“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.”
“‘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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Just two months before full implementation of a landmark 2010 law mandating that all Indian children between the ages of 6 and 14 be in school, some 28 million are working instead, according to Unicef. Child workers can be found everywhere — in shops, in kitchens, on farms, in factories and on construction sites. In the coming days Parliament may consider yet another law to ban child labor, but even activists say more laws, while welcome, may do little to solve one of India’s most intractable problems.
“‘We have very good laws in this country,’ said Vandhana Kandhari, a child protection specialist at Unicef. ‘It’s our implementation that’s the problem.’
“Poverty, corruption, decrepit schools and absentee teachers are among the causes, and there is no better illustration of the problem than the Dickensian “rathole” mines here in the state of Meghalaya.
“Meghalaya lies in India’s isolated northeast, a stump of land squashed between China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Its people are largely tribal and Christian, and they have languages, food and facial features that seem as much Chinese as Indian.
“Suresh Thapa, 17, said that he has worked in the mines near his family’s shack ‘since he was a kid,’ and that he expects his four younger brothers to follow suit. He and his family live in a tiny tarp-and-stick shack near the mines. They have no running water, toilet or indoor heating. [...]
“India’s Mines Act of 1952 prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from working in coal mines, but Ms. Thapa said enforcing that law would hurt her family. ‘It’s necessary for us that they work. No one is going to give us money. We have to work and feed ourselves.’”
“For 11-year-old Raja, a Dalit student, mid-day meals at school can be a painful and humiliating experience. He and other Dalit children aremade to sit separately. Sometimes the food is almost thrown at his plate from a distance. Frequently, most of the food is given to upper-caste children. Raja’s parents speak of differential treatment meted out by teachers and mention that their son often feels disturbed and avoids going to school. Yet, as daily-wage agricultural labourers, they depend on the school to take care of at least one meal for Raja. Their complaints have been ignored. In fact, teachers advise students not to complain to their parents.
“Raja’s story is borne out by a survey of 122 schools across seven states, from November 2011 through March 2012, by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS). The states include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. As part of the survey, 1,275 parents were questioned. It threw up several notable findings. For one, Dalit children faced various forms of differential treatment. Twenty per cent of respondents said Dalit children were left hungry as they got inadequate quantities of food, certainly less than children from upper castes. Another 20 per cent said Dalit children were not allowed to serve food; 14 per cent complained of separate seating arrangements during meals. Close to 13 per cent reported Dalit children had food dropped on their plates from a distance. About 9 per cent of respondents said Dalit children had to bring plates from home so their dishes would not get mixed up with those used by upper-caste children. Around 8 per cent said upper-caste children were served first.
“Such discrimination has had clear consequences. Fifty-two per cent of parents mentioned this humiliating treatment discouraged children from going to school. Ten per cent said discrimination had affected their children’s academic performance. Nine per cent reported school had become a painful experience for their children — the unkind treatment had affected their psychological state and created tensions among students. The purpose of the mid-day meal had been to improve attendance and reduce the number of children dropping out. In these cases, the result has been the opposite.”
“A private school in Bangalore, India, is accused of cutting off tufts of hair from poor pupils in order to distinguish them from its better-off students.
“Children from a lower caste Hindu community, attending The Oxford School in accordance with an anti-discrimination law, were forced to wear different uniforms and had some of their hair cut off, claim the parents of four of the pupils.
“Under the Right to Education law, which was passed last year, private schools must reserve a quarter of their enrollment slots for low-income families. Millions of children cannot afford to go to school in India. The law allows poor children between the ages of 6-14 to have free primary school education. There has been a great deal of opposition to the law from schools, and this week more than 1,000 schools in Karnataka are on strike to protest it. The schools claim that the law restricts their autonomy and is a drain on resources.”
“Caste Hindus of Adayur village near Tiruvannamalai opposed the admission of two dalit boys in the local Panchayat Union Middle School on Monday and prevented their children from attending school in protest. [...]
“Till now, the dalits used to send their children to the Adi Dravidar Welfare Middle School in the village. For the first time, Muthuraj and Sathish, sons of Kumar, a dalit migrant worker, were enrolled in the PUMS in class I and VI on June 6.
“Taking objection to this, the caste Hindu parents assembled at the school on Monday and urged headmaster Mohammed Usman to expel the dalit boys. He refused. [...]
“When some caste Hindu women argued that their girls were teased by dalit boys, Mr. Bupathi said it was irrelevant to the issue at hand and assured them that action would be taken if there was a specific complaint.
“M. Srinivasan, a DMDK functionary representing the caste Hindus said, ‘No dalit has ever been admitted to PUMS and they usually go to their welfare school. This is in practice for 50 years and why should they come here now?’”
“For Dalit students in Perali village in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district, the route to school is long and dangerous. To reach the Government Higher Secondary School in the village, they need to carefully avoid streets that run through upper-caste neighbourhoods. They must instead risk the busy traffic of a highway as they circle these localities.
“Violating the village’s unofficial diktat could cost Dalit families their employment, as upper-caste communities control most of the economic opportunities even in the state that, for the past four decades, has seen politics centred on backward communities. [...]
“Statistics offer a reason for optimism, with Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Muslim students increasingly as likely to enroll in schools as students from upper castes. [...]
“But these statistics also hide the challenges these students face once enrolled in school.”
“Indian law offers limited safeguards and limited enforcement to protect such children, and public attitudes are usually permissive in a society where even in the lowest rungs of the middle class, families often have at least one live-in servant.
“‘There is a huge, huge demand,’ said Ravi Kant, a lawyer with Shakti Vahini, a nonprofit group that combats child trafficking. ‘The demand is so huge that the government is tending toward regulation rather than saying our children should not work but should be in school.’
“The International Labor Organization has found that India has 12.6 million laborers between the ages of 5 and 14, with roughly 20 percent working as domestic help. Other groups place the figure at 45 million or higher. Unicef has said India has more child laborers than any other country in the world. [...]
“Mala Bhandari, who runs Childline, a government hot line for child workers, said India’s urbanization and the rise of two-income families were driving demand for domestic help. Children are cheaper and more pliant than adults; Ms. Bhandari said a family might pay a child servant only $40 a month, less than half the wage commonly paid to an adult, if such servants are paid at all.
“Indian law deems anyone younger than 18 a minor. But the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 also creates a loophole: Children between 14 and 18 are allowed to work a maximum of six hours a day in nonhazardous work. Children younger than 14 are prohibited from working as servants, a statute that is widely flouted. Employers are required to provide daily education and document the child’s daily break hours, though most families ignore such requirements because enforcement is largely nil.
“‘What happens within the four walls of a home, nobody knows,’ said Ms. Bhandari, who contended that while abuse was not the norm, it was not rare. [...]
“Societal attitudes toward servants are often shaped by ingrained mores about caste and class. Many servants, especially children, come from poor families among the lower Hindu castes or tribal groups, often from poor states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. [...]
“Raj Mangal Prasad, a children’s welfare official in New Delhi, said the government was not staffed to carry out raids to look for illegal servants. But if it were, Mr. Prasad estimated, several thousand cases would probably be discovered throughout the capital. He estimated that one household out of 20 employed an under-age servant. ‘It’s plain for everyone to see,’ he said. [...]
“But Mr. Kant, the lawyer with Shakti Vahini, said the courts rarely issued harsh judgments in cases involving the rights of domestic help.
“‘There is a general feeling that we need these people,’ Mr. Kant said. ‘Cases aren’t taken so seriously. There is no fear of the law.’
“The pain is perceptible in nine-year-old Shankar’s voice as he recounts how he’s made to sit at the back of the class with other children from a ‘low caste’ group. He says his teacher doesn’t wish to accidentally touch them, keeping them as far away as possible from the rest of the children. His peers from the ‘upper caste’ call him an ‘untouchable’; when he complains to the teachers, they see no issue. ‘You are untouchable – what else should they call you?’
“His sister, who is 8, is asked to clean the classroom – that’s her task because she’s a girl and an ‘untouchable.’ At lunch, Shankar says the children from the other castes are served food provided by the government, while his fellow caste children are asked to wait outside the classroom; should any food remain after the teachers and ‘upper caste’ children have eaten, it may then be offered to Shankar and other children from ‘lower castes.’
“The children’s parents point out that a child who’s gone hungry for several meals is unlikely to be able to pay proper attention to classroom instruction. Shankar’s eyes well up with tears as he responds to questions about life as a Dalit child attending the local school. Other Dalit children tell of similar discrimination, complaining that the teachers don’t pay attention to them, call them outcasts and run down their abilities and enthusiasm for education. That’s why the Dalit children rarely go to school; their visits reinforce the feelings of persecution and discrimination.”
“Dalit children at a school in Jagatsinghpur district do not know where they went wrong with their studies because teachers refused to check their notebooks. ‘Ame achuta (We are considered untouchables). The teachers refuse to touch our books and our homework is never corrected,’ said Bijaya Mallick, a student of Class IV at the school at Keutapala in Balikuda block. ‘If we even touch our teachers by mistake, they scold us for polluting them,’ he added.
“The 40 odd Dalit students in the school were allegedly singled out and made to clean classrooms and toilets. ‘I clean toilets at school,’ said Samir Mallick, a Class V student. He looked puzzled when asked why he agreed to do so. ‘The teachers tell me to do it,’ the 11-year-old boy said. ‘We are not even allowed to take water from the drinking pot at school,’ he added.
“Several students and their parents complained that they were victims of caste discrimination by the school staff since long. The final straw, however, was when teachers refused to serve mid-day meals to the children. This prompted incensed parents not to send their wards to school for the past one week.”
“Based on the findings of a three-month study that it conducted in the district from December-end, the NGO Dalit Women Empowerment Forum states that roughly 60 per cent of the district’s Dalit children — 8,000 of 13,300 — are deprived of education.
“Children from poor Dalit families make the most of the illiterate children.
“According to Gita Sunar, the forum chairperson, most of these children are from landless families. They have been working as khaliya and haliya (farm labourers) to make a living. The report states that 468 Dalit families of the district have been working as haliya and 126 families have been working as khaliya.”
“The Haliyas (literally, ‘one who tills land’) are enslaved within a system of bonded labour, and are forced by a landlord or ‘master’ to execute various hard labour duties (usually agricultural) for many years, often for an entire lifetime. Other than the agricultural work, Haliyas fulfil a range of duties, including making tools (such as spades, knives, and sickles) out of iron, grazing animals, sewing clothes, making utensils and pots, and so forth. The labourers are not paid a wage for their extensive work; often they are only provided with a small amount of food. Extreme poverty and debt in the western and far western regions of Nepal has relegated many members of the lower castes, known as Dalits, to Haliya status.
“Haliyas are forced to till a small patch of land in order to repay a debt, and are often held captive with their entire families. The enslaved Haliyas typically have no direct association with any debts; in the overwhelming majority of cases, the laborers are held because of debts accumulated by their ancestors over many generations. Such debts are often so excessive that a Haliya’s work over an entire lifetime will not generate sufficient revenue to even marginally reduce the interest incurred on the debts. [...]
“Despite being malnourished, Haliyas are expected to perform extraordinarily demanding labor duties. According to a custom known as Doli, they must carry exorbitantly heavy wooden carriages on their shoulders for hours at a time. Another custom (Khali) dictates that Haliyas are entitled to no fresh food at all–only leftover goods from the harvest. Despite working excessively long hours to fulfill grueling tasks, Haliyas typically receive only a bowl of white rice per day for their labor. [...]
“The overwhelming majority of Haliyas are Dalits. In fact, Nepal’s system of caste discrimination remains a direct factor leading to both the origins and continuation of the Haliya system.”
“Although the government outlawed Haliya practice on September 6, 2008, unsurprisingly most of them are still working for their landlords.
“‘When the Kamaiya system [of bonded labor in the Tarai region] was outlawed in 2000, it actually liberated the landlords, not the bonded labourers,’ says Laxman Kumar Hamal, member secretary of the Freed Kamaiya Rehabilitation Execution Committee at the Ministry of Land Reform (MoLR). ‘The same mistake has been repeated in the case of Haliyas.’
“For instance, the form that is being used to collect data on Haliyas does not require landlords to express commitment to help rehabilitate the tillers, which officials say is a serious oversight that will create problems in rehabilitation.”
“In a first-of-its-kind study on a large scale, representing 98,000 Dalits across 1,655 villages in Gujarat, it comes out that 97% respondents feel they have ‘no entry’ at certain places in their own villages, including a temple or where a religious ceremony is taking place. [...]
“‘This is the first study on such a large sample size and we covered 99 forms of untouchability that are still practised in villages. There are 12,500 villages in Gujarat where Dalits live. We have covered 1,655 of these villages and around 11 per cent of the total Dalit population,’ says Manjula Pradeep, director of Navsarjan Trust.
“During the study, the researchers did not find a single village where no form of untouchability is practised, giving an unnerving idea about the extent of the problem in a state which is home to Mahatma Gandhi.”
“Bhikhabhai Solanki, 50, a native of Lodariyal village, has never shaken hands with non-Dalits in his life. Bhikhabhai, an agricultural labourer, is Valmiki by caste—the lowest of the socially downtrodden. ‘We are untouchables and nobody touches us here,’ he says.
“The farmer he works for keeps a tea-cup outside his house. Whenever Bhikhabhai arrived for work in the morning or leaves after finishing in the evening, tea is poured into the cup. Strangely, this form of untouchability goes in the name of religion. These cups are called ‘Ram patra’. [...]
“In Lodariyal, Dalit women can't touch vegetables at the shop just to sample them. Only once they pay up, and the money is kept on the side and not handed over, the vegetables are flung into the hollow of their saree. The tea stall owner gives tea to Dalits only in disposable plastic cups. Others get it in ceramic cups.”
“As per the 'Census on Untouchability', a study representing 98,000 Dalits across 1,655 villages in Gujarat, 53.78% Dalit children studying in primary schools are discriminated against in mid-day meals.
“‘We are made to sit separately during the lunch hour,’ says Vijay Sitapara, 9, who belongs to the Valmiki caste, the lowest of the socially downtrodden. Vijay, who studies in class IV at the government primary school in Modhvana, says schoolmates from other castes avoid having food with them.
“While other backward class children would still have food, though seated separately from the Dalits, higher caste pupils stay away altogether from mid-day meals at this school because the food is cooked by a Dalit. ‘I come from a Dalit family. Naturally, higher caste members will not eat what I cook,’ says Gauri Vankar.
“Even as the syllabus teaches equality, students learn lessons in untouchability in practice. All Dalit students are forbidden from participating in cultural events. Valmikis have to also clean up school toilets. Dharmendra Sitapara cleaned up the toilets since he was in class IV. Now, he is in high school which has a sweeper.”
"It was an event that brought to the fore the problems of the state's poor children. At a forum in the city, many were incredulous that the children could articulate their problems with such clarity.
"The children at the public hearing were brought to Bangalore from across the state. They were at the hearing organized by the NGO, Child Rights and You (CRY) on Friday.
"Most of the children were dropouts from school, who wished to continue studying. Rekha, 14, from Hassan district said, 'I have studied till class 9. My teacher used to compare me with students from the upper castes, and ask me not to come to school at all. Not just that, the school had no toilet or drinking water, and roof was the sort that might just cave in. I would like to study, but not at that school, not with that teacher.'
"Lakshmi, 15, from Bijapur said, 'I am physically challenged. It was difficult for me even to reach school. I was regular in my attendance, however, but my teachers told me that I am a 'dalit and handicapped', and that I need not come to school. I studied till class 7. I would like to continue studying further. But I would like to go to a school where I'm not treated any differently.'
"Kavya, 12, came to Bangalore from Ramanagar. 'There is one anganawadi [government-sponsored daycare center] in my village. The teachers there do not allow us, dalits, to sit with the other children. My brother was going to that anganawadi, but my parents stopped sending him there because they would not let him mix with the other children. My brother was told not to touch upper caste children.'
"Twelve Dalit children aged between eight and 13 have been hospitalised here after they were allegedly beaten up by some youth belonging to an upper caste Hindu community.
"The attackers, who were allegedly not happy about the children receiving a formal education, wanted to send a message across to all the parents in the Dalit community, about the repercussions if they decided to send their children to school.
"When the children, most of them girls, were returning from school on Friday, they were stopped on their way and beaten up by a group of caste Hindu youth. They also reportedly hurled verbal abuses at the children by referring to their caste, before beating them up.
"While attacking the children, one youngster reportedly said, 'It is only because you people are getting educated that you rush to the police station all the time. This is to teach your parents not to send you to school.'"
"Dalit participation in social activities has improved, with 591 invited for wedding feasts. But the improvement stops there. Around 29% said they wait for others to finish eating before they can eat while 20% non-SCs said they expected SCs to wash their plates after eating.
"The primitive manifestations of untouchability still exist, even if they are on the wane. In the survey, 7% respondents said they were barred from entering main streets of villages while 7% said they could not wear sandals and walk in front of a dominant caste member. In fact, 9% revealed they had to talk with folded hands and 29% said they had to stand up in respect.
"A sore point of old caste segregation was bar on entry of SCs in non-Dalit houses. While 82% revealed they were allowed in, around 18% were still not.
"A big section of non-SCs said they would not allow SCs into their houses while an equal number refused to comment, showing the sensitivity was not easy to overcome. SC women work as maids in other caste homes but a majority said they were not allowed inside. Many in Karnataka, MP and Rajasthan named Brahmins and Konkani castes as barring their entry while in Bengal, 34 different OBCs were identified.
"As many as 20% said they were not served food and water in non-Dalit homes while 24% claimed being served in separate vessels. At least 25% non-SCs concurred with the claim.
"Dalit children are still growing with the stigma of being from inferior class. While seating arrangements are common in schools, SC kids in many cases are asked to take the back benches. Also, many are served midday meals separately from other children.
"The bias showed when over 40% non-SC respondents agreed there were no SC teachers in their village schools.
"Vestiges of mediaeval society became apparent when upper castes and OBCs, if only a handful, revealed they served SCs in towels or their upper garments; while some poured water directly into the cupped Dalit hands for drinking instead of giving a tumbler. A few cases showed that barbers used separate instruments for haircut of Dalits.
"The survey was carried out in six states and 24 villages, a mix of those with highest and lowest crimes under PCR Act. [...]
"For all the empowerment, Dalits in the countryside are still forced into services seen as 'menial' — 154 of 553 Dalits performed drumbeating, 42 grave digging while 97 were into making chappals [leather sandals]. As many as 78 said they were asked to carry out animal sacrifice and 57 said they were sweepers."
"Citing one instance, the study says a dog had fallen into this well and died. The dalits were left with no option, but to consume the toxic water after removing the carcass. 'Even in such inhuman conditions, dalits are not allowed to enter the main part of the village and fetch water from the tubewells situated inside the village, where the upper castes live,' the study says."
"On Monday, the team TOI found that out of the total 62 students barely 26, mostly Dalit and Muslim were eating the meal. The remaining 36 students were found to be absent from their respective classes, in order to avoid eating the meal being prepared by a Dalit.
"The situation has worsened to such an extent that now both the Dalit and Thakur communities of the village are at loggerheads over the issue.
"'We have now learnt that parents of Dalit students have even further threatened to withdraw their wards, if any attempt to remove the Dalit cook will be made by the authorities,' said a school teacher on condition of anonymity.
"Meanwhile, the upper caste people of the village said that there is no question of sending children to school, where a woman belonging to scheduled caste has been appointed by the school authorities to cook food for their children.
"'Us school mein apne bacchon ko bhejkar hame apna hukka-paani nahi band karwana hai,' said a villager, Ram Pal Singh adding that we will not allow our children to even touch the food."
See also yet another instance of this form of bigotry:
"The report says physical access to schools is the biggest problem for Dalit children. In Bihar, UP and Rajasthan, most of the schools are situated in the dominant caste localities and Dalit children have to travel on an average half-an-hour to reach school. In the case of middle and high schools, Dalit children have to travel almost 3-4 kilometres in all the states. It is only in Maharashtra that Dalit children do not have to travel that far. But here too, the schools are located in dominant caste areas.
"Asked why they came late to school, Dalit children gave various reasons including household chores, school distance, inability to keep track of school time and also the fact that they had to wait for other friends to go in a group due to fear from dominant caste children. In the school, it was found that participation of Dalit children was minimal. The morning assembly was invariably always conducted by upper caste children. In the class, Dalit children were made to sit at the back and in some schools of Bihar on the barren floor while mats were given to upper caste children. Even the notebooks and homework of the Dalit children were not checked by teachers.
"As per the report, Dalit children in UP were also assigned menial caste-based tasks like cleaning the yard, filling up water buckets and cleaning the toilets. This led to other children treating them badly and considering them inferior. And what was shocking was that Dalit girl children were seldom allowed to use toilets. Dalit children are kept out of even functions like Independence Day."
"According to a survey on social discrimination conducted by Jansahas, an NGO, and Unicef, in 24 villages across four districts – Ujjain, Sheopur, Katni and Jhabua – in Madhya Pradesh, more than 63 per cent of Dalit children are subjected to caste discrimination while being served mid-day meals in government schools.
"They are forced to sit in separate rows, bring utensils from home or given food in plates marked boldly with permanent ink to distinguish them from the rest.
“'As many as 40 per cent of Dalit students facing discrimination were given mid-day meals in plates specially set aside for them,' Jansahas activist Ashif Sheikh told Hindustan Times.
"While some were asked to bring utensils from home, most were served their mid-day meals on leaf plates. Non-Dalits, however, were served on metal plates.
"The survey found that most teachers were insensitive to the discrimination against Dalits because of caste-based traditions being followed in rural areas, he said.
"In a majority of the schools surveyed, Dalit students were not allowed to sit in the front row. As many as 78 per cent of school-going Dalit students were backbenchers or forced away from the front row and subjected to casteist abuses.
"And 79 per cent of such students were compelled to clean the schools. In some schools, this chore was given only to Dalit girls."
"Small, sick, listless children have long been India’s scourge — 'a national shame,' in the words of its prime minister, Manmohan Singh. But even after a decade of galloping economic growth, child malnutrition rates are worse here than in many sub-Saharan African countries, and they stand out as a paradox in a proud democracy.
"China, that other Asian economic powerhouse, sharply reduced child malnutrition, and now just 7 percent of its children under 5 are underweight, a critical gauge of malnutrition. In India, by contrast, despite robust growth and good government intentions, the comparable number is 42.5 percent. Malnutrition makes children more prone to illness and stunts physical and intellectual growth for a lifetime."
A short documentary profiling an 11-year-old Pakistani girl on the last day before the Taliban close down her school.
In the course of this moving video, a young girl, her face veiled to conceal her identity, bravely reads the following speech at a school rally:
"Swat Valley: the land of waterfalls. Lush green hills and other gifts bestowed upon it by the nature. But my dear friends, today Swat has in the past few years become a heartland for Pakistan Islamic militancy. Today, this idyllic valley of peace is burning. Why the peace of this valley is destroyed? Why our future is targeted? Schools are not places of learning but places of fear and violence. Our dreams are shattered. And let me say, we are destroyed."
"Much media attention has focused on the worsening plight of women in Swat, particularly after the video-taped public flogging of a 17 year-old girl. Unfortunately, the kinds of atrocities perpetrated by the TNSM against women also occur in the feudal holdings of many of the "secular" political elite of Pakistan. Yet these incidents do not make headlines in the same way. Few Pakistanis can ignore the fact that restricting women's mobility and reducing their educational opportunities (as the TNSM intend to do) along with gang rape, abduction, and honour killing have a long history in southern Punjab and Sind, areas where both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have vast landholdings."
"The video showed that a sub-inspector was beating the girl by pulling her ears and hair over and over again and once grabbed her hair and kept her hanging in the air, while the girl was crying in pain. One Inspector and six other policemen just looked on.
"However police initially tried to justify the incident.
"'A crime has been committed here. The offender is a minor. Cash worth Rs 280 has been stolen. The girls has confessed to the crime. She was handed over to the police by the person whose money was stolen. It's significant that the police have seized the cash. If the police resorted to unfair means in dealing with the girl, I will seek appropriate probe,' said Kripashankar Singh, special superintendent of police, Etawah."
"Saroj Lal, 25, was first turned away from the handpump in Adrouni village in Madhya Pradesh, when she approached wearing slippers. A higher caste villager told her Dalits were dirty and not allowed to draw water without first washing their hands and feet.
"He began abusing her over her low caste until she left to complain at the local police station along with her husband and daughter. According to police, the villager, known as Makhan, called six of his friends and headed them off en route. He attacked Saroj, grabbed her baby and threw her to the floor, killing her instantly."
"Manish died because he was a member of the Ravidas community, a Dalit sub-caste that has been confined historically to working with leather – a profession deemed unclean by Hindus, for whom cows are sacred.
"Another term by which the group is known, chamar, is considered a grave insult.
"Three months ago the boy sent a letter 'expressing his interest' in a girl from the Dhobi community, another Dalit sub-caste, which has traditionally washed clothes for a living – but is fractionally above the Ravidas in the Hindu hierarchy. The note was discovered by the girl’s parents."
"A somewhat strange purification ritual took place in Surewada village near Bhandara last April. Students appearing for a geography examination in the local school were taken aback when a teacher sprinkled what was suspected to be cow urine on them as well as their answer sheets. The headmaster and assistant teacher of the school were arrested under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The ritual was supposedly performed 'to purify' the school after the transfer of a Scheduled Caste headmistress.
"The case went to trial and on July 15, 2008, a special judge in Bhandara ruled that the charges under the Atrocities Act were not tenable and the prosecution had failed to establish that the liquid which was sprinkled on the students was cow urine. [...] The verdict in this instance is more the rule than the exception for offences under the Atrocities Act. According to an official report, 'Crime in Maharashtra, 2007,' by the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID) released this year, the conviction rate under the Atrocities Act for 2007 was a minuscule 1.9 and for offences against Scheduled Castes it was 2.2 per cent. In 2007, the CID report says the rate of crime against Scheduled Castes was the highest in Bhandara district."
"The minors, identified as Vinod (12) and Sagar (10), belong to the Kanjar tribe.
"The two were caught by villagers while they were catching birds and, on rummaging through through their bags, were found with a few pigeons and partridges. Furious villagers then beat up the boys and stripped them naked in public, police said. The villagers then called a barber and got their heads tonsured before parading them naked in the village."
"On Friday, The Indian Express found barely a hundred students eating the meal — tehri — rice and vegetables cooked together. The rest ate food brought from home, a practice that started on December 10, the day the Dalit woman, Phool Kumari Rawat, started cooking.
"Senior students who are boycotting the food, say Phool Kumari's cooking is unhygienic. [...]
"Younger students are more direct, readily admitting that it was Phool Kumari's caste that was the problem. 'I will not eat anything cooked by that lady. I have heard my family members say that she is from some low caste. So I bring my own lunch box,' said Shivani Singh Chauhan, a student of Class IV. Ateet Kumar, student of Class V, said the school was in a Thakur [brahmin] area and they refuse to eat whatever she cooks. 'Only children from Phool Kumari's area are eating,' he said."
"With a majority of students at the Bibipur Primary and Junior High School continuing to boycott mid-day meals cooked by Dalit woman Phool Kumari Rawat, the district administration has decided to sack her.
"Officials are now thinking of appointing another cook, using the boycotters’ argument that Phool Kumari’s cooking isn’t good and is also unhygienic. This, when most officials who have visited the school in the last five days, found nothing wrong with the meals."
Karnataka:Discrimination against cook continues (The Hindu, October 5, 2007): "The branding of Ms. Bhovi, who belongs to a Scheduled Caste, as HIV positive and the subsequent boycott by the villagers has taken a toll on her family too."
"Nearly 4,16,000 children below 18 years, almost half of which are even younger than 14 years of age are working in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the report said, adding that compared to the 2003-2004 harvest season, the total number of such children has risen.
"The overwhelming majority of the children working in the cotton fields are either Dalits or tribals, it said.
"Around 13 big Indian companies and two multinational groups are involved in this 'modern form of child slavery,' the report revealed."
"In this young nation, where 40 percent of the people are under 18, figures released by the government on Friday offered an alarming portrait of child health: Among children under 3, nearly half are clinically underweight, the most reliable measure of malnutrition.
"Additionally troubling, the incidence of child malnutrition declined only one percentage point, to 46 percent, in seven years, according the latest National Family Health Survey. During that time, the economy grew at 6 to 8 percent; it is poised to swell by more than 9 percent in the current fiscal year, the government announced this week.
"India’s economic prospects pivot in part around what it calls its demographic dividend.
"But the child malnutrition rates put India roughly on a par with Burkina Faso and Bangladesh. Sudan posted better results, according to data compiled by the United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef. Malnutrition in China was about 8 percent, Unicef said."
"Some of Ratul's friends also take up other seasonal occupations like working with caterers in the wedding season, reserving places in the trains during vacations, selling cinema tickets at higher rates, cleaning cars or taxis, buses or lorries, even trains, as vendors for tea and food stalls, apprentices in roadside automobile repair garages, carrying loads and shoe polishing. Contrary to common prejudice, only one in ten street children begs for a living, and most of these are very young."
"We will not quarrel with the Labour Ministry's notification banning
employment of children below 14 years of age as domestic servants or
helpers in eateries. We cannot but welcome such an important welfare
measure. Having said that, it is difficult to avoid feeling that this
is another case of government grandstanding on what is
euphemistically an entrenched socio-economic problem. Child labour is
a function of the endemic poverty in society and attempting to tackle
it through a prohibition is not likely to go far. All that it is
likely to do is provide a new avenue for the police - or whoever is
to enforce the law - to make money.
"The government's record of monitoring and regulating laws already in
force is far from exemplary. To begin with, there is the problem of
classification of a 'child' - for Indian labour laws it is 14, for
the Penal Code, 16, and for the Ministry of Women and Child
Development, 18. Enforcement has been so poor that 20 years after the
Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act came into force, about
25-30 million children remain a part of the workforce, and an
estimated 75 per cent of them are employed in hazardous occupations.
Moreover, the Labour Ministry's rehabilitation scheme under the
National Child Labour Project, although well-intentioned, only covers
250 child-labour endemic districts of the country.
"No one would deny that child labour is an unhealthy phenomenon - it
robs a child of a 'childhood', exposes them to abuse and can have
long-lasting psychological consequences. In an ideal world where all
children went to school and got two square meals a day, it would be
positively objectionable and undesirable. As it is, despite the
government's avowed aim to provide free and compulsory education to
all children up to the age of 14, over 40 million children are out of
school. But what is a child born to destitute parents, with no access
to a school or any social security benefit, to do if he or she is
denied even the right to earn a living? Until the government is able
to provide the supporting infrastructure to ensure that no child
needs to work to earn a living, child labour will, sadly, continue."
"Not only does Chaudhry accuse her would-be in-laws of demanding money in exchange for her freedom, but the leaders of her caste -- a powerful informal council known as a caste panchayat -- have also threatened Chaudhry and her family with the ultimate sanction of excommunication, or ejection from the caste. Such an outcome would rob the family of its social standing and damage the marriage prospects of Chaudhry's 18-year-old brother, among other things."
"'The cricket team from Hasanpur, made up mostly of Rajputs, seems to have taken the defeats as an insult to their pride and honour. They considered themselves invincible and couldn't stomach being defeated by Dalits,' says Pushkar Raj of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)."
"Caste barriers run deep here and the Patils' writ dictates that it's their privilege to use handpumps first. On the day of the incident, the Patils reportedly tried to get fresh with Lata Shendge (17) for questioning their privilege. Her brother Dilip intervened only to be accosted by a group of belligerent Patils in the evening, who allegedly set him, his sister and his mother ablaze right outside their mud-walled hut. [...]
"'Four years back, the only source of water was the Dudhna river, which was a 40-minute walk from here. We got the government to install these two pumps and now it's only a five-minute walk. These Dalits can't even give us the right to use it first,' says Damodar Patil (50), a land-owner."