“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.’”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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 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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
See other anti-caste posts on the use of social boycott to enforce caste oppression
“‘They are free and we are trapped,’ says a resident, as many villagers share her fear that they may be targeted again
Sunaina Devi, who lost seven family members in the massacre
“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.”
“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.”
Parvati Devi, who lost nine members of her family in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“‘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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.’”
“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.”
“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).’”
“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.”
“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.”
“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. [...]
“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.’”
“A dalit groom rode a horse for his marriage procession defying threats from upper caste villagers for the first time under tight police security at Neemada village in Rajasthan's Ajmer district on Friday night. Dalits are not allowed to ride a horse especially for marriage processions.
“Ranjeet Singh Berwa's family had sought police help after the villagers had threatened him against riding a horse for his marriage procession. But the cops had told them to follow the village tradition forcing the family to file an application before the Center for Dalit Rights (CDR), which informed the district collector Vabhav Gallaria about it. [...]
“The district administration took the complaint seriously and Gallaria instructed police to ensure the marriage procession's security. [...]
“Even under tight security, many were not sure whether to break the custom. ‘No one, even me, my father and my five sons ever had the courage to go through the roads in the village on a horse,’ said a resident. [...]
“When the procession reached the center of the village, celebrations erupted. ‘It is like dream for us and felt that we too have right to dignity,’ said Peeruji.
“Another resident, Ram Karan Berwa, said thousands of marriages have taken place in the village but no dalit family had ever dared to ‘break this law’.
“As per the tradition, a dalit groom has to step down from the horse within Neemada’s limits and go to bride’s house on foot. ‘Those who have tried breaking this custom were punished severely mostly with heavy penalties,’ said Berwa.”
“In a shocking incident, a young girl was battered to death by her father as she had refused to marry a youth selected by him and insisted on marrying a Dalit youth of the same village. [...]
“According to the police, Konda Mamata (20), a second-year student of government degree college here, had allegedly been in love with a Dalit youth for the past three years and pressing her parents to allow her to marry him.
“But her request was turned down by the parents, particularly her father, Chandraiah, a tailor, and they fixed her marriage to a youth belonging their caste (Merudarji). A function, as part of the wedding preparation, was held at the house on Friday. It was attended by scores of their relatives. After all the guests had left the place, the girl again expressed her strong desire to marry the man of her choice which led to yet another bout of heated argument between the two. In a fit of rage, Chandraiah hit his daughter with an axe, which resulted in the girl’s death on the spot.”
“Roma students in the Czech Republic are still routinely put at a disadvantage because of their placement in either segregated schools or school for children with learning disabilities, despite criticism from rights groups and a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that called the situation discriminatory.
“A disproportionate number of Roma are placed in what are called ‘practical schools,’ meaning institutions that use a simplified curriculum for children who have mild mental disabilities or who need remedial training. In a parallel problem, others are segregated into Roma-only schools that keep them isolated from the mainstream education system.
“In 2010, about one-third of Roma students in the Czech Republic were in practical schools, according to the Czech Schools Inspectorate. In 2012, that number dropped to 26 percent, though Roma children were still overrepresented, given that the Roma make up less than 3 percent of the population.”
“Beyond improving the looks of young men, Bangalore’s, and urban India’s, increasingly narcissistic culture has had an unexpected, more profound effect on society. It has freed an entire generation of hairdressers from the burden of their caste tag, giving them dignity, even celebrity. Members of the traditional chaurika caste, who stood among the lower rungs of India’s social order for doing ‘impure’ hair work, are now much sought-after hair professionals.
“‘We are no longer known by the derogatory barber or hajam terms,’ said Ramesh Babu, 42, who has clipped men’s hair for over two decades. Hajam is Urdu for barber. He now owns several salons and runs a luxury car rental service, often arriving in his personal Rolls Royce Ghost to trim clients’ hair. ‘We want to eliminate these disparaging labels entirely.’ [...]
“It’s a stark contrast from when his grandfather practiced the profession, making house calls in a village in Bangalore’s outskirts. His customers — who were men, as women back then kept their hair long — always paid in kind, usually grain and vegetables. [...]
“Many customers will still have a ‘cleansing’ bath straight after a haircut.
“But the past stigma about the profession is definitely fading. Proof is in Mr. Kambaya’s thriving training classes for the younger generation of his caste people, where the emphasis is on polish and demeanor. ‘The sessions will help them prosper in the stylish surroundings of high-end salons and reap the rewards of their inherited skill,’ he said.
“Mr. Kambaya wants his children to carry on his forefathers’ professional legacy. His daughter, a management student, will start assisting him as soon as she is finished with school.”
“A 19-year-old girl has been burnt to death and her mother beaten after pleading with village elders to be allowed to marry a boy from the same village and same caste, Indian police have confirmed.
“Anju Yadav, 19, from Karahkol village, in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, was set on fire at her home while her mother, Gyanwati Devi, 48, was on the other side of the village pleading with the village council to allow Anju to marry her boyfriend of two-years, Ranjit Yadav, 21.
“But the village council, along with the boy’s father, Jai Hind Yadav, 52, rejected their pleas insisting it was against tradition.
“Instead, the boy’s father rushed over to the family home and set the girl alight, it was claimed.
“Indian society is well known for its complex caste system [...]. However, what is less well known is that it is equally unacceptable for people from the same caste and village to marry. [...]
“Her mother, Gyanwati, said both her daughter and Ranjit loved each other very much and wanted to marry.
“Gyanwati went to Jai Hind’s house on Wednesday evening to discuss the marriage proposal but when he and the family refused she went to village council for help, which is usual in India.
“Gyanwati said: ‘I wanted to see my daughter happy. They loved each other; I had no problem with the marriage. But when I went to Jai Hind with the proposal he told me it’s a sin to marry within the same caste and would not accept the marriage.’
“Anju, who was enveloped in flames, ran to the terrace of her house and jumped down. She suffered fractures in her arms and legs, too. The villagers poured water on her, but by then she had already suffered over 85 per cent burns.”
“Just 45 kms from the cosmopolitan hub of Ahmedabad, a village in Bavla Talika district has been found to be using caste as a parameter for distribution of water supply. On the scale, the highest castes of Rajputs and Patels have exclusive access to the well in the morning from 8 to 10 am, with Bharwas and Vaghris using the well from 10 to 12 am. Dalits, or Harijans as they are locally known, are only allowed access after 12 am till 2 pm.
“According to a report, the pipelines carrying water are also arranged so each caste has a different one for their exclusive use. While the two upper castes can and do use each other’s water interchangeably, graphic warnings levying ‘strict penalties’ on Dalits if they are caught using others’ water decorate the surrounding walls. [...]
“Surprisingly [sic], the casteist practise has the backing of village panchayat.
“‘We have put up the notice to streamline water distribution as we have separate pipelines for areas where people of different castes reside,’ Pratapsinh Dodia, the husband of sarpanch Nimisha Dodia was quoted saying by DNA.
“‘And people don’t like when those from other communities use the same well. Villages are different from cities,’ he conceded.
“Throwing light on what upper castes call ‘tradition,’ local NGO Navsarjan Trust workers told DNA that even Dalits have stopped protesting against ‘inferior treatment’ as they have become used to it. Startlingly [sic], coordination officer of the NGO Ramila Parmar was quoted by DNA claiming that such water distribution procedure can be found all over the state.”
“Police resorted to mild force to disperse warring groups following denial of cremation to a dalit woman by people belonging to upper caste at Gandlavedu village in Atmakurmandal of Nellore district on Tuesday.
“According to Atmakur police, a group of upper caste people objected to the cremation of D Kondamma (80), a dalit woman, who died in the early hours of Tuesday. The dalits wanted to cremate the woman in the vicinity of a crematorium belonging to upper castes.
“This led to protests by dalits. With two groups resorting to physical attacks, tension prevailed in the village. The police used force to disperse them.
“Senior police and revenue officials rushed to the village and convinced the upper castes to allow Kondamma's cremation. The revenue authorities promised to earmark land for an exclusive crematorium for the dalits.”
“At an age too young to comprehend the ugly face of caste system, a school-going Dalit boy of Vadugapatti in Usilampatti taluk has become a victim of the worst form of ill-treatment.
“On Monday, the 11-year-old boy was allegedly humiliated by a caste Hindu youth who paraded the boy on the streets of the village with a pair of footwear on his head. [...]
“The boy and two of his friends were returning from the Government Kallar Government High School in the village after checking out their annual examination results on Monday when the caste Hindu youth P. Nilamaalai (27) caught hold of them near a huge tree adjacent to the school. ‘He let my friends go because they were not wearing footwear and asked me to stay back,’ the boy told The Hindu.
“Questioning the boy for gathering guts to wear footwear through a locality occupied by caste Hindus and asking him if his mother had not taught him the ‘etiquette’ he had to follow while passing through ‘upper caste areas,’ the youth forced him to carry the footwear on his head and paraded him up to a podium [meant for performing dramas], about 60 metres from the tree.
“His mother took up the issue with Nilamaalai on Wednesday. ‘He justified his act and threatened to kill me if I dared to go to the police.’”
“The humiliation underwent by an 11-year-old Dalit boy, who was reportedly forced by a caste Hindu youth to carry his footwear on head at Vadugapatti in Usilampatti taluk near here, has brought to the fore years of subjugation and maltreatment suffered by Dalits of the village.
“The discrimination began right at his residence. Around 250 Dalit families in the village were segregated from the rest and living in a separate locality called a ‘colony.’
“Over 650 caste Hindu families occupied the remaining parts of the village.
“The two groups of families also had separate temples and priests. ‘We have to cross their (caste Hindus) locality to reach our temple. And we dare not wear footwear. Our ancestors had been following it [not wearing footwear] without protest,’ said P. Azhagu, a Dalit priest.
“L. Azhaguraja, a Dalit driver of the village, said Dalits are prohibited from even riding bicycles and two-wheelers through the caste Hindu locality. ‘We cannot even travel as pillion riders. Any violation of the diktat would provoke the ire of the dominant community,’ he said.
“Concurring with him, R. Palpandi, a casual labourer, said the village ration shop was located in the area occupied by caste Hindus. ‘We cannot even take a two-wheeler there to bring home provisions. We have to carry the provisions on our heads. It is an unwritten rule,’ he rued.”
“Multiple forms of discrimination exist in Vadugapatti village near Usilampatti, where a 12-year-old Dalit boy was made to carry his footwear on his head recently.
“Dalits can neither walk on the streets of caste Hindus with their footwear on nor can they enter common pathways on bicycles. If they violated the rule they had to face the wrath of the dominant caste in the village, the Piramalai Kallars. [...]
“Dalits in the village cannot enter the Santhana Mariamman temple in the village; nor are they allowed to use the village square space. They have no access to common property resources. Even at ration shops, Dalits are abused by caste Hindus if they get close to them, said Vairupandy (25) a Dalit youth.
“Dalits cannot sit in front of caste Hindus at bus shelters; there is no pathway for them to approach the graveyard and even during an emergency they have to use a circuitous route. The law of the land is that all issues pertaining to the villages should be dealt within the caste panchayats (kangaroo courts).
“Maayakkal (60) and other Kallar women in the village square said that they don’t eat food or drink tea in Dalit houses. When asked why they said it has been the tradition for centuries.”
“A Dalit youth who fell in love and married a caste Hindu girl was found murdered on a field here on Thursday. Police have arrested the girl’s father and brother in this connection. [...]
“In April this year, the girl eloped with Parthiban, who married her with support of his friends. When the marriage came to the knowledge of Ochammal’s family, they refused to admit the couple in their house. Besides, whenever the girl’s family members came across Parthiban, they used abusive words and threatened him. Sources said, a few days back, the girl’s father went to Parthiban’s shop and threatened him.”
“Dhaka, who belonged to pre-dominant Jat community, had married Shabnam Balmiki (22), a Dalit woman, last year in a temple at Hisar.
“However, the family members of Shabnam, who reside in Fatehabad, did not approve of the marriage and also did not allow her to go with her husband.
“On May 30, when Satpal Dhaka went to meet his wife, to invite her for his brother’s marriage, the irate relatives tried to thrash him, but he managed to escape. [...]
“Last evening when Satpal was out for distributing invitation cards of the marriage of his brother Suraj Bhan, the girl’s father Mukesh and her brothers Shubham and Sagar, along with three others, allegedly attacked Satpal, killing him on the spot, police said.”
“When Gangu Chaudhary got a call to come to Kathmandu from his home in western Nepal, all he knew was that his 12-year-old daughter, Srijana, had fallen sick. He arrived at the family house where she had been working to be told that his daughter had doused herself in kerosene and then set herself alight, dying of her injuries shortly afterwards.
“Srijana was a ‘kamlari’, a domestic slave.
“As bonded labourers working off debts, Srijana’s family remains trapped in the quasi-feudal caste system still operating in parts of the country.
“Since the 1950s, young girls from Nepal’s Tharu community have been sold or given away by their families as a way of repaying debts to higher-caste families. Many face years of menial and unpaid domestic labour, violence and abuse. Chaudhary says that he was pressured by his landlord to hand over his daughter in exchange for some land. He never saw her again.
“But now, two months after her body was cremated, Srijana’s death could mark a turning point in Nepal’s battle to end this ancient form of slavery. Last week, the government pledged to end the enslavement of all remaining kamlari girls by the end of the month, help to rehabilitate them once free, and prosecute the families that had enslaved them.
“The government’s decision followed a wave of protests and strikes, in the capital and across southern Nepal, over continued discrimination against kamlaris. The unrest was prompted by the refusal of the police to investigate Srijana’s death, which was ruled suicide. [...]
“Officially, all forms of bonded labour, including the kamlari system, have been banned in Nepal since 2000.
“Yet campaigners believe that thousands of young girls like Srijana are still living as indentured slaves throughout the country.
“‘It is the powerful politicians from the upper castes who typically keep kamlaris, so they have no incentive to abolish the system,’ says Churna Chaudhary, the executive director of Backward Education Society, which has been campaigning for an end to all forms of bonded labour since 1985.”
“Blacksmithing is one of the last vestiges of caste-based hereditary occupations. It is practiced by a few families at Nagamalai Pudukottai on the Madurai-Theni highway. They make tools for agriculture and construction purposes.
“Their spades, hoes, picks and trowels attract customers from all over south Tamil Nadu. S. Krishnamoorthy (50) and his wife Chithra (45) belong to the fourth generation of a family of blacksmiths. [...]
“[Chithra’s] ancestors [...] were brought to Nagamalai Pudukottai [...] as the village did not have a blacksmith then. ‘It was part of the system to have various service castes within a village, and we were given land to stay and thus have remained here for the past 100 years,’ says Lakshmi (70), [Chitra’s grandmother].
“Though the blacksmiths traditionally — within the Hindu hierarchy — did not have power over land, they were the ones who made all agricultural tools such as hoes, spades, plough tips and picks, the mainstay of the village economy. [...]
“The advent of tipper lorries and earthmovers has resulted in decrease in demand for hoes. Six men used to carry a hoe each to unload sand from a lorry. Now a single person with a hoe can complete the work, he said.”
“A couple who had married against the wishes of the girl's parents were thrashed by the girl's brother and an uncle on Wednesday, and have been admitted to the local civil hospital. Jasleen Kaur, a Jat and Pankaj Agnihotri, a Brahmin by caste, had been forced to marry in court in August 2012,as the former’s parents did not approve of their relationship due to their different castes. They said they had since been running from one place to another as Jasleen's maternal uncle had threatened to kill them.
“‘On Facebook, he had posted messages threatening to kill my brother and and also insulted my sister,’ said Pankaj.
“He claimed that they had returned to their native village Motian on May 6 as his father was ill. However, on May 8, his in-laws thrashed them up severely.
“‘A mob, including my younger brother, uncle, grandmother, aunt and others arrived at our doorstep. Without a word, my brother and uncle started beating me and my husband,’ said Jasleen.
“‘They were carrying baseball bats, rods and an iron chain. They dragged us out and tore my husband’s clothes. They threatened to drag him naked by tying him to their jeep. However, the villagers intervened and they left the place,’ alleged Jasleen, exhitibiing the bruises on her body. She said her uncle had threatened them to leave the village or face certain death.”
“According to the locals, the violence erupted around Thursday noon when a small group of Vanniyar Sangam members were drinking near the social forest on the side of ECR. When they were questioned, a larger group assembled immediately and entered the Kattayantheru area of the Marakkanam Colony through the forest armed with sticks and petrol bombs.
“In the violence that ensued, huts, temples and even a cowshed and haystack were burnt. Other houses were attacked with stones and sticks. On Friday morning, the residents of the colony are trying to assess their loss and pick up the pieces of their lives.
“The residents of the colony were forced to flee into the forest when they saw the mob approaching.
“‘Most of us don’t have anything left except the clothes that we are wearing. Most of the area has been destroyed and even the electric lines were cut in the violence. The attacks took us by surprise, since we did not expect anyone to enter through the forest. Unless they know the area well, they would have not known that the Colony is located just beyond the forest,’ one of the residents said. [...]
“In the Koonimedu Village, another site where there was extensive violence, the Muslims, Vanniars and Dalits joined hands to fight the members of the Vanniar Sangam, the villagers said.”
“On April 25 afternoon, a mob of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) workers, all of them caste Hindu Vanniyars, stormed into Kattayan Theru and threw petrol bombs at Dalits’ huts. [...] It is not surprising that Kattayan Theru was chosen for the attack. Most of its Dalit residents belong to the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK, or the Dalit Panthers), headed by Thol. Thirumavalavan. The animosity between the VCK and the PMK goes back a long way.”
“Even as half of Gujarat is parched, shocking instances of inhuman behaviour have come forth in the Jasdan sub-division of state’s Rajkot district where Dalits are being deprived of water by people from upper caste.
“The Khadwadi village in the sub-division is virtually divided into half as Dalit women and children are made to walk miles in summer for water although there is a hand pump in the village that is used by the upper caste.
“The Dalits are disappointed because they feel ditched as the hand pump came to the village with their effort but now they are not allowed to use it.
“‘The upper caste people do not allow us to use the hand pump. They tell us to use it after they are done with it. The upper caste is full of discrimination against us,’ a villager said.”
“The body of a 20-year-old Dalit youth, who reportedly died after some persons allegedly tied him to a tree and repeatedly rammed a car into him, was found in Devsar village of Haryana’s Bhiwani district on Wednesday. His body was found abandoned in a car on the roadside between Devsar and Kusumbi villages. [...]
“Based on a complaint by Jaimal’s father Rajpal, a case was registered against a few upper caste members living in the same village.
“Rajpal told the police that last year the upper caste members had attacked them and stopped Jaimal’s [cousin's] wedding procession. They also did not allow [Jaimal’s cousin] to sit on a elephant as part of the religious ceremony. Since then, [Jaimal] was being harassed by upper caste youths and hence, they could have killed him, Rajpal alleged in his complaint.”
“‘On December 4, 2011, my brother’s son (Jaimal’s cousin) Veervan was getting married. We had arranged for Veervan to be brought to the mandap on an elephant. The Rajputs in the village took offence. They said we had no right to use an elephant, which was a Rajput symbol of regality. They put a knife to Veervan’s throat and we had to send the elephant back. Praveen’s family was involved. I was the complainant in the police case, and they had been pressuring me to withdraw ever since. Things have been on the boil since then,’ Rajpal said.”
“Over 200 Dalits residing in Pabnawa village, around 25km from Kaithal, were lucky to have lost no lives to a violent mob of the dominant Ror community on Saturday night, but have been left without water supply since.
“Agitated after the recent elopement and marriage of a Dalit man with a woman from the landowning Ror community of the same village, the 400-strong mob barged into the settlement, Ambedkar Nagar, on Saturday night, and not only ransacked houses and shops but also damaged the locality's water tanks and six borewells, besides injuring three persons. Residents are now forced to procure drinking water from adjoining villages.
“As for the couple–Surya Kant (26) and Meena (21)–they have been in a protection home since their April 8 wedding, and the Kaithal police are guarding them on directions of the high court. After the attack, around 50 villagers including Surya Kant's relatives reportedly left the village for an undisclosed location. [...]
“Rajiv, another Dalit resident, insisted that the marriage had ‘indeed broken the bhaichara (brotherhood) of the village’, but noted, ‘The Rors now want to take revenge from the entire Dalit population and hatched a conspiracy to kill us. They had been asking us to hand over Meena to them, even when she married as per her free will and is staying with her husband at a police protection home.’
“Rors are a farming community who claim to be descendants of the Marathas who had fought the Second Battle of Panipat in the region and settled in pockets of Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra and Kaithal districts now. Their dominance stems from their ownership of significant chunks of land, though they are not otherwise considered high in the caste hierarchy.”
“Over 300 Dalit families of Deveerahalli Village, of Kudimenahalli Panchayat, in Krishnagiri district allege that they are being denied work by intermediate castes of the village and of six other nearby villages. The reason behind this, they say, is that a Dalit youth in their area had fallen in love with a girl of an intermediate caste from Sathinayakkanpatti under Damodarahalli Panchayat.
“The girl is back with her parents after the youth’s parents wanted her to go back, as they feared the type of mob furywhich was unleashed on three colonies in nearby Dharmapuri districtover a similar issue in November last year. But, the boycott of the Dalits of the Krishnagiri village continues though the affair had come to light in December and the girl had gone back to her home.
“Intermediate castes have banned Dalits from working on their agriculture fields, brick kilns and other income-earning activities since then. The decision to bar them from such forms of employment was allegedly taken by a ‘khap panchayat’ — a council of older persons who issue decrees to their community members on matters such as marriage — consisting of the leaders of seven villages, in and around Sathinayakkanpatti and Deevarahalli, on December 24 last year, alleged A. Manikandan, district convener of Naam Tamizhar Katchi.
“Many Dalits, who have also taken up the lands of intermediate caste on lease, for cultivation of crops, lost lakhs of rupees due to the economic boycott. They were not allowed to step into the farm lands.”
“Though the Kols are anthropologically tribal, they are recognized as a Scheduled Caste in Uttar Pradesh. Not only has this deprived them of their traditional source of living–the forest, it has largely left them dependant and landless, languishing in silica quarries and sand mines. [...]
“Landless and dismayed by the rocky terrain that makes cultivation difficult, the Kols settle down close to silica mines, crushing stones for much of the day and bearing a nomadic existence. Over the years, a large number have contracted lung diseases like silicosis and tuberculosis. Some have lost limbs or sustained crippling injuries during the blasting of the rocks. [...]
“In most cases, the landlords provide the Kols space to work and live, and in return deduct portions from their silica mining. Kol women are also invited to serve as domestic help for no or minimum remuneration. They often endure the most of police apathy, with reports of them facing sexual harassment and violence going unheard or unreported. ‘When we go with complaints, we are shooed away and asked to come back later,’ says Indu Kol.
“However, the Kol’s most grim concern remains the forest department’s restrictions on the use of forest produce. Generally, they require permission to plant or use trees such as neem, amla and mahua. The Kols complain that they face harassment from the authorities even if they collect the twigs and barks and sell them. According to Amarnath Kol, who works with a local Kol organization, at least eight Kols have been booked by the forest department for carrying wood for sale. [...]
“Today, Kols are mostly followers of Hinduism. They claim their descent from Shabari, who in the forests of modern day Chattisgarh fed berries to Lord Ram and Lord Lakshman during their exile. As the legend suggests, the Kols have a close relationship with the forest.
“This bond was disrupted in the 19th century by the British East India Company, which indulged in deforestation and introduced zamindari to extract revenue from their forests lands. The Kols protested violently, in what is known as the Kol Rebellion (1831-32), where a British Major is said to have noted their ‘courage and daring.’”