“A caste council in a village in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district ordered residents to ostracize 40 Dalit families when one of them disobeyed its diktat to stop constructing a new house, police said. [...]
“‘A Dalit family was constructing a house in the village. The neighbour who belonged to Rajput community objected to the construction of a sun shed and demanded that the entire portion of the house on his side be razed down,’ said a police officer.
“He added that when the family did not raze down the portion, the neighbour approached the caste council in the village.
“‘It slapped a fine of Rs.21,000 on the dalit family and ordered to expel all the 40 families belonging to Dalits in the village from the society. It means that they would not be able to mingle with others and would not be able to buy grocery items from the shops. Supply of milk, water and other items were also prohibited,’ said the officer.”
“In Nepal, there is a haunting old adage that the day a woman is married, all happiness falls away from her life. This was certainly the case for Sadhana [name changed for confidentiality purposes], a 40-year-old widow from the Newari caste who lives in Kathmandu, the capital. As a child she grew up in a family that was relatively well-off. They owned a gas stove and were planning on construction of a new modern cement house—a huge status symbol for a Nepalese family.
“Then one day, when she was only 18 years old, her family advised her that she would be married later that afternoon. Throughout the ceremony she cried in terror as her new husband, whom she had never met before, took her away from her natal family. After the ceremony was over, she could never return to her parent’s household, as she was now the property of her husband. After two years of forced hard labor and abuse at the hand of her mother-in-law, Sadhana had birthed no children. She and her husband were getting desperate. Without a male heir there would be no one to support the parents in their old age. More importantly, without a son Sadhana held no standing within her husband’s family. Then one wretched day, the unthinkable occurred. Her husband had been involved in a motorcycle accident on his way to work, and was instantly killed.
“Dazed by shock and immersed in grief, Sadhana was incredulous as she found herself expelled from her husband’s home on the very same day of his death. The family had not only taken all of her possessions, but even the clothing off her back. She was categorically denied any claim to his inheritance, with no consideration of the law. Within a matter of hours, Sadhana had become a homeless and destitute widow.
“In Nepali society, the inheritance rights of women depend on their marital or sexual status. Traditionally, a woman is only entitled to her husband’s property if she is legally married and sexually faithful to him. A failure on either of these terms, whether real or alleged, results in the loss of her claims to her husband’s estate. Legally, this should not be happening. Nepal has guaranteed equal inheritance rights for widows, but religious and societal norms have a more profound effect on the execution of these rights than the actual laws. [...]
“Sadhana, a widow without a male heir to confirm her place in her husbands family, and unwelcome in her own parent’s home, was forced into a life of street beggary for some years. Ultimately, she was taken into an extended family member’s home where she was treated as little more than a slave.”
“The sharply truncated life of Anil Meena was marked by a ferocious tenacity.
“From the mud house in rural Rajasthan, where he grew up in a family of subsistence farmers, he made his way first to school and then to the top of his class. He studied with monomaniacal intensity and passed the entrance exam to the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the most prestigious of India’s professional colleges – an achievement almost unfathomable in the largely illiterate aboriginal community from which he came.
“At AIIMS, he battled through classes where he couldn’t understand a word of the English being spoken and pored over a dictionary to get through textbooks. When an arbitrary rule change – that just happened to affect only students from backgrounds such as his – cost him a passing grade in a crucial exam, he tried repeatedly to meet his course director, his friends say. He sat outside the man’s office for four or five hours at a time for a week.
“But Mr. Meena had come up against something his intelligence and perseverance could not overcome: Students of his kind are not welcome at AIIMS, no more than they are at other prestigious Indian universities. They rarely graduate. No one was prepared to help him succeed.
“On March 3, Mr. Meena hung himself from the fan in his small dormitory room. He was 22.
“His death was a crippling blow to his family, a shock to his friends and an ugly blemish for AIIMS. It was also the 20th reported suicide in four years at an elite Indian educational institution by a student who was either aboriginal or Dalit – the people from the bottom of the Hindu caste system, once known as untouchables.
“The suicides have emerged as a subject for fierce debate. Following the promise of the new India, these students are hyper-achievers from the grimmest of backgrounds, who made it into the schools that produce engineers, doctors and business leaders who are sought the world over.
“But when they get there, they are often isolated, humiliated and discriminated against. They are told overtly by their professors that they will never make it to graduation. Yet many feel they cannot drop out – families and communities are invested in their success, and many have taken huge loans.
“Some, trapped in this dilemma, have chosen to end their lives. [...]
“The suicides have occurred at 16 different institutions, including the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and at the universities of Hyderabad and Bangalore.
“In 2008, a final-year Dalit medical student at Government Medical College in Chandigarh in the Punjab hung himself in the college library; Jaspreet Singh left a note in his pocket describing how the head of his department told him repeatedly to his face that he would never, ever be permitted to be a doctor.
“That professor had failed him several times in course work, although Mr. Singh had never before had anything but top marks. After his death, an external committee re-evaluated his exams and found that he should have passed. He was awarded his degree posthumously.
“On March 3, 2010, exactly two years before Mr. Meena’s death, another young aboriginal man killed himself at AIIMS. Bal Mukund Bharti, 25, was just weeks away from earning his degree, something unprecedented in his community in Madhya Pradesh.
“His parents, who’d taken out massive loans to support him, told a team from of investigators from the Insight Foundation, which works to support Dalit and aboriginal students, that he repeatedly complained of harassment from his professors.
“He said that one often complained, ‘I don’t know where they come from, these Dalits and [aboriginals], getting here without studying anything.’
“Yet Mr. Bharti was, in fact, brilliant. He had scored eighth among hundreds of thousands of students nationwide in the intensely competitive engineering entrance exam – he passed up the seat to become a doctor instead. AIIMS carried out no investigation and says he had psychological problems.”
“Allegedly sodomized and sexually harassed for two years, a Dalit student at a university in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh committed suicide Monday, adding to a string of deaths that have highlighted the continuing discrimination against low-caste Indians, even at institutes of higher learning.
“According to the Times of India, 22-year-old Ajay Pardole, a student at Rewa University, hanged himself in his hostel room Monday, after the special police division responsible for crimes against the so-called ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes’ took no action on his complaint.
“Pardole had apparently complained on May 14 that a senior student had been sexually harassing him since 2010, but nothing was done. He wrote several letters to high-ranking officials, but received no response. And finally two days ago, he walked into the police station and told them flat out he planned to kill himself if nothing was done before July 9.”
“Here is the statistic. No less than 14,004 farmers committed suicide in 2011 as per the data of the National Crime Records Bureau. That is more than 10.3 per cent of the total number of suicides in India through the year. Factoring the issues like huge underreporting of cases and the practice of never counting women as ‘farmers’, the actual number of incidents must be much more. [...]
“The corresponding figures for the year before were pegged at an even higher 15933. Unfortunately, there was not much to rejoice in the ‘decline’ as the Times of India, a leading English daily, pointed out. It has asserted that the ‘dip’ could as well be explained by the curious assertion of the Government of Chhattisgarh claiming that no farmers in the province committed suicide in 2011 as against 1412 of them who had taken the extreme step in 2010! [...]
“Unmistakably, it is not merely the worst of the times that Indian peasantry has undergone but in fact is, as P. Sainath puts it ‘the worst-ever recorded wave of suicides of this kind in human history.’ The numbers substantiate the claim. With more than 15,000 farmers committing suicide annually and the total number has marked a quarter million mark two years ago, the situation warrants a response at war footing. The government, on its part, has chosen to do not even as much as acknowledging the situation and paying lip service to it. [...]
“These suicides, murders in fact, are almost never sudden. They follow a pattern that begin with and remains entwined with the cropping cycle that dominates in their area. They have to take loans for buying seeds. For they do not have anything to ‘guarantee’ the payback, banks treat them as ‘unreliable’ and refuse to give them any loans. That brings them to the local, and illegal, moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates beginning with 10 per cent per month to 60 per cent per month! Sowing seeds, however, does not guarantee anything as they are then forced to wait for the monsoons. And if the monsoons fail even by a few weeks, it signals the end of the road for the farmer. Unable to pay back even the interest, forget the principal, the farmer gets inhumanely insulted and hounded by the moneylenders who more often than not are the strongmen of the area. The shame, the crippling sense of losing honour set in slowly and ends in the suicide.”
“Despite the placing on Pakistan’s statute books of tougher laws against the practice of ‘swara’ or the ‘giving away’ of a woman to a rival party to settle a dispute, the tradition continues.
“The women’s rights advocacy organization Rahnuma, which guides victims, describes ‘swara’ as a practice “where a girl is given as an offering to `settle’ a conflict or dispute.” The practice is most common in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Province (KP) and the southern Punjab, where it is known as ‘vani’, but also takes place in other parts of the country.
“A ‘swara’ exchange can be used to settle murder, adultery (a crime under the law), kidnapping or another offence. [...]
“‘Yes, the laws have helped but “swara,” “vani” and similar practices still go on,’ [activist Samar] Minallah told IRIN. ‘Estimates based on newspaper reports indicate there are hundreds of cases each year. Of course, there are many others which do not get reported,’ she said.
“She also said that tougher laws and arrests made under them had ‘led to people disguising the handing over of a woman or girl. The deal is not announced within the community as a “swara” or “vani” marriage, though within the families concerned it is known that the woman has been given away as “swara” and is treated accordingly,’ Minallah said.
“While ‘swara’ brides are wed to the men they are given to, these men are usually far older than the ‘brides,’ who are often mere children.
“The girls are also usually treated extremely badly or ‘like slaves,” according to Minallah, in the home of their in-laws.
“Other ‘traditional’ practices also harm women. According to the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRPC), there were 943 ‘honour killings’ in 2011. An ‘honour killing,’ according to HRCP, involves the murder of a woman who is deemed to have let down her family, or ‘dishonoured’ it in some way. This can involve an act such as alleged adultery, a marriage decided on by the woman herself or other trivial matters. Couples choosing to wed by choice frequently end up having to go on the run, as in a recent case reported in the media from Karachi in June this year.
“The kinds of threat women face was illustrated by a recent case from the remote Kohistan District of KP where four women were sentenced to death by a local ‘jirga’ (gathering of tribal elders) after being caught on video clapping as two men unrelated to them danced at a wedding.
“‘Custom’ or “tradition” also works against women in other ways.
“According to figures presented at a seminar in Karachi by the Family Planning Association of Pakistan, 30 percent of all marriages in the country are child marriages though the law bars the marriage of a girl under 16 or a boy under 18.”
“The threat to Gandhi posed by the prospect of Untouchables gaining the right to their own electorates thus went much deeper than fear of another British device to divide the national movement, like the separate rolls granted to Muslims, real though this was. More fundamental questions were at issue. If Untouchables were to be treated as external to the Hindu community, it would be confirmation that caste was indeed, as its critics had always maintained, a vile system of discrimination, relegating the lowest orders of society to a subhuman existence with which the smallest brush was pollution, and since Hinduism was founded on caste, it would stand condemned with caste. To reclaim the Untouchables for Hinduism was an ideological imperative for the reputation of the religion itself. But it was also politically vital, since if they were subtracted from the Hindu bloc in India, its predominance over the Muslim community would be weakened. There were ‘mathematical’ considerations to bear in mind, as Gandhi’s secretary delicately reported his leader’s thinking on the matter. Most menacing of all, Gandhi confided to a colleague, might not Untouchables, accorded separate identity, then gang up with ‘Muslim hooligans and kill caste Hindus’?
“To cut off these dangers, Gandhi – still in prison – announced that as ‘a man of religion’ and leader of ‘numberless men and women who have childlike faith in my wisdom’, he would fast to death until the award was rescinded and Untouchables were bundled back into the Hindu electorate. The sensation was enormous. Ambedkar was summoned post-haste to Gandhi’s jail in Poona to avert the passing of the Great Soul. His own view of the religion he was being told to embrace was unflinching: ‘No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity’ – words few Indian intellectuals would dare utter today. Gandhi, though he had long condemned Untouchability as odious, had never taken any drastic political action against it: sin it might be, but not sufficiently mortal to warrant a fast unto death. Granting Untouchables their own rolls was another matter. Against that he would put his life on the line. Under colossal public pressure, and physical threats to him and his community if he stood firm, Ambedkar yielded to Gandhi’s blackmail.”
READ THE FULL ACCOUNT: Gandhi Centre Stageby Perry Anderson (London Review of Books, July 5, 2012)
“Members of the Kambalathu Naicker community in Kammapatti near here prevented their 50 children from attending classes at the local panchayat union school on Tuesday protesting the posting of two Dalit women as cook and helper at the noon meal centre of the school. [...]
“‘We are not against any particular caste. We maintain cordial relationship with the Scheduled Caste people. But, it is our practice that our people, especially girls and women, do not eat food cooked by people belonging to any other community,’ said B. Sanjeevi, ward member of the Kammapatti panchayat. [...]
“District Revenue Officer, R. Raju, who holds additional charge as District Collector, said that the BDO had proposed to transfer the employees.
“‘This is a peculiar habit of this community. We cannot treat this as a practice of untouchability. Posting of people belonging to Kambalathu Naicker can be considered only when the next round of recruitment takes place,’ he said.”
“According to the police, Suman Kumar, a resident of Banswara's Anjana village had married Happy Kalal who comes from a different caste.
“‘Suman Kumar says that he and his family members are being harassed since the marriage took place. He says that members of a caste council in their village forced him to vacate the shop that he was running, rendering him completely jobless,’ said a police officer.
“He added that his mother and brothers are being forced to stay separated from him and his wife.
“‘Whenever my wife heads out of home, she is subjected to mockery and humiliation,’ said Suman Kumar in his statement to the police.”
“In a shocking case of ‘honour killing’ on the outskirts of the Capital, a young Municipal Corporation of Delhi school teacher was strangulated to death allegedly by her brother and mother in Kanjhawala here over her affair with a man belonging to a different caste.
“The accused, Birmati (50) and Mohit (22), stuffed the body of Deepti Chhikara (26) in an Alto car and dumped it in Uttrakhand helped by the victim’s uncle Amit, the police said.
“The sensational murder came to light more than a month after the incident, when Deepti’s paramour Lalit Vats, a diploma holder in computer science, wrote an e-mail to the senior police officers saying that he suspected something wrong had happened to the woman. [...]
“When subjected to sustained interrogation, Birmati and Mohit purportedly confessed to having strangulated Deepti on April 19 night when they caught him talking to Lalit over the phone. The mother-son duo first beat her up and Mohit later strangulated her to death. Birmati held Deepti by her legs, while Mohit strangulated her, the police said.”
“A dalit youth, who had married an upper caste girl in the face of strong opposition from her family four years back, was killed in Sector 8 of Kurukshetra. [...]
“Rohtas Kumar, a property dealer and resident of village Rojla (Karnal), had met Sonia first time when she was pursing a post-graduate course in Kurukshetra University in 2008, said Kumar's family members.
“They got married in the same year after a love affair despite the fact that her parents opposed the wedding, said Kumar's brother, Vajir Singh in a police complaint.
“‘But, even after marriage, the couple faced lot of opposition from her family members who pressurized her to seek divorce from him. Finally, she gave in, agreed to divorce her husband and returned to her parent’s house,’ he added.
“Singh told the police that they could not track his brother for five months as his mobile phone remained switched off.
“Finding that his house was locked for long, the house owner requested the police to break the lock, to find the body of Kumar, which had been reduced to a skeleton.”
“Parvati has been secretly dating the same man for over four years. This independent and educated female was terrified of the consequences if her parents discovered that she was in a relationship with a low-caste Hindu, because in Parvati’s high-caste Brahmin family it is forbidden for women to marry into lower caste families. Here Parvati lost my understanding. How could she allow what is essentially a form of racism concealed by religion to continue through her own choices?
“I didn't feel able to ask Parvati this question aloud, but I did ask why she didn't just marry her partner. ‘They might have him murdered’, she whispered to me one evening over a bottle of wine, shaking and tearful. ‘The extended family would laugh at us and disown us, and they’d never forgive me for dirtying their honour. I don’t know what they might do in response to that.’
“A rare anecdote, you might say; an unlikely story? But this is the story of [South] Asian women around the world. Whether they are living in India, Europe or the US, whether they are artists, lawyers or doctors, scratch the surface and the thick residue of an old inequality still remains. With their modern dresses these women wear a set of rusty, confining shackles.”
“A caste council in a village in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district ordered residents to ostracize 40 Dalit families when one of them disobeyed its dictat to stop constructing a new house, police said. [...]
“‘A Dalit family was constructing a house in the village. The neighbour who belonged to Rajput community objected to the construction of a sun shed and demanded that the entire portion of the house on his side be razed down,’ said a police officer.
“He added that when the family did not raze down the portion, the neighbour approached the caste council in the village.
“‘It slapped a fine of Rs.21,000 on the dalit family and ordered to expel all the 40 families belonging to Dalits in the village from the society. It means that they would not be able to mingle with others and would not be able to buy grocery items from the shops. Supply of milk, water and other items were also prohibited,’ said the officer.”
“There has been a revolt against the illegal and inhuman system of manual scavenging in Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Young men of the Mehtar caste, who have traditionally been manual scavengers for over 100 years, have refused to continue with the degrading system, ending decades of humiliation.
“Every year close to 1 crore ‘Waris’ or pilgrims, gather in Pandharpur. In the absence of any sanitation infrastructure, the administration coerces member of the Mehtar caste to work as manual scavengers.
“Despite a ban on manual scavenging, this practice has been on in Pandhrapur for more than 100 years.”
“I am Roma, but for many years I denied my origins for fear of being called a Gypsy. I grew up in Romania, where one meaning of tigan — tzigane, Zigeuner, cigány, cigan, ‘Gypsy’ in other European languages — is ‘a person who engages in harmful or illegal activities.’ The name comes from a medieval Greek word that means ‘untouchable,’ and derivatives — like ‘gypped’ or ‘gypsy cab’ — refer to stealing and cheating.
“My parents and grandparents were well aware of the negative stereotypes of the Gypsies as rootless thieves and beggars, and they took pains to protect me. As a little girl, my mother dressed me in pale colors and cut my hair short so I would not look like a Gypsy. My father warned me never to steal, and to always associate with smart people. I can understand why my grandfather, a blacksmith, was so proud of buying a ‘corner of the village’ and building houses for his children. My grandmother was a healer — not through magical powers but by volunteering to take people to the best doctors in the capital.
“Still, all these efforts couldn’t stop my classmates’ parents from reproaching my first-grade teacher for giving the highest award to me, a Gypsy. That confirmed my grandfather’s belief that there is no use acting ‘as if I were an official from the Ministry,’ as he would put it, since there was ‘no such thing as a Gypsy teacher, priest or lawyer.’ He too wanted to be like ‘the others,’ but he was also aware of the invisible limits that kept Gypsies separate. [...]
“About 700 years ago, when the Roma first entered Europe, the locals assumed the dark-skinned people were from Egypt — hence the English ‘Gypsies.’ In fact, they originally came from northern India, and ‘Roma’ is what they called themselves. [...]
“My family didn’t speak Romani or follow the nomadic lifestyle. However, my grandfather was a blacksmith, a common Romani occupation. My mother’s light skin allowed me to conceal my roots, but my father, whose darker skin would have drawn attention, avoided coming around my school.
“Today, most Roma are settled, like my family, but they have not yet found their place in the world. A majority of the Roma cannot find jobs, decent housing or decent medical care. Many Romani children do not attend school; according to a 2011 Unicef report, only about a fifth of Romani children in Europe attend primary school. And many of those who do are bullied and do not dream of becoming professionals or earning awards.
“Many Roma continue to roam. Some do so, because settling down would mean losing their source of livelihood; others because they have no place to go. As the poorest and most stigmatized people in Europe, they have no choice but to remain on the fringes. Whatever the advantages of permanent settlement, they are dwarfed by immediate needs.”
“[O]ut of the 66 Dalit castes [in the state of Uttar Pradesh], only four including shoemaker (cobbler) caste — called Ravidasi or Harijan in some parts of India — Pasi (watchman of feudal lords/toddy tappers/some of them tame pigs), Dhobi (washerman) and Kori (weaver) have become visible in democratic politics. The rest are invisible. Even among the more visible Dalit castes, the cobblers and Pasis have grabbed most of the space. [...]
“The cobbler caste, the largest Dalit community in U.P., constitutes 56.20 per cent of the total Scheduled Caste population, which is 21.1 per cent of the State’s total population (2001 census). It has emerged as one of the dominant castes among Dalits.
“The caste took to education in a big way in pre-Independence years. That helped its members find jobs in cities, in turn helping in their rise as a political caste after Independence. When Kanshi Ram emerged on the scene, the caste already had a middle class, community leaders and the makings of an intelligentsia. They were a ready-made cadre for the party in its initial phase. The cobbler caste thus made up a chunk of the BSP, and succeeded in cornering the benefits of Dalit political empowerment. However many other Dalit castes like Jogi, Nat (wanderer), Musahar (who make items out of leaves), Kanjar (mat weaver), Dom, Domar, Hela (sweeper), Basor (basket weaver), and Bansphor (bamboo basket maker) are so insignificant despite their numerical strength that they cannot make their presence felt in U.P’s vote bank politics and continue to face exclusion.
“Aside from these castes, there are others found in lesser numbers like Bahelia (bird hunter), Khairha (woodcutter), Kalabaaz (songster), Balai (farm labourer), Majhwar (musician), Hari (basket maker) and Sansiya (musical instrument repairer). They are not visible in any political or governance strategies, and lack a presence in the political sphere. While conducting research, it was observed that communities which are not educated, and which do not have leaders, caste histories and heroes are unable to create their own identities which can make their communities assertive in democratic politics.
“Within Dalits, the term ati-Dalit (lowest of the low) has become a part of the vocabulary of the Dalit intelligentsia as a result of this exclusion.”
“Sixty per cent of the ‘global total’ who do not have access to toilets live in India, and hence are forced to defecate in the open. In actual numbers, sixty per cent translates to 626 million. This makes India the number one country in the world where open defecation is practised. Indonesia with 63 million is a far second! [...]
“‘Leaking and incomplete sewage systems contaminate rivers and lakes, causing diseases like cholera,’ notes Nature. ‘Around 97 million Indians do not have access to clean drinking water.’ The problem arises due to contamination of drinking water by leaked sewage. Sewage inevitably pollutes water bodies, both surface and aquifers.”
“A dozen upper caste men in Madhya Pradesh sliced off the nose of a Dalit man because they didn’t like the sight of a lower caste man riding a motorcycle in front of them.
“The victim has been admitted to the district hospital in Shivpuri for treatment.
“Prakash Jatav (31) was attacked by a group of men from the Kushwaha community after he was spotted driving his motorcycle near Jaitpur square that falls under Narwar police station in Shivpuri district on Monday.
“The gang of upper caste men pounced on the hapless victim and started beating him with shoes and sticks. Not satisfied with that, one of them cut off Jatav’s nose in full public view. Other members from the Dalit community who were there were too terrified to react and ran for cover.
“‘They badly beat me up with shoes, sticks and repeatedly told me that I have no right to drive a motorcycle,’ the victim said.”
“When Shobha Choudhary, 23, expressed her wish to annul her marriage, which had been solemnized in May 1998 when she was barely 9 years, the caste panchayat threatened to expel her from the village and impose a penalty as high as Rs 9 lakh ($16,830). [...]
“Shobha, a well-educated girl of Rajwa village in Keru (nearly 25 km from Jodhpur) got inspired by Laxmi Sargara, who decided to call off her marriage, fixed in childhood, on Akha Teej, a day infamous for child marriages. [...]
“When asked the reason of annulment, Shobha said ‘The marriage was not my choice. The boy can hardly write his initials whereas I am a graduate, a computer literate working in an institute and am preparing for my B.Ed and RAS examinations.’
“She spent 2-3 days at her in-laws' house after her gauna [consummation ceremony], for which she was forced but she could not stay there and returned to her parents’ place citing the boy’s uncooperative and humiliating behaviour and his illiteracy as the reason. “Now, I am an adult and can take my life’s decisions and find a suitable match for myself,” Shobha said.
“When we tried to contact Shobha's husband, he remained inaccessible. Kriti said that, we also had a joint counselling session with him, but later on he disappeared and is intractable, perhaps on account of pressure from the village panchayat.”
“Caste Hindus of Adayur village near Tiruvannamalai opposed the admission of two dalit boys in the local Panchayat Union Middle School on Monday and prevented their children from attending school in protest. [...]
“Till now, the dalits used to send their children to the Adi Dravidar Welfare Middle School in the village. For the first time, Muthuraj and Sathish, sons of Kumar, a dalit migrant worker, were enrolled in the PUMS in class I and VI on June 6.
“Taking objection to this, the caste Hindu parents assembled at the school on Monday and urged headmaster Mohammed Usman to expel the dalit boys. He refused. [...]
“When some caste Hindu women argued that their girls were teased by dalit boys, Mr. Bupathi said it was irrelevant to the issue at hand and assured them that action would be taken if there was a specific complaint.
“M. Srinivasan, a DMDK functionary representing the caste Hindus said, ‘No dalit has ever been admitted to PUMS and they usually go to their welfare school. This is in practice for 50 years and why should they come here now?’”
“If there is any government department where the caste system is the most prevalent even today, it is that of conservancy [workers, says Haralkar.
“‘Around 90 per cent of the 40,000-odd conservancy [sanitation] workers in Mumbai are Dalits. The department has even unofficially made 100 per cent reservation for Dalits. These families have been sweepers for generations because only Dalits have, through history, been known to clean filth with bare hands. I have been trying to break this vicious cycle,’ he says.
“With housing being one of the biggest issues in the city, sweepers have over the years encouraged their children to continue with the profession so that they can continue living in the staff quarters.
“‘Such is the extent of hopelessness and neglect among these people that they opt for the easiest way out. As per municipal service rules, conservancy jobs can be inherited and that is what they do. They never try to break away from poverty and stigma,’ says Haralkar.”
“There are about 30.000 conservancy workers employed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation of Mumbai. The high number of official deaths (247 fatalities last year, 5 every week) is due to extremely poor safety conditions. Mumbai, India.”
“Eight workers, including two children, belonging to three dalit families were rescued on Thursday from a farm near Arakkonam where they were said to be working as bonded labourers. [...]
“Officials said they saw signs of physical abuse on a few workers and all were under-nourished. [...]
“Twelve years ago, officials said, one of the workers borrowed Rs 30,000 [$540.00]for his daughter's marriage from the farm owner but couldn't repay it. Since then, he, his family and relatives have been bonded labourers. They were put in two tiny rooms without ventilation and forced to work 15-18 hours a day in fields. There were no basic amenities and they were each paid Rs 8 [14 cents] a day against the mandatory Rs 113.50 [$20] a day under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. They weren’t allowed to go outside the farm either.
“‘Last week, one worker, Chinna (33), was beaten by the farm owner and has been missing since then,’ said P Ramaswamy (58), one of those rescued.”
“Deserted by her family long ago and feeling humiliated by her surname, a 17-year-old inmate of Mahipatram Rupram Ashram committed suicide in Raipur. Aruna, a class 12 student living in the ashram was found hanging from the ceiling of the bathroom. While cops are yet to ascertain what prompted the teenager to take the extreme step, sources in the orphanage indicated that the girl, who had a Dalit surname, felt ashamed of it and ended life. The teenager who was brought to the ashram 12 years ago also felt she had been abandoned by her parents, who never turned back to take her. [...]
“‘Aruna was brought to the ashram by the police when she was barely five. She was handed over to Shahibaug police by Arvindbhai, a resident of Girdharnagar Makoda ki Chowki. She had a dalit surname and would often feel humiliated when addressed by surname, in the school. She would also get upset, as no one would take her out during vacations. Also, she never had any visitor. The letters which were sent to her local guardian at Girdharnagar too came back,’ said an insider.
“Ashram Superintendent Vijay Pandit admitted that though Aruna looked hassled with the usage of her surname, she never made any complaint to anyone in the management. ‘She seemed to have some issues with her name but she never took it up with us. Though under the provisions after turning 18 she could have changed her surname,’ Pandit said.
“Police officials who are conducting the probe maintained that when Aruna was brought to the Ashram in 2000 she had disclosed her name with a dalit surname.”
“A 27-year-old Dalit man in Haryana was allegedly humiliated and sent into exile for 11 years over his love affair with a higher-caste girl.
“His face was painted black as he was thrown out by his village panchayat. The panchayat at Putthi Samain village near Narnaund police station of Hisar district also fined him Rs 21,000. [...]
“In his complaint, the man said he fell in love with the girl from the same village while they were studying at a coaching institution in Meham tehsil. He alleged that when the girl’s parents came to know of the affair, they took the matter to the village panchayat.
When he appeared before the panchayat on 31 May, its members reprimanded him, blackened his face and exiled him. The girl’s father also married her off on 2 June.”
“Pinki Rajak, a 22-year-old member of the Dhobi community, which traditionally washes and irons clothes, caused outrage among her group's elders when she accepted a lowly sweeper's job at a local school near Raipur, Chhattisgarh. [...]
“Sweeping work in India, including shoe polishing, is reserved for members of the Chamar ‘untouchable’ caste, along with other ‘dirty' jobs like ‘night-soil carrying’ of human waste and tannery work. The Dhobis however are regarded as a ‘cleansing’ caste, said Dr Vidhu Verma, a caste expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“[The caste] elders believed [Ms Rajak] had stigmatised them by associating them with one of India's lowliest and most shunned castes.”
“Nearly 300 km from Raipur, the stigma of a ‘menial’ job is threatening to blow apart the lives of 22-year-old Pinki Rajak and her family. A member of the dhobi samaj (washermen community) in Koriya district’s Bardiya village, Pinki invited the wrath of her people for accepting the job of a sweeper at a school.
“The community has handed the family an ultimatum: Forget the job or be ostracised for 60 years. Quitting the job is not an option for Pinki.
“Repeatedly ill-treated by her husband, she had returned home to her parents. But her father Budhulal Rajak, who has a small cycle repair shop, already has three daughters, a son and wife to support.
“After endless rounds of offices, Pinki finally got this job.
“Then the community struck — notwithstanding Budhlal’s position as a regional secretary of the samaj. Pinki’s husband Kapil Dev was told that he would not be allowed to live with her till she quits the job.
“‘No one can live without money. Why should the caste system be tied to employment now?’ said Pinki.”
“Brahmeshwar Singh, a wealthy landlord known as the ‘Butcher of Bihar,’ was killed in a hail of bullets Friday while taking his morning walk, ending a notorious chapter in Indian history.
“Singh, 67, the leader of a banned militia of upper-caste members known as Ranvir Sena, hit the headlines in the 1990s after he and fellow landlords were accused of the massacre of scores of lower-caste Dalits, or so-called untouchables, in central Bihar state. [...]
“The Sena, or ‘army,’ was formed in 1994 by landlords who felt threatened by the state's changing political winds, including louder calls for Dalit rights and land reform as well as a growing number of attacks on the wealthy by Maoists.
“Singh, who took over the group a few months after it was formed, was suspected of planning or directly participating in as many as 29 incidents in which more than 200 Dalits were killed. In 1996, 23 were killed in a village in Bhojpur district and in 1997 about 60 were slain in the state’s Lakshmanpur Bathe area.
“Little effort was made to hide the killings in Bihar, a state with a serious law-and-order problem and a centuries-old feudal structure that viewed landholders as a law unto themselves, analysts said.
“The attacks ‘were carried out openly during the day and at night,’ said Ajit Kumar Singh, a research fellow and Bihar native with New Delhi’s Institute for Conflict Management. ‘Sometimes victims were shot, sometimes butchered.’
“Singh went underground for several years after the group was banned, but he retained significant support among Bihar’s upper caste and would periodically hold high-profile news conferences.
“‘He became sort of a celebrity,’ said Sankarshan Thakur, an editor with the Telegraph newspaper and author of a book on Bihar's political system. ‘He knew how to work the system.’”
“The Ranvir Sena, loosely translated as the army of the brave, is suspected to have been formed around 1994 by landlords of the Bhumihar caste to battle growing Naxalite activism in the region and perhaps owes its creation to a fight between landlords and Communist party activists in which one person was killed.
“Singh, a graduate from the Jain College in Arra who was named village ‘mukhiya’ (headman) at age 17, and another landlord Dharicharan Chowdhury are credited with forming the militia and ensuring that their supporters were well equipped with weapons, provided allowances and other benefits.
“Competing with other militia like Sunlight Sena, Savarna Liberation Army, Brahmarishi Sena, Kuer Sena and Ganga Sena around the same time and which drew their cadre based on caste, the Ranvir Sena stood out with brutal massacres that catapulted them into the national consciousness.
“Horrific massacres like that of Baithani Tola in 1996 in which 21 were killed, mostly women and children; the 1997 Lakshmanpur-Bathe village massacre in which 58 were killed and the 1999 Shankarbigha village massacre in which 23 villagers were killed, ensured that the Ranvir Sena were feared and reviled.
“Promising to claim 15 lives of opponents for every murder of their own group, the Ranvir Sena were equipped with automatic guns and were dreaded for their night attacks in which they stormed villages and murdered perceived enemies. Despite being banned in 1995, the militia continued to go on rampages for years later and are accused of taking close to 277 lives.
“As the Ranvir Sena's clout grew, so did Singh’s status within his Khopira village in Bhojpur district and areas well beyond. The biggest landowner in his village owning 100 bighas of land, Singh was held in high esteem despite being on the run from the police who claimed to be seeking to arrest him in one of the 22 cases registered against him. Not all believe he was on the run as claimed thanks to his political links which were extensive.
“Proof of this was the fact that he continued to address meetings and was arrested only in 2002 while holding one such public meeting of a Ranvir Sena wing in a building located in a crowded area of Patna. Many believed his arrest took place as a result of the political cracks that emerged between the Ranvir Sena and the political parties that supported it.
“After his arrest, a defiant Singh told reporters, ‘I don’t have any remorse over the massacres carried out by the Ranvir Sena in its fight against Naxalite groups such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, or the CPI(ML) Liberation, the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War (P.W.) and their supporters, particularly among the landless poor and the backward Dalit community.’”
“Brahmeshwar Singh, alias Mukhiya, is said to have once publicly justified the killing of Dalit women and children. The self-styled chief of the Ranvir Sena, a private militia of upper caste landlords which unleashed terror in the 1990s killing fields of Bihar, was quoted as saying that Dalit children grew up to be Naxalites and the women give birth to them.”
1995 - Khopira (Bhojpur district): It was at the ancestral village of Ranvir Sena founder Brahmeshwar Singh, aka Mukhiyaji, that the outlawed militia of the upper caste landlords first struck, killing three scheduled caste agricultural workers.
1995 - Sarthua (Bhojpur): Six farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1996 - Bathani Tola (Bhojpur): 22 agricultural workers belonging to the scheduled castes and Muslim communities killed.
1997 - Laxmanpur-Bathe (Jehanabad): 58 people belonging to scheduled castes gunned down.
1997 - Haibaspur (Patna): 10 more farm labourers belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1997 - Ekwari (Bhojpur): 10 people belonging to scheduled castes killed.
1998 - Nagri (Bhopur): 10 farm workers belonging to the scheduled castes killed.
1999 - Sendani (Gaya): 12 poor people massacred.
1999 - Narayanpur (Jehanabad): 11 people from the backward communities killed.
1999 - Shankarbigha (Jehanabad): 23 people of the village executed.
2002 - Mianpur (Aurangabad): 35 members of the backward and scheduled castes killed.
“Maregoan Village has a population of approximately 2000 individuals. Out of these, 100 families are of the Ahirwar community. Dalits make up most of the agricultural labourers in this area, where Ahirwars (Chamars) compose a majority of the Dalits. The Ahirwar are classified as a Scheduled Caste in India. Ahirwar are spread across Gadarwara and in nearly all adjoining villages, playing an important role in the socioeconomic activities of the region. The Lodhi community in Maregaon village belong to what is termed in India as the ‘Other Backward Class’ (OBC). They own farmland and generally hire Ahirwar to cultivate their fields.
“Division of labour in the community has resulted in the imposition of certain menial and lowly occupations upon the Ahirwar. For centuries, the Ahirwar have been tasked to do ‘dirty’ jobs such as carrying the carcasses of animals. Despite the necessity of such workers, and for forcing them to take up such jobs, the Ahirwar are seen as being polluted by death and greatly despised. The Ahirwar are made to live in a hamlet separated from the main village.
“In 2009, the Ahirwar Samaj Mahaparishad built a consensus among the Ahirwar community to abandon the practice of carrying the carcasses of animals and shake off the label of ‘untouchable’ imposed by the dominant castes. This decision was first acted upon by three or four individuals and was soon claimed by other Ahirwar. In response, individuals from dominant castes began a social and economic boycott against the Ahirwar. The Ahirwar were not permitted to pass through the village and were forced to take a longer route in order to travel to other villages. The Ahirwar were prohibited from taking rations from the local shopkeeper; even the local milk vendor was intimidated by the Lodhi into not selling milk to the Ahirwar. The Ahirwar were even more cruelly persecuted through the denial of water from the hand pump located near the village temple. Prior to their decision to abandon the practice of carrying animal carcasses, the Ahirwar were still permitted to use this hand pump because there had been two at the time and the villagers were not facing a shortage of water. Today, the Lodhi have fenced in and put wire around the temple and areas surrounding it – this includes the hand pump the Ahirwar depended on for their water. In addition to such mistreatment and deprivation, the Ahirwar were further prohibited from using water from a communal water tank. This tank was also fenced in with wire by the Lodhi. The Ahirwar's cattle were also not permitted to partake of water from the tank. The Ahirwar face a severe shortage of water at this present time.
“Children of the oppressed castes are forced to clean the school while children from dominant castes are not. The school also discriminates through seating arrangements in class. To exacerbate the situation, the cook engaged in preparing the Mid-Day-Meal in Maregaon Village is a Lodhi. Despite efforts by authorities to relieve malnutrition in the area by implementing a Mid-Day-Meal scheme, the Ahirwar children who most require the sustenance are discriminated against. They are served only leftovers, if there are any, and the food is given to them from a distance. The Ahirwar children are also forced to bring their own plates while other students from the dominant castes are served from plates provided by the school. The children from the Ahirwar community are also fed insufficient amounts of food and punished for asking for more.”
“Selvam is a postgraduate who works in a private company. Neither his economic or educational status can guarantee social equality at a tea shop in his village where he will be served tea only in a separate tumbler. [...]
“The village has a population of 90 families belonging to Dalits and 400 belonging to Piramalai Kallars.
“The village had already earned notoriety for its practices of untouchability where Dalits were prevented from using footwear in the caste-Hindu area.
“A few months ago, police intervened and filed cases against those who practised the discrimination after which it was stopped.
“The practice of having two tumblers has undergone many changes with subtler forms to escape the attention of monitoring agencies. Citing pollution, once Dalits were served tea in coconut shells; then came separate glass tumblers for Dalits which they had to wash themselves, while everyone else was served tea in steel cups.
“Then, Dalits were given tea in separate glass tumblers and in order to prevent the mixing of tumblers owners used red/yellow/green paint marks on the bottom of tumblers meant for Dalits. In many places, they were asked to bring their own cups. Now, for Dalits, it is disposable plastic cups and for others it is stainless steel cups. In most cases, Dalits can't sit on benches in tea stalls but have to squat or sit on the floor.
“A recent study by an NGO, Evidence, found that the two-tumbler system is in vogue in 104 villages in Tamil Nadu. Its prevalence was found to be high also in 14 villages in Coimbatore district. The practice was found in 14 villages in Dindigul district and in 13 villages in Salem.”
“A new report says that many Roma people ‘continue to face discrimination and social exclusion’ across the EU.
“The situation of Roma is on average worse than the situation of non-Roma living in close proximity, it says. [...]
“The report shows that in the member states surveyed, where the overwhelming majority of Roma EU citizens live, their situation in the areas of employment, education, housing and health is on average worse than the situation of non-Roma living close by.
“Roma continue to experience discrimination and are not sufficiently aware of their rights guaranteed by EU law, it says.
“It also found that only 15 per cent of young Roma adults surveyed have completed upper-secondary general or vocational education, compared with more than 70 per cent of the majority population living nearby.
“On average, less than 30 per cent of Roma surveyed are in paid employment, while around 45 per cent of the Roma surveyed live in households lacking either an indoor kitchen, toilet, shower or bath, or electricity.
“About 40 per cent of Roma surveyed live in households where somebody went to bed hungry at least once in the last month because they could not afford to buy food.”
“Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, from the EU Agency on Fundamental Rights (FRA), which co-authored the report, says that Roma in countries like France, Italy and Spain share a common characteristic with Roma communities in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia - in that they were worse off than the majority non-Roma.
“‘That is precisely what we find most shocking. We would have expected to find significant differences, but from the responses of the Roma people themselves and their neighbours, we see few differences.
“‘One would have expected to see that their situation is far better in countries that have better conditions of life for their general population.’”
“The cultural identity of the Roma people is understood only hazily by outsiders. The so-called gypsies are widely considered shiftless, unmoored and mysterious. But a single stereotype is incapable of characterizing the Roma people all across Europe; in fact, they are as diverse as the myriad countries they inhabit.
“The Roma originated in India, but it seems the bulk of their exodus took place centuries ago. In his 2002 book East European Gypsies, author Zoltan Barany, a professor of world politics at the University of Texas, wrote that ‘linguistic evidence suggests that Gypsies originated in the Punjab. They left perhaps as early as the sixth century and probably due to repeated incursions by Islamic warriors.’ Since then, the Roma have assimilated, to varying degrees, into several European countries.
“Contrary to popular belief, many Roma do not roam. Barany writes that the majority of the 'Gypsies' in Eastern Europe are settled. Except for the necessary shifts that went hand-in-hand with poverty and homelessness, large numbers of Roma established a homestead wherever they were able.
“Today there are at least 12 million Roma living in Europe, with the bulk residing in Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria and Romania, they account for at least 10 percent of the population.
“After centuries of sprawl, separate Roma groups have adapted to their home countries so that they no longer constitute a homogenous group. Some have dark features; others have light skin and blond hair. Some speak Romani, while others speak the lingua franca of their home country. Some are Catholic, some are Muslim, and some are Orthodox Christians.
“But the Roma are still collectively identifiable as outsiders, unified by their shared marginalization. For centuries, widespread discrimination was a constant barrier to their gainful integration into society.”
And see also previous anti-caste posts on the Roma
“Humiliated, harassed and discriminated against, around 70 Dalit families have claimed that hostile conditions forced them out of their village in Haryana's Hisar district. They alleged that they were facing a social boycott by some uppercaste villagers.
“Protesting the alleged discrimination, these families locked their houses in Bhagana village and moved to the district headquarters. They claimed that the boycott of their community has been going on for over three months and the harassment ranged from being denied water from the community well to the use of abusive language on the streets.
“The boycotted Dalits also claimed that the uppercaste locals had illegally occupied their farm lands while they had been driven out. Camping outside the deputy commissioner's office since leaving their village, they have been demanding justice.
“‘We are in a very bad condition... Upper-class people have threatened the local grocery shop owners not to sell any item of daily use to us otherwise they will be fined Rs.1,200,’ alleged a protestor.
“‘We just asked for some space in the village land where we can feed our cattle and do some farming to earn our daily bread, but we were denied that right also,’ claimed another villager.
“Only a couple of months ago a Dalit man's left hand was chopped off after he drank water from the field of an uppercaste person in Daulatpur village. The man who attacked 26-year-old Rajesh was arrested.
“‘I did not imagine he would attack me with a sickle. He took it out from his blanket and cut my hand. He asked me where I was from. I said Sinyana. Then he asked me which community I came from. He then abused me how dare I drink water from his earthen pot,’ Rajesh said.”
“Madhavan, a Dalit, has literally escaped the noose and is grateful that he is still alive.
“On Tuesday morning, he was dangling from a sari, after he was forced to attempt suicide.
“But, there was no such luck for Chitra, a 29-year old caste Hindu, who was lynched by a village mob for her alleged relationship with Madhavan.
“The honour killing took place on Tuesday just after dawn in Vandal in Vedaranyam. Chitra and Madhavan were bullied and beaten up. Their crime was that their ‘relationship' was not only extra-marital, but also inter-caste.”
“A minor Dalit girl from Bannirsarige in Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka was forced to leave the village by her family and local people for falling in love with a boy from a different caste and, in their view, bringing ‘ignominy’ to the community.
“Suma (name changed), 17, and pregnant, was left to fend for herself after her father and other family members threatened to commit suicide if she did not leave the house.”
“In a bid to save family honour, a man strangled his daughter at Gedellanka village of Mummidivaram mandal in East Godavari on Monday night as she insisted on marrying her lover who belongs to another community.”
“In yet another case of suspected honour killing, the Tirunelveli district police on Friday arrested four persons on charges of murdering a Dalit youth who fell in love with a caste-Hindu girl.
“According to police sources, S. Elango (25) of Periyar Nagar in Erode was invited for a discussion by his girlfriend's maternal uncle and his former employer Saravanan. When he went to see him in a village near Munnirpallam on August 5, 2011, Saravanan and his associates took Elango to an isolated place and murdered him. The body was thrown into a pond.”
“Sabitri Nepali was initiated into the traditional vocation of the Badis before she turned 14. Now, at 30, she is baffled by the changes taking place in a country struggling to climb out of a feudal past and transform into a modern, democratic republic.
“‘My family has survived on this trade for generations. My mother was a sex worker and I continued with the family profession. It was normal for us,’ Sabitri tells IPS in this remote village in Kailali district, 700 km west of Kathmandu.
“Badis, estimated to number 50,000, live in the western districts of Nepal but find work in the towns and cities of Nepal and neighbouring India, including Kathmandu, Mumbai and New Delhi.
“Four years ago the Nepal government banned the Badis from pursuing their traditional occupation after it came under pressure from local communities fearing that the districts where there were Badi concentrations were turning into red light areas.
“But, the government made no move to implement the ban, with the result that local communities formed monitoring groups backed by vigilantes that used violent methods to compel the Badis to give up their sole means of livelihood.
“‘We defied the ban and continued with our traditional occupation. How could we survive without incomes? Think about our children,’ says Kalpana Badi, 35, who like many others uses a surname that readily identifies her caste and her profession.”
“‘The question is simple - why do the Dalits of the village have to go all the way to the nearest city for a haircut when there are three barber shops right there? I posed this question to both an educated Dalit boy from the village and a non-Dalit barber. The barber hems and haws until his prejudice is split wide open, even in his denials. The Dalit youth, ends up saying a lot, despite being in an understandable, evasive hurry. This is the silent vocabulary of caste, of both the oppressed and the oppressor. This is how people really speak when they speak of caste. This is the status quo that must be challenged. This is where the camera comes in between,’ says Parmar.”
“The 19-year-old girl Tabassum Khatun had got involved with 21-year-old Imran Khan, who was living as a paying guest in the upper floor of their apartment and was romantically involved with Tabssum the past four months.
“The two had even sought the permission of the deceased’s parents to legalize their relationship in matrimony. However the parents would have none of it, as Khan was from a lower caste.
“On Sunday, night the father Mohammad Kitabuddin Abdul Gafur Shah was awoken with a sudden sound and caught the two in the middle of a clandestine meeting, when in a fit of rage he killed his daughter.”
See also three other cases of caste-related honor killings in the Indian press this week:
“In a shocking incident, a backward-class woman was murdered allegedly for hiding her caste and marrying an upper caste man in Chitrakoot district. The man and his father have been arrested.
“The man confessed that he had killed his wife. He told the police that he was in love with his wife, who introduced herself as Puja Mishra when they first met. The two got married. When he came to know that she belonged to a backward caste, the man got furious and murdered Puja.”
“Recruitment is targeted at young, mostly unmarried, women and girls, aged between 14 and 25. The majority of these workers have a Dalit (so-called scheduled castes) or other low-caste background and come from poor, often landless and indebted families that depend on irregular income earned as agricultural coolies in the dry south of Tamil Nadu. Orphans and children of single parents are also targeted. When free education ends at the 8th grade (at the age of fourteen) parents or relatives lack the means to enroll children in school. Agents that recruit for spinning mills or garment factories are aware of the situation and may approach poor families at this precise time. Brokers convince parents to send their daughters to the textile and garment factories with promises of a well-paid job, comfortable accommodation, three nutritious meals a day and opportunities for training and schooling. Clothes and household articles are also given to attract the parents. Sending the girls to work in the mills where they will receive daily meals is a relief for the household; the (small) income girls bring in is a much needed addition to the means of the family. The lump sum offered to the girls is a way to meet the social pressure to purchase jewels for their daughters’ marriage. [These recruitment and employment practices are often referred to as 'Sumangali scheme.’]
The Tamil word sumangali refers to a married woman who lives a happy and contented life with her husband with all good fortunes and material benefits. Workers under this scheme are recruited with the promise that they will receive a considerable amount of money after completion of three to five years of employment. This amount could be used to pay for a dowry. In this report, these workers are referred to as ‘scheme workers’. [Often, completing the contract period is a condition to receive the lump sum amount, which is not a bonus but made up of withheld wages.] If the lump sum is added to the monthly wages, the total amount earned in the contract period in most cases does not equal the amount a worker would have earned if she had received the minimum wage for an apprentice in the garment industry.
“[Labour migrants often live in strictly supervised factory-owned hostels where they have little opportunity for contact with their families, let alone with trade unions or labour advocates. Workers make long hours, including forced overtime, in some cases even up to 24 hours on end, for low wages, and under unhealthy conditions. Verbal and physical abuse is frequently reported.]”
“For Dalit students in Perali village in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district, the route to school is long and dangerous. To reach the Government Higher Secondary School in the village, they need to carefully avoid streets that run through upper-caste neighbourhoods. They must instead risk the busy traffic of a highway as they circle these localities.
“Violating the village’s unofficial diktat could cost Dalit families their employment, as upper-caste communities control most of the economic opportunities even in the state that, for the past four decades, has seen politics centred on backward communities. [...]
“Statistics offer a reason for optimism, with Scheduled Caste (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Muslim students increasingly as likely to enroll in schools as students from upper castes. [...]
“But these statistics also hide the challenges these students face once enrolled in school.”
“Authorities in Yemen are yet to resolve the ‘marginalization’ of the minority Akhdam people, weeks after thousands protested in the capital Sana’a over low pay and lack of work contracts, say community members.
“‘The Akhdam are not simply second-class citizens,’ a protester said from his tent in Change Square. ‘They are more like fifth- or sixth-class citizens; the lowest class in the whole republic.’
“Despite speaking Arabic and practising Islam in the country for over 1,000 years, the Akhdam, who prefer to be called Al Muhamasheen, or ‘marginalized ones’, have never felt a part of the majority.
“The most visible marker of the Akhdam’s status in Yemeni society is the menial occupations they perform. Men roam the streets on 10-hour shifts sweeping and collecting rubbish, while women and children collect up cans and bottles and beg for handouts. [...]
“The prospect of democratic reforms envisaged in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plan which pulled Yemen from the brink of civil war in 2012 raised hopes that the situation would improve for the Akhdam people, but little has happened yet.
“In early April 2012, for the second time in as many months, some 4,000 street sweepers in the capital went on strike in protest over unfulfilled promises by the government to raise their pay and extend their daily contracts. After only a few days off the job, Sana’a's streets became like an urban landfill site, forcing interim Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa to negotiate with the disenfranchized group.
“Nabil, a 30-year-old street sweeper living in Mukhayyim Aser, an Akhdam slum near the presidential palace, told IRIN a day after the prime minister promised permanent contracts to the temporary workers, ‘Basindawa has not changed anything.’
“‘My friend has been working as a street sweeper for 35 years and still does not have a job contract,’ he added. ‘That’s why we’re on strike.’”
“Jamal Al-Obeidi, a secondary school mathematics teacher amongst those listening to [Akhdam spokesman] Maktari's speech in early March, expressed typical views in answer to a reporter's questions.
“‘I have nothing against him,’ he said. ‘I would talk to him in the street, I might give him some of my money, but I would not invite him to my home. He is a Yemeni, but he is also a Khadim (servant). God meant for it to be that way.’ [...]
“Prevailing prejudice holds that the men are lazy and unscrupulous, unfit for respectable work; the women, unclean and promiscuous, scrounge off the generosity of others, the conventional wisdom goes.
“‘If a dog licks your plate you should clean it," advises a proverb, "but if it is touched by a Khadim, then break it.’”
Sambuka with a smile on his lips
in executing Rama Eklavya is chopping off Drona’s thumb with an axe Bali with his tiny feet is trampling Vamana into the netherworld Manu with needles poked in his eyes his tongue cut molten lead in his ears is rolling in the graveyard On the cruel sword of time stands the roaring Chandala inciting four hounds onto Sankara
That’s it! The ongoing history Is a very Chandala history.
–Sivasagar (K.G. Satyamurthy: July 15, 1931-April 17, 2012)
“The Patna High Court has acquitted all the 23 persons accused of perpetrating the massacre of 21 Dalits at Bathani Tola in Bhojpur in 1996.
“The carnage took place on the afternoon of July 11, 1996. Upper-caste (Rajput and Bhumihar) landowners of the Ranvir Sena — a private militia of the landlords — stormed Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district's Sahar block in Central Bihar and ruthlessly hacked the Dalits, among them women, teenage girls and babies less than 10 months old.
“Ajay Singh was charged with brutally killing 10-year-old Phool Kumari, Manoj Singh was charged with the murder of the three-month-old daughter of Naimuddin (one of the prime eyewitnesses) and Nagender alias Narendra Singh was charged with slaughtering two women, Sanjharu and Ramratiya Devi. They were awarded the death sentence by the sessions court.
“Bathani Tola, along with Laxmanpur-Bathe (where more than 60 Dalit men, women and children were slaughtered by the Ranvir Sena), have since become bywords for caste massacres that engulfed central Bihar from the mid-1990s onwards.”
“The Ranvir Sena was founded by upper-caste Bhumihars in Belaur village, Bhojpur district, in 1994. It first made international headlines in July 1996 with its attack on Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district, Bihar, which left nineteen Dalits and Muslims, mostly women and children, dead. Sixty members of the sena reportedly descended on the village and set twelve houses on fire. Using lathis, swords, and firearms, the attackers continued the onslaught for two and a half hours. The attack was reportedly in retaliation for the earlier killing of nine Bhumihars in Nadhi village, also in Bhojpur district, by the CPI(M-L). The conflict began when CPI(M-L) began organizing the agricultural laborers to demand the statutory daily minimum wage of Rs. 30.75 (US$0.77). Landowners were only willing to pay Rs. 20 (US$0.50). CPI(M-L) members convinced laborers to refuse employment at that wage and called for an economic blockade against landowners. The attack on Bathani Tola, press reports claim, was an effort to weaken the resolve of CPI(M-L) cadres organizing in the village and to prevent a labor boycott on hundreds of acres of land. None of the Ranvir Sena leaders were ever arrested for the Bathani Tola massacre.
“Since its inception, the Ranvir Sena has been implicated in killings, rapes and lootings in the villages of Belaur, Ekwari, Chandi, Nanaur, Narhi, Sarathau, Haibaspur, Laxmanpur-Bathe, Shankarbigha, and Narayanpur. On April 22, 1996, the sena gunned down five members of a marriage party in Nanaur village. The victims were believed to be CPI(M-L) supporters. In 1997 the sena killed three Dalits in Jehanabad district for raising their voice against the rape of a Dalit girl by upper-caste youths.”
“Violence erupted in the historic Osmania University in Hyderabad on Sunday evening, when student groups representing right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad clashed with the Dalit and minority student groups in protest against the celebration of the first-ever ‘Beef Festival’ in the campus.
“The Dalit students were celebrating the ‘Beef Festival’ (Pedda Koora Panduga in Telugu) - cooking and serving of beef in the open - on the OU campus as an expression of their cultural identity and constitutional right.
“The students have been opposing the imposition of what they call Brahminical culture on the food habits of SCs, STs and minorities in the educational institutions.
“However, the event was strongly resisted by the ABVP students stating that it was against the Indian culture and would hurt the sentiments of the Hindus who treat cow as a holy animal.
“The rightwing student groups distributed pamphlets in the last two days asking the students to stay away from the beef festival. They described the festival as a mischief being perpetrated by a few individuals who claim themselves to be Dalit intellectuals and scholars having a political agenda.
“Trouble began at around 6.30 pm, when more than 1,000 students assembled at the Ambedkar Hostel, where the Dalit Students Federation made elaborate arrangements for the festival. [...]
“As the Dalit students were raising slogans, singing songs and eating biryani made of beef, several ABVP students swooped on the venue and ransacked the area. This resulted in the two groups of students attacking each other and pelting stones. Several students and media persons covering the event received injuries.
“As the students continued with stone pelting, the police had to lob teargas shells to disperse the students. The irate mobs also set afire a vehicle belonging to a television channel. [...]
“Beef festival organizer B Sudarshan, a research scholar, said it was unfortunate that some upper caste students tried to disrupt the festival which was going on peacefully. ‘We have not made any slaughter of animals in the hostel premises but only distributed food among the students to acknowledge the age-old custom of Dalits and minorities. We wanted to remove the dirty image associated with beef, as spread by the Brahminical culture,’ he said.”
“Just when the dust seemed to have settled at the Osmania University following the controversial beef festival, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal on Thursday conducted a ritual at a temple adjacent the Arts College to ‘purify’ the campus.”
“For nearly a century and a half, the cow wasn’t just a cow but an incendiary political issue, which periodically ignited many a communal conflagration all around India. Underlying the acrimony was the demand asking Muslims to eschew beef-eating in respect for the religious sentiments of Hindus, who considered the cow holy. It tacitly assumed a monolithic Hindu community united in its veneration of the cow and the need to save her from the Muslim butcher’s cleaver.
“This assumption stands challenged in Hyderabad, not by Muslims, but by assertive lower-caste Hindus who were contemptuously treated and referred to as Untouchables and who now have adopted the nomenclature of Dalit (oppressed) for defining their identity. On April 15, Dalit students organised a beef festival at Hyderabad’s Osmania University, where 2,000 of them publicly partook of the savoury beef biryani even as a singer belted the song: ‘Beef is the secret of my energy.’
“This demonstration of defiance was in support of their demand to have beef included on the hostel’s menu. Their logic was — beef is taboo for high caste Hindus, not the Dalits, sections of other backward castes, Muslims and Christians, whose diet includes beef. In excluding it from the menu, the university, they said, is guilty of showing an unjustifiable predilection for the religious sensitivity of high-caste Hindus. At one stroke was thus shattered the myth of the Hindu community being a monolith.”
“Indian law offers limited safeguards and limited enforcement to protect such children, and public attitudes are usually permissive in a society where even in the lowest rungs of the middle class, families often have at least one live-in servant.
“‘There is a huge, huge demand,’ said Ravi Kant, a lawyer with Shakti Vahini, a nonprofit group that combats child trafficking. ‘The demand is so huge that the government is tending toward regulation rather than saying our children should not work but should be in school.’
“The International Labor Organization has found that India has 12.6 million laborers between the ages of 5 and 14, with roughly 20 percent working as domestic help. Other groups place the figure at 45 million or higher. Unicef has said India has more child laborers than any other country in the world. [...]
“Mala Bhandari, who runs Childline, a government hot line for child workers, said India’s urbanization and the rise of two-income families were driving demand for domestic help. Children are cheaper and more pliant than adults; Ms. Bhandari said a family might pay a child servant only $40 a month, less than half the wage commonly paid to an adult, if such servants are paid at all.
“Indian law deems anyone younger than 18 a minor. But the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 also creates a loophole: Children between 14 and 18 are allowed to work a maximum of six hours a day in nonhazardous work. Children younger than 14 are prohibited from working as servants, a statute that is widely flouted. Employers are required to provide daily education and document the child’s daily break hours, though most families ignore such requirements because enforcement is largely nil.
“‘What happens within the four walls of a home, nobody knows,’ said Ms. Bhandari, who contended that while abuse was not the norm, it was not rare. [...]
“Societal attitudes toward servants are often shaped by ingrained mores about caste and class. Many servants, especially children, come from poor families among the lower Hindu castes or tribal groups, often from poor states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. [...]
“Raj Mangal Prasad, a children’s welfare official in New Delhi, said the government was not staffed to carry out raids to look for illegal servants. But if it were, Mr. Prasad estimated, several thousand cases would probably be discovered throughout the capital. He estimated that one household out of 20 employed an under-age servant. ‘It’s plain for everyone to see,’ he said. [...]
“But Mr. Kant, the lawyer with Shakti Vahini, said the courts rarely issued harsh judgments in cases involving the rights of domestic help.
“‘There is a general feeling that we need these people,’ Mr. Kant said. ‘Cases aren’t taken so seriously. There is no fear of the law.’
“Fourteen-year-old Ravi used to be a beneficiary under the Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) 2007 as his mother cleaned toilets in the village. One day, when she gathered enough courage to quit the job, Ravi's scholarship funds were stopped and she faced hostility from the villagers who said, ‘If you don't clean our shit, then who will?’ Belonging to a family of six siblings, daily life has become difficult for Ravi. His mother is not getting any other job due to the stigma attached to her past one.
“This scholarship, which requires families to be engaged in manual scavenging for at least 100 days in a year, provides a perverse incentive to Dalit households to continue in the occupation. Once the families stop practicing it, the scholarships are also stopped. [...]
“In the absence of a proper mechanism in the implementation of the scheme, the survey found the presence of scheming middle men working in connivance with fraudulent bank officials.
“Middle men or commission agents would visit Dalit bastis telling households to sign on so and so papers as the government had chosen them as beneficiaries of a new scheme. The beneficiaries would never get to know the loan amount, sanctioning officer or other details of the transactions. After a while, the middle men would revisit them and hand over Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500. Many of these people did not even know why they were being given the money or how much money had been borrowed in their names. In Madhya Pradesh, around 68 per cent of the beneficiaries were taken for a ride by the brokers, in Uttar Pradesh, 63 per cent and in Rajasthan 62 per cent. [...]
“It came to light that Muslim communities such as Hela and Halalkhor have been completely ignored by Government programmes. These caste groups inhabit several states and have been as much a slave of this exploitative tradition as the Dalit Hindu communities.”
“It is quite evident that after the phase of ‘Salwa Judum’ and the phase of ‘Operation Green Hunt’, anti-Naxal operations have entered a new phase variously called ‘Operation Haka’ [meaning driving out the wild animals in tribal Gondi language] and ‘Operation Vijay’.
“While certain media reports present very different pictures of this Operation [see appendixes], both the spokespersons of the Security Forces and Maoists claim that this Operation took place in the Abujhmaad/Maad area fairly deep in the forests; a large number of joint paramilitary forces about 3000 in number participated.
“While the police reports speak of Naxalite camps destroyed, Maoists encountered and arrested, the Maoist spokesperson claims that houses were burnt down, adivaasi villagers were beaten, including beaten to death, and those arrested have not been produced before courts.”
“Security forces today claimed to have captured vast areas from the Maoists' control in Chhattisgarh by launching their first and biggest ever anti-naxal operation in the rebel bastion of Abujhmad forests. [...]
“This was for the first time in the four-decade-old Naxal movement, the security forces entered the Naxal-controlled areas of Lalchawad, Pagdu, Bhatpal, Kohukameta, Chotedongar, Irukbhat, Toke, Donderaj, Mardapal, Jatawada and Kurusnar in the deep jungles of Abujhmad, which is considered as the safe heaven of the rebel outfit, the sources said.”
“The North-Bastar Divisional Committee (NBDC) in a statement issued to different media organisations here alleged that security forces had unleashed reign of terror against tribals in Abujhmad, said to be the Maoist capital, under the pretext of the anti-Naxal operations in March 13-18, assaulting scores of innocent tribals, leading to death of one of them, torching their houses and looting their foodgrains. [...]
“‘Security forces have launched anti-Maoist operations in Abujhmad to pave way for the Army to set up training centres in the area,’ the statement charged. The anti-Maoist operations, conducted under the code name, “Operation Haka” (meaning driving out the wild animals in tribal Gondi language), were launched simultaneously in more than one dozen villages of Narayanpur and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh and Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra, in which around 3000 jawans of CRPF, CoBRA battalion and the police forces of the two states participated.”
“Tamil Nadu has more than 10 lakh migrants, doing jobs that local workers shun because of poor pay and dangerous working conditions, but they are easy targets of prejudices against ‘north Indians’. [...]
“Hailing from Assam, Bihar, Orissa, Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and even Nepal, these men come to work on private and government construction sites, in small engineering ancillary units, steel rolling mills, lathe, hosieries, foundries, in roadside eateries as well as fancy city restaurants, as security guards and even as farmhands. [...]
“Most of the migrant workers in the State land up through informal arrangements orchestrated by multiple contractors and sub-contractors. Munniraj, a Dalit labour contractor in Hosur, has 650 Bihari workers whom he supplies to the various small-scale engineering units in the industrial area. The workers, who earn anywhere between Rs.3,500-Rs.4,000 per month, give him 10 per cent of their wages, which works out roughly to Rs.2 lakh a month. [...]
“‘I left my job in a food company in Delhi three months back and came here. They used to make me work for 16 hours a day and paid Rs.5,000. Here I have better pay for less number of hours of work. But I don't want to stay here. I feel insecure. Police has made our lives miserable,’ said Nandlal from Gaya who sends his family of six Rs.4,000 every month. As if waiting for a cue, Manas, who had so far not said anything about the police harassment, said: ‘I am too scared to step out of the house after seven p.m., the police patrol stops us and asks for ID proof, and if you don't have one you are taken to the police station for enquiry’. After the bank robbery last month, police have been visiting the slums where large migrant populations live and asking the ‘north Indians' to show their IDs or proof of employment. ‘Where will these migrant people get any proof of employment or any ID for that matter?’ asked Geeta Ramakrishnan of Unorganised Workers' Union. [...]
“The interstate migrant is a much-reviled figure, often unjustly so. Ghettoised and insecure, and lacking any legal or social protection, the interstate migrant workers become easy targets for the state, administration, overzealous nationalist forces and, more worrisome, the local working class.”
“The 2002 communal riots not only drove Muslims into new ghettos all over the state, they also reduced them to the status of second-class citizens who do not seem to exist for the government. This is the finding of a city-based NGO, Janvikas, which conducted a survey on the status of the minority community in the state after the riots.
“The survey has revealed that Muslims are the new outcastes who, more often than not, are denied basic facilities which are available to people of other communities. Not only that. It appears that this neglect of the community is officially sanctioned for the riot victims find no mention in government records as people who need help. [...]
“About 16,000 Muslims displaced by the riots are still living in relief colonies that are denied even the most basic amenities.
“The 83 relief colonies that were built after the riots are almost all located in Muslim-majority areas. Fifteen of them are situated in Ahmedabad and the support they receive from the state government is negligible. [...]
“There has also been a sharp decline in the earnings of almost every displaced individual. The survey has revealed that the average annual income of displaced Muslims in Ahmedabad has come down by 31% as compared to their income before the riots.”
“The important part in the case is Karthigaisamy coming out in support of his friend in spite of earning the ire of his relatives and villagers of the dominant caste.
“He had given a statement to police accusing Thavam and Balamurugan of attacking Karmegakannan, clearly stating all the facts.
“In his statement, he had narrated how Thavam was threatening Karmegakannan to break his friendship with him. He had warned us not to go ahead with the friendship, warning of dire consequences if we continued our friendship, Karthigaisamy stated. On February 16, Karmegakannan called him from a mobile phone stating that he was attacked by Thavam and Balamurugan who left him to die after causing him serious injuries. He had reached a poultry farm in Kovanur village and alerted his friend about the incident. Karthigaisamy rushed to the spot and found his friend in a pool of blood, and rushed him to hospital, he told the police.
“A. Kathir, executive director of Madurai-based NGO Evidence who had sent a fact finding committee in this incident, stated that Karthigaisamy, in spite of hailing from a dominant caste, was leading the legal battle to seek justice for Karmegakannan.”
“Rajesh was called by a private contractor at Daulatpur village for doing labour work in some fields there. The incident took place when he went to the field of Rajender alias Pappu for drinking water from an earthen pot kept there. Pappu was also in the field at that time.
“After coming to know that Rajesh is from a Scheduled Caste, Pappu in a fit of anger allegedly attacked Rajesh with a sharp-edged weapon that left his hand dismembered.”
“The words ‘communal violence’ are misleading, because they indicate a skirmish between equal communities. Violence by civil society in India is one-sided. The Muslims of Gujarat and the Sikhs of Delhi were recipients. The Hindus dished it out. The second aspect is that the participants are usually known to those they kill, maim and rape. The two most violently communalized cities of India are Ahmedabad and Vadodara. In both, it is neighbourhoods that go to war, with outsiders in supporting roles.
“On a later visit to Ahmedabad (a depressing, segregated and oppressively vegetarian city), I was driven through its upper-class neighbourhoods. Here the homes and offices of Muslims had been neatly picked out and burnt. Muslim colonies, what Gujaratis call societies, still had their entrances barricaded as forts. The compound walls had been raised and the gates were blocked, reinforced with metal, wood, whatever was at hand to protect them from their neighbours.
“The third aspect of the Indian riot is that the state steps aside and lets the aggrieved party avenge itself.
“A few weeks later, at a session hosted by Gujarat’s finest scholar of Islam, Asghar Ali Engineer, we tried to make sense of this. The former IAS officer, Harsh Mander, said the British system of administration and policing was so designed that the state could bring its wild citizenry to heel inside two days. That this had not happened in Ahmedabad and Vadodara showed the intention of the state.
“When vengeance is taken, there is a swift return to neighbourhood normalcy and the hatred vanishes. Where did it go? I found this disturbing because I could not understand it, and still don’t.
“Vadodara’s physics professor J. S. Bandukwala, whose house was vandalized, observed something about the 2002 violence. There is still an absence of remorse and absolutely no regret among Gujaratis.
“No truth and reconciliation commission for Gujaratis, or the barbarians of Delhi who cut down 3,000 Sikhs.
“When confronted with their behaviour against Gujarati Muslims, the snarling response of Gujarati Hindus, and I include my friends and family in this, is, ‘Ae loko-e sharu karyun (They started it).’
“One cannot argue against this because chronologically it is true. The use of ‘they’ convicts all Muslims for an incident in which some individuals participated.
“It is difficult to explain to Indians the wrongness of collective punishment. This is because our identity is collective, and so is our behaviour. The understanding that this is wrong comes mainly to those who speak English. Individuals are more easily produced by English because it opens access to the world outside the tribe. It is able to place us outside the narrow definitions assigned to us by Gujarati and Hindi.
“But for most Indians, if they started it then they must suffer for it.
“The Jaipur Literary Festival, a giddily chaotic celebration of the written word set on the grounds of a Rajasthan palace, ended in misery and embarrassment today, with the organizers bowing to pressure from local security forces and scotching plans for Salman Rushdie to ‘appear’ at the festival, finally, by video link. Rushdie had already been forced to cancel plans to come to Jaipur after he had received intelligence reports—bogus intelligence, as it turned out—that everyone from ‘paid assassins from the Mumbai underworld’ to radical Muslim clerics were sitting in malevolent wait.
“Rushdie’s video image was not allowed at the Festival, but he was on television tonight in India, being interviewed on NDTV, and he spoke out angrily about the “unscrupulous” Muslim groups that threatened him, and an Indian government that failed to act. Speaking from London, Rushdie called the whole affair ‘fantastically fishy’ and blamed the ruling Congress Party and other officials for bowing to electoral priorities and ignoring the priorities of freedom of expression.
“Rushdie pointed out that his work is freely distributed in many Muslim countries, including Egypt, Turkey, and, now, Libya. [...]
“[I]n October, 1988, India, the world’s largest democracy, ordered The Satanic Verses banned. It’s worth remembering that it did so four months before the Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa calling for the execution of Salman Rushdie. The Iranian fatwa was lifted (though no one should have any illusions about the lingering danger) after a decade of wretched hiding, slanders, and violence directed against his translators; the ban on The Satanic Verses in India remains in place.
“The same fear of clerical protest animates the current Indian government, which is far more interested in retaining power than in freedom of expression, much less making life pleasant for Salman Rushdie and his readers. The Congress Party is trying to win Muslim votes in elections in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh next month, and so ‘even minor fulminations’ by regional imams ‘make the local leaders squirm,’ according to an article this week in the liberal magazine Outlook. The Rushdie affair in Jaipur is a pawn in this larger political game. Railing against a banned book that few here have managed to obtain and read is an easy way to stir up populist fervor. Various preachers and extremist politicians latched onto the Jaipur festival as an issue and directed full-throated attacks at Rushdie; old stuff, but it was enough. [...]
“Censorship has been a constant theme since the banning of the The Satanic Verses nearly a quarter century ago. The government, spurred by Hindu and Muslim groups and clerics, rushes in to preserve ‘order’ by decreeing, or tolerating, the suppression of free expression. M. F. Husain, a Muslim painter known as ‘the Picasso of India,’ who died last year in exile, faced a constant onslaught of death threats and lawsuits in India because he dared to paint Hindu goddesses in the nude and in suggestive poses. The Bangladeshi-born novelist and feminist Taslima Nasreen has been attacked and threatened repeatedly by Islamists for her book Lajja, or Shame, about a Hindu family threatened by Muslims. (Nasreen has had to live in Sweden and the United States for years at a time.) Only months ago, Joseph Lelyveld, the former Times executive editor, watched from afar as his new book on Gandhi, Great Soul, was banned in the state of Gujarat as ‘perverse in nature.’ The local authorities got the idea from tabloid reports in England that Lelyveld claimed that Gandhi was gay or bisexual; he makes no such claim. The book remains banned.”
“At least 30 houses of Dalits were torched by the upper caste community at Lathor village in Balangir district on Sunday night, following a clash between the two groups over a petty issue.
“The situation had escalated beyond control, with people so incensed that they even torched the fire-fighting vehicle that was brought in to extinguish the fire. No media persons were allowed to enter the village. [...]
“Police sources said four youths from Dalit basti in the village, under Khaprakhol police station, had gone to one Laxmi cloth store on Sunday evening to purchase some cloth. The shop owner Jaydev Meher, along with his two sons Daya and Bharat, reportedly had an altercation with the boys over the purchase, in which one of the Dalit boys was assaulted. The Dalit community took it seriously and decided to teach a lesson to the shop owner for assaulting a boy of their community. ‘The situation went out of control when the Dalits came in a group and attacked Bharat Meher, who was seriously injured and admitted to Khaprakhol hospital,’ said a senior resident of the village.
“According to him, the upper caste people then convened a meeting and marched towards Dalit basti at night. They torched the houses of the basti and within a short span the entire basti was ablaze. ‘We did not get time to save our belongings. We started running towards jungles to save our lives,’ said a resident of the basti.
“[A]bout 193 victims were rescued by police, which includes 33 boys and 85 women, all of whom were given shelter in a local high school.”
“We were taken straight to the Durgeshwari High School, which was providing temporary shelter to 193 people of 45 families. All of them are Dalits belonging to the Ganda caste. The entire Gandapara [Ganda neighborhood] of Lathore village was gutted down to ashes on the 22nd January by a mob of more than 500 people, most of whom belonged to the Meher caste. Since then, all of them are staying in the school building. We stayed with the affected families, spoke to them at length, visited their burnt locality and also spoke to people in the neighbourhood and in the Meherpara [Meher neighborhood]. What emerged from the variant conversations is that it was not a spontaneous incident, nor was it an incident of inter-caste feud. It was rather a planned attack on Gandapara, where the Dalits were economically, politically and educationally becoming assertive. It was a well thought-out attempt to demolish their growing prosperity and dignity. It was also clear that the people from the [backward] Meher castes were used by the [uppercaste] Marwari baniyas [merchants] and the RSS/BJP to unleash the violence on Gandapara.
“The incident: On 22nd January, a young Dalit boy Ganesh Suna had gone to the market to buy a new shirt. While coming out of the shop the shopkeeper Bharat Meher alleged him for stealing a shirt and beat him up. When Ganesh’s grandfather, an aged person came to confront Bharat, he was beaten up too. They reported the incident to the members of ‘Sri Krishna Club’ of Gandapara and a few men came and confronted Bharat. The people of Gandapara then went to lodge an FIR in Khaprakhol, police station which is 20 km from Lathor. The rest of the men of Gandapara were also in Khaprakhol attending a shradh ceremony. Back in Lathor a baseless rumour was spread that Bharat has been killed by the people of Gandapara. By 2 pm a crowd of around 500 people gathered near a temple. The belligerent crowd was provided with ample alcohol, petrol and kerosene. This crowd then was unleashed on the entire Gandapara where they targeted each and every household. Within the same locality there were houses of people belonging to other castes which were spared. The houses were completely looted first and then broken and finally set on fire. The carnage started at around 2 pm and the fire continued to burn till around midnight.”