“Tears rolled down Gowramma’s cheeks as she narrated how her husband, a Dalit, was beaten up and threatened with dire consequences allegedly by ‘upper caste’ people for refusing to continue with the traditional profession of their community.
“Her husband, Rangaswamy (38), a daily wage worker, has been admitted to the government hospital at Channarayapatna after he was beaten up at Baddikere in Channarayapatna taluk on December 17.
“‘They ripped his clothes off, tied him up to a pole and beat him up severely. They also threatened to harm our two school-going daughters if he refused to obey their orders,’ Ms. Gowramma told The Hindu here on Thursday.
“‘All this began after he refused to go around the village beating a drum to inform the residents about a village festival scheduled for next week. A few people came to our home in an autorickshaw around 10.30 a.m. on December 17 and took him away. I ran behind the auto only to find my husband being beaten up,’ she said.”
“Police on Saturday said the suspected murder of a 25-year-old woman was a case of dishonour killing with her parents, fiercely opposed to her affair with a dalit boy, allegedly getting her eliminated.
“Manpreet’s father Kapur Singh, mother Balwinder and two others – Satnam and Jaswinderpal – had been arrested and Rs 1.50 lakh, a sharp-edged weapon and a car used in the crime seized, he said.
“‘The girl’s mobile phone and her burnt clothes were also seized from the arrested persons,’ Gill said.”
“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.”
“One of modern India’s great shames is the official failure to eradicate ‘manual scavenging,’ the most degrading surviving practice of untouchability in the country. Merely because of their birth in particular castes, the practice condemns mostly women and girls, but also men and boys, to clean human excreta in dry latrines with their hands, and carry it to disposal dumps or lakes or rivers. Many men also clean sewers, septic tanks, open drains into which excreta flows, and railway lines. [...]
“The 2012 Bill explicitly prohibits construction of dry latrines, and employment of manual scavengers, as also the hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank. But cleaning railway tracks has not been included, and ‘hazardous cleaning’ is defined not by employers requiring workers to manually clean sewers or septic tanks, but requiring them to do so without protective gear. Our objection to manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is not just of compromising worker safety – which is no doubt important – but of human indignity, which would continue even if such manual cleaning is done with protective gear. And it is unconscionable to let the railways off the hook.
“For sewer workers and railway workers, liberation will come by introducing technological changes which will render the occupation humane, dignified and safe, and also ensure that human beings do not have to make any direct contact with excreta. Technologies are available globally which both the Indian Railways and municipalities could invest in, which would obliterate the requirement for human beings to manually handle excreta. The fact is that central, state and local governments do not make these public investments, because human beings are available to perform this work cheaply, propelled by their birth in most disadvantaged castes and lack of other livelihood options.
“The 2012 bill places a duty of survey on all local authorities, but the past experience is that State Governments are mostly in denial. They usually reject community findings, even when backed by strong evidence. This can be prevented only if there is a continuous system of joint surveillance, beginning with a joint survey by designated teams of government officials and community members.”
“The new law would prohibit the building of non-flushing toilets that must be emptied by hand, and prescribes a one-year jail term and/or a fine of up to 50,000 rupees (S$1,000) for anyone who employs a manual scavenger.
“It also requires local authorities to monitor the implementation of the law and sets out tough sanctions if municipalities employ sewer cleaners without protective gear and equipment. [...]
“Bindeshwar Pathak, of the sanitation charity Sulabh International, says the legislation could prove helpful, but that the final test will be on the ground.
“‘In India there are many laws that have not helped so far, like (the one to prevent) dowry. Dowry cases are still going on, there is child labour,’ he said. [...]
“He says there has not been a single successful prosecution under the 1993 Act. [...]
“Vidya Rawat, director of the Delhi-based Social Development Foundation, which works with scavengers, [...] says the only solution is for the government to find jobs for the scavengers, requiring an extension of a vast affirmative action programme which reserves positions for the low-castes and marginalised tribes.
“‘Rehabilitation programmes don't work,’ he added. ‘If a community woman leaves her work and opts to open a tea shop, no one will go to drink at her place.’”
“As many as 268 dwellings–huts, tiled-roof and one- or two-room concrete houses–were torched by the mob after a caste Hindu man, Nagarajan, committed suicide over his daughter marrying a Dalit boy from one of the colonies. [...]
“It is said that Ilavarasan and Divya got married in a temple a month ago. Fearing attack by caste Hindus, the couple approached the Deputy Inspector of General of Police, Salem Range, Sanjay Kumar, only a week ago for protection. Though the police assured them safety, a kangaroo court directed Ilavarasan’s family to return the girl on Wednesday. The girl refused to go with her father, who later hanged himself at his house in Sellankottai, just half a km from the Dalit colonies. And then, the mobs went on the rampage.”
“An official estimate, though preliminary as claimed by Collector R. Lilly, has put the number of damaged households at 268. The three colonies in total have 500 houses, a strong concentration of Dalits in one single block in the district.
“Almost all the able-bodied youth from these colonies are working in Bangalore as construction workers, godown boys and collectors of used paper market for recycling. Their hard-earned money serves as solid investments in their native village. Some have become landholders. They grow maize, turmeric and tapioca in rain-fed conditions.
“‘For the past one decade, I have been working in a godown in Bangalore where they pay me Rs. 200 a day. I leave my wife and children back at the village. Our small but hard-earned savings of all these years have gone up in smoke in one single night of riot,’ laments Muniappa of Anna Nagar.
“Those who have suffered extensive damage claim that the mob, armed with deadly weapons and petrol bombs, indulged in four-hour looting. ‘We were chased out before they began their act. Almirahs were broken and valuables such as gold jewellery and cash stolen before the houses were either set on fire or damaged,’ said Rajalingam in Natham colony who runs a lucrative business in used paper market in Bangalore.”
“In an India that is fractured along caste lines, a marriage is never the simple establishment of a relationship between two independent, adult individuals. Instead, it can involve not only the two families, but whole communities as well. An inter-caste marriage without parental approval is, therefore, a potential trigger for violence in rural India. The caste group that is relatively higher in the social hierarchy sees any such marriage as a social affront, especially if the other caste group is Dalit. Wednesday’s attack on three Dalit colonies in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, which ended in the burning down of 268 houses, is another shocking instance of how social stigmas engendered by caste identities can provoke large-scale violence. The arson was the immediate fallout of the suicide of a caste Hindu man whose daughter had married a Dalit living in one of the colonies. Apparently unable to accept his daughter’s decision to marry a Dalit, the man opted to end his life. For a bride’s family, especially if it is higher in the caste ladder, the socially-sanctioned stigma associated with an inter-caste marriage is greater. Women carry a far heavier responsibility of having to protect the “family honour”, which is a euphemism for the feudal notions of social status and acceptance held by the senior male members of the family. Indeed, the prevalence of such notions is an indicator of the secondary status accorded to women in these communities.
“Worryingly, in rural Tamil Nadu where caste conflicts over marriages, religious rituals or access to public resources are common, the police were slow to sense the potential for trouble. A few days before the violence, the newly wedded couple had approached the police for protection fearing attacks by members of the bride’s community. Other than providing assurances and holding out promises, the police seem to have taken no preventive steps. A self-styled court in the village ordered the Dalit man to send his wife back to her parents, but the woman refused to leave her husband. This should have alerted the police to the possibility of trouble. Although the suicide, the immediate trigger for the attack, could not have been predicted or prevented, the police had adequate reason to apprehend the tensions and ample time to take precautionary steps. The only reason that none in the Dalit colonies suffered any bodily harm is that all the residents had left their homes and taken shelter in another village. Social stigmas and caste inequalities cannot be wiped out overnight, but surely the law enforcers can show greater anticipation and quicker reflexes in familiar situations that give rise to tensions between caste groups.”
“It was an intercaste marrige the victim, Indu, had married her friend Ajay Rohil against her parents wishes. Unhappy with the inter-caste marriage, girl’s parents killed her daughter after 16 days of Indu’s marriage.Indu was a student of engineering.
“Indu’s parents had convinced her in-laws to let her go home with them after the wedding. But they killed her and took the body to the cremation ground cladestinely and consigned it to flames so that the evidence can be destroyed.”
“A 50-year-old man, who was opposed to the love affair between a youth from a different caste and his relative, shot dead the youth’s aunt and father at Avathi village in Mallandur police limits Chikmagalur district on Wednesday night. The man was also killed by the youth and his relatives on the spot.”
“The family members of 19-year-old Suma B., who witnessed the murder of her husband by an armed gang of four on September 6, are alleging that the murder is an honour killing. But, the police differ saying it was the fallout of an eve-teasing row.
“After a month of married happiness, Ms. Suma’s dreams were shattered when her husband, Naveen Kumar (23) of Anekal, was hacked to death even as she watched helplessly.
“Suma is yet to come out of the shock. She stopped going to college fearing for her life as she is the sole eye-witness to the murder.
“Married on August 6 this year against her parents’ wishes to Naveen, who is from a Dalit family, Ms. Suma now says her husband was killed at the behest of someone who was against their marriage as she is a ‘caste’ Hindu.”
“Shobha, 25, who goes by one name, is a widow who supports her elderly mother and her two children on a salary of 5,000 rupees ($96) a month. The family lives in a tiny room in a Cox Town slum. Shobha owns exactly two pieces of furniture: chairs foraged from the very garbage dump she visits, stuffed with the garbage she’s handed most often – paper and plastic bags.
“Shobha is clearly poor. But her circumstances are made more acute by the fact that her profession is despised and deemed fit only for people of the so-called low castes. She’s a Dalit, as are most of the city’s pourakarmikas. And like her, they’re illiterate, unskilled and chose garbage collection because their parents were pourakarmikas too. Many feel they’re equated with and treated like the garbage they collect. ‘I tried to explain the new rules to one housewife,’ said Shobha. ‘She replied, “You’re no one to talk to me.” Then she flung a bottle at my head.’
“The impact of Shobha’s poverty on her physical wellbeing is clear. The impact on her job is clear too. She signs in for an eight-hour shift at 6:30 a.m. But long before that she joins a queue of people to draw water from a public tap. She could hardly have slept well the previous night — her room doesn’t have electricity, so to keep from stifling, she leaves the door open. Fear of intruders keeps her awake. During the monsoon, rain sweeps in.
“By the time she reaches work, Shobha is tired and often filled with hopelessness. But she’s responsible for manually cleaning approximately 1.5 kilometers (almost 1 mile) of road and collecting garbage from about 500 households.
“The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (B.B.M.P.), or municipal corporation responsible for the city’s civic governance, has only 2,000 pourakarmikas on its rolls. These ‘permanent’ workers, as they’re known, are protected by labor laws. But since the 1990s the B.B.M.P. has hired only temporary pourakarmikas through contractors, and so the majority of pourakarmikas like Shobha aren’t covered under labor laws. They’re paid irregularly, cannot comfortably afford basic amenities, and are even expected to acquire their work tools.
“Shobha goes through four brooms a month, at a personal expense of 160 rupees. To save money, she scoops up trash with pieces of metal, cardboard or Styrofoam, which, like the containers into which she haphazardly empties waste, are foraged from the dump. If she can’t find a container, she uses plastic bags.
“Even permanent pourakarmikas are only given thin gloves to wear, but Shobha must handle all sorts of waste — wet, dry, and hazardous — with her bare hands. On her feet she wears the sort of slippers most people would consider too flimsy to venture outside with. In these she tramps down roads and wades ankle deep into dumps wet with animal excrement.”
“A good 65 years after Indian Independence, there is spatial isolation or exclusion of dalits in villages. Villages in Karnataka clearly provide this picture. The results of a study show that in most villages in the state, dalit families are located near the boundaries of a village or completely isolated from the main village.
“The finding is mentioned in the executive summary report of Indian Council of Social Science Research study titled: Discrimination and Social Exclusion: A study on the development experience of dalits in Karnataka. It was carried out by Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSEIP) of Mangalore University.
“According to the study, only 4.2% of dalit houses are located in the middle of the villages. The remaining dalit families’ houses are near the boundaries of the village. [...]
“Overall, 95% of dalit families in the ‘study villages’ are located at margin of the village.”
“The police firing on dalits at Than town in Surendranagar district was the latest in a series of police atrocities committed on Scheduled Caste people in Gujarat. Most acts of police brutality towards dalits go unreported but even the five cases — including the Than incident — that were officially recorded in the last three months paint a sad picture of caste prejudice in the state.
“FIRs and murder cases have been registered against policemen in two of the five cases mentioned [below], but this is unlikely to end the plight of dalits who, particularly in rural areas, live in constant fear of police violence. [...]
“Three dalits, including two underage boys, were killed in police firing at Than town in Surendranagar district. A murder and conspiracy case was registered against four police officials only after dalits took to the streets at several places to protest against the incident.
“Police lathicharged a dalit rally against the murder of Gunwant Makwana, an SC leader. In the lathicharge, policemen beat up a young girl so savagely that she suffered spinal injuries. The girl is still in hospital. Gujarat HC had suo motu issued notices to police in the case.
“Arvind Makwana, a Dalit youth, was paraded in his knickers in Ved village when he agitated against a retired police inspector belonging to an upper caste. Lunawada court has taken cognizance of the incident in favor of the Scheduled Caste people.
“Arvind Chauhan, 27, a dalit youth, died in police custody at Pathawada police station in Banaskantha district. His body was kept in police custody for three days. Following an agitation, a murder case was registered against 4 cops, including PSI of Pathawada police station.
“Kelia Vasna, Dholka
“Dashrath Solanki, a dalit, committed suicide in front of the Dholka police station as the cops had refused to register a complaint against his business partner, Bhikhabhai Patel. Solanki’s relatives claim suicide note of the deceased was given to cops but is now missing.”
“Ayurveda describes ghee (clarified butter) as nectar and suggests its use for healing. The Hindu scriptures term it an essential requirement for sacred rituals.
“But for the dalits of Chakwara village, in Jaipur district, ghee is a weapon against untouchability. The dalits of this village have been cooking their food in ghee for the last 76 years as a mark of protest. [...]
“‘Despite all odds, we use strictly ghee,’ he added. In 1936, the village’s dalits had organised a community feast and dishes were cooked in ghee, a privilege of caste Hindus. ‘Our defiance invited the wrath of the Hindus who considered it an insult,’ said dalit rights activist Harinarayan Bairwa.
“‘Suddenly the caste Hindus attacked the dalits who had gathered for the feast and they threw dust and dirt into the dishes and sweets,’ he added.
“Dr B.R. Ambedkar also mentioned the Chakwara incident in his writings.
“‘The caste Hindus told us, “If you cook in ghee, then what will we do?”’ said Srikrishan, a dalit from the village.”
“Parents of a Class X student dragged their girl out of her lover’s house early on Monday morning and hacked her to death for continuing with the relationship they vehemently opposed. Neighbours rushed to rescue the girl but by the time she was freed from her parents, uncle and elder brother, it was too late. She died on the spot.
“Upset over his 20-year-old daughter’s affair with a boy of another caste, a retired army personnel allegedly killed her with the help of his elder brother by asphyxiating her with a pillow on the intervening night of September 11 and 12.
“Inquiry Officer Harpal Singh said the deceased, a resident of Jandiala, was allegedly in a relationship with Sukhdev Singh (21), a resident of Jaanian village, for the past one year. Kaur belonged to Mazhabi Sikh community and her friend was from a Jat Sikh family.”
“Tension mounted in Una town of Junagadh district on Thursday after a 27-year-old dalit youth was charred to death by a group of 12 people in Akolali, a village about 25 km from the coastal town.
“The attackers suspected that the youth, Lalji Sarvaiya, had eloped with a girl from their community. The girl had been missing since two days. They came to Lalji’s house at around 8am and started asking for his whereabouts. They also threatened his father Kala Sarvaiya to hand over his son or face dire consequences.
“After heated arguments, some people barged into his house while others climbed onto the roof and started breaking it. ‘Seeing him sleeping, the attackers closed the main door of the house and those on the roof poured some inflammable liquid on him and set him ablaze. They also tried to set the house on fire but escaped after the commotion,’ Dipanker Trivedi, SP, Junagadh, said.”
“It was a welcome change from the usual dreary story: a Christian or a Hindu Pakistani accused of blasphemy on flimsy grounds, tried, and sentenced to prison—or found innocent, set free and then murdered by some Muslim fanatic. This time was different.
“The victim this time was a 14-year-old Christian girl, Rimsa Masih, who is believed to suffer from Down’s syndrome. She was stopped by a young Muslim man who found the half-burned remnants of a book that allegedly included verses from the Qur'an in her carrier bag. He told the local imam, who called the police, and she was arrested.
“This kind of story usually ends badly in Pakistan. Two years ago, for example, a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was arrested for insulting the Prophet Muhammad while arguing with fellow farm workers. She was sentenced to death by hanging, but it was such a manifest injustice that the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, publicly called for the repeal of the blasphemy law. He was assassinated by his own bodyguard in January 2011.
“The bodyguard was tried for murder and convicted, but he was treated as a hero by many Pakistanis, and the judge who sent him to prison had to flee the country. Two months later the only Christian member of Pakistan’s cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was also shot dead when he spoke out against the blasphemy laws. Since then, almost nobody has dared to criticize them.
“Asia Bibi remains in prison awaiting execution. Her entire family, including her five children, live in hiding and cannot work or go to school. And while the higher courts would once have thrown out her conviction—they have overturned hundreds of sentences for blasphemy imposed by lower courts that were too vulnerable to local pressures—she can no longer even be confident of that.
“So the outlook seemed grim for Rimsa Masih when she was arrested last month—but then the imam who had called the police, Hafiz Mohammad Khalid Chisti, was arrested for doctoring the evidence. His own deputy had seen him adding pages from the Qur'an to the young Christian’s bag.
“‘I asked him what he was doing,’ the deputy told a television station, ‘and he said this is the evidence against them (the local Christians) and this is how we can get them out from this area.’ [...]
“Ashrafi added that Chisti was acting on behalf of a group who wanted to drive out the Christian minority in the area: ‘I have known for the last three months that some people in this area wanted the Christian community to leave so they could build a madrassah (on their land).’ They have already succeeded: some 300 Christian families have fled in fear for their lives, and they probably won’t be back. But at least the state is starting to defy the fanatics.
“Bail is not normally granted in blasphemy cases, but on September 8 Rimsa Masih was freed on bail, and a military helicopter lifted her out of the prison yard and into hiding. And Paul Bhatti, the Minister for National Harmony, whose brother and predecessor Shahbaz was murdered last year, broke a political taboo by explaining why ordinary Pakistanis are more hostile to the religious minorities in their midst than most Muslims elsewhere.
“‘It is not just a religious problem,’ Bhatti said. ‘It’s a caste factor, because (the victims) belong to the poorest and most marginalized people. Unfortunately they are Christians, and this caste system creates lots of problems.’
“Islam teaches the equality of all believers, but the caste system is alive and kicking in Pakistan. Go far enough back, and almost all Pakistani Muslims are descended from Hindus—and when those Hindu communities converted to Islam, they retained their ideas and prejudices about caste.
“This was particularly disheartening for groups at the bottom of the caste pecking order who had hoped that Islam would free them. When the British empire arrived in the area, therefore, it was the poorest and most despised section of the population who converted to Christianity.
“So everybody knows that most Christians are really ‘untouchables.’ The argument that got Asia Bibi in trouble, for example, broke out when some of her Muslim fellow workers refused to drink the water she had fetched because Christians were ‘unclean.’
“The Hindu minority is mostly just as low-caste as the Christians, and equally vulnerable. Together they are only six million out of 187 million Pakistanis, but they account for the vast majority of blasphemy accusations. In many cases, these accusations are merely a convenient weapon for Muslims engaged in land disputes and other quarrels with members of the minority groups.”
“A minor issue of a dalit boy dialling a cellphone number by mistake has snowballed into a major row and resulted in 50 dalit families of Sadarpur village facing a social boycott.
“The boycott started from August 16 - a day after India celebrated its 65th Independence Day - but cops are yet to take any action against the landlords, who have announced that any person violating this diktat will have to pay a penalty of Rs 50,000.
“On August 14, a dalit boy of the village happened to dial the number of an upper caste youth from the landlord community, and both had a heated arguments over it. Initially, the matter was sorted out by some village elders. But on August 15, youths from the landlord community attacked a group of dalit boys returning home from Gajju Majra village after attending an Independence Day function at a government school, and left them seriously injured.
“‘We got the injured boys admitted in Samana civil hospital and informed Pasiana police station. Angered by this, the upper caste members called a meeting at the local gurdwara the next day and announced a boycott of all dalits,’ said Amar Singh, who along with others met DSP Samana on Saturday to seek justice. Landlords have banned the entry of dalits in their fields and refused to sell them milk. Since most Dalits don’t have farmland, they are totally dependent on village landlords for animal fodder, too. ‘We are bringing milk from Channo village, which is around 3-4 km away,’ said Dhanwant Singh.”
“Dangariya village in eastern Rajasthan’s Karauli district is still separated from the nearest city by 80 kilometers of a long, deserted road. [...]
“Last month, an NGO put out an online petition on a shameful custom that forced married dalit women passing by the houses of upper caste families to take off their footwear and carry it in their hands. The campaign was accompanied by a video that actually showed a few of them removing their slippers as they crossed the dwellings of the sawarna community.
“‘If we walk by wearing our slippers, our husbands are taunted in the village meetings,’ said one of the women in the video that was first put up on the internet two years ago. [...]
“Now, villagers from both sides of the caste divide are afraid to discuss the matter with outsiders. Skirting the issue, they grow defensive, even hostile. Those from the Dalit community, who agree to speak, refuse to divulge their names. Initially, there is an outright refusal that the custom of removing footwear ever existed at all. But persistence yields problematic qualifiers. ‘We ask them to wear their slippers if they’re carrying them in their hands. This custom has been around since our grandparents’ time,’ says Kailash Sharma of the sawarna community in the village. [...]
“Dalits in the village almost seem to have internalized and accepted caste interactions as they take place. Saubhagyawati (name changed on request), a farm-worker, adds her own two matter-of-fact cents. ‘If someone of authority sits on a chair, won't we sit on the floor?’ she asks. Ram Shahe Meena feels there is merit in the argument that Dalit women observed the ritual of their own volition. ‘Would women go into a temple wearing slippers? Baat maryada ki hai (It’s about boundaries),’ explains Meena, beginning to get agitated. In other words, the problem is not just that of caste discrimination, but also of gender. [...]
“‘Dalits who depend on the ‘upper’ castes for their livelihood are usually afraid to speak up. In the last 20 years, we’ve heard of fewer instances of such discrimination, particularly in Bhilwada,’ says Bhanwar Meghwanshi, an activist working on caste issues in Rajasthan.”
“Nearly 300 families living at Jailpettai, a slum in Palakarai, face a July 30 deadline to vacate: Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board (TNSCB) will soon begin constructing tenements under a housing project that hoped to provide urban slum dwellers with basic amenities. [...]
“Though the residents were initially promised alternative accommodation, they came to know through an RTI application (dated 08.03.2012) that they have to make their own arrangements.
“‘Though there are a few who have managed to find rented houses elsewhere, most of us have not been able to do so,’ says S. Francis, a resident of the slum.
“While a majority of people in Jailpettai, who work as daily wage labourers, cannot afford rented houses in the city, Francis says there is a cluster of other discriminating factors at play.
“‘House owners refuse to give us houses on rent either because of our caste or the fact that we are from a slum,’ he alleges, adding that a majority of them belonged to scheduled caste.
“‘Some managed to get houses on rent by lying about their caste, but they have always been exposed,’ says M. Senthil, another resident. According to him, people who left the slum to move into a rented house have often returned because the house owners found out they lied and even gave back the advance paid.”
“Call it a segregation or discrimination, but the hard truth is in Dailekh’s Bastakot village one cannot miss the spectacle of four separate water taps for four different castes. [...]
“According to locals, these taps were constructed according to the caste hierarchy. Lowest tap has been allotted for Damai, medium sized for Kami, a bit higher for Karki and highest for Brahmin communities.
“Local Dalit women said that the trend to give priority to the higher caste people to use their taps first then only the lower castes people can do their daily works is still prevalent here.”
“A Dalit youth, who had married an upper-caste girl against the wishes of her family, was stabbed, and his wife abducted by his in-laws in Motihari town in Bihar's east Champaran district nearly 10 days ago, is seeking justice from the hospital bed as he has been put under police detention.
“‘I was put in police detention and handcuffed in the hospital where I am under treatment after being stabbed 20 times by my in-laws, who also abducted my wife, in an old case filed by my father in law, which is baseless. It appears to me that police is more keen to torture me instead to recover my wife and arrest the named accused in my complaint,’ Krishna Prasad Ram, the 24-year-old victim said.
“Ram told rediff.com over telephone from his hospital bed that the police is behaving as if he is the real criminal, but the fact is that at the time of his court marriage a year ago, he and his wife Khushboo Singh were adults, and India's constitution allows an adult to marry or choose his life partner.
“‘Nine police personnel have been deputed for my security and surveillance round the clock, despite the fact that they handcuffed me during treatment at the Sadar Hospital,’ he said.
“Ram was 23 and Khushboo was 21 when they got married. ‘Even if we were forced to to elope after her family opposed, it was not a crime as both of us were adults and consenting adults,’ Ram said.”
“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.”
“Singh’s problems started when he fell in love and married a Maharashtrian girl from a dalit (lower caste) family.
“‘My parents had passed away and my sisters were by then married. When I went back to my village, I had to face angry relatives, who threatened to teach me a lesson for marrying a dalit girl. They said I had brought shame upon the thakur (upper caste) family we belong to.
“‘The villagers declared me an outcast and my relatives reported me “missing”. Soon after, my cousins, who are politically well connected, prepared fake documents and declared me “dead”. They have since grabbed my land and property.’
“Singh’s battle in the court to get back his identity and land bore no result, as the date of hearing kept being postponed for many years. ‘I had no money left to pay the lawyer and he ditched me,’ he says dejectedly. [...]
“Remonstrating just a couple of kilometres away from where the high-and-mighty political leaders reside, he laments, ‘Except assurances, I have received nothing. Even the police sided with my cousins and beat me up mercilessly, due to which my left ear drum is permanently damaged.’”
“A caste council in a village in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district ordered residents to ostracize 40 Dalit families when one of them disobeyed its diktat to stop constructing a new house, police said. [...]
“‘A Dalit family was constructing a house in the village. The neighbour who belonged to Rajput community objected to the construction of a sun shed and demanded that the entire portion of the house on his side be razed down,’ said a police officer.
“He added that when the family did not raze down the portion, the neighbour approached the caste council in the village.
“‘It slapped a fine of Rs.21,000 on the dalit family and ordered to expel all the 40 families belonging to Dalits in the village from the society. It means that they would not be able to mingle with others and would not be able to buy grocery items from the shops. Supply of milk, water and other items were also prohibited,’ said the officer.”
“The sharply truncated life of Anil Meena was marked by a ferocious tenacity.
“From the mud house in rural Rajasthan, where he grew up in a family of subsistence farmers, he made his way first to school and then to the top of his class. He studied with monomaniacal intensity and passed the entrance exam to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the most prestigious of India’s professional colleges – an achievement almost unfathomable in the largely illiterate aboriginal community from which he came.
“At AIIMS, he battled through classes where he couldn’t understand a word of the English being spoken and pored over a dictionary to get through textbooks. When an arbitrary rule change – that just happened to affect only students from backgrounds such as his – cost him a passing grade in a crucial exam, he tried repeatedly to meet his course director, his friends say. He sat outside the man’s office for four or five hours at a time for a week.
“But Mr. Meena had come up against something his intelligence and perseverance could not overcome: Students of his kind are not welcome at AIIMS, no more than they are at other prestigious Indian universities. They rarely graduate. No one was prepared to help him succeed.
“On March 3, Mr. Meena hung himself from the fan in his small dormitory room. He was 22.
“His death was a crippling blow to his family, a shock to his friends and an ugly blemish for AIIMS. It was also the 20th reported suicide in four years at an elite Indian educational institution by a student who was either aboriginal or Dalit – the people from the bottom of the Hindu caste system, once known as untouchables.
“The suicides have emerged as a subject for fierce debate. Following the promise of the new India, these students are hyper-achievers from the grimmest of backgrounds, who made it into the schools that produce engineers, doctors and business leaders who are sought the world over.
“But when they get there, they are often isolated, humiliated and discriminated against. They are told overtly by their professors that they will never make it to graduation. Yet many feel they cannot drop out – families and communities are invested in their success, and many have taken huge loans.
“Some, trapped in this dilemma, have chosen to end their lives. [...]
“The suicides have occurred at 16 different institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and at the universities of Hyderabad and Bangalore.
“In 2008, a final-year Dalit medical student at Government Medical College in Chandigarh in the Punjab hung himself in the college library; Jaspreet Singh left a note in his pocket describing how the head of his department told him repeatedly to his face that he would never, ever be permitted to be a doctor.
“That professor had failed him several times in course work, although Mr. Singh had never before had anything but top marks. After his death, an external committee re-evaluated his exams and found that he should have passed. He was awarded his degree posthumously.
“On March 3, 2010, exactly two years before Mr. Meena’s death, another young aboriginal man killed himself at AIIMS. Bal Mukund Bharti, 25, was just weeks away from earning his degree, something unprecedented in his community in Madhya Pradesh.
“His parents, who’d taken out massive loans to support him, told a team from of investigators from the Insight Foundation, which works to support Dalit and aboriginal students, that he repeatedly complained of harassment from his professors.
“He said that one often complained, ‘I don’t know where they come from, these Dalits and [aboriginals], getting here without studying anything.’
“Yet Mr. Bharti was, in fact, brilliant. He had scored eighth among hundreds of thousands of students nationwide in the intensely competitive engineering entrance exam – he passed up the seat to become a doctor instead. AIIMS carried out no investigation and says he had psychological problems.”
“Allegedly sodomized and sexually harassed for two years, a Dalit student at a university in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh committed suicide Monday, adding to a string of deaths that have highlighted the continuing discrimination against low-caste Indians, even at institutes of higher learning.
“According to the Times of India, 22-year-old Ajay Pardole, a student at Rewa University, hanged himself in his hostel room Monday, after the special police division responsible for crimes against the so-called ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes’ took no action on his complaint.
“Pardole had apparently complained on May 14 that a senior student had been sexually harassing him since 2010, but nothing was done. He wrote several letters to high-ranking officials, but received no response. And finally two days ago, he walked into the police station and told them flat out he planned to kill himself if nothing was done before July 9.”
“The threat to Gandhi posed by the prospect of Untouchables gaining the right to their own electorates thus went much deeper than fear of another British device to divide the national movement, like the separate rolls granted to Muslims, real though this was. More fundamental questions were at issue. If Untouchables were to be treated as external to the Hindu community, it would be confirmation that caste was indeed, as its critics had always maintained, a vile system of discrimination, relegating the lowest orders of society to a subhuman existence with which the smallest brush was pollution, and since Hinduism was founded on caste, it would stand condemned with caste. To reclaim the Untouchables for Hinduism was an ideological imperative for the reputation of the religion itself. But it was also politically vital, since if they were subtracted from the Hindu bloc in India, its predominance over the Muslim community would be weakened. There were ‘mathematical’ considerations to bear in mind, as Gandhi’s secretary delicately reported his leader’s thinking on the matter. Most menacing of all, Gandhi confided to a colleague, might not Untouchables, accorded separate identity, then gang up with ‘Muslim hooligans and kill caste Hindus’?
“To cut off these dangers, Gandhi – still in prison – announced that as ‘a man of religion’ and leader of ‘numberless men and women who have childlike faith in my wisdom’, he would fast to death until the award was rescinded and Untouchables were bundled back into the Hindu electorate. The sensation was enormous. Ambedkar was summoned post-haste to Gandhi’s jail in Poona to avert the passing of the Great Soul. His own view of the religion he was being told to embrace was unflinching: ‘No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity’ – words few Indian intellectuals would dare utter today. Gandhi, though he had long condemned Untouchability as odious, had never taken any drastic political action against it: sin it might be, but not sufficiently mortal to warrant a fast unto death. Granting Untouchables their own rolls was another matter. Against that he would put his life on the line. Under colossal public pressure, and physical threats to him and his community if he stood firm, Ambedkar yielded to Gandhi’s blackmail.”
READ THE FULL ACCOUNT: Gandhi Centre Stageby Perry Anderson (London Review of Books, July 5, 2012)
“Members of the Kambalathu Naicker community in Kammapatti near here prevented their 50 children from attending classes at the local panchayat union school on Tuesday protesting the posting of two Dalit women as cook and helper at the noon meal centre of the school. [...]
“‘We are not against any particular caste. We maintain cordial relationship with the Scheduled Caste people. But, it is our practice that our people, especially girls and women, do not eat food cooked by people belonging to any other community,’ said B. Sanjeevi, ward member of the Kammapatti panchayat. [...]
“District Revenue Officer, R. Raju, who holds additional charge as District Collector, said that the BDO had proposed to transfer the employees.
“‘This is a peculiar habit of this community. We cannot treat this as a practice of untouchability. Posting of people belonging to Kambalathu Naicker can be considered only when the next round of recruitment takes place,’ he said.”
“According to the police, Suman Kumar, a resident of Banswara's Anjana village had married Happy Kalal who comes from a different caste.
“‘Suman Kumar says that he and his family members are being harassed since the marriage took place. He says that members of a caste council in their village forced him to vacate the shop that he was running, rendering him completely jobless,’ said a police officer.
“He added that his mother and brothers are being forced to stay separated from him and his wife.
“‘Whenever my wife heads out of home, she is subjected to mockery and humiliation,’ said Suman Kumar in his statement to the police.”
“In a shocking case of ‘honour killing’ on the outskirts of the Capital, a young Municipal Corporation of Delhi school teacher was strangulated to death allegedly by her brother and mother in Kanjhawala here over her affair with a man belonging to a different caste.
“The accused, Birmati (50) and Mohit (22), stuffed the body of Deepti Chhikara (26) in an Alto car and dumped it in Uttrakhand helped by the victim’s uncle Amit, the police said.
“The sensational murder came to light more than a month after the incident, when Deepti’s paramour Lalit Vats, a diploma holder in computer science, wrote an e-mail to the senior police officers saying that he suspected something wrong had happened to the woman. [...]
“When subjected to sustained interrogation, Birmati and Mohit purportedly confessed to having strangulated Deepti on April 19 night when they caught him talking to Lalit over the phone. The mother-son duo first beat her up and Mohit later strangulated her to death. Birmati held Deepti by her legs, while Mohit strangulated her, the police said.”
“A dalit youth, who had married an upper caste girl in the face of strong opposition from her family four years back, was killed in Sector 8 of Kurukshetra. [...]
“Rohtas Kumar, a property dealer and resident of village Rojla (Karnal), had met Sonia first time when she was pursing a post-graduate course in Kurukshetra University in 2008, said Kumar's family members.
“They got married in the same year after a love affair despite the fact that her parents opposed the wedding, said Kumar's brother, Vajir Singh in a police complaint.
“‘But, even after marriage, the couple faced lot of opposition from her family members who pressurized her to seek divorce from him. Finally, she gave in, agreed to divorce her husband and returned to her parent’s house,’ he added.
“Singh told the police that they could not track his brother for five months as his mobile phone remained switched off.
“Finding that his house was locked for long, the house owner requested the police to break the lock, to find the body of Kumar, which had been reduced to a skeleton.”
“Parvati has been secretly dating the same man for over four years. This independent and educated female was terrified of the consequences if her parents discovered that she was in a relationship with a low-caste Hindu, because in Parvati’s high-caste Brahmin family it is forbidden for women to marry into lower caste families. Here Parvati lost my understanding. How could she allow what is essentially a form of racism concealed by religion to continue through her own choices?
“I didn't feel able to ask Parvati this question aloud, but I did ask why she didn't just marry her partner. ‘They might have him murdered’, she whispered to me one evening over a bottle of wine, shaking and tearful. ‘The extended family would laugh at us and disown us, and they’d never forgive me for dirtying their honour. I don’t know what they might do in response to that.’
“A rare anecdote, you might say; an unlikely story? But this is the story of [South] Asian women around the world. Whether they are living in India, Europe or the US, whether they are artists, lawyers or doctors, scratch the surface and the thick residue of an old inequality still remains. With their modern dresses these women wear a set of rusty, confining shackles.”
“A caste council in a village in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district ordered residents to ostracize 40 Dalit families when one of them disobeyed its dictat to stop constructing a new house, police said. [...]
“‘A Dalit family was constructing a house in the village. The neighbour who belonged to Rajput community objected to the construction of a sun shed and demanded that the entire portion of the house on his side be razed down,’ said a police officer.
“He added that when the family did not raze down the portion, the neighbour approached the caste council in the village.
“‘It slapped a fine of Rs.21,000 on the dalit family and ordered to expel all the 40 families belonging to Dalits in the village from the society. It means that they would not be able to mingle with others and would not be able to buy grocery items from the shops. Supply of milk, water and other items were also prohibited,’ said the officer.”
“There has been a revolt against the illegal and inhuman system of manual scavenging in Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Young men of the Mehtar caste, who have traditionally been manual scavengers for over 100 years, have refused to continue with the degrading system, ending decades of humiliation.
“Every year close to 1 crore ‘Waris’ or pilgrims, gather in Pandharpur. In the absence of any sanitation infrastructure, the administration coerces member of the Mehtar caste to work as manual scavengers.
“Despite a ban on manual scavenging, this practice has been on in Pandhrapur for more than 100 years.”
“[O]ut of the 66 Dalit castes [in the state of Uttar Pradesh], only four including shoemaker (cobbler) caste — called Ravidasi or Harijan in some parts of India — Pasi (watchman of feudal lords/toddy tappers/some of them tame pigs), Dhobi (washerman) and Kori (weaver) have become visible in democratic politics. The rest are invisible. Even among the more visible Dalit castes, the cobblers and Pasis have grabbed most of the space. [...]
“The cobbler caste, the largest Dalit community in U.P., constitutes 56.20 per cent of the total Scheduled Caste population, which is 21.1 per cent of the State’s total population (2001 census). It has emerged as one of the dominant castes among Dalits.
“The caste took to education in a big way in pre-Independence years. That helped its members find jobs in cities, in turn helping in their rise as a political caste after Independence. When Kanshi Ram emerged on the scene, the caste already had a middle class, community leaders and the makings of an intelligentsia. They were a ready-made cadre for the party in its initial phase. The cobbler caste thus made up a chunk of the BSP, and succeeded in cornering the benefits of Dalit political empowerment. However many other Dalit castes like Jogi, Nat (wanderer), Musahar (who make items out of leaves), Kanjar (mat weaver), Dom, Domar, Hela (sweeper), Basor (basket weaver), and Bansphor (bamboo basket maker) are so insignificant despite their numerical strength that they cannot make their presence felt in U.P’s vote bank politics and continue to face exclusion.
“Aside from these castes, there are others found in lesser numbers like Bahelia (bird hunter), Khairha (woodcutter), Kalabaaz (songster), Balai (farm labourer), Majhwar (musician), Hari (basket maker) and Sansiya (musical instrument repairer). They are not visible in any political or governance strategies, and lack a presence in the political sphere. While conducting research, it was observed that communities which are not educated, and which do not have leaders, caste histories and heroes are unable to create their own identities which can make their communities assertive in democratic politics.
“Within Dalits, the term ati-Dalit (lowest of the low) has become a part of the vocabulary of the Dalit intelligentsia as a result of this exclusion.”
“A dozen upper caste men in Madhya Pradesh sliced off the nose of a Dalit man because they didn’t like the sight of a lower caste man riding a motorcycle in front of them.
“The victim has been admitted to the district hospital in Shivpuri for treatment.
“Prakash Jatav (31) was attacked by a group of men from the Kushwaha community after he was spotted driving his motorcycle near Jaitpur square that falls under Narwar police station in Shivpuri district on Monday.
“The gang of upper caste men pounced on the hapless victim and started beating him with shoes and sticks. Not satisfied with that, one of them cut off Jatav’s nose in full public view. Other members from the Dalit community who were there were too terrified to react and ran for cover.
“‘They badly beat me up with shoes, sticks and repeatedly told me that I have no right to drive a motorcycle,’ the victim said.”
“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?’”
“If there is any government department where the caste system is the most prevalent even today, it is that of conservancy [workers, says Haralkar.
“‘Around 90 per cent of the 40,000-odd conservancy [sanitation] workers in Mumbai are Dalits. The department has even unofficially made 100 per cent reservation for Dalits. These families have been sweepers for generations because only Dalits have, through history, been known to clean filth with bare hands. I have been trying to break this vicious cycle,’ he says.
“With housing being one of the biggest issues in the city, sweepers have over the years encouraged their children to continue with the profession so that they can continue living in the staff quarters.
“‘Such is the extent of hopelessness and neglect among these people that they opt for the easiest way out. As per municipal service rules, conservancy jobs can be inherited and that is what they do. They never try to break away from poverty and stigma,’ says Haralkar.”
“There are about 30.000 conservancy workers employed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. The high number of official deaths (247 fatalities last year, 5 every week) is due to extremely poor safety conditions. Mumbai, India.”
“Eight workers, including two children, belonging to three dalit families were rescued on Thursday from a farm near Arakkonam where they were said to be working as bonded labourers. [...]
“Officials said they saw signs of physical abuse on a few workers and all were under-nourished. [...]
“Twelve years ago, officials said, one of the workers borrowed Rs 30,000 [$540.00]for his daughter's marriage from the farm owner but couldn't repay it. Since then, he, his family and relatives have been bonded labourers. They were put in two tiny rooms without ventilation and forced to work 15-18 hours a day in fields. There were no basic amenities and they were each paid Rs 8 [14 cents] a day against the mandatory Rs 113.50 [$20] a day under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. They weren’t allowed to go outside the farm either.
“‘Last week, one worker, Chinna (33), was beaten by the farm owner and has been missing since then,’ said P Ramaswamy (58), one of those rescued.”
“Deserted by her family long ago and feeling humiliated by her surname, a 17-year-old inmate of Mahipatram Rupram Ashram committed suicide in Raipur. Aruna, a class 12 student living in the ashram was found hanging from the ceiling of the bathroom. While cops are yet to ascertain what prompted the teenager to take the extreme step, sources in the orphanage indicated that the girl, who had a Dalit surname, felt ashamed of it and ended life. The teenager who was brought to the ashram 12 years ago also felt she had been abandoned by her parents, who never turned back to take her. [...]
“‘Aruna was brought to the ashram by the police when she was barely five. She was handed over to Shahibaug police by Arvindbhai, a resident of Girdharnagar Makoda ki Chowki. She had a dalit surname and would often feel humiliated when addressed by surname, in the school. She would also get upset, as no one would take her out during vacations. Also, she never had any visitor. The letters which were sent to her local guardian at Girdharnagar too came back,’ said an insider.
“Ashram Superintendent Vijay Pandit admitted that though Aruna looked hassled with the usage of her surname, she never made any complaint to anyone in the management. ‘She seemed to have some issues with her name but she never took it up with us. Though under the provisions after turning 18 she could have changed her surname,’ Pandit said.
“Police officials who are conducting the probe maintained that when Aruna was brought to the Ashram in 2000 she had disclosed her name with a dalit surname.”
“A 27-year-old Dalit man in Haryana was allegedly humiliated and sent into exile for 11 years over his love affair with a higher-caste girl.
“His face was painted black as he was thrown out by his village panchayat. The panchayat at Putthi Samain village near Narnaund police station of Hisar district also fined him Rs 21,000. [...]
“In his complaint, the man said he fell in love with the girl from the same village while they were studying at a coaching institution in Meham tehsil. He alleged that when the girl’s parents came to know of the affair, they took the matter to the village panchayat.
When he appeared before the panchayat on 31 May, its members reprimanded him, blackened his face and exiled him. The girl’s father also married her off on 2 June.”
“Pinki Rajak, a 22-year-old member of the Dhobi community, which traditionally washes and irons clothes, caused outrage among her group's elders when she accepted a lowly sweeper's job at a local school near Raipur, Chhattisgarh. [...]
“Sweeping work in India, including shoe polishing, is reserved for members of the Chamar ‘untouchable’ caste, along with other ‘dirty' jobs like ‘night-soil carrying’ of human waste and tannery work. The Dhobis however are regarded as a ‘cleansing’ caste, said Dr Vidhu Verma, a caste expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“[The caste] elders believed [Ms Rajak] had stigmatised them by associating them with one of India's lowliest and most shunned castes.”
“Nearly 300 km from Raipur, the stigma of a ‘menial’ job is threatening to blow apart the lives of 22-year-old Pinki Rajak and her family. A member of the dhobi samaj (washermen community) in Koriya district’s Bardiya village, Pinki invited the wrath of her people for accepting the job of a sweeper at a school.
“The community has handed the family an ultimatum: Forget the job or be ostracised for 60 years. Quitting the job is not an option for Pinki.
“Repeatedly ill-treated by her husband, she had returned home to her parents. But her father Budhulal Rajak, who has a small cycle repair shop, already has three daughters, a son and wife to support.
“After endless rounds of offices, Pinki finally got this job.
“Then the community struck — notwithstanding Budhlal’s position as a regional secretary of the samaj. Pinki’s husband Kapil Dev was told that he would not be allowed to live with her till she quits the job.
“‘No one can live without money. Why should the caste system be tied to employment now?’ said Pinki.”
“Brahmeshwar Singh, a wealthy landlord known as the ‘Butcher of Bihar,’ was killed in a hail of bullets Friday while taking his morning walk, ending a notorious chapter in Indian history.
“Singh, 67, the leader of a banned militia of upper-caste members known as Ranvir Sena, hit the headlines in the 1990s after he and fellow landlords were accused of the massacre of scores of lower-caste Dalits, or so-called untouchables, in central Bihar state. [...]
“The Sena, or ‘army,’ was formed in 1994 by landlords who felt threatened by the state's changing political winds, including louder calls for Dalit rights and land reform as well as a growing number of attacks on the wealthy by Maoists.
“Singh, who took over the group a few months after it was formed, was suspected of planning or directly participating in as many as 29 incidents in which more than 200 Dalits were killed. In 1996, 23 were killed in a village in Bhojpur district and in 1997 about 60 were slain in the state’s Lakshmanpur Bathe area.
“Little effort was made to hide the killings in Bihar, a state with a serious law-and-order problem and a centuries-old feudal structure that viewed landholders as a law unto themselves, analysts said.
“The attacks ‘were carried out openly during the day and at night,’ said Ajit Kumar Singh, a research fellow and Bihar native with New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. ‘Sometimes victims were shot, sometimes butchered.’
“Singh went underground for several years after the group was banned, but he retained significant support among Bihar’s upper caste and would periodically hold high-profile news conferences.
“‘He became sort of a celebrity,’ said Sankarshan Thakur, an editor with the Telegraph newspaper and author of a book on Bihar's political system. ‘He knew how to work the system.’”
“The Ranvir Sena, loosely translated as the army of the brave, is suspected to have been formed around 1994 by landlords of the Bhumihar caste to battle growing Naxalite activism in the region and perhaps owes its creation to a fight between landlords and Communist party activists in which one person was killed.
“Singh, a graduate from the Jain College in Arra who was named village ‘mukhiya’ (headman) at age 17, and another landlord Dharicharan Chowdhury are credited with forming the militia and ensuring that their supporters were well equipped with weapons, provided allowances and other benefits.
“Competing with other militia like Sunlight Sena, Savarna Liberation Army, Brahmarishi Sena, Kuer Sena and Ganga Sena around the same time and which drew their cadre based on caste, the Ranvir Sena stood out with brutal massacres that catapulted them into the national consciousness.
“Horrific massacres like that of Baithani Tola in 1996 in which 21 were killed, mostly women and children; the 1997 Lakshmanpur-Bathe village massacre in which 58 were killed and the 1999 Shankarbigha village massacre in which 23 villagers were killed, ensured that the Ranvir Sena were feared and reviled.
“Promising to claim 15 lives of opponents for every murder of their own group, the Ranvir Sena were equipped with automatic guns and were dreaded for their night attacks in which they stormed villages and murdered perceived enemies. Despite being banned in 1995, the militia continued to go on rampages for years later and are accused of taking close to 277 lives.
“As the Ranvir Sena's clout grew, so did Singh’s status within his Khopira village in Bhojpur district and areas well beyond. The biggest landowner in his village owning 100 bighas of land, Singh was held in high esteem despite being on the run from the police who claimed to be seeking to arrest him in one of the 22 cases registered against him. Not all believe he was on the run as claimed thanks to his political links which were extensive.
“Proof of this was the fact that he continued to address meetings and was arrested only in 2002 while holding one such public meeting of a Ranvir Sena wing in a building located in a crowded area of Patna. Many believed his arrest took place as a result of the political cracks that emerged between the Ranvir Sena and the political parties that supported it.
“After his arrest, a defiant Singh told reporters, ‘I don’t have any remorse over the massacres carried out by the Ranvir Sena in its fight against Naxalite groups such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, or the CPI(ML) Liberation, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War (P.W.) and their supporters, particularly among the landless poor and the backward Dalit community.’”
“Brahmeshwar Singh, alias Mukhiya, is said to have once publicly justified the killing of Dalit women and children. The self-styled chief of the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords which unleashed terror in the 1990s killing fields of Bihar, was quoted as saying that Dalit children grew up to be Naxalites and the women give birth to them.”
1995 - Khopira (Bhojpur district): It was at the ancestral village of Ranvir Sena founder Brahmeshwar Singh, aka Mukhiyaji, that the outlawed militia of the upper caste landlords first struck, killing three scheduled caste agricultural workers.
1995 - Sarthua (Bhojpur): Six farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1996 - Bathani Tola (Bhojpur): 22 agricultural workers belonging to the scheduled castes and Muslim communities killed.
1997 - Laxmanpur-Bathe (Jehanabad): 58 people belonging to scheduled castes gunned down.
1997 - Haibaspur (Patna): 10 more farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1997 - Ekwari (Bhojpur): 10 people belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1998 - Nagri (Bhopur): 10 farm workers belonging to the scheduled castes killed.
1999 - Sendani (Gaya): 12 poor people massacred.
1999 - Narayanpur (Jehanabad): 11 people from the backward communities killed.
1999 - Shankarbigha (Jehanabad): 23 people of the village executed.
2002 - Mianpur (Aurangabad): 35 members of the backward and scheduled castes killed.
“Maregoan Village has a population of approximately 2000 individuals. Out of these, 100 families are of the Ahirwar community. Dalits make up most of the agricultural labourers in this area, where Ahirwars (Chamars) compose a majority of the Dalits. The Ahirwar are classified as a Scheduled Caste in India. Ahirwar are spread across Gadarwara and in nearly all adjoining villages, playing an important role in the socioeconomic activities of the region. The Lodhi community in Maregaon village belong to what is termed in India as the ‘Other Backward Class’ (OBC). They own farmland and generally hire Ahirwar to cultivate their fields.
“Division of labour in the community has resulted in the imposition of certain menial and lowly occupations upon the Ahirwar. For centuries, the Ahirwar have been tasked to do ‘dirty’ jobs such as carrying the carcasses of animals. Despite the necessity of such workers, and for forcing them to take up such jobs, the Ahirwar are seen as being polluted by death and greatly despised. The Ahirwar are made to live in a hamlet separated from the main village.
“In 2009, the Ahirwar Samaj Mahaparishad built a consensus among the Ahirwar community to abandon the practice of carrying the carcasses of animals and shake off the label of ‘untouchable’ imposed by the dominant castes. This decision was first acted upon by three or four individuals and was soon claimed by other Ahirwar. In response, individuals from dominant castes began a social and economic boycott against the Ahirwar. The Ahirwar were not permitted to pass through the village and were forced to take a longer route in order to travel to other villages. The Ahirwar were prohibited from taking rations from the local shopkeeper; even the local milk vendor was intimidated by the Lodhi into not selling milk to the Ahirwar. The Ahirwar were even more cruelly persecuted through the denial of water from the hand pump located near the village temple. Prior to their decision to abandon the practice of carrying animal carcasses, the Ahirwar were still permitted to use this hand pump because there had been two at the time and the villagers were not facing a shortage of water. Today, the Lodhi have fenced in and put wire around the temple and areas surrounding it – this includes the hand pump the Ahirwar depended on for their water. In addition to such mistreatment and deprivation, the Ahirwar were further prohibited from using water from a communal water tank. This tank was also fenced in with wire by the Lodhi. The Ahirwar's cattle were also not permitted to partake of water from the tank. The Ahirwar face a severe shortage of water at this present time.
“Children of the oppressed castes are forced to clean the school while children from dominant castes are not. The school also discriminates through seating arrangements in class. To exacerbate the situation, the cook engaged in preparing the Mid-Day-Meal in Maregaon Village is a Lodhi. Despite efforts by authorities to relieve malnutrition in the area by implementing a Mid-Day-Meal scheme, the Ahirwar children who most require the sustenance are discriminated against. They are served only leftovers, if there are any, and the food is given to them from a distance. The Ahirwar children are also forced to bring their own plates while other students from the dominant castes are served from plates provided by the school. The children from the Ahirwar community are also fed insufficient amounts of food and punished for asking for more.”
“Selvam is a postgraduate who works in a private company. Neither his economic or educational status can guarantee social equality at a tea shop in his village where he will be served tea only in a separate tumbler. [...]
“The village has a population of 90 families belonging to Dalits and 400 belonging to Piramalai Kallars.
“The village had already earned notoriety for its practices of untouchability where Dalits were prevented from using footwear in the caste-Hindu area.
“A few months ago, police intervened and filed cases against those who practised the discrimination after which it was stopped.
“The practice of having two tumblers has undergone many changes with subtler forms to escape the attention of monitoring agencies. Citing pollution, once Dalits were served tea in coconut shells; then came separate glass tumblers for Dalits which they had to wash themselves, while everyone else was served tea in steel cups.
“Then, Dalits were given tea in separate glass tumblers and in order to prevent the mixing of tumblers owners used red/yellow/green paint marks on the bottom of tumblers meant for Dalits. In many places, they were asked to bring their own cups. Now, for Dalits, it is disposable plastic cups and for others it is stainless steel cups. In most cases, Dalits can't sit on benches in tea stalls but have to squat or sit on the floor.
“A recent study by an NGO, Evidence, found that the two-tumbler system is in vogue in 104 villages in Tamil Nadu. Its prevalence was found to be high also in 14 villages in Coimbatore district. The practice was found in 14 villages in Dindigul district and in 13 villages in Salem.”
“Humiliated, harassed and discriminated against, around 70 Dalit families have claimed that hostile conditions forced them out of their village in Haryana's Hisar district. They alleged that they were facing a social boycott by some uppercaste villagers.
“Protesting the alleged discrimination, these families locked their houses in Bhagana village and moved to the district headquarters. They claimed that the boycott of their community has been going on for over three months and the harassment ranged from being denied water from the community well to the use of abusive language on the streets.
“The boycotted Dalits also claimed that the uppercaste locals had illegally occupied their farm lands while they had been driven out. Camping outside the deputy commissioner's office since leaving their village, they have been demanding justice.
“‘We are in a very bad condition... Upper-class people have threatened the local grocery shop owners not to sell any item of daily use to us otherwise they will be fined Rs.1,200,’ alleged a protestor.
“‘We just asked for some space in the village land where we can feed our cattle and do some farming to earn our daily bread, but we were denied that right also,’ claimed another villager.
“Only a couple of months ago a Dalit man's left hand was chopped off after he drank water from the field of an uppercaste person in Daulatpur village. The man who attacked 26-year-old Rajesh was arrested.
“‘I did not imagine he would attack me with a sickle. He took it out from his blanket and cut my hand. He asked me where I was from. I said Sinyana. Then he asked me which community I came from. He then abused me how dare I drink water from his earthen pot,’ Rajesh said.”
“Madhavan, a Dalit, has literally escaped the noose and is grateful that he is still alive.
“On Tuesday morning, he was dangling from a sari, after he was forced to attempt suicide.
“But, there was no such luck for Chitra, a 29-year old caste Hindu, who was lynched by a village mob for her alleged relationship with Madhavan.
“The honour killing took place on Tuesday just after dawn in Vandal in Vedaranyam. Chitra and Madhavan were bullied and beaten up. Their crime was that their ‘relationship' was not only extra-marital, but also inter-caste.”
“A minor Dalit girl from Bannirsarige in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka was forced to leave the village by her family and local people for falling in love with a boy from a different caste and, in their view, bringing ‘ignominy’ to the community.
“Suma (name changed), 17, and pregnant, was left to fend for herself after her father and other family members threatened to commit suicide if she did not leave the house.”
“In a bid to save family honour, a man strangled his daughter at Gedellanka village of Mummidivaram mandal in East Godavari on Monday night as she insisted on marrying her lover who belongs to another community.”
“In yet another case of suspected honour killing, the Tirunelveli district police on Friday arrested four persons on charges of murdering a Dalit youth who fell in love with a caste-Hindu girl.
“According to police sources, S. Elango (25) of Periyar Nagar in Erode was invited for a discussion by his girlfriend's maternal uncle and his former employer Saravanan. When he went to see him in a village near Munnirpallam on August 5, 2011, Saravanan and his associates took Elango to an isolated place and murdered him. The body was thrown into a pond.”
“Sabitri Nepali was initiated into the traditional vocation of the Badis before she turned 14. Now, at 30, she is baffled by the changes taking place in a country struggling to climb out of a feudal past and transform into a modern, democratic republic.
“‘My family has survived on this trade for generations. My mother was a sex worker and I continued with the family profession. It was normal for us,’ Sabitri tells IPS in this remote village in Kailali district, 700 km west of Kathmandu.
“Badis, estimated to number 50,000, live in the western districts of Nepal but find work in the towns and cities of Nepal and neighbouring India, including Kathmandu, Mumbai and New Delhi.
“Four years ago the Nepal government banned the Badis from pursuing their traditional occupation after it came under pressure from local communities fearing that the districts where there were Badi concentrations were turning into red light areas.
“But, the government made no move to implement the ban, with the result that local communities formed monitoring groups backed by vigilantes that used violent methods to compel the Badis to give up their sole means of livelihood.
“‘We defied the ban and continued with our traditional occupation. How could we survive without incomes? Think about our children,’ says Kalpana Badi, 35, who like many others uses a surname that readily identifies her caste and her profession.”
“‘The question is simple - why do the Dalits of the village have to go all the way to the nearest city for a haircut when there are three barber shops right there? I posed this question to both an educated Dalit boy from the village and a non-Dalit barber. The barber hems and haws until his prejudice is split wide open, even in his denials. The Dalit youth, ends up saying a lot, despite being in an understandable, evasive hurry. This is the silent vocabulary of caste, of both the oppressed and the oppressor. This is how people really speak when they speak of caste. This is the status quo that must be challenged. This is where the camera comes in between,’ says Parmar.”
“Recruitment is targeted at young, mostly unmarried, women and girls, aged between 14 and 25. The majority of these workers have a Dalit (so-called scheduled castes) or other low-caste background and come from poor, often landless and indebted families that depend on irregular income earned as agricultural coolies in the dry south of Tamil Nadu. Orphans and children of single parents are also targeted. When free education ends at the 8th grade (at the age of fourteen) parents or relatives lack the means to enroll children in school. Agents that recruit for spinning mills or garment factories are aware of the situation and may approach poor families at this precise time. Brokers convince parents to send their daughters to the textile and garment factories with promises of a well-paid job, comfortable accommodation, three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for training and schooling. Clothes and household articles are also given to attract the parents. Sending the girls to work in the mills where they will receive daily meals is a relief for the household; the (small) income girls bring in is a much needed addition to the means of the family. The lump sum offered to the girls is a way to meet the social pressure to purchase jewels for their daughters’ marriage. [These recruitment and employment practices are often referred to as 'Sumangali scheme.’]
The Tamil word sumangali refers to a married woman who lives a happy and contented life with her husband with all good fortunes and material benefits. Workers under this scheme are recruited with the promise that they will receive a considerable amount of money after completion of three to five years of employment. This amount could be used to pay for a dowry. In this report, these workers are referred to as ‘scheme workers’. [Often, completing the contract period is a condition to receive the lump sum amount, which is not a bonus but made up of withheld wages.] If the lump sum is added to the monthly wages, the total amount earned in the contract period in most cases does not equal the amount a worker would have earned if she had received the minimum wage for an apprentice in the garment industry.
“[Labour migrants often live in strictly supervised factory-owned hostels where they have little opportunity for contact with their families, let alone with trade unions or labour advocates. Workers make long hours, including forced overtime, in some cases even up to 24 hours on end, for low wages, and under unhealthy conditions. Verbal and physical abuse is frequently reported.]”
“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.”
“The Patna High Court has acquitted all the 23 persons accused of perpetrating the massacre of 21 Dalits at Bathani Tola in Bhojpur in 1996.
“The carnage took place on the afternoon of July 11, 1996. Upper-caste (Rajput and Bhumihar) landowners of the Ranvir Sena — a private militia of the landlords — stormed Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district's Sahar block in Central Bihar and ruthlessly hacked the Dalits, among them women, teenage girls and babies less than 10 months old.
“Ajay Singh was charged with brutally killing 10-year-old Phool Kumari, Manoj Singh was charged with the murder of the three-month-old daughter of Naimuddin (one of the prime eyewitnesses) and Nagender alias Narendra Singh was charged with slaughtering two women, Sanjharu and Ramratiya Devi. They were awarded the death sentence by the sessions court.
“Bathani Tola, along with Laxmanpur-Bathe (where more than 60 Dalit men, women and children were slaughtered by the Ranvir Sena), have since become bywords for caste massacres that engulfed central Bihar from the mid-1990s onwards.”
“The Ranvir Sena was founded by upper-caste Bhumihars in Belaur village, Bhojpur district, in 1994. It first made international headlines in July 1996 with its attack on Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district, Bihar, which left nineteen Dalits and Muslims, mostly women and children, dead. Sixty members of the sena reportedly descended on the village and set twelve houses on fire. Using lathis, swords, and firearms, the attackers continued the onslaught for two and a half hours. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for the earlier killing of nine Bhumihars in Nadhi village, also in Bhojpur district, by the CPI(M-L). The conflict began when CPI(M-L) began organizing the agricultural laborers to demand the statutory daily minimum wage of Rs. 30.75 (US$0.77). Landowners were only willing to pay Rs. 20 (US$0.50). CPI(M-L) members convinced laborers to refuse employment at that wage and called for an economic blockade against landowners. The attack on Bathani Tola, press reports claim, was an effort to weaken the resolve of CPI(M-L) cadres organizing in the village and to prevent a labor boycott on hundreds of acres of land. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders were ever arrested for the Bathani Tola massacre.
“Since its inception, the Ranvir Sena has been implicated in killings, rapes and lootings in the villages of Belaur, Ekwari, Chandi, Nanaur, Narhi, Sarathau, Haibaspur, Laxmanpur-Bathe, Shankarbigha, and Narayanpur. On April 22, 1996, the sena gunned down five members of a marriage party in Nanaur village. The victims were believed to be CPI(M-L) supporters. In 1997 the sena killed three Dalits in Jehanabad district for raising their voice against the rape of a Dalit girl by upper-caste youths.”
“Violence erupted in the historic Osmania University in Hyderabad on Sunday evening, when student groups representing right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad clashed with the Dalit and minority student groups in protest against the celebration of the first-ever ‘Beef Festival’ in the campus.
“The Dalit students were celebrating the ‘Beef Festival’ (Pedda Koora Panduga in Telugu) - cooking and serving of beef in the open - on the OU campus as an expression of their cultural identity and constitutional right.
“The students have been opposing the imposition of what they call Brahminical culture on the food habits of SCs, STs and minorities in the educational institutions.
“However, the event was strongly resisted by the ABVP students stating that it was against the Indian culture and would hurt the sentiments of the Hindus who treat cow as a holy animal.
“The rightwing student groups distributed pamphlets in the last two days asking the students to stay away from the beef festival. They described the festival as a mischief being perpetrated by a few individuals who claim themselves to be Dalit intellectuals and scholars having a political agenda.
“Trouble began at around 6.30 pm, when more than 1,000 students assembled at the Ambedkar Hostel, where the Dalit Students Federation made elaborate arrangements for the festival. [...]
“As the Dalit students were raising slogans, singing songs and eating biryani made of beef, several ABVP students swooped on the venue and ransacked the area. This resulted in the two groups of students attacking each other and pelting stones. Several students and media persons covering the event received injuries.
“As the students continued with stone pelting, the police had to lob teargas shells to disperse the students. The irate mobs also set afire a vehicle belonging to a television channel. [...]
“Beef festival organizer B Sudarshan, a research scholar, said it was unfortunate that some upper caste students tried to disrupt the festival which was going on peacefully. ‘We have not made any slaughter of animals in the hostel premises but only distributed food among the students to acknowledge the age-old custom of Dalits and minorities. We wanted to remove the dirty image associated with beef, as spread by the Brahminical culture,’ he said.”
“Just when the dust seemed to have settled at the Osmania University following the controversial beef festival, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal on Thursday conducted a ritual at a temple adjacent the Arts College to ‘purify’ the campus.”
“For nearly a century and a half, the cow wasn’t just a cow but an incendiary political issue, which periodically ignited many a communal conflagration all around India. Underlying the acrimony was the demand asking Muslims to eschew beef-eating in respect for the religious sentiments of Hindus, who considered the cow holy. It tacitly assumed a monolithic Hindu community united in its veneration of the cow and the need to save her from the Muslim butcher’s cleaver.
“This assumption stands challenged in Hyderabad, not by Muslims, but by assertive lower-caste Hindus who were contemptuously treated and referred to as Untouchables and who now have adopted the nomenclature of Dalit (oppressed) for defining their identity. On April 15, Dalit students organised a beef festival at Hyderabad’s Osmania University, where 2,000 of them publicly partook of the savoury beef biryani even as a singer belted the song: ‘Beef is the secret of my energy.’
“This demonstration of defiance was in support of their demand to have beef included on the hostel’s menu. Their logic was — beef is taboo for high caste Hindus, not the Dalits, sections of other backward castes, Muslims and Christians, whose diet includes beef. In excluding it from the menu, the university, they said, is guilty of showing an unjustifiable predilection for the religious sensitivity of high-caste Hindus. At one stroke was thus shattered the myth of the Hindu community being a monolith.”
“Fourteen-year-old Ravi used to be a beneficiary under the Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) 2007 as his mother cleaned toilets in the village. One day, when she gathered enough courage to quit the job, Ravi's scholarship funds were stopped and she faced hostility from the villagers who said, ‘If you don't clean our shit, then who will?’ Belonging to a family of six siblings, daily life has become difficult for Ravi. His mother is not getting any other job due to the stigma attached to her past one.
“This scholarship, which requires families to be engaged in manual scavenging for at least 100 days in a year, provides a perverse incentive to Dalit households to continue in the occupation. Once the families stop practicing it, the scholarships are also stopped. [...]
“In the absence of a proper mechanism in the implementation of the scheme, the survey found the presence of scheming middle men working in connivance with fraudulent bank officials.
“Middle men or commission agents would visit Dalit bastis telling households to sign on so and so papers as the government had chosen them as beneficiaries of a new scheme. The beneficiaries would never get to know the loan amount, sanctioning officer or other details of the transactions. After a while, the middle men would revisit them and hand over Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500. Many of these people did not even know why they were being given the money or how much money had been borrowed in their names. In Madhya Pradesh, around 68 per cent of the beneficiaries were taken for a ride by the brokers, in Uttar Pradesh, 63 per cent and in Rajasthan 62 per cent. [...]
“It came to light that Muslim communities such as Hela and Halalkhor have been completely ignored by Government programmes. These caste groups inhabit several states and have been as much a slave of this exploitative tradition as the Dalit Hindu communities.”
“Rajesh was called by a private contractor at Daulatpur village for doing labour work in some fields there. The incident took place when he went to the field of Rajender alias Pappu for drinking water from an earthen pot kept there. Pappu was also in the field at that time.
“After coming to know that Rajesh is from a Scheduled Caste, Pappu in a fit of anger allegedly attacked Rajesh with a sharp-edged weapon that left his hand dismembered.”