135 families have been living at a farmhouse on the outskirts of Hisar since January 2011.
“Dalit settlements were targeted and torched in Mirchpur village by members of the dominant caste on April 21, 2010, resulting in the death of Tara Chand, 70, and his physically-challenged daughter. The court had convicted 15 persons and acquitted 82 in the case.
“Mincing no words, Gulab Singh, an elderly man, said: ‘Send us to other states or even Pakistan, but we will not go back to Mirchpur. There is no work for us in 20 adjoining villages. Nobody offers us even a glass of “seet” (left over after extracting butter from yogurt, “seet” is usually distributed by cattle rearing farmers free of cost to lower caste).’”
“With the country engulfed in a crisis over the war crimes trials, the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry shocked the country and the world. The Rana Plaza factory building collapse in April annihilated more than 1100 mainly women garment workers. This act of industrial murder showed the real workings of the capitalist market in one of the poorest countries in the world. Some 5000 factories in Bangladesh produce garments for major North American and European brands. The workers toiling in near-slavery in these deathtraps are paid the lowest wages in the world for that industry — as low as $37 (£24) a month, far below subsistence, often working 15-hour shifts.
“At the same time, the garment industry is a cornerstone of the country’s economy and the millions of workers in these factories have potential social power. To prevent such power from being unleashed, the local garment bosses, aided by the Awami League government, brutally suppress trade unions, to the point of targeting union activists with murderous violence (see Workers Vanguard no 1023, 3 May). Nevertheless, a number of strikes have swept the industry in recent years. And when news of the Rana Plaza disaster spread, hundreds of thousands of these workers walked out of work and marched on the headquarters of the garment manufacturers’ association demanding ‘we want execution of the garment factory owners!’
“The women who work in these factories are drawn from the villages, where illiteracy rates are high and the influence of religion and anti-woman prejudices are pervasive. For these women, a job in the garment industry opens up the possibility of escaping from the backwardness of village life. The ability of women to find employment in the cities breaks the taboo on mixing with men outside the home and enables women to become financially independent of their families. This fuels a backlash by the Islamists because it undermines the material basis for the traditional village and family hierarchy, within which women are blatantly traded as property. Dowry was prohibited by Bangladeshi law in 1980 but the legislation had little effect and the practice remains widespread. All aspects of personal and family law — regarding marriage, separation and divorce — are religion-based. Muslims are subjected to Islamic law, Christians to laws agreed by Christian churches and Hindus to Hindu codes. Numerous reports have documented an extremely high level of violence against women in Bangladesh. ‘Sulfuric acid — able to burn through skin, muscle and bone — is thrown on women for various reasons including “refusal of marriage offers, rejection of male advances, dowry disputes, domestic fights, property disputes, and even a delayed meal”’ (quoted in ‘Bangladesh: Violence against women’, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 2004). In 2002 the government introduced special laws to stop acid attacks; in 2011 the state restricted the sale of certain kinds of acids in an effort to reduce the number of these gruesome attacks.
“Women have most to gain from the overthrow of capitalism in Bangladesh and, as indeed in all of South Asia, they will be a motor force for socialist revolution. The fight for the most basic needs of women — for literacy, education, contraception, an end to forced marriage and a way out of grinding poverty and oppression — requires a struggle to root out the very foundations of capitalist society. In 1994, when Jamaat launched a murderous anti-woman campaign against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, we wrote that ‘Nasrin’s case raises questions far beyond the important democratic issues of women’s rights, freedom of speech and the separation of religion and the state’, questions ‘that only a revolutionary socialist program can answer’.”
Couple ends lives over ‘honour’ (Deccan Chronicle)
“Twenty-four-year-old Shravanthi, who works in a private firm in Banjara Hills, wanted to marry a man she was in love with. Her parents, Raja Ram Shetty, 45, and Vasantha, 40, residents of Beerappaguda in Jeedimetla, wanted her to consider other proposals but she wanted to marry the man of her choice.
“Raja Ram is an Arya Vysya, a forward caste in Hinduism. The man Shravanthi wanted to marry belonged to Kapu caste, which is also a forward caste, but different. The Shettys refused to agree to the match. When Shravanthi refused to be browbeaten, her orthodox parents took the extreme step.
“On Saturday evening, they locked their house and went to their other house in Rajiv Gruhakalpa in Jagathgirigutta. That is where they hanged themselves. They were found by a visitor next morning who saw their vehicle parked outside and went in to meet them.
“‘We found a suicide note which mentioned they have taken the extreme step due to fears of facing society, in case she marries a man of another caste,’ said Mahender Reddy, SI Jeedimetla.”
No exits from these tunnels of death (The Hindu)
“Sewerage workers, traditionally Valmiki Dalits, employed by civic bodies such as the Water Board, Public Works Department (PWD), and Municipal Corporations, have, for generations, relentlessly toiled, continually risking their health and life to ensure upkeep of the sewerage system. But save for hurt, exploitation and untouchability, they have received little in return. Despite proactive orders of the Gujarat High Court (2006) and Madras High Court (2008), the implementation of the directives remains unrealised, in the wake of frequent deaths.
“The task of inspecting, repairing, unblocking and maintaining sewers exposes workers to the sordid, sewage gunk that is generated in our homes, factories, hotels, hospitals and workplaces each day — an odorous mix of human excrement, food waste, plastic, used sanitary materials, and industrial effluents. This rotting refuse ferments to produce noxious gases, commonly methane, hydrogen sulphide and nitrogen oxide, which routinely threaten the workers’ lives besides causing respiratory, gastric, spinal and skin diseases.
“To guard themselves against exposure to these gases, most workers express a strong preference for protective gear such as full body suits. However, maintaining that the ‘unlettered’ workers fail to appreciate such technology, most Water Board officials approach the issue of workers’ safety with unabashed negligence. Some alcohol, the workers say, is the first buffer against this gaseous attack, for without it, it is unthinkable to survive the nauseating odour. Often what passes off as safety equipment is an oxygen cylinder, the weight of which, not cushioned by a body suit, is too burdensome and inconvenient for workers to work with.
“‘It is not our death that we fear but the fate of our families after our death.’ This is what Delhi’s Jal Board branch workers say — every one of them. This is the workers’ deepest insecurity, compounded by the complete absence or wretched provisioning of social security support.”
Spectre of caste trails yet another couple (The Hindu)
“G. Suresh (31) belongs to the Vanniyar community and his wife S. Sudha (23) is a Dalit. Village elders belonging to the Vanniyar community have ordered a social boycott against them. [...]
“Trouble began around May-end when villagers at Veppamarathur collected Rs. 1,000 from every house to celebrate the Mariamman Temple festival. When they came to know that Suresh was married to a Dalit, they returned the money his family had contributed. [...]
“The village elders then convened a ‘panchayat’, which ordered that none from Suresh’s family should enter the temple. They were also barred them from drawing water from common facilities and other villagers were asked not to have any contact with the couple’s family. [...]
“Only then did the couple get their marriage registered (on June 12). They feared an attack on the scale of the November 7, 2012 mob fury on Natham Colony [in Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu].”
See also on anti-caste:
A Small Town Near Gurgaon Wrestles With Change by Asgar Qadri (New York Times)
“Twenty years ago, Dharuhera was a quiet village of famers, who mostly worked on the lands of the local feudal lords, the Rao clan. The Raos owned most of the land and controlled the lives of people.
“‘We fought the Raos like our fathers had fought against the British,’ Suresh Chand, a farmer in his 70s, told me. In his youth, Mr. Chand worked as a laborer on the Rao lands. ‘It was pure bondage,’ Mr. Chand said. ‘There was no morning or evening for us. We worked on their lands all the time and got almost nothing in return.’
“The Raos had collaborated with the British and were given thousands of acres of land by the colonial authorities. The fortune is now divided among the various Rao scions. They continue to be the most powerful and the richest family in Dharuhera. The Raos too have made a transition like the town they ruled: they have reinvented themselves as real estate moguls. Daruhera is dominated by buildings carrying the Rao name: Rao Inderpal Shopping Complex, Rao Matadin Shopping Complex, and Dilip Rao Market. Each complex houses 100 to 150 shops. [...]
“The feudal world of Dharuhera began to crumble in the early 1980s after the Haryana government acquired a large swath of agricultural land and designated it as an industrial estate. Companies with large operations, like a paper producer, Sehgal Paper Mills, and a synthetics group, East India Synthetics, came and began employing thousands of locals as workers in their factories. A few years later, in 1985, Hero Honda, India’s largest scooter and motorcycle manufacturer, set up its manufacturing plant in Dharuhera. Thousands of jobs were created. Indian Oil, the state-owned petroleum company, set up a plant.
“A job in a factory brought freedom from centuries of feudal servitude and bonded labor. The great transformation of the feudal town also tore through the hierarchies of the oppressive caste system. Tej Kumar, a Dalit now in his 50s, was one of the workers to get a job at the Hero Honda factory in 1990.
“‘We were forced to wear a piece of shroud,’ Mr. Kumar recalled. ‘Our huts were made to face south to ward off the dirty winds.’
“He earned 2,000 rupees ($33) per month in his factory job — a princely sum for him at the time. A few years later, he was promoted as an electrician. After two decades at the factory, Mr. Kumar, who now makes 22,000 rupees ($367) a month, bought a modern double story house in one of the newly built housing complexes in Dharuhera. Mr. Kumar’s was the first Dalit family to move into the new residential complex. ‘I am hoping to buy a car now,’ he said.
“Over the last decade, however, the enthusiasm that the workers of Dharuhera had about factory jobs has been tempered. Hero Honda, like other manufacturers, has reduced permanent workers and turned to employ more contract workers, who are paid much less. [...]
“Although the Kumars have been able to move out of the confines of the feudal bondage and the persistent caste system, the old heart of Dharuhera continues to be divided into the upper caste Yadav quarter with spacious houses, clean, wide streets, and the derelict lower-caste Dalit quarter.
“‘They still refer to us as Harijans,’ said Makhan Lal, a shopkeeper in the Dalit neighborhood. ‘At least now we live in houses instead of thatched huts.’”