“A dalit groom rode a horse for his marriage procession defying threats from upper caste villagers for the first time under tight police security at Neemada village in Rajasthan's Ajmer district on Friday night. Dalits are not allowed to ride a horse especially for marriage processions.
“Ranjeet Singh Berwa's family had sought police help after the villagers had threatened him against riding a horse for his marriage procession. But the cops had told them to follow the village tradition forcing the family to file an application before the Center for Dalit Rights (CDR), which informed the district collector Vabhav Gallaria about it. [...]
“The district administration took the complaint seriously and Gallaria instructed police to ensure the marriage procession's security. [...]
“Even under tight security, many were not sure whether to break the custom. ‘No one, even me, my father and my five sons ever had the courage to go through the roads in the village on a horse,’ said a resident. [...]
“When the procession reached the center of the village, celebrations erupted. ‘It is like dream for us and felt that we too have right to dignity,’ said Peeruji.
“Another resident, Ram Karan Berwa, said thousands of marriages have taken place in the village but no dalit family had ever dared to ‘break this law’.
“As per the tradition, a dalit groom has to step down from the horse within Neemada’s limits and go to bride’s house on foot. ‘Those who have tried breaking this custom were punished severely mostly with heavy penalties,’ said Berwa.”
“In a shocking incident, a young girl was battered to death by her father as she had refused to marry a youth selected by him and insisted on marrying a Dalit youth of the same village. [...]
“According to the police, Konda Mamata (20), a second-year student of government degree college here, had allegedly been in love with a Dalit youth for the past three years and pressing her parents to allow her to marry him.
“But her request was turned down by the parents, particularly her father, Chandraiah, a tailor, and they fixed her marriage to a youth belonging their caste (Merudarji). A function, as part of the wedding preparation, was held at the house on Friday. It was attended by scores of their relatives. After all the guests had left the place, the girl again expressed her strong desire to marry the man of her choice which led to yet another bout of heated argument between the two. In a fit of rage, Chandraiah hit his daughter with an axe, which resulted in the girl’s death on the spot.”
“Roma students in the Czech Republic are still routinely put at a disadvantage because of their placement in either segregated schools or school for children with learning disabilities, despite criticism from rights groups and a 2007 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that called the situation discriminatory.
“A disproportionate number of Roma are placed in what are called ‘practical schools,’ meaning institutions that use a simplified curriculum for children who have mild mental disabilities or who need remedial training. In a parallel problem, others are segregated into Roma-only schools that keep them isolated from the mainstream education system.
“In 2010, about one-third of Roma students in the Czech Republic were in practical schools, according to the Czech Schools Inspectorate. In 2012, that number dropped to 26 percent, though Roma children were still overrepresented, given that the Roma make up less than 3 percent of the population.”
“Beyond improving the looks of young men, Bangalore’s, and urban India’s, increasingly narcissistic culture has had an unexpected, more profound effect on society. It has freed an entire generation of hairdressers from the burden of their caste tag, giving them dignity, even celebrity. Members of the traditional chaurika caste, who stood among the lower rungs of India’s social order for doing ‘impure’ hair work, are now much sought-after hair professionals.
“‘We are no longer known by the derogatory barber or hajam terms,’ said Ramesh Babu, 42, who has clipped men’s hair for over two decades. Hajam is Urdu for barber. He now owns several salons and runs a luxury car rental service, often arriving in his personal Rolls Royce Ghost to trim clients’ hair. ‘We want to eliminate these disparaging labels entirely.’ [...]
“It’s a stark contrast from when his grandfather practiced the profession, making house calls in a village in Bangalore’s outskirts. His customers — who were men, as women back then kept their hair long — always paid in kind, usually grain and vegetables. [...]
“Many customers will still have a ‘cleansing’ bath straight after a haircut.
“But the past stigma about the profession is definitely fading. Proof is in Mr. Kambaya’s thriving training classes for the younger generation of his caste people, where the emphasis is on polish and demeanor. ‘The sessions will help them prosper in the stylish surroundings of high-end salons and reap the rewards of their inherited skill,’ he said.
“Mr. Kambaya wants his children to carry on his forefathers’ professional legacy. His daughter, a management student, will start assisting him as soon as she is finished with school.”
“A 19-year-old girl has been burnt to death and her mother beaten after pleading with village elders to be allowed to marry a boy from the same village and same caste, Indian police have confirmed.
“Anju Yadav, 19, from Karahkol village, in Deoria district of Uttar Pradesh, was set on fire at her home while her mother, Gyanwati Devi, 48, was on the other side of the village pleading with the village council to allow Anju to marry her boyfriend of two-years, Ranjit Yadav, 21.
“But the village council, along with the boy’s father, Jai Hind Yadav, 52, rejected their pleas insisting it was against tradition.
“Instead, the boy’s father rushed over to the family home and set the girl alight, it was claimed.
“Indian society is well known for its complex caste system [...]. However, what is less well known is that it is equally unacceptable for people from the same caste and village to marry. [...]
“Her mother, Gyanwati, said both her daughter and Ranjit loved each other very much and wanted to marry.
“Gyanwati went to Jai Hind’s house on Wednesday evening to discuss the marriage proposal but when he and the family refused she went to village council for help, which is usual in India.
“Gyanwati said: ‘I wanted to see my daughter happy. They loved each other; I had no problem with the marriage. But when I went to Jai Hind with the proposal he told me it’s a sin to marry within the same caste and would not accept the marriage.’
“Anju, who was enveloped in flames, ran to the terrace of her house and jumped down. She suffered fractures in her arms and legs, too. The villagers poured water on her, but by then she had already suffered over 85 per cent burns.”
“Just 45 kms from the cosmopolitan hub of Ahmedabad, a village in Bavla Talika district has been found to be using caste as a parameter for distribution of water supply. On the scale, the highest castes of Rajputs and Patels have exclusive access to the well in the morning from 8 to 10 am, with Bharwas and Vaghris using the well from 10 to 12 am. Dalits, or Harijans as they are locally known, are only allowed access after 12 am till 2 pm.
“According to a report, the pipelines carrying water are also arranged so each caste has a different one for their exclusive use. While the two upper castes can and do use each other’s water interchangeably, graphic warnings levying ‘strict penalties’ on Dalits if they are caught using others’ water decorate the surrounding walls. [...]
“Surprisingly [sic], the casteist practise has the backing of village panchayat.
“‘We have put up the notice to streamline water distribution as we have separate pipelines for areas where people of different castes reside,’ Pratapsinh Dodia, the husband of sarpanch Nimisha Dodia was quoted saying by DNA.
“‘And people don’t like when those from other communities use the same well. Villages are different from cities,’ he conceded.
“Throwing light on what upper castes call ‘tradition,’ local NGO Navsarjan Trust workers told DNA that even Dalits have stopped protesting against ‘inferior treatment’ as they have become used to it. Startlingly [sic], coordination officer of the NGO Ramila Parmar was quoted by DNA claiming that such water distribution procedure can be found all over the state.”
“Police resorted to mild force to disperse warring groups following denial of cremation to a dalit woman by people belonging to upper caste at Gandlavedu village in Atmakurmandal of Nellore district on Tuesday.
“According to Atmakur police, a group of upper caste people objected to the cremation of D Kondamma (80), a dalit woman, who died in the early hours of Tuesday. The dalits wanted to cremate the woman in the vicinity of a crematorium belonging to upper castes.
“This led to protests by dalits. With two groups resorting to physical attacks, tension prevailed in the village. The police used force to disperse them.
“Senior police and revenue officials rushed to the village and convinced the upper castes to allow Kondamma's cremation. The revenue authorities promised to earmark land for an exclusive crematorium for the dalits.”
“At an age too young to comprehend the ugly face of caste system, a school-going Dalit boy of Vadugapatti in Usilampatti taluk has become a victim of the worst form of ill-treatment.
“On Monday, the 11-year-old boy was allegedly humiliated by a caste Hindu youth who paraded the boy on the streets of the village with a pair of footwear on his head. [...]
“The boy and two of his friends were returning from the Government Kallar Government High School in the village after checking out their annual examination results on Monday when the caste Hindu youth P. Nilamaalai (27) caught hold of them near a huge tree adjacent to the school. ‘He let my friends go because they were not wearing footwear and asked me to stay back,’ the boy told The Hindu.
“Questioning the boy for gathering guts to wear footwear through a locality occupied by caste Hindus and asking him if his mother had not taught him the ‘etiquette’ he had to follow while passing through ‘upper caste areas,’ the youth forced him to carry the footwear on his head and paraded him up to a podium [meant for performing dramas], about 60 metres from the tree.
“His mother took up the issue with Nilamaalai on Wednesday. ‘He justified his act and threatened to kill me if I dared to go to the police.’”
“The humiliation underwent by an 11-year-old Dalit boy, who was reportedly forced by a caste Hindu youth to carry his footwear on head at Vadugapatti in Usilampatti taluk near here, has brought to the fore years of subjugation and maltreatment suffered by Dalits of the village.
“The discrimination began right at his residence. Around 250 Dalit families in the village were segregated from the rest and living in a separate locality called a ‘colony.’
“Over 650 caste Hindu families occupied the remaining parts of the village.
“The two groups of families also had separate temples and priests. ‘We have to cross their (caste Hindus) locality to reach our temple. And we dare not wear footwear. Our ancestors had been following it [not wearing footwear] without protest,’ said P. Azhagu, a Dalit priest.
“L. Azhaguraja, a Dalit driver of the village, said Dalits are prohibited from even riding bicycles and two-wheelers through the caste Hindu locality. ‘We cannot even travel as pillion riders. Any violation of the diktat would provoke the ire of the dominant community,’ he said.
“Concurring with him, R. Palpandi, a casual labourer, said the village ration shop was located in the area occupied by caste Hindus. ‘We cannot even take a two-wheeler there to bring home provisions. We have to carry the provisions on our heads. It is an unwritten rule,’ he rued.”
“Multiple forms of discrimination exist in Vadugapatti village near Usilampatti, where a 12-year-old Dalit boy was made to carry his footwear on his head recently.
“Dalits can neither walk on the streets of caste Hindus with their footwear on nor can they enter common pathways on bicycles. If they violated the rule they had to face the wrath of the dominant caste in the village, the Piramalai Kallars. [...]
“Dalits in the village cannot enter the Santhana Mariamman temple in the village; nor are they allowed to use the village square space. They have no access to common property resources. Even at ration shops, Dalits are abused by caste Hindus if they get close to them, said Vairupandy (25) a Dalit youth.
“Dalits cannot sit in front of caste Hindus at bus shelters; there is no pathway for them to approach the graveyard and even during an emergency they have to use a circuitous route. The law of the land is that all issues pertaining to the villages should be dealt within the caste panchayats (kangaroo courts).
“Maayakkal (60) and other Kallar women in the village square said that they don’t eat food or drink tea in Dalit houses. When asked why they said it has been the tradition for centuries.”
“A Dalit youth who fell in love and married a caste Hindu girl was found murdered on a field here on Thursday. Police have arrested the girl’s father and brother in this connection. [...]
“In April this year, the girl eloped with Parthiban, who married her with support of his friends. When the marriage came to the knowledge of Ochammal’s family, they refused to admit the couple in their house. Besides, whenever the girl’s family members came across Parthiban, they used abusive words and threatened him. Sources said, a few days back, the girl’s father went to Parthiban’s shop and threatened him.”
“Dhaka, who belonged to pre-dominant Jat community, had married Shabnam Balmiki (22), a Dalit woman, last year in a temple at Hisar.
“However, the family members of Shabnam, who reside in Fatehabad, did not approve of the marriage and also did not allow her to go with her husband.
“On May 30, when Satpal Dhaka went to meet his wife, to invite her for his brother’s marriage, the irate relatives tried to thrash him, but he managed to escape. [...]
“Last evening when Satpal was out for distributing invitation cards of the marriage of his brother Suraj Bhan, the girl’s father Mukesh and her brothers Shubham and Sagar, along with three others, allegedly attacked Satpal, killing him on the spot, police said.”
“When Gangu Chaudhary got a call to come to Kathmandu from his home in western Nepal, all he knew was that his 12-year-old daughter, Srijana, had fallen sick. He arrived at the family house where she had been working to be told that his daughter had doused herself in kerosene and then set herself alight, dying of her injuries shortly afterwards.
“Srijana was a ‘kamlari’, a domestic slave.
“As bonded labourers working off debts, Srijana’s family remains trapped in the quasi-feudal caste system still operating in parts of the country.
“Since the 1950s, young girls from Nepal’s Tharu community have been sold or given away by their families as a way of repaying debts to higher-caste families. Many face years of menial and unpaid domestic labour, violence and abuse. Chaudhary says that he was pressured by his landlord to hand over his daughter in exchange for some land. He never saw her again.
“But now, two months after her body was cremated, Srijana’s death could mark a turning point in Nepal’s battle to end this ancient form of slavery. Last week, the government pledged to end the enslavement of all remaining kamlari girls by the end of the month, help to rehabilitate them once free, and prosecute the families that had enslaved them.
“The government’s decision followed a wave of protests and strikes, in the capital and across southern Nepal, over continued discrimination against kamlaris. The unrest was prompted by the refusal of the police to investigate Srijana’s death, which was ruled suicide. [...]
“Officially, all forms of bonded labour, including the kamlari system, have been banned in Nepal since 2000.
“Yet campaigners believe that thousands of young girls like Srijana are still living as indentured slaves throughout the country.
“‘It is the powerful politicians from the upper castes who typically keep kamlaris, so they have no incentive to abolish the system,’ says Churna Chaudhary, the executive director of Backward Education Society, which has been campaigning for an end to all forms of bonded labour since 1985.”
“Blacksmithing is one of the last vestiges of caste-based hereditary occupations. It is practiced by a few families at Nagamalai Pudukottai on the Madurai-Theni highway. They make tools for agriculture and construction purposes.
“Their spades, hoes, picks and trowels attract customers from all over south Tamil Nadu. S. Krishnamoorthy (50) and his wife Chithra (45) belong to the fourth generation of a family of blacksmiths. [...]
“[Chithra’s] ancestors [...] were brought to Nagamalai Pudukottai [...] as the village did not have a blacksmith then. ‘It was part of the system to have various service castes within a village, and we were given land to stay and thus have remained here for the past 100 years,’ says Lakshmi (70), [Chitra’s grandmother].
“Though the blacksmiths traditionally — within the Hindu hierarchy — did not have power over land, they were the ones who made all agricultural tools such as hoes, spades, plough tips and picks, the mainstay of the village economy. [...]
“The advent of tipper lorries and earthmovers has resulted in decrease in demand for hoes. Six men used to carry a hoe each to unload sand from a lorry. Now a single person with a hoe can complete the work, he said.”
“At least 17 people, including senior Congress leader Mahendra Karma, were killed and former union minister V C Shukla and 19 others injured when heavily-armed Maoists ambushed a convoy of party leaders inside a dense forest in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district.
“Karma, a former home minister of the state, who was a guiding force behind ‘Salwa Judum’ (anti-Naxal operation by vigilante groups), was surrounded by about 100 to 150 Maoists who peppered his body with bullets.
“The Maoists also kidnapped PCC chief Nand Kumar Patel and his son Dinesh after attacking the convoy of Congress leaders in Darba Gati Valley near Jagdalpur, headquarters town of Bastar district, police said.”
“Salwa Judum vigilantes destroyed homes, and stores of grain and any other food they had; killed dozens of men, women and children; maimed and—or—raped several. Children were forced to watch the death and dismemberment of parents. Pregnant women were disembowelled. The death and torture of those suspected of allying with Maoist rebels was instant. This intimidation, blessed by posses of state police and Union government paramilitaries who have their own record of blood, lust and war crimes in the region, at one point herded in excess of 50,000 tribal folk into little more than concentration camps across Dantewada district—since last year further split to create the additional districts of Bijapur and Sukma.
“To be fair to Karma, there was a method to his madness. Maoists had begun to infiltrate the Dantewada region as far back as the 1980s—it was then part of the vast Bastar district of the undivided Madhya Pradesh—to establish what would later enlarge into the rebel-influenced Dandakaranya zone. Landlords such as Karma, himself a child of a tribal landed family, increasingly began to see left-wing extremists, then spearheaded by the vanguard of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) People’s War, as a threat. The perception was mutual.
“For the rebels, Karma and his ilk symbolized the class enemy—worse, a tribal who came from traditionally, socio-politically oppressed stock was the class enemy of fellow tribal folk. For Karma & Co., the stealthily and rapidly infiltrating rebels represented a threat in several ways. For one, at the barrel of the gun they could redistribute land to the landless. For another, they were a direct threat to the local practice of Malik Makbuja, the right of the Adivasi to cut trees on his own land that had been subverted to benefit middlemen and various vested interests.”
“The CPI (Maoist) has grown in strength in Bastar primarily because of three factors. One, it fought alongside the Adivasis against the local contractors and ensured that the contractors paid the Adivasis the minimum wages for tendu leaf (used for bidi manufacturing) collection, the main source of income for the Adivasis. It also helped people out of the exploitative Maalik-Makbuja bonded labour system in timber felling. Two, it organised people against the excesses of forest officials who took them for a ride. Three, through force, it distributed the lands of the malguzars (feudal lords) to landless Adivasis.
“Karma came from a feudal Manjhi family. He was one of the tribal landlords in the area who, like many other landed people, turned against the Maoists in the 1980s. Because of the land distribution process, initiated forcibly by the Maoists, Karma had always been working to form an alternative front that could fight the Maoists. Therefore, he developed strong associations with big businesses and feudal lords from across party lines. He supported land acquisition by the government, conducted Jan Jagaran campaigns against the Maoists, and advocated industrialisation and mining activities in Bastar. Because of such activities, many Congress leaders too were against him.
“In the early 2000s, he founded a group called Salwa Judum (Movement for Peace), ostensibly as a Gandhian movement. But it went on to appoint landed Adivasis as ‘special police officers’ (SPOs) and became a militant force. The State government used the Judum to its advantage as the SPOs helped the security forces in navigating the dense forests. Various civil rights groups strongly opposed the organisation. Many official and unofficial reports claimed that it displaced about 50,000 people from their villages and destroyed 650 villages in the area. Activists claim that constant plundering, torching of villages, rapes and killing of innocent Adivasis became a norm in Bastar. Salwa Judum was disbanded following a 2011 Supreme Court decision that declared the organisation ‘illegal and unconstitutional’.”
“Suicide rates among Indian farmers were a chilling 47 per cent higher than they were for the rest of the population in 2011. In some of the States worst hit by the agrarian crisis, they were well over 100 per cent higher. The new Census 2011 data reveal a shrinking farmer population. And it is on this reduced base that the farm suicides now occur. [...]
“‘The picture remains dismal,’ says Prof. K. Nagaraj, an economist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. Prof. Nagaraj’s 2008 study on farm suicides in India remains the most important one on the subject. ‘The intensity of farm suicides shows no real decline,’ he says. ‘Nor do the numbers show a major fall. They remain concentrated in the farming heartlands of five key States. The crisis there continues. And the adjusted farmers’ suicide rate for 2011 is in fact slightly higher than it was in 2001.’ [...]
“At least 270,940 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1995, NCRB records show. This occurred at an annual average of 14,462 in six years, from 1995 to 2000. And at a yearly average of 16,743 in 11 years between 2001 and 2011. That is around 46 farmers’ suicides each day, on average. Or nearly one every half-hour since 2001.”
“A couple who had married against the wishes of the girl's parents were thrashed by the girl's brother and an uncle on Wednesday, and have been admitted to the local civil hospital. Jasleen Kaur, a Jat and Pankaj Agnihotri, a Brahmin by caste, had been forced to marry in court in August 2012,as the former’s parents did not approve of their relationship due to their different castes. They said they had since been running from one place to another as Jasleen's maternal uncle had threatened to kill them.
“‘On Facebook, he had posted messages threatening to kill my brother and and also insulted my sister,’ said Pankaj.
“He claimed that they had returned to their native village Motian on May 6 as his father was ill. However, on May 8, his in-laws thrashed them up severely.
“‘A mob, including my younger brother, uncle, grandmother, aunt and others arrived at our doorstep. Without a word, my brother and uncle started beating me and my husband,’ said Jasleen.
“‘They were carrying baseball bats, rods and an iron chain. They dragged us out and tore my husband’s clothes. They threatened to drag him naked by tying him to their jeep. However, the villagers intervened and they left the place,’ alleged Jasleen, exhitibiing the bruises on her body. She said her uncle had threatened them to leave the village or face certain death.”
“Barely a week after the Texas explosion, the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries on the planet, collapsed on more than 3,000 garment workers toiling in five sweatshops. Mostly young women, they had resisted going to work after walls in the building began to show cracks the previous day. ‘Management forced us to go up and said there was no problem with the building,’ recounted one survivor. ‘Just after that, I sat at my table to work, and the building just collapsed’ (Democracy Now!, 25 April). Despite heroic efforts by firefighters and other rescue personnel to find survivors, nearly 400 dead bodies have been dug from the rubble in what is the worst disaster in the history of clothing manufacture. More than 1,200 other people were injured.
“Mass protests erupted as news of the disaster spread, with hundreds of thousands of outraged workers walking out of plants in and around the capital city, Dhaka. Highways were blockaded and two factories whose bosses refused to shut down production were set ablaze. Protesters marched on the headquarters of the garment manufacturers association, chanting: ‘We want execution of the garment factory owners!’ When police firing rubber bullets and tear gas could not quell the crowds, the industry announced on April 26 that all factories would be shut for the upcoming weekend. The Rana Plaza building owner was subsequently arrested trying to flee across the border into India.
“The giant retailers who subcontract production to the Savar sweatshops—e.g., J.C. Penney, the French retailer Carrefour and the British Primark—expressed “shock” about the collapse and denied any complicity. But the depraved indifference exhibited by the capitalist magnates to the lives of those they exploit plumbs new depths when it comes to the semicolonial world, where the U.S. and other imperialist powers have imposed the most wretched conditions. The 5,000 factories in Bangladesh that produce garments for major U.S. and European brands are a cornerstone of the country’s economy. The millions of workers toiling in near-slavery in these deathtraps are paid the lowest wages in the world for that industry—as low as $37 a month, far below subsistence, even after working 15-hour shifts.
“The long trail of capitalist industrial murder in Bangladesh includes an earlier building collapse in Savar that left 73 workers dead and a fire at Tazreen Fashions in nearby Ashulia last November that took more than 100 lives. At Tazreen, a source for Wal-Mart and Sears, managers blocked the stairs to keep workers at their sewing machines even as flames spread on floors below. The truth of the matter is that the multinational corporations are calling the shots and are well aware of what it takes to produce clothing at the prices they contract for, aiming to squeeze out the maximum profit. If orders go unfilled, they pick up stakes and move elsewhere. The local bosses are simply the whip hands, lining their own pockets in the process. (For more on conditions in Bangladesh, see ‘Women Garment Workers Fight Starvation Wages,’ WV No. 974, 18 February 2011.)
“To facilitate their many crimes, the garment bosses, aided by the government in Dhaka, brutally suppress unions, the only effective safeguard workers have against the rapaciousness of the capitalist profiteers. Trade unionists are banned from organizing in the factories and are frequent targets of arrest, torture and killing. A key organizer of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, Aminul Islam, was murdered a year ago. As a result, labor unions are almost nonexistent in the garment plants; none of the Rana Plaza factories was unionized. Nevertheless, a number of strikes have swept the industry in recent years.
“The industrial murder at Rana Plaza, and Tazreen Fashions before it, is a searing indictment of the daily workings of capitalist-imperialism. The situation cries out for union organizing drives—backed in action by the labor movement internationally—demanding decent wages and working conditions. These sweatshops are the first links in a ‘just-in-time’ global cargo chain extending all the way to the retail stores in the imperialist countries, with key choke points at the ports and in the warehouses. Coordinated solidarity action could go a long way toward advancing the cause of labor in the semicolonial world and imperialist centers alike.”
“According to the locals, the violence erupted around Thursday noon when a small group of Vanniyar Sangam members were drinking near the social forest on the side of ECR. When they were questioned, a larger group assembled immediately and entered the Kattayantheru area of the Marakkanam Colony through the forest armed with sticks and petrol bombs.
“In the violence that ensued, huts, temples and even a cowshed and haystack were burnt. Other houses were attacked with stones and sticks. On Friday morning, the residents of the colony are trying to assess their loss and pick up the pieces of their lives.
“The residents of the colony were forced to flee into the forest when they saw the mob approaching.
“‘Most of us don’t have anything left except the clothes that we are wearing. Most of the area has been destroyed and even the electric lines were cut in the violence. The attacks took us by surprise, since we did not expect anyone to enter through the forest. Unless they know the area well, they would have not known that the Colony is located just beyond the forest,’ one of the residents said. [...]
“In the Koonimedu Village, another site where there was extensive violence, the Muslims, Vanniars and Dalits joined hands to fight the members of the Vanniar Sangam, the villagers said.”
“On April 25 afternoon, a mob of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) workers, all of them caste Hindu Vanniyars, stormed into Kattayan Theru and threw petrol bombs at Dalits’ huts. [...] It is not surprising that Kattayan Theru was chosen for the attack. Most of its Dalit residents belong to the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK, or the Dalit Panthers), headed by Thol. Thirumavalavan. The animosity between the VCK and the PMK goes back a long way.”
“As rescuers struggled on Thursday to reach survivors in one of the worst manufacturing disasters in history, pointed questions were being raised about why a Bangladesh factory building was not padlocked after terrified workers notified the police, government officials and a powerful garment industry group about cracks in the walls. [...]
“‘Even in a situation of grave threat, when they saw cracks in the walls, factory managers thought it was too risky not to work because of the pressure on them from U.S. and European retailers to deliver their goods on time,’ said Dara O’Rourke, an expert on workplace monitoring at the University of California, Berkeley. He added that the prices Western companies pay ‘are so low that they are at the root of why these factories are cutting corners on fire safety and building safety.’ [...]
“What is increasingly clear is that the collapse should not have been a surprise. Factory fires have killed hundreds of garment workers in the past decade. At the same time, many factory buildings are substandard and unsafe. Bangladeshi fire officials say the upper floors of Rana Plaza were illegally constructed. [...]
“Bangladesh is the world’s second-leading exporter of apparel, and the domestic garment industry depends on a low wage formula in which the minimum wage is about $37 a month. Garment exports are a critical driver of the Bangladeshi economy, which creates pressure to keep wages low and workers in line. Labor unions are almost nonexistent in the industry; one labor organizer, Aminul Islam, was brutally killed last year in a case that is still unsolved.”
“Even as half of Gujarat is parched, shocking instances of inhuman behaviour have come forth in the Jasdan sub-division of state’s Rajkot district where Dalits are being deprived of water by people from upper caste.
“The Khadwadi village in the sub-division is virtually divided into half as Dalit women and children are made to walk miles in summer for water although there is a hand pump in the village that is used by the upper caste.
“The Dalits are disappointed because they feel ditched as the hand pump came to the village with their effort but now they are not allowed to use it.
“‘The upper caste people do not allow us to use the hand pump. They tell us to use it after they are done with it. The upper caste is full of discrimination against us,’ a villager said.”
“The body of a 20-year-old Dalit youth, who reportedly died after some persons allegedly tied him to a tree and repeatedly rammed a car into him, was found in Devsar village of Haryana’s Bhiwani district on Wednesday. His body was found abandoned in a car on the roadside between Devsar and Kusumbi villages. [...]
“Based on a complaint by Jaimal’s father Rajpal, a case was registered against a few upper caste members living in the same village.
“Rajpal told the police that last year the upper caste members had attacked them and stopped Jaimal’s [cousin's] wedding procession. They also did not allow [Jaimal’s cousin] to sit on a elephant as part of the religious ceremony. Since then, [Jaimal] was being harassed by upper caste youths and hence, they could have killed him, Rajpal alleged in his complaint.”
“‘On December 4, 2011, my brother’s son (Jaimal’s cousin) Veervan was getting married. We had arranged for Veervan to be brought to the mandap on an elephant. The Rajputs in the village took offence. They said we had no right to use an elephant, which was a Rajput symbol of regality. They put a knife to Veervan’s throat and we had to send the elephant back. Praveen’s family was involved. I was the complainant in the police case, and they had been pressuring me to withdraw ever since. Things have been on the boil since then,’ Rajpal said.”
“Over 200 Dalits residing in Pabnawa village, around 25km from Kaithal, were lucky to have lost no lives to a violent mob of the dominant Ror community on Saturday night, but have been left without water supply since.
“Agitated after the recent elopement and marriage of a Dalit man with a woman from the landowning Ror community of the same village, the 400-strong mob barged into the settlement, Ambedkar Nagar, on Saturday night, and not only ransacked houses and shops but also damaged the locality's water tanks and six borewells, besides injuring three persons. Residents are now forced to procure drinking water from adjoining villages.
“As for the couple–Surya Kant (26) and Meena (21)–they have been in a protection home since their April 8 wedding, and the Kaithal police are guarding them on directions of the high court. After the attack, around 50 villagers including Surya Kant's relatives reportedly left the village for an undisclosed location. [...]
“Rajiv, another Dalit resident, insisted that the marriage had ‘indeed broken the bhaichara (brotherhood) of the village’, but noted, ‘The Rors now want to take revenge from the entire Dalit population and hatched a conspiracy to kill us. They had been asking us to hand over Meena to them, even when she married as per her free will and is staying with her husband at a police protection home.’
“Rors are a farming community who claim to be descendants of the Marathas who had fought the Second Battle of Panipat in the region and settled in pockets of Panipat, Karnal, Kurukshetra and Kaithal districts now. Their dominance stems from their ownership of significant chunks of land, though they are not otherwise considered high in the caste hierarchy.”
“Over 300 Dalit families of Deveerahalli Village, of Kudimenahalli Panchayat, in Krishnagiri district allege that they are being denied work by intermediate castes of the village and of six other nearby villages. The reason behind this, they say, is that a Dalit youth in their area had fallen in love with a girl of an intermediate caste from Sathinayakkanpatti under Damodarahalli Panchayat.
“The girl is back with her parents after the youth’s parents wanted her to go back, as they feared the type of mob furywhich was unleashed on three colonies in nearby Dharmapuri districtover a similar issue in November last year. But, the boycott of the Dalits of the Krishnagiri village continues though the affair had come to light in December and the girl had gone back to her home.
“Intermediate castes have banned Dalits from working on their agriculture fields, brick kilns and other income-earning activities since then. The decision to bar them from such forms of employment was allegedly taken by a ‘khap panchayat’ — a council of older persons who issue decrees to their community members on matters such as marriage — consisting of the leaders of seven villages, in and around Sathinayakkanpatti and Deevarahalli, on December 24 last year, alleged A. Manikandan, district convener of Naam Tamizhar Katchi.
“Many Dalits, who have also taken up the lands of intermediate caste on lease, for cultivation of crops, lost lakhs of rupees due to the economic boycott. They were not allowed to step into the farm lands.”
“Though the Kols are anthropologically tribal, they are recognized as a Scheduled Caste in Uttar Pradesh. Not only has this deprived them of their traditional source of living–the forest, it has largely left them dependant and landless, languishing in silica quarries and sand mines. [...]
“Landless and dismayed by the rocky terrain that makes cultivation difficult, the Kols settle down close to silica mines, crushing stones for much of the day and bearing a nomadic existence. Over the years, a large number have contracted lung diseases like silicosis and tuberculosis. Some have lost limbs or sustained crippling injuries during the blasting of the rocks. [...]
“In most cases, the landlords provide the Kols space to work and live, and in return deduct portions from their silica mining. Kol women are also invited to serve as domestic help for no or minimum remuneration. They often endure the most of police apathy, with reports of them facing sexual harassment and violence going unheard or unreported. ‘When we go with complaints, we are shooed away and asked to come back later,’ says Indu Kol.
“However, the Kol’s most grim concern remains the forest department’s restrictions on the use of forest produce. Generally, they require permission to plant or use trees such as neem, amla and mahua. The Kols complain that they face harassment from the authorities even if they collect the twigs and barks and sell them. According to Amarnath Kol, who works with a local Kol organization, at least eight Kols have been booked by the forest department for carrying wood for sale. [...]
“Today, Kols are mostly followers of Hinduism. They claim their descent from Shabari, who in the forests of modern day Chattisgarh fed berries to Lord Ram and Lord Lakshman during their exile. As the legend suggests, the Kols have a close relationship with the forest.
“This bond was disrupted in the 19th century by the British East India Company, which indulged in deforestation and introduced zamindari to extract revenue from their forests lands. The Kols protested violently, in what is known as the Kol Rebellion (1831-32), where a British Major is said to have noted their ‘courage and daring.’”
“Not only was Bhagat Singh a fearless patriot and one of the most charismatic figures of India’s freedom struggle, he was also a thinker and an intellectual giant in the making when the gallows took him at the young age of 23. Immersed in books from the Dwarka Das Library founded by Lala Lajpat Rai since his childhood, he had given a strong intellectual underpinning and political philosophy, strongly influenced by Marxist-Socialism, to his actions. His wide reading, his grasp of political ideologies and revolutionary movements sweeping the word and his vision of true revolution in India come through in the statements he made at his trials, his letters and his articles. It is believed that during the two years in jail before his hanging he wrote four books, but these are lost. Thankfully, Bhagat Singh’s selected speeches and writings have been edited by Prof. D.N. Gupta and brought out in a slim volume by the National Book Trust and reading them is one way of paying homage to his courage and conviction.
“The most substantive piece in the collection is his essay ‘Why Am I an Atheist’. This essay was smuggled out of jail and published by Bhagat Singh’s father after his martyrdom in The People, the magazine founded by Lala Lajpat Rai. Bhagat Singh put down his ideas on God and religion on paper when asked by an old prisoner if believed in God. When he replied in the negative, the old man taunted him that he would start believing when his end was near. Bhagat Singh argues against the insinuation that his atheism is an offshoot of any vanity that may attach to him because of the popularity of the trials; rather, he ascribes his conviction that there is no Supreme Being guiding the affairs of men to his deep study of the Marxist doctrine. As he writes: ‘My previous faith and convictions underwent a remarkable modification. The romance of the violent methods alone which was so prominent amongst our predecessors was replaced by serious ideas. No more mysticism, no more blind faith. Realism became our cult.’
“He stuck to his atheism in the most difficult circumstances even though he knew that ‘belief softens hardships, even can make them pleasant.’ He ascribes the invention of God to ‘encourage man to face boldly all the trying circumstances, to meet all dangers manfully and to check and restrain his outbursts in prosperity and affluence.’ He points to the myriad horrors of social and political exploitation to question the existence of a benevolent God and asks why such a Being would create a world of ‘woes and miseries, a veritable, eternal combination of numberless tragedies.’ His cold rational courage has the feel of steel: ‘I know the moment the rope is fitted round my neck and rafters removed from under my feet. That will be the final moment — that will be the last moment. I, or to be more precise, my soul, as interpreted in the metaphysical terminology, shall all be finished there. Nothing further. A short life of struggle with no such magnificent end shall in itself be the reward if I have the courage to take it in that light. That is all. With no selfish motive or desire to be awarded here or hereafter, quite disinterestedly have I devoted my life to the cause of independence, because I could not do otherwise.’”
“At a time when Kathmandu Valley is reeling under an acute water shortage, a historic stone water spout at Sithu Wasah Hiti, which flows 24 hours a day, stands virtually useless in Patan of Lalitpur district.
“Only certain families at Aluko, Patan have been using water from Sithu Wasah Hiti, which was built when this historic city was ruled by Licchavi kings centuries ago.
“Some locals are always to be seen jostling for just a bucket of water at nearby Wasah Hiti, just a stone´s throw away. But, hardly anyone is seen filling water at Sithu Wasah Hiti.
Why? ‘This stone spout (at Sithu Wasah Hiti) is meant for low caste people,’ says Shayam Mahargjan, a local resident. ‘Water from this spout is useless for other people. We don’t use it.’
“Only some 35 Pode families, who are still considered by others as the lowest of low castes within the Newar community, use Sithi Wash Hiti. After the Pode families fill up their vessels, Sithu Wasah Hiti stands useless all day. So, like the Pode families, even their water spout is also treated by so-called higher castes as untouchable. Aluko is at the north-eastern edge of Patan and cane be reached from Kathmandu city in 15 minutes. [...]
“‘The water is pure and drinkable but most people hesitate to use it,’ said Prayag Lal Joshi, a local and an expert on such matters. Joshi has conducted extensive research on the stone water-spouts of the capital. He said that even educated people blindly follow the taboo. [...]
“‘Neither do people of low caste go to the public water-spouts used by the so-called upper castes,’ Joshi added.”
“In the three weeks from mid-January till the first week of February, several villages in the Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh experienced the terror of the armed forces of the Indian state. The CRPF, Chhattisgarh state police, erstwhile SPO’s of the Salwa Judum along with various coercive arms of the state orchestrated a systematic targeting of villages, burnt down hundreds of homes, ostensibly in random, further, burnt down the schools built by the people, picked up villagers, young and old, and physically tortured them while their homes burned to the ground. The affected villages are Pidia, Tomnaka, Singham, Lingham, Komati, Tomudum, and Kondapadu, and in each of these between eight and thirty homes were burnt down by the armed forces. In the village of Dodi-Tumnar, a school with hostel facility for about a hundred children, both girls and boys, run by the Janatana Sarkar was looted and then burnt down by the invading forces in the last week of January. Two battalions of about 1000 CRPF personnel each, besides Koya commandos and SPO’s arrived at the village school at 9 am on that day. They systematically proceeded to destroy the school after firing into the air twice. Even as the students and the schoolmaster fled into the forest, the armed forces caught an old man on his way to the field and chopped off his hand with his own sickle. Following this, the forces looted the storeroom and the kitchen of the school, poisoned the water well, and destroyed the roof, walls, and furniture of the school before finally burning it to the ground. They then marched to the nearby village of Pidia. This village, that houses approximately 265 homes, witnessed first-hand the ruthlessness with which the armed force burn down the homes and livelihood of those who stand up for their right to life and liberty. Close to thirty homes were burnt down in one part of this village alone. The charred remains of the homes, cattle sheds, storerooms, utensils can be seen littered with empty bottles of beer and other brands of alcohol. It is clear that this planned attack is part of the routine of military life that participates in wanton destruction and celebrates the impunity they enjoy. [...]
“In the name of developing the country the Indian state officially launched a massive operation of plunder of natural resources in 2009 by displacing thousands of communities living in the states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Bihar, West Bengal and Karnataka. This ‘operation’, ironically called Operation Green Hunt by the corporate run media, undertaken by the current Central Government, expropriates the wealth of the country that rightfully belongs to the people for the benefit of imperialist forces. This wealth, in the form of resources of land, water and forests, is sold to exploitative multinational companies and comprador bourgeoisie. In turn, the resistance of the people has been termed an ‘internal security threat’ by the current Prime Minister who expresses his loyalty to the model of ‘development’ that feeds these corporate sharks.”
“The notorious blasphemy law in Pakistan has hit again at the ‘Christian’ minority when a Christian man was charged with blasphemy by a Muslim mob which tried to find him went to Badami Bagh colony of Christians and burnt over 125 houses when they could not find the man. [...]
“According to news reports that a mob of over 3000 people by Shafiq Ahmed, looked for the accused Savan, alias Bubby but due to their inability to find him the mob attacked his house, and also burnt the houses of 150 Christian families. Many residents, including women and children, hastily fled to save themselves. The police registered an FIR under section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code (death sentence) against Savan and ensuring that he would be given into their custody to decide his fate. They also took Chaman Masih into custody.
“World-over there is a growing concern over the misuse of anti-blasphemy law which has put minorities under deep stress and forced them to convert to Islam. Muslim fanatics have used it to grab land of the poor particularly of the Dalits in Pakistan. [...]
“It has to be understood that in Pakistan a majority of Christians are actually Dalits in general and predominantly the communities of Sweepers which is contemptuously called as ‘Bhangi’. And the Masihs who were attacked were basically sweepers who face untouchability and caste discrimination. They do not get jobs other than sweeping and people do not come near to them. They are completely outcastes and are considered as ‘charsis’ and ‘Bhangedis’ which gives the impression that all the people from the sweeper community are drunkard and chain smokers.”
“Police have been deployed in a village of Bhiwani district in Haryana following a clash between dalits and upper-caste youths during a wedding ceremony on Friday night.
“The situation had turned tense when some upper-caste youths forcibly stopped a dalit groom from performing ghurchari, a traditional marriage ceremony in which the groom rides a mare and takes a round of the village. [...] [T]he entire village is living under a shadow of fear, sources say. [...]
“The dalit groom, Rakesh Kumar, 24, who is employed as a conductor with Haryana Roadways, had got married on Friday.
“Before going to his bride's village to tie the knot, the marriage ceremony of ghurchari was being performed in the village on Friday when some upper-caste men objected, saying that ghurchari by dalits is not allowed in the village.”
“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.’”
“A Dalit family from Rudreshwor in the district has been expelled from the village after one of the male members married a woman from an ‘upper-caste’ Dalit family.
“Mandodari Damai and eight other family members fled to the district headquarters three weeks ago after they were chased away by other Dalit villagers belonging to Wada and Pal castes. The dispute erupted after Mandodari’s son Naresh married a woman of the Wada community more than two years ago.
“The villagers had earlier driven away Naresh and his wife from the village and of late, they were persecuting the entire family members. Mandodari said people from Wada and Pal communities started mistreating and forced her family to leave the village immediately. [...]
“Naresh’s wife Baragrathi said her relatives not only disowned her but also tried to attack her and husband’s family members because she married to a man from a ‘lower-caste family’.”
Caste aside: No haircut service for Dalits in Harda (Hindustan Times)
“Another instance of alleged caste discrimination has emerged from a Harda village. A group of Dalit villagers belonging to Pantalai in Timarni tehsil have lodged a complaint with the local sub-divisional magistrate that the village barbers do not give them shaving and haircut related services because of their caste.
“The villagers have said that, because of this discrimination, they have to go to Timarni or Rahatgaon to seek barber services, which costs them an extra Rs 40 to 50 per trip. [...]
“The population of Pantalai is about 2500, of which about 1000 are Dalit. There are only two barbers in the village, of which one does not actively work. The complaint is mainly against Mukesh Malviya, who the complainants have said only offers services to higher caste persons.
“Speaking to HT, Sanjay Pawar said that villagers have lodged the complaint because they feel discriminated and are also spending a lot of money for simply getting shaved or haircut. he mentioned that some youngsters in their families help elders in shaving, but it is just a makeshift arrangement.”
“Oppression and discrimination suffered by the low caste groups and Dalits at the hands of the dominant caste groups in Haryana and Rajasthan is reproduced within the families bringing in wives from other parts of India.
“The brides are ‘needed’ solely for their ability to perform free reproductive and productive labour. They are also preferred over local women as the loosening of natal family connections renders them vulnerable to domination and abuse.
“In the last decade and a half, the male marriage squeeze in the prosperous north Indian provinces such as Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh has led to men from these States paying money to marry women, usually from under-developed or economically marginalised regions of eastern India.
“Caste discrimination is further amplified by deep racism against women and their natal communities. They are all pejoratively called ‘Biharan,’ a term that implies poverty, desperation, filth and savagery. Their parents and natal communities are branded as ‘thieves,’ ‘sellers of daughters’ and ‘primitive savages.’ The repeated denigration is internalised by the brides, and this leads to lowering of their self-esteem and self-worth. As a survival strategy, they minimise their social contact with others, with a negative impact on their mental health.
“Most cross-region brides are victims of colourism (darker pigmentation of their skin). Dark skin leads to their rejection in the local marriage market, making them more likely to be offered for long-distance alliance, resulting in dislocation from their culture, community and family. Apart from casteist and racist slurs, these brides are considered, and often taunted as ugly and dull in intelligence, because of their dark skin, the study suggests.
“Shortage of women is not common across all caste groups, but is endemic among the dominant caste groups of Jats, Ahirs and Yadavs. While the well-off from these groups are able to marry locally, men who are underemployed, poor, those who have little land, suffer from some deformity, are less educated or are old are the ones who most often seek cross-region brides. This practice, however, is slowly spreading to some lower caste groups and Muslim communities
“Such marriages are non-customary as the women come from different ethnicity, region and, sometimes, even religion. Families of these brides are extremely poor, often in the Below Poverty Line category, with little or no land assets and seasonal low-paying agricultural work. Inability to meet the exorbitant dowry demands made by local grooms forces them into long-distance alliances. This is the main reason why they opt for ‘dowry-free, no wedding expenses’ offers made by Haryanvi or Rajasthani men. [...]
“Children of such unions face similar racial taunts from their peers and are not accepted as one of their own. The insults range from sidelining in games or bullying with name-calling. Such incidents are high in Rohtak district of Haryana and the Alwar region of Rajasthan. Some older male children have faced difficulty in finding local girls because of their mother’s ‘questionable’ caste identity.”
For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
Workers Vanguard No. 1017
“The heinous gang rape and mutilation of a 23-year-old paramedical student in Delhi on December 16, who later died of her injuries, sparked a momentous wave of protests against the oppression of women in India. Demonstrations erupted in many of India’s cities, including Kolkata (Calcutta), Mumbai, Bangalore, Panaji and beyond. Significantly, demonstrations were also held in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, where women face conditions similar to those in India.
“The epicenter of the protests was Delhi, which prides itself on being part of the ‘new’ India, where shopping malls and night clubs exist side by side with massive slums. In fact, the capital has the highest recorded incidence of rape of any major city in India. Demonstrations by students and other youth continued for days, courageously defying repression by the police who attacked with water cannons, tear gas and lathi (bamboo sticks).
“Anger among women intensified with an outburst of grotesque anti-woman chauvinism that sought to blame the victim for the crime. M.L. Sharma, a lawyer for one of the five accused, stated that ‘respectable’ women do not get raped, while the Indian president’s son, Abhijeet Mukherjee, baited the demonstrators for being ‘painted’ and ‘dented,’ i.e., ‘Westernized’ and not young. A leader of the fascistic Hindu-chauvinist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) declared that sexual crimes ‘hardly take place in Bharat but occur frequently in India’ (Wall Street Journal, 8 January). The RSS is connected to the Hindu-supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which openly espouses Hindutva (‘Hinduness’), a toxic mix of nationalism and religious obscurantism, to stoke violent pogroms, particularly against Muslims.
“The term ‘Bharat,’ the Hindi word for India, harks back to an imagined past of idyllic rural life—as opposed to urban India, which is supposedly blighted by decadent Western influence, especially on women. The reality of life for most people in Indian villages is extreme poverty and brutal caste oppression. In the countryside, rape of dalit (so-called ‘untouchable’) women is considered a matter of caste privilege by ‘upper’ caste men, who use rape as a weapon in the subjugation and humiliation of the woman and of her entire caste. A March 2006 study of violence against dalit women by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights reported that out of 500 women studied, 116 had been raped or gang-raped; among the perpetrators, ‘dominant caste landlords emerged as the most prominent group.’
“Police often assist vigilante groups which conduct raids on entire dalit villages, burning homes and raping women. The scope of such violence is captured in a November 2012 incident in Tamil Nadu, where 148 dalit houses were torched by a 2,500-strong mob because of a non-dalit woman who had married a dalit man in secret. Police also rape and murder with impunity as part of the military offensive in areas such as Chhattisgarh in eastern India, where it is directed against a Maoist insurgency based on the adivasi (tribal) people. In Kashmir, the occupying Indian Army uses murderous violence, including rape, to subjugate the Muslim population, with the perpetrators exempted from prosecution by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. In 1991 in Kunan Poshpora, units of the Indian Army gang-raped nearly 100 Kashmiri women, aged 13 to 80, in a single night.”
“A mob burst on the scene as night fell. Equipped with hockey sticks, bricks, stones, firearms and crude bombs it prepared for an assault.
“‘You are Harijans,’ it yelled. ‘You have no right to read and write. Your work is to mend shoes and chappals. We will keep you as servants in our houses. Your ancestors did the same work. You leave the hostel or else there will be a massacre.’ This is part of a police statement given by a Dalit student residing in the Bhimrao Ambedkar Welfare Hostel of Patna University (PU) facility.
“Last week, the hostel witnessed fierce caste violence in which three Dalit students were injured.
“‘Around 30 men came shouting Brahmeshwar Mukhiya zindabad, Mukhiya amar rahe [Long live the Mukhiya] and Ambedkar ko phuk do [Destroy Ambedkar]. They stood outside the hostel and started throwing stones. They dragged and beat up a student. Firing shots and bombs rent the air. We ran inside the hostel. All we had to defend against the armed attack were brick pieces used to support the cots in our room,’ Satyaprakash, a student at the Ambedkar hostel, told The Hindu.
“Located in Patna’s ‘coaching district’, the hostel forms part of the Saidpur hostel campus of PU. Facing it is a cluster of five hostels for general category students, collectively called the ‘Saidpur hostel’, which has gained notoriety over the years for nurturing hooligans and becoming a virtual den of anti-socials from the landowning Bhumihar caste, particularly from the badlands of Jehanabad district. [...]
“A common power grid that supplies electricity to the entire neighbourhood is one of the key triggers for such attacks, as it was last week.
“‘That evening, there was a power cut at the Ambedkar hostel, but not at the Saidpur general hostel. The Ambedkar students went to the electricity office, situated on the same campus, to take stock of the mater. Seeing them, the Saidpur boys hurtled down and started hurling caste abuses, such as “Harijans,” “dusadhs” and “chamars” [all lower caste names],’ as per another police statement of a student.
‘When we asked for power supply, they said, “Have you ever seen light in your life?”’ Satyaprakash recalled.
“The official sources said, in a situation where the Ambedkar hostel had power and Saidpur hostel did not, there was immense pressure on electricity officials to cut the supply to the Ambedkar hostel. ‘Seeing an equal distribution of facilities stokes the caste jealousies of the Saidpur hostellers. Many times fights over power supply take the form of caste clashes,’ an official source said.
“‘There have been times,’ said a general student, ‘when the whole area is plunged into darkness, but only the Saidpur hostel is lit.’ Disconnecting water supply to the Ambedkar hostel is another means of showing caste dominance. The tap dries up at 9 a.m. and its water is dirty. At any given point of time, a few students suffer from jaundice.
“At the heart of the matter, said students, lies plain caste hatred, ‘a determined effort to display caste superiority.’”
“Following swiftly on the heels of communal violence in Dhule in which six members of the minority community were killed, comes the news of physical assault on Prof. Pramod Bhumbe, a Dalit teacher at the BR Ambedkar Samaj Karya Mahavidyalay. Friends in Dhule and Jalgaon inform us that Prof. Bhumbe while teaching his students about Indian social reforms movement, discussed certain episodes from the Hindu epic Ramayana. This was videographed by a student on his cell phone and the video clip later circulated and handed over to VHP and Bajrang Dal goons. The clip was quickly construed as proof of Prof. Bhumbe’s insult to Hinduism.
“Teaching social reform movements without reference to the stinging critique of caste oppression and its implication in religious sanction is difficult anywhere. In Maharashtra, however, it is impossible. The legacy of Jyotiba and Savitri Phule, and Ambedkar is a living, thriving one. It survives in the fiery songs of Sambhaji Bhagat; in the hundreds of book festivals and cultural groups that can be found in the smallest towns and hamlets of the state. It is this culture of resistance, which often takes the form of sarcasm, and even ridicule of the superstitions of caste religion and its assorted institutions that Hindutva resents so much.
“While Muslims are always cast as the other, radical Dalit critique cannot be domesticated and absorbed into the Hindutva identity. The two incidents—of communal violence and the attack on Prof. Bhumbe–are not unrelated. They reflect the growing confidence of the Hindutva forces and the state support they enjoy, even under the rule of their political opponents. Neither the SP not the DM of Dhule have been suspended by the state government despite the clear indictment of the administration in the January anti-minority violence by civil society investigations. Can an administration, which was hand in glove with the storm troopers of VHP and Bajrang Dal in January, be expected to seriously pursue the case against Prof. Bhumbe’s attackers? We appeal to all progressive and democratic groups in Maharashtra to ensure the security and safety of Prof. Bhumbe, as the police which led the mobs against a vulnerable minority can hardly be entrusted to do so.
“Moreover, as fellow teachers, we expect the classroom to be a space of developing and nurturing social critique—precisely what Prof. Bhumbe was doing. We stand in solidarity with him and condemn the right wing vigilantism.”
Manisha Sethi, Adil Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Tanweer Fazal, Arshad Alam, Farah Farooqi, Azra Razack, Anwar Alam, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Ambarien al Qadar, Adnan Farooqi, Sucharita Sengupta, Manoj Jena, MS Bhatt and Nabanipa Bhattacharya.
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Teesta Setalvad, Shabnam Hashmi, Peggy Mohan and Githa Hariharan
“Schoolchildren of Valiyampura village in Talod taluka of Sabarkantha district have been skipping mid-day meal for the past few weeks, apparently because it is cooked by a Dalit woman who was appointed as a helper in the school only last month.
“The woman alleges that students of other castes have refused to eat the food prepared by her as asked by their parents. [...]
“‘The villagers do not want me to touch the vessels I clean because of my caste. After I took the charge as a helper, the students refused to eat. Today, only those students who are from my caste eat,’ Vankar said on phone.
“When contacted, principal Jayantibhai Patel, who is on leave, said the situation had improved but added that angry villagers had threatened him after Bhavnaben’s appointment and declared they would stop sending their children to the school.”
“A case of alleged caste-based discrimination at the Government Primary School at Nada village of Belthangady taluk on Thursday took a curious turn on Friday. A School Development Monitoring Committee (SDMC) member admitted to provoking parents not to let their children have mid-day meals because the person he had chosen as cook was not appointed.
“On Thursday, parents of 15 students took them away as they opposed the appointment of Sumithra, a scheduled-caste person, as a cook at the school.”
“Five years after Madhukar Ghadge, a Dalit who decided to dig his own well, was allegedly brutally murdered by 12 caste Hindus of Kulkajai village in Satara district, his nephew and the sole murder witness Viabhav Ghadge was brutally attacked on January 22 by three persons at the same village. [...]
“Vaibhav, a postgraduate from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, had got married two days before the incident. He was on his way to the village temple when three persons on a motorbike stopped him and his wife and attacked them.
“Tushar, Viabhav’s cousin and son of Madhukar, said the spot where the incident took place was isolated. ‘They dragged both my brother and sister-in-law and asked them to hand over all the gold jewellery they were wearing. After that they attacked them,’ he said. [...]
“It all started in 2007 when Madhukar Ghadge, a railway employee, decided to dig a well. ‘We belong to the Mang community. Our neighbours could not fathom that a Dalit could have their own well. When my father did not heed to their threats, 12 men from the village ganged up and murdered him on April 26, 2007,’ Tushar said. But the case ended up in an acquittal and an appeal is pending before the Bombay High Court. ‘Vaibhav is a complainant in the case and also the sole witness,’ Tushar said.
Growing Unease by Lyla Bavadam (Frontline cover story, November 21, 2009):
“When [Madhukar Ghatge of Kulakjai village in Satara district] retired from his job in the Railways in Mumbai in 2007, he only had one aim–cultivate his land in the village. One of the first things he did was to dig a well after acquiring the permission from the panchayat. It was, tragically, his last action. Ghatge’s upper-caste neighbours were enraged at his ‘audacity.’ On April 26, 2007, he was attacked with rods and axes and he died on the way to hospital. Fourteen people were identified as the assailants and 12 were arrested and charged.”
“The Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Betul SP and the collector seeking explanation on the alleged incident of a dalit family being ostracized for singing bhajan at a function organized by members of the upper caste.
“The incident took place on December 15 last year, following which the upper caste people of Mathni village allegedly issued a diktat directing villagers to cut off ties with tailor Rajesh Kumar Uvnare and his family. [...]
“Uvnare said following threats from the village strongmen, villagers stopped talking to him and his family. ‘We don't get milk or grains from shops. When a friend came and met me, he was fined by the village strongmen,’ he said.
“His family members said they had to travel to the neighbouring village to get daily needs. Uvnare is also facing financial problems as residents of his village no more get their clothes stitched by him.”
“The British imperialists have maintained that the partition of India was aimed at creating a homeland for Muslims where they would be protected from Hindus, a claim belied by the fact that far more Muslims were left behind in India than those incorporated in the new entity of Pakistan. Besides, in the provinces that became Pakistan, the Muslims were dominant; they were neither threatened by post-independence Hindu domination nor were they interested in a separate Muslim state. In fact, the majority of Muslims were fearful of the economic and social impact of uprooting and relocation. They resented the fact that they would be confined to the two corners of the subcontinent and have to abandon the heartland of India, where Muslim rulers held sway for over 600 years before their defeat by the British, and in which lie some of the magnificent symbols of past Muslim power and glory such as the great forts of Delhi and Agra, the Taj Mahal and others. Muslim merchants and businessmen opposed the partition out of concern for the loss of a long developed market. The sizable Shi’ite Muslim population, dreading living in a Sunni-dominated Pakistan, was opposed to the partition scheme.
“Up until World War II the British depended on the strategically situated India as a military base to safeguard their interests—in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and their colonies across the Indian Ocean in east Africa. As India’s independence dawned, the British, fearing that the Hindu nationalists who would rule post-independence India would deny them military cooperation, settled for creating a weak, truncated entity that would serve their imperialist interests, would depend on Britain for its defence and would be ruled by their pliable lackeys of the Muslim League of Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Through their divide-and-rule policy and using religion as a tool, the British drove a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, built close ties with Jinnah, in whom they nourished separatist aspirations, and recognised him as the sole spokesman of the Muslims of India.
“In his well-documented book, The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition (2005), Narendra Singh Sarila laid bare the true intentions of the British behind the partition: a meticulously calculated scheme to detach Pakistan from India, create a militarily strategic foothold aimed at the Soviet Union and maintain control over the oil fields of the Middle East.”
“The local police allowed violence to escalate in Dhule during a communal clash on January 6 and then systematically targeted the Muslim community, killing six people, claimed a report by a team of activists. On Sunday, a team comprising — social activist Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, New Delhi, Ram Puniyani of All India secular Forum, professor Apoorva Anand of Delhi University, advocate Nihalsing Rathod of Human Rights Law Network, and several others — visited the town to investigate the violence, the third in the region since 2008.
“‘Based on our interaction with victims, leaders, locals and officials, there is no doubt about the police’s connivance in the violence,” alleged Hashmi. “All six who died were Muslims, and the police shot people above the waist, with a clear intention to kill rather than disperse the mob.’ [...]
“As per testimonies collected by the team, the incident was triggered after a Muslim auto driver was beaten by the owner of an eatery in Macchi Bazar. ‘When the driver went to the police station to file a complaint, the officials were hostile and did not register his complaint, following which a mob gathered and people started pelting stones,’ said Hashmi. ‘It was not a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the police only let the violence escalate,’ she said.”
“There were differing versions of the cause of violence on 6 January. We were told that it was largely a result of the insensitive handing of a minor quarrel by the police. It was clear from the statements of both Hindus and Muslims that tension could have been diffused easily had police taken proper steps to diffuse the tension, which was building up. It did not intervene and told the people to settle the dispute by themselves. The police allowed crowds to assemble from both sides. One can see from the recordings that mobs which assembled started confronting each other with stones. We were also told that the first incidence took place at around 2 to 2.15 pm and mobs from both sides started assembling soon after that. It is clear that both Hindus and Muslims had indulged in stone throwing. What is perplexing is that the police decided to move into the Muslims areas with Hindu mob behind them. Police started firing indiscriminately at Muslims. [...]
“Forty-two people suffered bullet injuries, six died. Legs of two of the injured had to be amputated. None of the injured went to the civil hospital. We were told that the Muslims avoid going to civil hospital due to their experience of experience of the 2008 riots. In 2008 Muslims were attacked by Hindus when they tried to go to the civil hospital as it falls in a Hindu-dominated locality. Due to the experience of 2008 this time, all the injured were taken to private hospitals.
“It was reported that none of the injured was taken to the hospital by the police. We were also told by the relatives of those killed that they were not allowed to lodge FIRs. They were told that the deceased had already been made accused and were treated as rioters. The injured have not been able to muster courage to file FIRs, nor have the owners of the damaged property been able to do so.
“More than 35 Muslim houses were looted, burnt and destroyed. Destruction of these houses was complete. All of it seems to have been done with clinical precision. We also found four Hindu households burnt, one of them burnt totally. While Muslims are ready to name the attackers, Hindus told us that they did not want to name anybody although they know the attackers.
“The looting, burning and destruction of Muslim houses was done by mobs under the protection of the police. In one of the recordings, a senior police officer is seen exhorting the mobs to move forward and attack. The police is also seen standing silently while houses are being burnt. What the police did was to drive away the Muslims by firing, leaving their houses unprotected and vulnerable.”
“Less than one month after the death of a young Delhi gang-rape victim sparked a massive series of protests across India demanding a change in the country’s attitudes toward its women, a group of council elders have defended another type of violence against females–the ancient practice of ‘honor killings’ in the country. [...]
“On Monday, in documents presented before the Indian Supreme Court, the Sarv Khap Panchayat, which comprises 67 ‘khaps’ (or unelected caste-based councils) from the Rohtak district of Haryana, a state in northern India, explained the reasons behind honor killings and absolved themselves of any responsibility in them. [...]
“The Times of India reported that in response the Panchayat declared before the court: ‘The main culprits [behind] honor killing are not the representatives of khaps but the near and dear ones of the couples and more so the relatives of the girls, when they cannot resist the social pressure of the locality and the taunts of relatives.’ [...]
“‘The killings are initiated by the family members of such couples–marrying inter-caste or within the same gotra [clan]–and especially by the relatives of girls. It is observed that such incidents happen only [among] the peace-loving and law-abiding people of the village and not [among] the mischievous families,’ the Panchayat said.
“‘Such ‘love marriages’ being socially, customarily and traditionally prohibited relationships against the age-old custom and tradition of marriages, their relatives and friends cannot withstand the hostile taunts of their companions and [the] public at large and this aspect forces them to commit such heinous crime of killing the couple on the pleas of saving the honor of their families in the eyes of the villagers.’ [...]
“The victims of most honor killings in India (as well as Pakistan and the Arab nations) tend to be women, who are viewed as the holder and symbol of a family’s ‘honor.’
“By choosing her own husband in defiance of her family’s wishes, a young woman in India is ‘seen as polluting not just herself but also her domestic group,’ Delhi-based sociologist Deepak Mehta said to the Wall Street Journal.”
“A man was attacked by his brother-in-law late on Friday following a dispute over his inter-caste marriage. An attempt-to-murder case was registered at Yerawada police station. Police said suspect Nitin Kadam’s sister married Alok Kamble of Ambedkar Nagar colony in Yerawada about two-and-a-half months ago. The Kadam family was not happy with the inter-caste marriage but Kamble went against their wishes and married Kadam's sister. This led to a dispute between Kamble and Kadam. Police said on Friday angry Kadam allegedly attacked Kamble at Ambedkar Nagar with a sharp weapon around 7 pm.”
“A 45-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly killing his 17-year-old daughter after spotting her with a young man near his house around midnight. The accused was opposed to his daughter's friendship with the young man, who belonged to a different caste.
“According to the police, Jhallar, a farmer, had gone to sleep along with other family members at his house. Around midnight, he woke up for some purpose and realised that one of his four daughters, Anju, was not in the house, the police said.
“Jhallar began looking for her and spotted her with the man at a tubewell, around near the house.
“‘The man escaped from the spot, while Jhallar caught hold of his daughter. He brought her to the house and beat her up badly. As the girl fell unconscious, he picked up a gandasa (a sharp agricultural implement) and slit her throat. The girl died on the spot,’ Station Officer (Kokhraj) Sri Prakash Yadav said.”
“In a tragic incident here, a boy and a girl hailing from two different intermediate castes in love committed suicide after their parents opposed the relationship.
“A Premkumar, 19, from Othaveedu near Alanganallur was in love with 16-year-old M Vijayalakshmi, from Kumaram, a neighbouring village. The boy was working in a company in Madurai after completing a diploma and the girl was a Class 11 student in a school near Madurai. They reportedly met on the bus they travelled on daily to Madurai and fell in love. Recently, the parents came to know of their relationship and chided them. It was also said that the girl's family was planning to stop her studies and marry her off to someone in the community. Scared that they will be separated, they committed suicide on Monday by hanging from a tamarind tree near a tank adjacent to their villages.”
“The imperialist-backed Sri Lankan regime has waged a decades-long bloody war against the large Tamil minority. In its final murderous offensive in 2009, government forces destroyed the remnants of the Tamil mini-state in the North and East of the island, slaughtering tens of thousands of Tamil civilians. Hundreds of thousands more were interned in horrific prison camps and interrogation centres. We uphold the right to self-determination for the oppressed Tamil people and stood for the military defence of the LTTE against the army assault. At the same time we give no political support to these bourgeois nationalists. Carrying out the logic of nationalism, the LTTE has staged attacks on Sinhalese villagers and driven Muslims from the historic Tamil city of Jaffna, while employing murderous violence against other Tamil nationalist groups.
“Four years after the crushing defeat of LTTE forces, many Tamils still remain confined in camps and the military is an ongoing, large and menacing presence in Tamil regions. The Rajapaksa government continues to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act to repress Tamil civil rights and the population in general. Disappearances, abductions, arrests, torture and rape by the police and military are widely reported along with deaths in custody and extrajudicial killings. A recent Amnesty International report detailed pervasive government-sanctioned repression against journalists, political opponents and human-rights activists. As Sinhala racism escalates, there have also been increasing attacks by Buddhist fundamentalist groups on the small Muslim community.
“There are numerous reports of Tamils being deported back to Sri Lanka only to be arrested, some before they even get out of the airport. This hasn’t deterred the Gillard government from deporting more than 1,000 Sri Lankans since August last year. Echoing Sri Lankan government lies, the Australian government deems them ‘economic migrants.’ Catherine Renshaw, a Sydney University PhD candidate, noted: ‘There is an easily discernible quid pro quo operating here. Australia refrains from seriously criticising the government of Sri Lanka for abuses of power, human rights violations and the failure to fully investigate war crimes committed during the years of conflict. For its part, Sri Lanka’s government does everything in its power to stop Sri Lankans setting sail for Australia.’ (theconversation.com, 3 May).”
“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.”
“Bangladesh has more than 4,500 garment factories, which employ more than four million workers, many of them young women. The industry is crucial to the national economy as a source of employment and foreign currency. Garments constitute about four-fifths of the country’s manufacturing exports, and the industry is expected to grow rapidly.
“But Bangladesh’s manufacturing formula depends on keeping wages low and restricting the rights of workers. The minimum wage in the garment industry is $37 a month, unions are almost nonexistent, and garment workers have taken to the streets in recent years in sometimes violent protests over wages and work conditions.
“Workers at Tazreen Fashions had staged small demonstrations in the months before the fire, demanding wages they were owed. On the night of the fire, more than 1,150 people were inside the eight-story building, working overtime shifts to fill orders for various international brands. Fire officials say the fire broke out in the open-air ground floor, where large mounds of fabric and yarn were illegally stored; Bangladeshi law requires that such flammable materials be stored in a room with fireproof walls.
“The blaze quickly spread across the length of the ground floor — roughly the size of a football field — as fire and toxic smoke filtered up through the building’s three staircases. The factory lacked a sprinkler system or an outdoor fire escape; employees were supposed to use interior staircases, and many escaped that way.
“But on some floors, managers ordered workers to ignore a fire alarm and stay to work. Precious minutes were lost. Then, as smoke and fire spread throughout the building, many workers were trapped, unable to descend the smoke-filled staircases and blocked from escape by iron grilles on many windows. Desperate workers managed to break open some windows and leap to the roof of a nearby building and safety. Others simply jumped from upper floors to the ground.”
“[T]wo officials who attended a meeting held in Bangladesh in 2011 to discuss factory safety in the garment industry said on Wednesday that the Walmart official there played the lead role in blocking an effort to have global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety. [...]
“The meeting was held in April 2011 in Dhaka, the country’s capital, and brought together global retailers, Bangladeshi factory owners, government officials and nongovernment organizations after several apparel factory fires in Bangladesh had killed dozens of workers the previous winter.
“According to the minutes of the meeting, which were made available to The Times, Sridevi Kalavakolanu, a Walmart director of ethical sourcing, along with an official from another major apparel retailer, noted that the proposed improvements in electrical and fire safety would involve as many as 4,500 factories and would be ‘in most cases’ a ‘very extensive and costly modification.’
“‘It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments,’ the minutes 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.”