December 16, 2010
Urban rules of untouchability
A good link for you to check out
December 02, 2010
India's missing children: The story continues
BBC News - Rory Peck Award for story about homeless children in Mumbai
Several years ago it was reported that there are close to a million missing kids in India. The underworld of metro cities like Mumbai absorb them into their nefarious activities of human trafficking and drugs and crime. Poverty and social disparities born out of caste inequalities force these children into their nightmarish existence. Many of these kids belong to the oppressed and marginalized groups of people.
The New Year celebration in a few weeks will flaunt the obscene show of wealth and pomp of India's new elite through the New Year events and media. Who will take the trouble to reach out and help free just one of these children during this season?
Help us help the children of the marginalized. Go to our website.
August 10, 2010
Examining the Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index
Now with new instrument called "multi-dimensional poverty index" we find that 81% are the MPI poor and their poverty is similar to the one in Mozambique that 66% of the scheduled caste are poor and akin to those in nigeria and 58% of the backward castes are MPI poor. The two sides of India are in stark contrast-India Shining/India Not Shining.
Saffron Brigade's Terror Plots Exposed
Years ago we had commented on extremist Hindu groups were involved in terror activities against minorities and Dalits.
The Indian intelligence agencies say that some of the extremist RSS leaders were directly in bomb attacks in the recent past in Muslim areas.
News stories on extremist hindu groups involved in terrorist activities continue in the national media. These same groups have been accused for carrying on violent attacks against Dalit Christians in different parts of India. Religious extremism of any kind that indulges and condones violence against others is not permissible in democracies.
View these video clips that expose the terrorist activities of these extremist groups. Members of these groups have now attacked the TV channel that broadcasted this expose.
Here's an article I picked up from The Hindu newspaper on the topic of manual scavenging. Have a look.
June 25, 2010
Dalits withdraw kids from school
Another compelling article.........
Dalits withdraw kids from school in Kendrapada village
Pioneer News Service | Kendrapara
The innocent Dalit children have also to bear the brunt of the ongoing tussle between their elders and the upper caste fellow villagers of Karandiapatana Jenasahi under Mehendipur GP of Marshaghai block as their parents have been forced to withdraw their children from the local school fearing the wrath of the upper caste people.
The Dalit students were allegedly abused and misbehaved by the upper caste people recently when they were crossing the village road on way to school.
Sources informed, about 20 Dalits children were forced to take their School Leaving Certificates (SLCs) from Surendra Bidyapitha of Rankal.
The Dalits alleged that their children were debarred from using the road that passed through the houses of upper caste villagers.
Notably, the Dalits are leading a socially boycotted life meted out to them by both the fellow upper caste villagers and its adjoining Rankal village for the last couple of months following a group clash over the digging of earth from a gochar land for construction of a Hanuman temple on February
The police had nabbed 10 upper caste persons for allegedly creating the mayhem, ransacking the houses and injuring 23 Dalits.
Later, the upper caste of Karnadiapatana and Rankal made a decision to socially boycott the Dalits by restricting them from working in their fields. Even they were allegedly debarred from using the road in the area and were threatened with dire consequences.
The Dalit students, having taken SLCs from the Surendra Bidyapitha are said to be Rina Jena Class, I, Ritun Jena, Litu Jena and Jhunubala Jena of Class II, Pradip Jena of Class III, Hemanta Jena, Aliva Jena, Sanghamitra Jena, Purnima Jena and Puspalata Jena of Class IV, Rajalaxmi Jena of Class V, Bhajahari Jena, Tanuja Jena, Lopamudra Jena, Jyotishree Jena, Bikram Jena, Sushil Jena and Biswanath Jena of Class VI.
Some Dalit parents have taken SLCs and have reportedly started admitting their children to Japada School, one-and-half km away from the village, informed a Dalit and Karilopatana ward member Sudhanshu Jena.
When contacted, Surendra Bidyapitha teacher Khageswar Parida admitted that some Dalit students of the Jena Sahi hamlet of Karilopatana village sought SLCs to study in other schools, recently.
Recently, Jajpur MP and Dalit leader Mohan Jena visited Karandiapatana and listened to the grievances of the Dalits.
He has brought the said matter to the notice of the local Tehsildar and district administration to take necessary actions against the upper caste persons for allegedly denying the basic right to education of the Dalit children.
Meanwhile, the Dalits have brought the matter to the notice of the Patkura PS IIC for justice.
When contacted, IIC Alok Ranjan Roy stated he has been conducting investigation.
June 01, 2010
What is Your Caste?
Another interesting article for you to read. Check it out.
May 25, 2010
Plea from Vidya Bhushan Rawat
My friend and colleague in the Dalit movement sent me this plea: and link to his page - have a look and join in his cause...
*** From Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Time has come to launch a fullfledge war against India's hidden apartheid against the Dalits.
A teacher who happened to belong to a Dalit community committed suicide today in Himachal Pradesh after humiliation from his upper caste colleague. Here is a Times of India Report..
The first point is to expose and express outrage at such assault which are regular..Ask for special trial even when media will not give it much importance like Jessica Lal and Ruchika Girhotra case as here the culprits are caste Hindus..
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Dalit teacher kills self after insult by colleague
Anand Bodh, TNN, May 22, 2010, 03.05am IST
CHANDIGARH: At a time when caste-based census is still being debated, a 50-year-old dalit school teacher ended his life after being allegedly humiliated by an upper caste employee of a school in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh. His body was recovered on Thursday.
Chandan Lal of Rinj village was posted as a physical education teacher at a government school and was deputed for census survey. On May 13, Lal along with Kesaru Ram, a lab attendant in the school, had gone for the census survey. Ram belongs to an upper caste community.
According to the police, Kesaru Ram, unaware that Chandan Lal belonged to the scheduled caste, had asked him to spend a night at his house. When he came to know about it, Ram allegedly insulted Chandan Lal for not revealing his caste.
DSP (headquarter), Mandi, Narinder Kumar said according to Chandan Lal's suicide note addressed to a tehsildar, he was not able to bear the humiliation and committed suicide by allegedly consuming some poisonous substance.
"The police will be directed to register a case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act if it is confirmed that there is a caste bias in the case," said Himachal Pradesh secretary for social justice Prem Kumar. "We'll verify the allegations and will take stern action," said Himachal Pradesh minister for social justice and empowerment Sarveen Chaudhary.
May 21, 2010
Our Analysis Confirmed: It's terrorism.
For several years we have highlighted Hindu terrorism. Recent investigations by the Government confirm our analysis.
See this link from our local Hyderabad newspaper, the Deccan Chronicle:
May 20, 2010
Bollywood star reveals discomfiture over India's caste system
According to the Bollywood star, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, being an Indian first means not to believe in caste. That could be one great definition of being an Indian first and putting India first.
Yet when Mr. Bachchan told the census enumerators that he does not believe in caste and is an Indian first, did he unwittingly reveal the discomfiture the privileged castes feel in coming to terms with the caste issue in modern India? Surely it is the oppressed people who have the first right to determine if there should be a caste census or not. Their interpretation of present day life vis-à-vis caste discrimination needs serious consideration.
In his defense Mr. Bachchan pointed out that he was married to a Bengali, his brother a Sindhi, his daughter to a north Indian and his son to a south Indian. That qualifies Mr. Bachchan for being a pan Indian. We have not heard anyone in the Bachchan family marrying a low caste or a Dalit!
But he is right about marriage being an important indicator of caste bias. How many forward caste families in the nation can boast of marriage to a low caste or a Dalit or a Scheduled tribe? Dr. Ambedkar saw inter-caste marriages as one final way of doing away with the caste system. Are we embarrassed about the caste question in the census because there is nothing to show in our family line in relation to inter caste marriage?
For now the vision of an inter-caste married, mixed India of Ambedkar is a far away dream. We will wait and see when caste based matrimonial columns cease to exist. Till then caste enumeration should continue to protect those who are constantly humiliated and discriminated.
Read more of my article at the Spero News Forum:
May 10, 2010
Caste in the Stone Age: Times of India Article
All the changes in the treatment of Dalits and discrimination against them, even though not much, are despite the casteist bias and attitudes of the upper castes. See this recent article from the Times of India newspaper. 'Khap Panchayats' are extra constitutional village bodies created to protect and preserve caste purity.
April 05, 2010
Caste Discrimination Has Racial Overtones: Economic Times Report
Another interesting piece of research comes out in the Economic Times.
Check it out
Don't believe the Rumors
The Hindu newspaper once again points out the fact that despite rumors to the contrary, life is NOT improving for Dalits and Tribals across this nation.
See the link below.
Even Worse Than We Thought... !
The Economic Times points out that due to outdated data used for research and analysis, economic and development inequities may be even worse than we thought!
First Class Delivery For All....
For over a decade now, we have launched an English medium schools campaign for the Dalits and oppressed masses. Today we have about 100 schools with over 20,000 children in them and our movement is growing. Why does the Indian State continue with its double standard in education?
On April 1, 2010, India established the "Right to Education", but the question remains "What kind of education?" Will it be third class education for third class people and private English schools for the elite classes? It is time the Indian government delivers on English medium education for all people everywhere because that is what the Indian masses, the poor and the Dalits want!!!
March 20, 2010
Will there be Justice?
Will there be justice for Dalit and Tribal Christians of Orissa who faced the Kandhamal carnage of right wing Hindu extremists?
Here's a story from Tehelka Magazine.
First The Sorrow Now The Shame
Fast track courts. 123 cases. 89 convictions and 303 acquittals. SANJANA travels to Kandhamal to find the wounds of an anti-Christian violence still festering
Debris The church at Beheraga village, which was destroyed in 2008, lies untouched
Solemn prayers Worshippers at Divya Jyothy’s chapel at K Nuagaon. The centre was burnt down in 2008
Moving on A volunteer cleans up at Jana Vikas head office 18 months after it was burnt down
THE FIRST look is deceptive — Pira Digal seems unusually calm as she walks the dusty road, her bright blue sari primly tucked in place. There is no frown on her face despite the blazing sun. A second later, she offers to take us to her colony. In the colony, amid scattered rags and pitched plastic tents, she introduces herself as the widow of Kanteshwar Digal who was hacked to death in August 2008 during the communal violence that ravaged Orissa’s Kandhamal district.
“I am no longer angry because I lost my husband. I have come to terms with his death. But how can I forget that the court set the men who killed my husband free? Will someone tell me what the word ‘justice’ means?” asks Pira. As her composure crumbles, giving way to angry tears, Pira flings a file of papers to the ground. Among the papers that fall out are copies of the First Information Report (FIR) relating to Kanteshwar’s death, court affidavits and death certificates — clear indicators of Pira’s engagement with the courts and the police as she fought to bring her husband’s killers to book.
FAST TRACK COURT 1
18 people acquitted
“... Occurrence is true but no convincing, credible and satisfactory evidence... to eradicate suspicion that witnesses recognised accused during dark night by staying at some distance... hence (presence of)... accused at scene of occurrence is doubtful”
FAST TRACK COURT 2
Manoj Pradhan and 1 other acquitted
“Witness had no acquaintance with accused prior to incident and hence cannot say that he was also present amongst the mob...”
FAST TRACK COURT 2
4 people acquitted
“... Overwhelming evidence of homicide”... taking place “in course of the riot by members of an unlawful assembly...” but prosecution failed to connect accused to scene. “... accused passed through spot but did not cause any harm...”
FAST TRACK COURT 1
(48/16 of 2009)
Manoj Pradhan acquitted
“Informant is aged 35 years at time of examination. But during course of trial it was found that he is aged 60 years... doubtful if investigating agency has examined the right person...”
On March 2, 2010, when the news broke that fast track courts had acquitted 52 people accused of involvement in the Kandhamal anti-Christian violence, nobody was surprised. A quick glance at the figures explains why. The two fast track courts were set up in 2008 to look into 123 cases. Sixty-three cases have been disposed of since, with 89 people being convicted. As many as 303 people have been acquitted of charges like murder, rape and burning down houses. Against this figure, news of 52 people going home — cleared of all charges — understandably evoked little interest.
Among those acquitted were key district BJP leaders, including Manoj Pradhan — Kandhamal’s elected representative to the Legislative Assembly. A first time MLA, Pradhan was the primary accused in eight cases with charges of murder, abetting murder and arson against him. But he was acquitted in all of them by the fast track court which pointed to the lack of conclusive evidence against him. Even if the extraordinarily high rate of acquittals triggers no alarm bells, the fact that nothing could be found to nail the district’s elected representative in eight cases makes one wonder if justice is coming undone in Kandhamal. TEHELKA travelled to the region to take a closer look at the judgements and to speak to the various stakeholders. The journey raised far more questions than expected.
Consider Pira’s account. Her husband Kanteshwar was found dead on September 16, 2008 — 14 days after he was dragged off the bus he and Pira were travelling in. The post-mortem report recorded grievous injuries to Kanteshwar’s body as well as severe internal bleeding — he had been hacked to death and strangled by a rope. Police registered a case of homicide and, during the course of investigations, recorded Pira’s statement where she said Pradhan and his associate, Mannu Ganda, had dragged her husband off the bus. The police chargesheet named Pradhan, Ganda and six others as prime accused in the case. Almost a year later, the fast track court acquitted Pradhan and Ganda of all charges by “extending the benefit of doubt”. It said there was no credible witness to the murder, and nothing to conclusively establish that the accused had committed the murder, since there was a 14-day delay between Kanteshwar’s disappearance and the discovery of his decomposed body.
Ask Pira about the judgement and why Pradhan and Ganda were released and she minces no words. “Right from the time the FIR was filed, I knew that Pradhan would get away scot free. Neither the police nor the courts are blind to the power he wields in this region. Not everyone can withstand the harassment,” she says.
Pira should know. For a year now, Pira and her family have been harassed and threatened with dire consequences by Pradhan’s associates if they proceeded with the case. She stood her ground — only to have the judge dismiss her testimony as questionable. Pira adds that the police investigation has been shoddy and incomplete. When she approached police, hours after Kanteshwar was dragged off the bus, Pira was packed off and told to return if her husband did not return home. Five days later, when her brotherin- law went to the police station, police recorded Kanteshwar as “missing”, even though Pira and others insisted that he had been dragged off the bus and killed. In his judgement, Judge CR Dash pointedly referred to this “change” in the witness’ statement. He also cast doubt over Pira’s ability to identify Pradhan in the crowd since she had never met him previously. Pira responds in a tone that barely conceals her anger: “Do I have to meet Rahul Gandhi to recognise him?”
Pira’s case is not an isolated one. Of the eight cases that TEHELKA tracked, the judgments in each cast doubt over the witnesses’ statements and the shoddy police investigation. In another case against Pradhan, the MLA was acquitted on charges of rioting and setting Butia Digal’s house ablaze after the judge, SK Dash, questioned the credibility of Butia’s testimonies and that of seven other witnesses. The judge found it incredible that the witnesses had recognised Pradhan, even though the incident took place “during the dark night and in an area without electricity”. The homes, in this case, were completely burnt down — they were doused with kerosene before being set alight. The fact that the witnesses could see the faces of the people because of the flames went unquestioned.
‘How can I forget that the court set my husband’s killers free,’ says Pira, a widow
ANOTHER FACT that Justice Dash brought up to cast doubt about the police investigation was Butia’s age. At the time of recording statements, the investigating officer at Raikia police station noted Butia’s age as 35 when he was actually 60. The judge added that the investigating officer did not mark the exact location of the bush behind which the witnesses hid and watched their homes being burnt down. These facts were sufficient for the judge to give Pradhan the benefit of doubt and acquit him of all charges.
These acquittals come amid several instances where witnesses filed affidavits before the same courts alleging threats to withdraw their cases or to give false testimonies during cross-examination. In the affidavits that TEHELKA accessed, the witnesses clearly name the case accused as the ones issuing the threats. In Bodimunda village that falls under Tikabali police station, the threats went a step further. Last month, Hindus attacked Christians who continued to attend court hearings, unmindful of the threats they had been issued. The plastic tents that the Christians had pitched just outside the village were torn apart and a series of cases filed against them. The police registered five cases — three against Christians and two against Hindus in the village. Fearing for their lives, the Christian residents of Bodimunda fled to Bhubaneswar.
Witnesses have been threatened to withdraw their cases or to give false testimony
When TEHELKA approached Pradipta Panigrahy, the police inspector in charge of Tikabali police station, she admitted on record that the situation in the village had gotten out of hand since “there were four or five Hindus — members of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) — who paid no heed to the police or the district administration reconciliation efforts”. She added: “The police have no control over them and in any case, bail is accorded to them in all the cases we register against them.” (A month after the violence broke out, the case in which the Bodimunda villagers were appearing as witnesses was disposed of by the fast track court. All the accused were acquitted.)
In November 2009, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik filed a written admission in the Assembly where he said “85 persons of RSS, 321 persons of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and 118 persons of Bajrang Dal had been arrested for their involvement in the Kandhamal riots”. The question is: will the fast track courts set up by Patnaik’s government deliver the justice due to those affected by the violence? On last count, there were 71 cases waiting for that justice to be delivered.
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 7, Issue 12, Dated March 27, 2010
March 08, 2010
Lord Alton and the Single Equality Bill
On the heels of the Single Equality Bill in the House of Lords, the Dalit campaign is much in the news all over because of Kancha Ilaiah's new book, the Tamil Nadu Christian march for Dalit Christian Rights, and a host of other things. The Muslim world is particularly responding to Kancha's thesis of a post-hindu India.
Lord Alton who is one of our big advocates has some great examples of British Christian stalwarts who spoke up against social and structural evil and Wilberforce on caste!!
Following is the victorious email forwarded from Lord Alton on this very topic.
Begin forwarded message:
From: "ALTON, Lord"
Date: March 5, 2010 3:57:05 PM GMT+05:30
Subject: Dalits In india
Second Reading of the Anti Slavery Day Bill: Debate March 5th 2010
It is with great pleasure that I add my voice to those supporting the terms of my noble and learned friend’s Bill to inaugurate an Anti Slavery Day.
In 2007, the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, I ran a series of Roscoe Lectures on behalf of Liverpool John Moores University, where I hold a chair, commemorating the passage of William Wilberforce’s Bill to abolish the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and highlighting the nature of contemporary forms of slavery. For those who may not have read it, William Hague’s magnificent biography of Wilberforce cannot be bettered.
Liverpool was at the epicentre of the trade. Even so, brave men, like William Roscoe, the city’s Member of Parliament, would not countenance support for slavery and he voted with Wilberforce.
Sir James Picton, Liverpool's greatest historian, said of William Roscoe:
"No native resident of Liverpool has done more to elevate the character of the community, by uniting the successful pursuit of literature and art with the ordinary duties of the citizen and man of business."
In Roscoe’s epic poem, The Wrongs of Africa, published in 1787, he wrote of the iron hand crushing the people of Africa. He devoted the proceeds of the poem to the London Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.
"Blush ye not
To boast your equal laws, your just restraints,
Your rights defined, your liberties secured,
Whilst with an iron hand ye crush to earth
The helpless African; and bid him drink
That cup of sorrow, which yourselves have dashed,
Indignant, from oppression's fainting grasp."
With great strength and clarity the final stanza of Part One of this 35-page poem warns its readers:
"Forget not, Britain, higher still than thee
Sits the Judge of Nations, who can weigh
The wrong and can repay. Before His throne
Confess they weakness; nor with impious voice
Arraign th' immutable decree, that fix'd
The bounds of wrong and right; that gave to all
Their equal blessing, and secures its ends
By penalties severe; which often slow,
But always certain, on the guilty head,
Pour down the terrors of the wrath divine."
Hansard records, on February 23rd 1807, that Roscoe told the House of Commons that:
the slave trade had “disgraced the land” and continued:
"I have,” said the hon.gentleman, “long resided in the town of Liverpool; for 30 years I have never ceased to condemn this inhuman traffic; and I consider it the greatest happiness of my existence to lift up my voice on this occasion against it, with the friends of justice and humanity."
For so lifting up his voice, Roscoe was assailed by the mob on his return to Liverpool and never returned again to Parliament. It is important that stories like this are not forgotten. The courage and determination of men like Roscoe and Wilberforce should remain an inspiration to future generations. The stories matter because many of the same battles remain to be fought in our own generation.
Just a week ago I was in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
At several events I spoke about the plight of India’s untouchables – the Dalits – and the forms of exploitation and slavery which stem from the caste system. Dalit is a term which derives from a Sanskrit word meaning “broken” or “crushed.” One in forty of the world’s population is a Dalit living in India - a quarter of India's population.
I recalled that on June 22nd 1813, Wilberforce made a major speech in the Commons about India. In his remarks he said that the caste system:
“must surely appear to every heart of true British temper to be a system at war with truth and nature; a detestable expedient for keeping the lower orders of the community bowed down in an abject state of hopelessness and irremediable vassalage. It is justly, Sir, the glory of this country, that no member of our free community is naturally precluded from rising into the highest classes in society.”
Two centuries later India’s President, Dr.Manmohan Singh has trenchantly argued that “untouchability is not just social discrimination; it is a blot on humanity”
Yet, in 2010, while India is a rising world power and is rightly gaining a reputation for innovation and excellence in many fields, this “blot on humanity” disfigures India’s reputation and has become one of the world’s greatest human rights challenges. Hundreds of millions of people remain imprisoned by the bondage of what Wilberforce called “the cruel shackles” of the caste system.
Those shackles inevitably lock their prisoners into the most menial forms of labour, trap them in servitude, and leave them susceptible to innumerable forms of exploitation.
In fairness to the Indian Government it must be said that growing social mobility and a series of remedial measures introduced since independence have provided some amelioration. Some individual Dalits have reached high positions in Indian society, not least Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, the senior judge of India’s Supreme Court and Ms Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament. Yet, as I heard first-hand, even where Dalit people are securing elementary education, in some cases further educational progress and employment opportunities have been blocked to them.
Few would surely disagree that the caste system, with all the social prejudices and hierarchies which it entails, continues to enforce and compound servitude and exploitation. The perpetuation of humiliating descent-based occupations is the natural and inevitable consequence of the caste system. The rationale for caste was the division of labour, but to paraphrase Dr B.R. Ambedkar, architect of India’s constitution and hero of the Dalits, caste came to enforce a division of labourers.
I illustrate this point with reference to one of the most appalling and disgraceful forms of labour anywhere in the world, known euphemistically as manual scavenging: it involves cleaning human excrement from dry latrines, and is uniquely performed by Dalits as a consequence of their caste. The number engaged in this occupation is not known for certain, but it may be as high (or higher) than the equivalent of the population of Birmingham. An article in The New Statesman explained the link between this occupation and caste exploitation:
“Every society needs its sanitation workers, and no doubt those in any context may face some stigma. However, the deeper reality in India is that this job is reserved for Dalits, the ‘untouchables’ of old, and it is their job for life. As members of the Thoti sub-caste”,
the subject of the article,
“they were destined for this work by their birth, with no right of appeal. Members of equivalent sub-castes endure similar work across numerous districts of India: perhaps as many as 1.3 million of them. The nature of the caste system is that it generates a powerful combination of social and psychological pressures, constraints and expectations, which means that they cannot simply walk out of this work into another job of their choice. Because the scavengers do this work, there is little incentive to bring about change by introducing proper toilet facilities into the areas they work. Yet as long as the scavengers do it, they will be treated as untouchables. Theirs is a story of institutional dehumanisation and the flagrant abuse of their human rights.”
Tens of millions of India’s citizens are subject to highly exploitative forms of labour and modern-day slavery. This often plays into the problem of debt bondage and bonded labour, which affects tens of millions: it perpetuates a cycle of despair and hopelessness, as generations are bonded to the family debt, unable to be educated, unable to escape. Tragically, the debt is often the result of a loan taken out for something as simple and essential as a medical bill.
The caste system also plays into people trafficking - another form of slavery which affects millions in India. According to a report in CNN Asia last year, India’s Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta “remarked that at least 100 million people were involved in human trafficking in India”, whether for sex or for labour. The head of the Central Bureau of Investigation said that India occupied a unique position as a source, transit and destination country for trafficking, and that India has more than three million prostitutes, of whom an estimated 40% are children. These statistics are hugely significant: the situation in India simply must be at the heart of the fight against trafficking globally.
The Dalit Solidarity Network UK, which has been calling for an end to the caste system before this year’s Commonwealth Games, also highlights devadasi - a system of ritual prostitution of almost exclusively young Dalit girls.
During their time in India the British failed to heed Wilberforce and resisted the calls to abolish caste. Although untouchability was barred by the constitution when India secured independence, in 1947, the caste system was not dismantled. Most of the worst forms of exploitation are proscribed by Statute but all too often, the laws are simply not implemented, and the police further entrench, rather than protect against, caste prejudice. This point was made repeatedly in the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in May 2007.
A damning verdict is reached by a recent, in-depth report by the Robert F. Kennedy Centre entitled ‘Understanding Untouchability: A Comprehensive Study of Practices and Conditions in 1,589 Villages’: it describes “the Government of India’s continued ignorance about the depth of the problem and inadequacy in addressing untouchability and meetings its legal obligations in regard to the problem of untouchability”.
Caste discrimination is usually associated with India but, in parenthesis, I might add that there are also an estimated 3.5-5.5 million Dalits living in Bangladesh (2.5-4% of the total population). The majority are landless, and live in chronic poverty in rural areas or urban slums. They are deprived or actively excluded from adequate housing, health care, education, employment and participation in public life. Approximately 96% are illiterate.
To conclude, then, My lords, let me commend the attempt of my noble and learned friend, Lady Butler-Sloss, to remember and highlight the campaign against modern-day forms of slavery.
In my study I have a small terracotta pot given to me by Dr. Joseph D’souza, President of the International Dalit Freedom Network. Such pots must be broken once a Dalit has drunk out of it – so as not to pollute or contaminate other castes. This, in the 21st century. It's not the pots which need to be broken, nor the people, but the system which ensnares them.
Dr. D’souza rightly says: "If we are not intentional about bringing change and transformation in lives and society it will not happen. To love people is to act on behalf of them.”
My learned and noble friend’s Bill will be a stimulus to act on behalf of people like the Dalits and I readily support it.
India's Untouchable Millionnaire
Often we here about what is not working for the Dalits. Here is a story to warm your heart and still challenge you.
March 07, 2010
The Double Discrimination of the Dalit Woman
Former civil servant Sivakami turns into author and Dalit women's activist who spotlights the double discrimination of Dalit women.
A Deep Moral Crisis: India's Judiciary
The moral crisis in India's Judiciary deepens. Have a look at this article from The Times of India Newspaper.
"In our judiciary, anybody can be bought, says Gujarat Chief Justice"
AHMEDABAD: Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhyay expressed concern over the future of Gujarat judiciary when hearing the case of termination of ad hoc fast-track court judges. The high court and the state government discontinued services of 56 judges last November.
Discussing charges of corruption in cases of some of judicial officers on Friday, Justice Mukhopadhaya said: "We are concerned about the future of Gujarat judiciary, where money has become the main source and where you can buy anybody with the power of money."
Justice Mukhopadhyay insisted on maintaining transparency in judiciary in order to uphold its credibility among people. He asked the lawyers representing the FCT judges how else the high court could have reacted to allegations of corruption levelled against the judicial officers.
The FCT judges were relieved from service last year with a remark in their termination letter that they were found 'unsuitable'.
The judge was of the opinion that issuance of a show-cause notice to the judges concerned would have served no purpose. He also made it clear that he was discussing the issue in the context of the judiciary across the nation, and not strictly pertaining to Gujarat.
March 03, 2010
"Untouchable Lincoln" ~ from Time Magazine
Interesting quote and documentation of Ambedkar and Christianity and religion in the 1930's from Time magazine. Ambedkar wanted a faith that impacts all areas of life. The Christianity he experienced in America was content then to focus only on personal religion. The Papal response then was lukewarm.
One of the few men who have risen from the malodorous sink which is
below the lowest caste of India is Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, No. 1
Untouchable. This plump, cheery, bespectacled man of no caste, whose
very shadow would outrage high-caste Hindus, managed to get a good
education in Indian Government schools, was staked to courses at the
University of London and Columbia University by the highly democratic
Gaekwar of Baroda. Dr. Ambedkar is probably the only man alive who
ever walked out in a huff from a private audience with the Pope of
Rome. His Holiness Pius XI having heard from Dr. Ambedkar about the
miseries of Indian outcastes, replied: "My son, it may take three or
four centuries to remedy these abuses, be patient."
Impatient Dr. Ambedkar summoned 10,000 raggle-taggle Untouchables to
Nasik near Bombay last autumn, said de liberately: "I had the
misfortune of being born with the stigma of Untouchability. But it is
not my fault. I will not die a Hindu, for this is in my power. I say
to you, abandon Hinduism and adopt any other religion which gives you
equality of status and treatment."
Thereupon the 10,000 adopted a resolution advising India's Untouchables
—some 60,000,000—to desert Hinduism en masse. Then a mob of
Untouchables made a mighty bonfire of the most sacred Hindu books they
could find. At Lucknow volunteers were solicited to force entry into
Hindu temples, from which Untouchables have been barred since time
immemorial. At Barabanki 28,000 Untouchables shouted their support of
Dr. Ambedkar, laid plans for an All Indian Untouchable Conference.
Millions of leaflets bearing Untouchable Ambedkar's message began
fluttering out over India.
To what faith the Untouchables should turn for "equality of status and
treatment," Dr. Ambedkar did not hasten to explain. Since he was
reported dallying with Mohammedanism, Christian leaders in India
exhibited pious skittishness. Declared the National Christian Council
of India: ''The harvest is ripe for the gathering in many quarters and
we urge that volunteer bands be sent forth to gather it."
This week in Zion's Herald, New England Methodist weekly, appears the
first interview with Dr. Ambedkar to be published in the U. S. since
he made his Nasik speech. To get it, able Editor Lewis Oliver Hartman
went to India, sought out its No. 1 Untouchable, plied him with
practical questions. Wrote the editor of Zion's Herald:
"The [Untouchable] leader was rather critical of Christianity's
constant emphasis upon personal experience at the expense of any wider
reference. 'Why have you not seen the importance of a religion that
reaches out into all life and all relationships?' he asked.
Continuing, he declared with deep feeling, 'If you are going to
compromise with evil conditions while you stress personal religion
exclusively, I tell you now I am not with you.
. . . . "I pointed out in answer that, so far as the Methodist
Episcopal Church was concerned, our watchword was this: 'Nothing that
has to do with human welfare is foreign to Methodism.' This seemed to
please him. . . ." Of Hinduism the man whom Editor Hartman calls
"India's Lincoln" said: "Hinduism is not a religion; it is a disease."
Editor Hartman's interview concluded thus: ''This much is settled,' he
said to me, 'we are through forever with Hinduism. We are going
somewhere, but are not ready yet to say in what direction 'Yes,' I
answered, 'you are not strong enough yet to announce a decision. If
you compromise with the Hindus, all is lost; if you choose
Mohammedanism, the Hindus will crush you; if you go Christian, both
the Hindus and the Moslems will be on your back.'
" 'Exactly,' replied Dr. Ambedkar. 'We are not ready—yet.' "
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,755912-2,00.html#ixzz0h01lYC4z
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,755912-1,00.html#ixzz0h01RbTuX
February 22, 2010
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I am on Twitter now....
February 08, 2010
EU Delegation Visits Orissa Carnage
Where is justice for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Christians (Dalit Christians) who bore the brunt of the Orissa carnage?
John Dayal and Archbishop Cheenath speak up in the wake of the visit of an EU delegation to the area where the attacks took place.
Here's the link: http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article102215.ece
February 05, 2010
When it Rains it Pours: Dalits Face Continued Discrimination During Natural Disasters
Earlier Dalits faced discrimination during the tsunami, and now it's proven they faced discrimination during last year's floods in Andhra Pradesh.
‘Dalits worst hit in floods’
The Hindu: Feb 05, 2010
HYDERABAD: Discrimination against Dalits, insidious during normal course of life, becomes more pronounced in the aftermath of natural calamities. Despite forming the highest ratio in deaths and property loss, Dalits remain the last to get relief and rehabilitation. This fact has found one more echo in last year’s floods in five districts.
According to a comprehensive study and report by National Dalit Watch -- AP for Relief and Rehabilitation with Dignity, Dalits were the worst hit during the floods, partly due to their deprived status and partly due to apparent discrimination and apathy by the officials.
The study was conducted through 13 NGOs including Sakshi Human Rights Watch, Dalit Bahujan Shramik Union, M.V. Foundation, and COVA which were part of the forum. In all, 1,090 residential areas in 308 flood-affected villages were surveyed, with emphasis on parameters such as losses suffered by Dalits, equitable distribution of compensation, dignity during relief measures, and discrimination.
According to the study, scheduled castes constituted 38 per cent of the affected families, 55 per cent of the dead, and 50 per cent of those who lost or suffered damage to their houses. 28 per cent of the Dalits lost crop in their own land while those losing in leased land formed 27 per cent.
Though compensation was given to lessee farmers, many did not get it owing to absence of written agreements, said R. Venkat Reddy, national convenor of M.V. Foundation. The ratio of Dalits losing cattle was very high in all districts.
Protection from drowning is one more concern, as over 45 per cent of the Dalits in Mahabubnagar district did not get any shelter, and the number was high in Kurnool too.
“Usually, SC colonies are located in low-lying areas, which makes them all the more vulnerable. We demand that Dalits be given highest priority in rehabilitation and be allowed to select their plots first,” said G. Narsimha, from DBSU.
Majority of the Dalits from Mahabubnagar district remained the last in knowing about the calamity, getting relief and compensation, and being rehabilitated. Quite a few families migrated in search of livelihoods, the report stated.
In many villages, Dalits complained that SC colonies were the last to get relief material. NGO relief too was usurped by the upper castes. Many names went missing from the victims’ lists made by officials, especially so in the instances where the victims did not return to the village immediately. Officials refused to include them afterwards.
Mr. Reddy also drew attention to the plight of Dalit children, especially girls, who dropped out from schools. He urged the government to award grace marks to the flood-affected children in Matriculation exams citing their traumatised condition. V. Nandagopal, convenor of the forum, demanded a study by the government to identify the reasons for caste-specific deprivation during calamities, and measures to rule out the same.
Religion? Or Prayer for an Identity? Chaudhry Explains
Great article... check it out.
Religion, or a prayer for identity
By Amrita Chaudhry
(Source: The Indian Express, February 3, 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/religion-or-a-prayer-for-identity/574754/0 )
Dera politics and rows in Punjab got another twist last Saturday when Dera Sachkhand Ballan took one step further and announced the setting up of a separate religion, Ravidassia, with a religious book, Amrit Bani Guru Ravidass, a separate symbol, Har, and a separate motto, Jai Gurudev.
It was another indicator that Dalit assertion has come to stay in a state that has long suppressed the community despite it making up almost 29 per cent of the population. Till recently a struggle for equality, the Punjab Dalit movement has now changed its character. Dalits are no longer asking for an equal space in society, they are claiming their own personal space. They are also no longer shy of their identity, with announcement of a “new religion”, showering of shobha yatras with flowers from a chopper, and the deluge of music albums in the market celebrating Dalithood pointers of the same.
The social change is expected to impact Punjab politics too, with experts afraid that the Dalit assertion — seen by some as more reactionary than rational — could be both creative and violent.
It was late on Saturday that Dera Sachkhand Ballan announced the “Ravidassia religion”, at Seer Gowardhanpur in Benaras, the birthplace of Guru Ravidass. It was the 633rd birth anniversary of Ravidass, a saint of the Bhakti movement. The call for a separate religious identity for Ravidassias came eight months after the killing of Sant Ramananad, the deputy of dera head Sant Niranjan Dass, in Vienna by alleged “radical Sikhs”.
Well-known academic on Dalit issues and the chairman of Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Dr Ronki Ram, sees the development as “an assertion of identity” and not as a “separate religion”. “The manner in which the process is unfolding is not new. The Dalits of Punjab have always laid claim to a separate religion called the ‘Adh dharma’ and this Dera has a registered symbol. The Dalits are doing well economically and this has given them an upward mobility. They are now asserting,” says Ram.
Dr Harish Puri, a Dalit who retired as Head Professor of Dr B R Ambedkar Chair, Department of Political Science, Guru Nanak Dev University, warns against dismissing the developments as mere “reactionary”. “Radical Sikhs killed the Dera head in Vienna and in reaction the Dera decided to assert a separate identity. The manner in which our political bosses handled the murder and the protests that erupted later was to convert the same into a law and order situation and suppress it. No one addressed the anguish of a community, and now we have the results which will have a bad impact on our politics.”
Puri feels that this kind of assertion arising from anger is “destructive”. “No one is talking about upliftment of Dalits. These things are the handiwork of a very small section of Dalits who are either settled abroad and are doing well or those Dalits who come from Doaba where NRI population is high. These people can afford to assert. But no one is addressing the problems of a large section of Dalits who continue to live in highly condemnable conditions.” Dr Puri is also apprehensive of politics getting into the debate, with a large section of political leaders from Doaba followers of one or the other Dera. “How these politicians use these changes will script the future of our politics,” he points out.
Balbir Madhopuri, well-known Dalit writer whose novel Chhangeya Rukh was translated into English by Oxford University Press recently, has another objection. “I do not agree to what Dera Ballan has done, for this is no assertion. This action limits the preaching of Guru Ravidass to a very limited section. Adh dharam, which was established in 1925 and recognised by the British in 1930, incorporated the teaching of 36 gurus belonging to lower castes. Ravidaassia or the Amrit Bani Ravi Das (containing 240 hymns of Guru Ravidass) is very limiting.”
A literary critic and known Dalit scholar, Dr Sarabjit Singh, also cautions against taking the development lightly: “This change is dangerous and disturbs the socio-political fabric of Punjab.”
A POWERFUL DERA
Dera Sachkhand Ballan is one of the most powerful and famous Deras of the Ravidass sect in Punjab, situated some 10 km from Jalandhar. Other equally famous Ravidass deras include Temple Ravidass Chak Hakim near Phagwara and Dera of Sant Jagatjit Giri near Pathankot. These two Deras are said to have been instrumental in bringing social consciousness among the Dalits of Punjab.
Mangoo Ram, founder of the ‘Adh dharam movement’, is said to have visited the Dera Ballan and sought its support to popularise the image of Ravidass among the Dalits of Punjab.
The Dera Sachkhand Ballan was founded by Sant Pipal Dass, father of Sant Sarwan Dass, and is popularly known as Dera Sant Sarwan Das or simply Dera Ballan.
The Dera shot into fame June last year when Sant Ramanand, deputy of Dera head Sant Niranjan Dass, was killed in Vienna, Austria, allegedly by some radical Sikhs. The Dera head was grievously injured in the attack. The incident led to arson in certain parts of Punjab with dera heads announcing shifting of the Guru Granth Sahib from its temples.
While Dera Ballan is not a Sikh institution, as part of tradition, its deras install and worship Guru Granth Sahib. Some of the followers sport Sikh appearances while others could be clean shaven, though the latter are not necessarily Hindus.
Since the Vienna incident, the sect has been since asserting itself, though quietly.
(Source: The Indian Express, February 3, 2010, http://www.indianexpress.com/news/religion-or-a-prayer-for-identity/574754/0 )
February 01, 2010
Ilaiah Again Leading the Way on the Journey
The long road to Dalit freedom and dignity will need great literary work that verbalizes the life of the majority dalit masses in India. Kancha Ilaiah once again leads us on that journey.
Subject: Kancha's article on the Jaipur Literature Festival in the ' Deccan Herald ' newspaper
Meeting of streams
By Kancha Ilaiah
Literary festivals teach how to connect oneself to the social mass culture, if one is doing the transformative writing.
I have just returned from the Jaipur Literature Festival having spoken at two sessions, ‘Outcaste and public conscience’ and ‘The journey to childhood.’ A group of writers and artistes has been holding this conference for five years now. The attendance at the conference was amazing. Intellectuals from several fields had gathered in that city of history and culture of its own.
As I participated in this festival for the first time, that too as a speaker on a subject — caste and untouchability — it opened my eyes for two reasons. One, it had shown me how big is the literary world. Two, it also has shown me how small is the presence of Dalit-Bahujan writers and readers in such a globally visible conference.
It had drawn writers, poets, artists, painters, actors and playwrights from all over the world. Of course, the focus was by and large India. Apart from the writers in English language there were some Hindi writers. By all standards it was an elite conference but one could see writers whose interests and commitments went beyond their elitism.
For the first time I realised that literary festivals also teach how one should connect oneself to the social mass culture, if one is doing the transformative writing. Though the writing for pleasure and fun would also have some transformative element in it, the writers who write for radical transformation of the society need to work with a different language and idiom.
I was trying to learn from my readers — surprisingly there were quite few of them in that conference — how my English language and idiom was communicating. I met a cross section of my readers both from India and abroad.
A Bhutani woman writer told me that though she was a writer herself with a vast reading she never knew that caste was such a big problem in India. Of course the responses vary depending on the caste background, age and experience of the readers. But one common point was that the Dalit-Bahujan writings have shown them a different India.
In a conference where the presence of Wole Soyinka to Gulzar-Girish Karnad to Christophe Jaffrelot to Mark Tully to Omprakash Valmiki and P Sivakami (both well known Dalit writers) very different and varied experiences of writing and the themes that they work got discussed.
India revealed itself in many different ways. In a country, where the upper caste elite including the writers do not have a sense of shame and guilt, such literary festivals work as a place for exchange of ideas. This is a country where sex is discussed and written about from Vastayana days onwards but caste was an issue of shame about which they never wanted to discuss and write about.
When Nayantara Sehgal (Nehru’s niece) said at a panel discussion on Edwina and Nehru’s relationship that the copyright holders of Nehru’s letters to Edwina wanted to hide the simple fact that “our politicians too have sexual organs,” she was just making a known point.
But this is the same country that had hidden the fact that it has a horrendous system of caste and untouchability from the rest of the world. For all these years the copyright of caste remained with them and they never allowed it to be written about and published.
The caste and untouchability was/is there as part of our day to day life for so long but any writing about it shamed them and they have hidden their guilt as it involved an immoral intercourse between two human beings — a Dalit and a Brahmin. At least this literature festival has lifted the veil.
After Valmiki, Sivakami and I got off the stage there were several young people, who rushed for our autographs. Though I did not ask them about their caste background, there was no way that there could be many Dalit/OBCs among them. Such a response from the upper caste English medium educated youth certainly opens a page of hope.
No positive writer, who writes for the transformation of the society like India, wants a civil war for its own sake. But the change could be smooth and peaceful only when the upper caste intelligentsia begins to act on its sense of shame and guilt. A transformative book writing is meant to work both ways. It is meant to embolden the weakest and also meant to weaken the spirit of exploitation of the oppressors.
If writing helps even a section of oppressors to stop oppressing the oppressed and they begin to understand the point of view of the oppressed the role of writing becomes more meaningful. The Jaipur festival has shown the signs of such positive exchange of views.
But this is only one side of the story. There could be another side as well. The Dalit-Bahujan literature is not yet seen as part of the mainstream. To make the Dalit-Bahujan literature mainstream literature either the streams need to be changed radically or the small steam should become big enough so that the others have no way but cross it by swimming, and not jump it over.
January 25, 2010
The Jaipur Literature Festival
Recently our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court commented on continuing discrimination of Dalits. Now Dalit writers express their feelings in a literature convention.
At this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival, as India commemorates 60 years of being a Republic on 26 January 2010, the focus is on Dalit writing. The panel discussion on Outcaste: The Search for Public Conscience featured S. Anand, publisher of Navayana which focuses on dalit literature, P.Sivakami, novelist and political activist from Chennai; Omprakash Valmiki, author of the bestselling Joothan; and Kancha Ilaiah author of the best-selling Why I am Not a Hindu. Chairing the session, S Anand said that despite the Constitution being piloted by Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, a Dalit and one of the architects of modern India, Dalits seem to hardly figure in sectors where there is no affirmative action. Consequently, beyond representation in jobs in the government sector (which too is begrudged to them) and in politics, they continue to be shunned in the realms of culture, literature and the arts. Invoking Ambedkar`s 1952 speech, Anand wanted the speakers to examine the “absence of public conscience”, especially among the Hindus.
Ilaiah said the caste system made the brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas caste-proud and they therefore did not believe in introspection since they believe dalits and sudras have no right to write forget even speak. The Hindu public has no conscience, he said. Valmiki said that there`s segreagation in every village in India, and the dalits are forced to live in ghettoes to the West of the village or near gutters. Caste envelopes every aspect of life in everyday India. Valmiki said even in Rajasthan today dalits face discrimination. In the vilage Chakwara in Rajasthan, after dalits managed to gain access to the lake, the caste Hindus started defecating there and polluting it, Anand pointed out. Sivakami said that upper caste Hindus have only a caste conscience and not a public conscience; they lack a human conscience. All the writers agreed that there was no reason they would call themselves Hindu since Hinduism offered them no dignity or respect. Valmiki earlier said that it was wonderful that the DSC Jaipur literature festival in its fifth year has welcomed dalit writers.
January 11, 2010
Caste prejudices are on the increase: India’s Supreme Court Chief Justice
Check out this interesting comment by India’s Chief Justice.
Caste bias against dalits not down: CJI
By Dhananjay Mahapatra, Times of India, 11 January 2010
NEW DELHI: In what could raise serious concerns over the working of the 60-year-old reservation system to uplift the dalits, Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan on Sunday said caste prejudices had not come down against the dalits.
Reflecting on his journey from a dalit boy to the post of CJI, Justice Balakrishnan said it had not been an easy road for him. Asked whether in the present day, a similarly placed dalit boy would have a smoother journey, the CJI said, “It will still be difficult.”
Speaking to TOI, Justice Balakrishnan said, “The prejudices are on the increase. It may not be visible on the surface, for the prejudices are more sophisticate now.” This remark from the CJI puts in question the efficacy of the current system of reservation for Scheduled Caste population through the Presidential Order of 1950 to compensate them for the centuries of oppression at the hands of upper castes.
But the CJI was not bitter as he looked back on the eve of completing three years in the top post, just five months away from his retirement. “I have suffered caste prejudices. But at the same time, so many people have helped me irrespective of their caste,” he added.
In fact, the Supreme Court in April 2006 had issued notices to the Centre and all states on a PIL filed by an NGO — ‘National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights’ (NCDHR) — citing 20 common instances of indifference of police and authorities that had rendered the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, a dead piece of legislation. The PIL had sought as many as 28 different directions for the proper implementation of the 17-year-old Act.
January 06, 2010
I think of each one of our girls in our 90 schools and what could happen to them if we
don't educate and empower them to protect themselves from abuse
Dalit girl burnt alive for fighting rape
Tuesday January 5, 2010, New Delhi
She was just 14, and as she waited at home on Monday for her parents to return, two boys broke in.
They tried to rape her, and she fought back. Fed up, the two boys, both under 18, poured kerosene all over her, set her on fire, and left her house. Neighbours rushed to the fields where her parents were working. When they got home, their child was still alive. They rushed her to hospital. She died a few hours later.
"She told the police that both the boys tried to rape her ...when she resisted, they doused kerosene on her and set her on fire. They should be severely punished," says her broken father.
This tragedy took place in Madhya Pradesh in the Burhanpur district. Caste played a big role in the girl's death. She was a Dalit, her attackers were not.
The two boys have been found by the police and have been arrested.
Their young victim dreamt of being a teacher someday, and helping girls in her village to realize their dreams.
December 27, 2009
The Hindu: Ten Dalit Families Face Social Ostracisation
Ten dalit families face social ostracisation in Ganjam
The villages form part of Chief Minister’s constituency
The victims say they are facing wrath of upper castes
The tussle started more than a year ago
BERHAMPUR: Ten dalit families of Thuruburei village of Shergarh block in Ganjam district are alleged to be facing severe casteist social ostracisation.
The irony is that this casteist social ostracisation continues in a village which is part of the Hinjli Assembly constituency represented by the Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik.
The victims of social ostracisation say they are facing the wrath of upper castes of the village as they are not ready to bow down to their derogatory exploitive norms.
The Thuruburei village is inhabited by around 500 families. Out of them 20 families are ‘washermen’ or ‘Dhobi’ by caste. Pradeep Sethi, an aggrieved dalit of the village said the upper castes have targeted 10 ‘dhobi’ families who refused to bow down to the diktat of upper castes.
It is alleged that the upper castes have barred them from using the village well, tubewell, grocery shop etc. They are not being allowed to harvest the crop in their field.
As per Mr. Sethi, the tussle between the dalits and upper castes of the village had started more than a year ago.
The ‘Dhobi’ families had demanded hike in the yearly payment made by the upper caste families.
Each upper caste family was paying Rs. 20 per year to the designated washerman families to wash clothes throughout the year.
Ten ‘Dhobi’ families had demanded the allowance to be hiked to Rs. 50 per year. The other 10 washermen families had preferred to continue with the old payment.
This had irked the upper castes who had decided to ostracise the 10 washermen families who wanted revision in the meagre payment.
Several dalits of the village were also fined by the upper castes when they refused to wash clothes at extreme low price.
Tussle between them had aggravated when dalit families opposed construction of an Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) centre on a patch of land which they claimed to be a road as per the revenue records.
The dalits used to have a cow shed on the patch of land. On Thursday the tussle took violent shape. One dalit, Bhimasena Sethi was seriously injured.
He was admitted in the MKCG medical college hospital. Both warring groups have filed cases against each other in the Hinjli police station.
December 07, 2009
Educational Double Standard?
Our campaign for English education for Dalit-Bahujan children during the last decade was built on the following developing reality of the two-tiered education system in the Indian school system: English medium education for the elite and economically prosperous and the local language education for the Dalit-Bahujan and poor masses of India. But India is changing quickly despite the propaganda of the political elite. The common man knows what is the 'passport' to development- access to English medium education from the primary school level. How long will the Government continue with this double standard in education policy?
In 3 yrs, English rises to No. 2 medium
By Rema Nagarajan
Times of India
December 5, 2009
While the Marathi manoos and various others fight over the supremacy of languages, English has quietly marched on and become the second largest medium in India's primary schools, after Hindi.
In 2006, English as a medium of instruction was fourth -- behind Hindi, Bengali and Marathi in that order -- but by 2007 it had climbed to second place and grew even further in 2008, beginning to eat into the Hindi numbers too (see detailed report in the latest edition of TOI-Crest).
Regional language medium schools have witnessed steady erosion in their share over the years, and in some cases even in the absolute numbers, as parents seem to have decided that English is the passport to a bright future for their children.
Data collected by the National University for Education Planning and Administration (NUEPA) as a part of DISE, the monitoring system developed for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme, shows that the number of those opting for English medium from class I-VIII has grown by 150% between 2003 and 2008, while the number of students opting for Hindi grew by just 32%.
The count for 2008 is more robust than in previous years, says NUEPA. Of the total number of students surveyed by DISE, about 18.8 crore, data on the medium of instruction was available for over 92%. "The quality of data and its collection has vastly improved. However, the data pertains only to recognized schools. In most states, there are thousands of unrecognized schools, most of which are English-medium schools. Hence, the number of those studying in English-medium schools could actually be even higher," says Prof Arun Mehta of NUEPA.
The states with the highest number of students in English-medium schools have remained unchanged from 2004 till 2008 -- Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. In the two top states, almost a fifth of all enrolled students are studying in English-medium schools. The top three are followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka and Kerala in that order. Madhya Pradesh is the lone Hindi-speaking state in the list of the top 10 states in terms of enrolment in English medium.
The highest jump in the number of English-medium students between 2004 and 2008 was in Maharashtra, about 11 lakh, followed by Andhra Pradesh (9.7 lakh), Tamil Nadu (9.6 lakh), Delhi (5.5 lakh) and Jammu and Kashmir about 5 lakh.
Earlier, in 2006, most of the growth in English was in the southern states, barring Punjab and Gujarat, which also showed a jump in numbers. However, by 2008, many of the northern states too have joined the rush for English schooling. For instance, Haryana has recorded the highest growth, with the number of children in English-medium schools going up more than seven times between 2004 and 2008, from over 20,000 to 1.6 lakh.
Similarly, in Rajasthan, students opting for English schooling increased more than three times, from over 60,000 in 2004 to nearly 2.2 lakh by 2008. The growth between 2007 and 2008 alone was 130%.
Again, in Madhya Pradesh, the number of students opting for English schooling almost trebled from 1.6 lakh to 4.8 lakh. In Delhi, well over a third (37%) of all enrolled children are in English-medium schools while the proportion of those in Hindi medium has fallen from 76% to 61% between 2004 and 2008. As before, Punjab and Gujarat show substantial growth in English schooling with the number doubling in Punjab and going up more than three times in Gujarat.
December 04, 2009
Ilaiah Investigates the Travails of a Leader
Kancha Ilaiah talks about the creation of Dalit-Bahujan icons in Uttar Pradesh and Mayawati the Dalit Chief Minister of UP.
By Kancha Ilaiah
If a political issue is sought to be settled through the legal means, it would have different implications to our democracy.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s response to the legal hurdles to her plans to set up Ambedkar parks and Kanshi Ram memorials was quite brave and intelligent. A team of anti-Maya lawyers (belonging to both BJP and Congress ideology) filed a public interest litigation in the supreme court pleading to stop the construction.
The supreme court constituted a committee, which held that there is great danger to the environment of UP because of these parks, though they are not polluting industries. There is not enough evidence that in order to construct these statue-parks, they had cut down any trees at all.
Based on the recommendations of the experts committee, the supreme court ordered stoppage of work at all construction sites. The court threatened to forcefully stop the work or otherwise it would take over the sites by deploying special armed forces. Hence the work was stopped.
However, within a few days, Mayawati declared that her government would build massive Kanshi Ram green parks around Lucknow and other cities of Uttar Pradesh. She also announced that a long stretch of green corridor would be created on the outskirts of Lucknow. If the anti-Mayawati forces want to cut her sovereign powers based on the democratic decision of her cabinet (right or wrong) by using the court, she wants to assert her power. She wants to appeal to the psychological alienation of the Dalit masses and show them that she was bent upon creating alternative sites of socio-spiritual satisfaction of those people by building more Dalit-Buddhist icon parks.
After all, the Dalits and green environment are not enemies of each other. They did not cut down forests to own hundreds of acres of land nor did they cut down trees to build mansions for their comfortable living. But to see how much teakwood is there in the houses of the every principled environmentalist of Delhi and other cities one only needs to visit their houses.
So like Orwellian principles of ‘Animal Farm’, the theory of even simplicity and environment changes from caste to caste and culture to culture. Even the courts seem to be getting drawn into this controversy. That it poses a danger to democracy needs to be seen in future. Already the Dalit-Bahujan masses have been losing faith in our judicial institutions. If the courts involve in far-fetched interpretative judicial activism in Dalit cultural life (of statue building or otherwise) their alienation would become more pronounced. That does not harm Mayawati but harms democracy, rather irreparably.
There is a gross mis-reading of Mayawati’s abilities to handle her own affairs. We do not know how much money she has but she has enormous courage and confidence. Though efforts are on to dislodge and destroy her legally, she seems to be gaining politically.
On the one hand, Congress is attempting to take her Dalit and Brahmin vote-bank away and on the other, it is attempting to project the Brahmin leadership at the top (Rita Bahuguna Joshi, Manish Tiwari and so on). At the ground level, it is sending Rahul Gandhi into Dalit huts to eat with them and sleep in their homes so that a psychological repositioning of them could take place. But will the Congress succeed?
While all her opponents are trying to drag her into litigations so that her administration becomes totally dysfunctional, she seems to be gaining strength. If a political issue is sought to be settled through the legal means, it would have different implications to our democracy. If Mayawati is spending money on monuments when the masses are suffering from lack of food, education and employment, such a government should be faced politically only.
The recent byelections in UP have shown that her voters are not getting alienated from her. If more and more feeling of harassment on account of Ambedkar parks is generated, then more and more consolidation of the Dalit vote would take place and Mayawati will prove her opponents wrong.
She has an ideological agenda. The rock bed of that agenda is the Dalit social force. The BSP from the days of Kanshi Ram has an ideological position on men and matters. The Congress and more so, the Samajwadi Party cannot convince the Dalits on that count.
The Samajwadi party, in particular, has no ideology whatsoever. The Lohia-JP ideology has no social basis. The Muslims have no problem with her so long as she does not allow the BJP to play round.
If Ambedkar parks that are coming up as alternative sites of socio-spiritual culture of Dalits are shown as anti-democratic by the Hindu legal pundits, the Dalits will tell them that they will back Mayawati more and more on religious and ideological grounds.
As these parks are essentially anti-Hindu-Buddhist monuments, she is constructing history. If they stop her activities in the name of protection to environment, the Dalits might feel that the so called environmentalists have saffron threads to their wrists and that is where they see a common ground between the BJP, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party.
December 03, 2009
Dalits suffer because they won't carry the dead
I was saddened, but not surprised by a report I just received in an email from Dalit activists in central India. Dalits there have stopped carrying the carcasses of dead animals. Someone has to do the job, but they are being told that is the only career they can have…and then despised because of it. Now that they have stopped in protest, local shops won’t sell them products, they’re banned from public transportation, and not allowed to get water from public wells. And more.
As one colleague mentioned in a subsequent email to me, forcing people to clean up dead animals is actually outlawed as an atrocity under Indian legislation which went into effect in 1995, called the “Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act”. However, this report also illustrates that, although India’s laws may be good, local officials often ignore the rule of law and many Dalit communities don’t have the resources or knowledge to pursue the matter legally.
* * * * * * *
SOCIAL BOYCOTT OF DALITS IN MADHYA PRADESH
(Excerpts from Fact Finding Report issued by Nagrik Adhikar Manch & Yuva Samvad)
The situation in the Gadarwara Sub Division of Narsinghpur District, Madhya Pradesh state has been in a state of constant flux since last 3-4 months. The Dalits living in the villages adjoining Gadarwara have been condemned to a life of fear and intimidation. Their human rights and dignity are at stake.
Obviously there is a concrete reason behind this sudden spurt in violence against them. They have refused to remain subservient to the interests of the upper/dominant castes and have decided to speak up.
Instead of taking concrete steps to guarantee the human rights of dalits granted to them under Constitution, the administration has preferred to remain silent or at best supportive of the interests of the dominant castes. One can easily see why Madhya Pradesh happens to be the state which tops the list of atrocities on tribals and stands second when it comes to cases of atrocities against Dalits. (The incidents are occurring in villages about half-way between the state capital, Bhopal, and Jabalpur.)
Affected Area: Dalits (Ahirwar community) in Gadarwara and adjoining villages
Villages visited by the Fact Finding Team : Nander,Madgula, Devri and Tekapar
Date: 7th and 9th November 2009
The Ahirwars make almost half (38,000-40,000 ) of the total population (70,000-80,000) of Gadarwara. Around 80-85 percent of the people in this tehsil are engaged in agriculture or related work. Agricultural labourers and landless peasants comprise a majority among them. Most of the agricultural labourers belong to the Dalit communities and among them the
Ahirwars (Chamars) predominate. …There are over 700 surnames in this caste.
The Ahirwars Resolution giving rise to the present oppression
Ahirwar Samaj Mahaparishad [reached] a general consensus…about abandoning the obnoxious practice of carrying of the carcasses of dead beasts; to rid them of the centuries old practice of being looked down upon by the varna (upper) castes as carriers of the carcasses and consequently untouchables. Ahirwars in many villages actually discontinued this practice from July-August onwards. The Ahirwar Samaj Mahaparishad resolved in October 2009 to abandon this practice by the community en masse at the state level.
A Detailed Report of the Fact Finding Team and Its observations
Despite repeated complaints against the oppression faced by the dalits at the hands of the dominant castes and demands for action against them, the attitude of the administration has remained apathetic. This despite the fact that Dalits in 5-6 villages have filed complaints of physical harassment and oppression.
[Dalits denied] access to daily utilities
1.There is ban on them on making any purchases from the only provision shop in the village.
2.They are not allowed to get water from a public tap.
3. Ban on travel by public transport
4. Stopping vegetable and food vendors, newspaper boys including dhobis (washermen), nais (barbers) from entering Dalit localities
5. Stopping access to flour mills for grinding corn
6. Ban on entering the Village Panchayat Bhavan
…Bimla Bai was threatened by non-Dalit Devendra Kumar warning her not to step in their fields failing which they would strip her naked and parade her through the village.
…In a meeting organised by the Village head (Sarpanch) in October 2009 to resolve the issue, more than hundred people belonging to non-dalit castes who were carrying different arms, literally pounced upon the Ahirwars and tried to intimidate them. The Ahirwars who had gathered there hoping for a peaceful and respectable solution, literally had to flee the place to save their lives.
…The landless Ahirwar peasants cultivate the land of the upper caste people on lease on expence sharing basis (batai). Under it all expenses right from bowing to harvesting is done by the person taking the land on lease and he is given 1/4 to 1/10 portion of the harvest by the landlord However, when the crops bowed in June reached the harvesting stage some influential landlords refused to allot any share to the cultivators and in fact harvested the crop with Harvester Combines and took it away. The Ahirwar community [at least 12 families] which faced drought last season is on the brink of starvation. If the same state of affairs continues, it is feared that there would be starvation deaths in the area.
…Munna Gurjar forcibly dumped the dead animal in front of the house of Malkham Singh Ahirwar. Similarly dead animals are being dumped in the pokharee (small pond) in front of Vishal Ahirwar's the house. People hailing from influential families even dumped the dead carcass in front of the Community Hall.
Action by Administration
People from Deori have complained twice to the Sub-Divisional Officer, (Anuvibhagiya Dandadhikari) Gadarwara but the SDM has merely consoled them and has not bothered to take any action against the perpetrators. The matter has been kept hanging till date.
…In the second week of October some people from the Ahirwars were summoned by the caste people and they were pointblank asked whether they will or will not lift the caracasses of dead animals. The Ahirwars conveyed to them the community decision. The next day a fiat was issued by the caste people warning the Ahirwars that if by any chance the Ahirwars pass through their fields they will have to pay a fine of Rs. 1000/-
The intimidation did not stop here. A strict ban was imposed on availing the village facilities of shop for things of daily use, use of public tap water system, flour mill and other public places. They used to take clay for building from public places but a total ban on such use was imposed. Netram Ahirwar informed us that the work of digging for clay has always been a community effort but now they threaten us if we take clay.
…Their pressure tactics also [deprived Dalits of] 100 days employment [guaranteed by a Central/Federal government program for the poor]. The Dalit Ahirwars receive hardly 10 to 15 days of work and that too with difficulty.
…The people of Tekapar have been kept under threat by the influential castes. They are threatened that should they dare to complain they will have to face the music. In spite of this the Ahirwar people had made representations against the injustice to them in writing to the Sub Divisional Magistrate on 8th October 2009. Despite this the status quo remains and no action has been taken to ameliorate the situation.
[Similar reports from two more villages deleted.]
The Conclusion and The Way Out
…After meeting hundreds of people from the four villages in MP the Fact Finding Team has observed how the Collective Decision of the Ahirwar Community (Dalit) of not undertaking the inhuman and unconstitutional work has become a question of prestige. The caste people are endeavouring for the reversal of this decision through social, economic sanctions. The caste people desire that the Dalits should abandon their struggle for self-respect and continue to undergo the social and cultural slavery…
November 12, 2009
100 Million Missing Women?
After the stories on the missing children in India in the wake of the Slumdog Millionaire movie, here is the startling story of the missing women in India and China along with sub-Saharan Africa.
China and India are going to be some kind of super powers with this kind of gender bias and prejudice and disappearance of the female population. One wonders about the statistics on Dalit Bahujan women who are victims of trafficking, infanticide, dowry deaths and the rest.
There is no substitute for a cultural revolution and a mindset that accords women the same value and dignity as given to men if we really want to change the plight of women in these parts of the world.
Great article... see below.
How did 100,000,000 women disappear?
Two researchers crunching population statistics have confirmed an unsettling reality. Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray noticed the ratio of women to men in developing regions and in some cultures is suspiciously below the norm
Nicole Baute Staff reporter
Published On Sat Jun 6 2009 http://www.thestar.com/Insight/article/645832
In India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, millions upon millions of women are missing. They are not lost, but dead: victims of violence, discrimination and neglect.
A University of British Columbia economist is amongst those trying to find them – not the women themselves, who are long gone, but their numbers and ages, which paint a sad and startling picture of gender discrimination in the developing world.
The term "missing women" was coined in 1990, when Indian economist Amartya Sen calculated a shocking figure. In parts of Asia and Africa, he wrote in The New York Review of Books, 100 million women who should be alive are not, because of unequal access to medical care, food and social services. These are excess deaths: women "missing" above and beyond natural mortality rates, compared to their male counterparts.
Women who are dead because their lives were undervalued.
Around the world boys outnumber girls at birth, but in countries where women and men receive equal care, women have proved hardier and more resistant to disease, and thus live longer. In most of Asia and North Africa, however, Sen found that women die with startlingly higher frequency.
His research began a flutter of activity in academic circles and by 2005, the United Nations produced a much higher estimate for how many women could be "missing": 200 million.
From her office at the University of British Columbia, economics professor Siwan Anderson has been crunching numbers to try and understand why so many women are dying. "If you're interested in gender discrimination, it's really one of the starkest measures of discrimination, because it's women who should be alive, but aren't," she says.
The 40-year-old researcher recently co-authored a paper with New York University's Debraj Ray, focusing on figures from China, India and sub-Saharan Africa for the year 2000. What they discovered flew in the face of existing literature and commonly held beliefs about the missing women phenomenon.
"Previously, people had thought that they (the missing women) were all at the very early stages of life, prenatal or just after, so before four years old," Anderson says. "But what we found is that the majority are actually later." Female infanticide has been endemic in India and China for some time, which she says led researchers to assume that it was the source of all the missing women. But the truth is much more complicated.
Once she and Ray broke down the numbers by age group, they found that the majority of excess female deaths came later in life: 66 per cent in India, 55 per cent in China and 83 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa.
One of their colleagues in the economics department at the University of British Columbia says this finding is striking, and points the way for future research and advocacy.
"Why would there be excess mortality of, let's say, 45-year-old women versus 45-year-old men?" asks economics professor Kevin Milligan. "And what they find is ... they have the same set of diseases, they just seem to die more frequently. The explanation that seems most consistent with that is differential access to health care. And so that's a really striking finding."
Anderson says that lack of health care is likely a big part of the problem, but that there are numerous cultural and social factors at play that can be difficult to pinpoint.
In their "elementary accounting exercise" published this February, Anderson and Ray began to plot the causes of excess death in 2000 by age group, and produced some interesting figures.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the dominant source of missing women was HIV and AIDS, the cause of more than 600,000 excess female deaths each year.
In China, Anderson says, most of the 141,000 excess female deaths by injury were suicides, making China the only place in the world where women are more likely than men to kill themselves, often by eating pesticides used for crops.
And in India, a category called "injuries" yielded ominously high figures: 86,000 excess deaths in the age group 15-29 in 2000 alone. Anderson has done extensive research in India, and says the numbers beg the question of exactly how many deaths were so-called "kitchen fires" – often used to mask dowry-related killings, the result of a new bride being tortured by her new family until her parents pay their debts.
Contrary to what you might expect, Anderson says, dowry prices have not dropped off with improvements in education in India. Instead, they have gotten worse, with educated brides and their families willing to pay even more for high-quality grooms.
Anderson says dowry payments can be six times a family's annual wealth – an excruciating price, especially for poor villagers. The implications of this hefty sum trickle down to the first moments of a child's life. While conducting recent field work in India, Anderson asked villagers about selective abortions and found them open about the fact that they use ultrasound to determine the baby's gender and help them decide whether or not to keep it.
"They see no other options," she says. "They really cannot afford to have a daughter."
Future research will delve deeper, seeking answers to questions such as: How often are men given mosquito nets to protect themselves from malaria, but not women? How many women die because they are not taken to the hospital when they are sick?
Anderson is using data gathered primarily from the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Health Organization, but admits that getting the figures can be a huge challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, many deaths go undocumented, and in India, it is virtually impossible to know how many "unintentional" deaths are actually dowry killings, because they are not accurately reported to the authorities.
It is also difficult to separate direct gender discrimination from biological, social, environmental, behavioural and economic factors. That will be part of the task as Anderson works on calculating missing women by region in India, and isolating gender discrimination from other factors that might contribute to uneven male-to-female ratios.
When asked what can be done to combat such deep-seated inequality, Anderson pauses. Even when governments outlaw root causes, such as the Indian dowry system, violence persists, she says. "It's too embedded in the system in their world."
Ilaiah's Open Letter to Obama
My friend Kancha Ilaiah writes an open letter to Obama on Diwali and Dalit bonded children in Sivakasi and on our Education Centers.
Check it out....
Maoism's Other Side
I've re-printed an article below for you... The end does not justify the means and the double standards of Indian politics with regards to violence is not acceptable. For the BJP and the Parivar the killing of Muslims in Gujarat and Christians in Orissa is acceptable because of a skewed definition of nationalism and patriotism.
Maoism’s other side
By Dilip Simeon
November 09, 2009
There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic.
Spokesmen of Maoist extremism have recently expressed regret for beheading a police officer and explained their actions as a defence of the oppressed. Their comrades’ brutality, they say, is an aberration. They cite instances of state violence to justify actions they claim are undertaken in self-defence. There is more to this than meets the eye. Maoist theory holds that India is a semi-colonial polity with a bogus constitution that must be overthrown by armed force. The comrades view all their actions as part of a revolutionary war. Their foundational documents declare armed struggle to be “the highest and main form of struggle” and the “people’s army” its main organisation. In war, morality is suspended and limits cast aside. War also results in something the Pentagon calls “collateral damage”. Is it true that Naxalite brutality is only an aberration?
On August 15, 2004, the Maoists killed nine persons in Andhra Pradesh, including a legislator, a driver and a municipal worker. On August 14, 2005, Saleema, 52, a cook in a mid-day kitchen in Karimnagar was beaten to death by Maoists for being a “police informer.” This was the second woman killed by them in a fortnight. A former Naxalite, Bhukya Padma, 18, was hacked to death in Marimadla village on July 30. On September 12, 2005, they slit the throats of 17 villagers in Belwadari village in Giridih. Landmine blasts in February 2006 killed 26 tribals and injured 50 in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. The victims were returning from religious festivals, and some from anti-Naxalite rallies. Another blast on March 25 killed 13 persons.
Some of these killings may be incorrectly reported, some carried out by local cadre on their own. But the comrades clearly believe in political assassination. Moreover, the decisions to kill are taken in a shadowy realm wherein the fault of the victim is decided by whim. Truth and falsehood are dispensed with because the Party Is Always Right. Their targets have no chance of appealing for mercy, and no one will be punished for collateral damage. And all this is justified because the Maoists are at war — a circular argument, because whether or not we are at war is another whim.
But there is an elephant in India’s drawing room. Maoists openly defy the Constitution, which they say is a mask for a brutal order. Are not our mainstream parties equally contemptuous of the law? Why did the NDA regime try and do away with Schedule 5 of the Constitution that protects tribal lands from encroachment? Why is it still being violated? Is there not prima-facie evidence of politicians’ involvement in massacres in Delhi and Gujarat in 1984 and 2002? Why haven’t they been brought to justice? In 1987, 40 Muslims of Meerut were killed in custody. Why did the case take 18 years to come to court? The BJP and the Congress both supported the private army named Salwa Judum with disastrous consequences for Chhattisgarh’s population. Even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court criticised the States’ recklessness. In 2007 the West Bengal government despatched an illegal armed force to crush its opponents in Nandigram. India’s rulers regularly protect criminals, and part of the public is complicit in this. Policemen in dereliction of duty get promoted. Mass murderers are hailed as heroes. Why are we addicted to double-standard?
Those who believe in virtuous murder are today calling upon the democratic conscience. Does democracy include the right to kill? Our left-extremists have changed the world for the worse. Along with right-wing radicals, they ground their arguments on passionate rhetoric and a claim to superior knowledge. Fighters for justice have become judge and executioner rolled into one — in a word, pure tyrants. Every killing launches yet another cycle of trauma and revenge. Will Francis Induvar’s son ever dream of becoming a socialist? Should not socialists hold themselves to a higher standard than the system they oppose?
Symbolism counts for a lot in Indian politics. If the Maoist party is interested in negotiations, I suggest a demand that will expose the hypocritical nature of our polity: ask the government to remove the portrait of
VD Savarkar from the Central Hall of Parliament, placed there in 2003. If it cannot do that, ask it to place Charu Mazumdar’s portrait alongside. Why not? Both were extreme patriots. Both believed in political assassination, both hated Gandhi and both insisted that the end justifies the means.
My suggestion will meet with indignation. But the deep link between these two currents of extremism is the unutterable truth of Indian history. Hindutva is the Maoism of the elite. In 1969, an ultra-leftist Hindi writer penned a diatribe titled Gandhi Benakaab that praised Godse as a true son of India. In 42 years of activity, Naxalites hardly ever confronted the communalists; although to be fair, one ultra-left group in Punjab did combat the Khalistanis. The assassination of a VHP Swami in Kandhamal in August 2008 is the only example. The Maoists owned the crime, but the Sangh parivar vented its wrath upon Christian villagers. Thousands were displaced and over 30 were killed. The comrades were unwilling or unable to prevent the carnage.
Savarkar’s acolyte Nathuram Godse murdered Mahatma Gandhi. In 1969, the Justice Kapur Commission concluded that the conspiracy was hatched by Savarkar and his group. Sardar Patel said as much to Nehru in February 1948. If Savarkar deserves to be honoured by the Nation, so does Charu. Since the government is unlikely to accept either option, we may finally come to a debate about why one kind of political murder is anti-national, while the other is patriotic virtue.
Dilip Simeon is a Delhi-based historian
October 14, 2009
Dalits, backward classes worst hit by floods
India has been the victim of some very late-monsoon flooding again this year. Sadly, many news sources have come out with the reality of the situation... that the Dalits once again are suffering more than others because of discrimination. See below one such article out of North India.
Dalits, backward classes worst hit by floods
Raju S Vijapur, Oct 11, DHNS, Hubli:
Though all the communities have been affected by the recent floods, dalits and other backward classes in North Karnataka are the worst hit.
Most of the flood victims from the marginalised groups lived at village end, where the rivers and streams flow. Thus, their situation has been aggravated due to the precarious nature of their habitation.
A survey by Deccan Herald revealed that more than 60 percent of victims at Gudisagar, Arahatti and Basapur in Dharwad district and Kurlageri, Budihal, Surkod, Hole Mannur and Gadagol in Gadag district are dalits.
Even in Bagalkot and Bijapur districts, thousands of families which have been displaced by floods caused by Malaprabha, Don river and streams belong to downtrodden and minority communities.
According to initial estimation, more than 92 villages in Gadag district and 45 villages in Bagalkot have been affected by floods. About 23 villages in Bijapur and 12 villages in Dharwad districts have also been hit by floods. Official sources say that more than 40,000 dalit and backward class families have been affected in these districts.
In villages like Kurlageri, Khyad and Budihal the entire dalit localities (Harijan Keris) have been washed away in the floods.
Casteist Housing Pattern
Housing system in villages reflects the caste system of our Indian society. People belonging to upper castes take away the land situated on higher ground. Thus, the people belonging to the oppressed classes are forced to move towards low-lying areas, at the end of the village, which are vulnerable to floods. It is the harijan kheris that are the first casualty of floods,” said Sociology Professor Hemanth Bhutnal.
Lalsab Yandigeri of Hole Mannur, one of the worst-affected village in Gadag district said that he along with others have been demanding to shift their houses, situated near Bennihalla stream. “However, the government is unable to understand the fear of living near a stream,” he said.
Neelavva Bomnalli, Neelappa Chalawadi and Ningavva Mundargi, who are from the same village also echoed the same opinion.“Forcing the dalits to reside at the end of the village is a ploy of the vicious caste system,” added Prof Bhutnal.
October 13, 2009
UN Human Rights Commissioner Statement
Check out this article from the UN Human Rights Commissioner
July 01, 2009
"Law and Behold"
Check out this link from the Hindustan Times Newspaper
January 29, 2009
My Sobering Reality: The Slumdog Millionaire's India
as published on Jim Wallis' blog: http://www.sojo.net/blog/godspolitics/2009/01/23/slumdog-millionaire%e2%80%99s-india-my-sobering-reality/
(Note: Sojo.net was experiencing technical difficulties last week but should be online soon.)
by Joseph D'souza
The movie Slumdog Millionaire and the Booker Prize winning novel White Tiger have highlighted the non-shiny part of India. Far from exploiting poverty, these are stories about India which demand a global response – especially for the sake of the children.
This is the India of 80% of the population -- the India of the slums, the outcastes, the exploited, and of abject poverty. The India where Dalit, tribal, and poor children are sold into the sex trade. Where fully healthy children are maimed into becoming beggars. Where children become victims of religious communalism. And where the elitist classes keep them out of prosperity and development by not being willing to change a system that disenfranchises the children of the downtrodden.
I have worked with the disenfranchised and marginalised for most of my life. I’m a citizen of India who is proud of my country’s progress in recent years, yet I must point out the obvious again. The movie is not about selling the poverty of India as a British newspaper alleged (“Shocked by Slumdog's poverty porn”, Alice Miles, The Times, Jan. 14, 2009). Instead, it is the story about the real India of the majority where children become the primary victims of all that is dysfunctional in society (as The Guardian pointed out).
As the movie is released in India this week, expect another barrage of attacks by a section of the elitist Indian media. Likely there will be heavy emphasis on the simple fact that this is a movie made by a white Brit! All this while forgetting that this movie -- which was won Golden Globes and other awards and was nominated for several Oscars -- is far truer to Indian reality than the popular fantasized Bollywood movies.
But isn’t this the time for truth-telling about what ails India and our world?
Are not the children of our day the primary victims of caste and racial discrimination, human trafficking, war, poverty, and religious extremism?
The world has about 1.2 billion children -- with India and China accounting for more than a fourth -- 400 million children. The vast majority of India’s roughly 250 million children are affected by dire poverty, caste discrimination, and exploitation.
Millions of children living in Africa, Latin America, and the Muslim world suffer the same plight. Many of these are in similarly desperate situations. Is it crystal clear to you like it is to me? The slumdog of our generation is the boy or girl less than 14 years old.
I have a sobering, reoccurring thought these days. Is the main sin of our generation what we are doing to children -- both born and unborn? What is our part in changing the conditions of the slumdog kids of the world?
December 23, 2008
Will Obama Spell Justice Outside the US?
I'm back on Jim Wallis' blog...
Baroness Cox Advocates for Orissa's Dalits
The following is the text of a speech given to Britain's House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox following her recent visit to Orissa.
India Debate 11.57 am
Moved By Baroness Cox
To call attention to recent developments in India; and to move for Papers.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I thank every noble Lord who will be speaking in this debate, as the topic is a daunting challenge, given the vastness and complexity of the great nation of India. I am therefore grateful that noble Lords with longer and wider experience of India will make their distinctive contributions to remedy the limitations and omissions of my own.
I must naturally begin by expressing the profound sorrow that we all felt at the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai and by extending our deep sympathy to all who are still suffering in the aftermath of those terrible days. I will then raise three issues of concern in a spirit of respect for India as a long-established friend of this country and as the world's largest democracy. It is characteristic of friendship that one can share concerns openly and constructively and it is in that spirit that I will raise the outbreaks of violence against religious minorities, including the Muslims in Gujarat and the Christians recently in Orissa and Karnataka; the restrictions on religious freedom posed by the imposition of anti-conversion laws in seven states; and, finally, the plight of dalits.
With regard to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, there has been a wide range of responses to those horrific events, which have been usefully summarised in the excellent briefing paper prepared by the House of Lords Library. One result of such wide-ranging public discussion and speculation has been summarised by Dr Paul Cornish of Chatham House, who argues that the saturation coverage has played into the hands of the terrorists, providing them with a gratuitous plethora of justification and rationales.
“The terrorists might have assumed, quite correctly as it happens, that the world’s media and the terrorism analysis industry would very quickly fill in any gaps for them”.
I am therefore not going to play into their hands with further speculation about their ideological justifications and rationales. However, will the Minister say what continuing support Her Majesty’s Government are giving to India in the aftermath of this massive tragedy?
The recurring problem of violence, perpetrated by Hindu fundamentalists against religious minorities, is a product of the ideology called Hindutva, which conceives of India as one nation, one culture, one religion. It is an ideology that denigrates religious minorities and rejects the right to change one’s religion, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and groups that espouse this ideology, including the VHP, are widely implicated in anti-minority violence. Such extremist political movements are rejected by Hindus committed to the idea of a secular India, but they pose very serious challenges.
In 2002, about 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were massacred in Gujarat. Christians have been repeatedly targeted in recent years. The attacks are especially widespread in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh states, and although a recent outbreak of violence in Karnataka was relatively rapidly contained by the authorities, impunity for these sorts of attacks is cause for concern. In Orissa state, an outbreak of violence against Christians over Christmas in 2007 prefigured an onslaught on a much larger scale this autumn.
On 23 August this year, following the assassination of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, widespread violence against Christians erupted. The atrocities were committed despite the claim by Maoists that they had carried out the killing. After the assassination, despite pleas for caution by church and secular leaders, including representatives of political parties, the VHP arranged for his body to be taken on a 200-kilometre circuit. Violence followed in the wake of this funeral procession, fanned by media disinformation and the chanting of Hindu nationalist and anti-Christian slogans, targeting Christians and church buildings. It is widely believed that the violence erupted so quickly because it was pre-planned.
We are now approaching the first anniversary of the previous outbreak of violence and radical groups are aggressively pushing for a state-wide shutdown on 25 December, which would make life very difficult for beleaguered Christians wishing to celebrate Christmas, and could easily lead to another eruption of violence. Although it is encouraging to know that a delegation representing the EU, including a British representative, recently visited Orissa to assess the violence, it would be reassuring if the Minister could indicate that our high commission will monitor the situation very carefully this Christmas.
HART, the NGO with which I work, visited Kandhamal district, the epicentre of the violence, in October, and we saw what had been taking place. The toll of violence includes 69 people identified as having been killed and approximately 50 still unaccounted for and presumed dead. Among those killed were one man who was buried alive, several people who were burned to death and others who were cut to pieces. At least 160 churches of all Christian denominations, approximately 5,000 homes and an unspecified number of Christian businesses have been destroyed, and 54,000 people have been displaced from their homes and forced to take shelter in 14 state-sponsored relief camps in Kandhamal district, together with many hundreds who are living in non-state camps, including in two very overcrowded buildings in Cuttack town. It was also estimated that about 20,000 people were still living in the jungle or had fled to big cities.
In addition to the violence in Kandhamal district, 13 other districts had experienced similar atrocities, including killings and the looting and burning of churches and homes, and two other relief camps had to be established for approximately 2,700 more people who had had to flee from their homes.
In our report, we concluded that the Orissa state government had failed to provide protection for the Christian minority population, allowing widespread violations of human rights—including killings, rape, looting and the destruction and desecration of places of worship, homes and other property—and that the forced conversion of some Christians to Hinduism constitutes a serious violation of the right to religious freedom enshrined in the UDHR, to which the Indian Government are a signatory. It is noteworthy that Hinduism and the caste system have only relatively recently, in the past 50 years, been introduced into this region. It is characteristic of Hindutva ideology that those forced conversions to Hinduism are propagated by the same groups that denounce conversions to other religions. There was also deep concern that the Orissa state government have failed to bring many of the perpetrators of crimes and violence to account, and that failure to bring to justice those who are allegedly guilty of these atrocities was making it impossible for victims to return to their homes because they feared that impunity would encourage further attacks.
Taken together, the violence inflicted on Christian communities, the reports of forced conversion and the threats of more to come, and the failure to provide enough security to encourage the Christians to return home appeared to constitute a policy of attempted religious cleansing of the region. Moreover, the viciousness and the scale of the attacks would have been impossible without a sustained hate campaign over many years. That still continues in the Oriya and Hindu media, targeting both Muslims and Christians.
In our report, we offered a number of recommendations for consideration. As the Orissa state government have insufficient resources for policing and judicial functions, police should be brought in from other states to receive and process complaints, including women police to register and investigate gender crimes. It was also suggested to us that the Central Bureau of Investigation, the CBI, should initiate an inquiry into the official dereliction of duty by the authorities in Orissa state for failing to prevent and control the violence. The Roman Catholic nun, Sister M, who suffered gang rape and torture, has added her voice to this request. There is also a widely expressed demand for adequate compensation for and the return of looted property.
Resources are urgently needed to improve conditions in the camps for the displaced. The conditions are horrific with massive overcrowding. We estimate that in the tents of the outdoor camps every individual has 12 inches to sleep alongside the next person. Priorities for provision include better healthcare, especially for women needing obstetric and gynaecological treatment, and paediatric provision for children and infants. There is also an urgent need for baby food and for access to education for children. As the fear of renewed attacks is preventing people from returning to their homes, they are pleading for the retention of the Central Reserve Police Force on location for as long as necessary to ensure their safety. Finally, an inquiry is needed into the regional Oriya language press for complicity in fomenting hatred and misrepresentation of facts. The state government should insist on that and it is incumbent on the Press Council to do so.
Will Her Majesty’s Government raise with the Indian Government their concern over the failure of the state and central governments to ensure the safety of their citizens and their right to practise the religion of their choice? There is concern that the ad hoc annual EU-India human rights dialogue might be seen as the main mechanism for doing this. That would seem to be insufficient as it is seen as insubstantial and non-transparent. Has DfID been able to help with resources for relief for those who are currently living in the camps for the displaced? They are suffering in appalling conditions from overcrowding and an acute shortage of basic facilities, with many related illnesses. Further, will DfID consider supporting the longer-term rebuilding and rehabilitation effort?
I turn briefly to widespread concern at the anti-conversion legislation now in place in seven states. This applies to those who wish to convert from Hinduism to another faith: in practice, it does not prohibit conversion to Hinduism from other faiths. The legislation requires anyone wishing to convert from Hinduism to give advance notice to the district authorities, rendering them vulnerable to pressures of many kinds. In the case of Gujarat, the person who converts another must obtain prior permission of the authorities.
These requirements obviously hinder the freedom to choose and change religion, in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which India is a signatory. These laws also threaten charitable activities, since the conditions under which conversions are banned include, for example, “allurement” by the “grant of any material benefit”. The problem of restrictions on religious freedom is not unique to India: such violations of this fundamental freedom must be seen as cause for concern in any country where a majority religion denies its citizens the freedom to choose and change religion. Sadly, there are many in the world today. Her Majesty’s Government have previously given assurances in Parliament that they have raised concerns about proposed anti-conversion legislation in Sri Lanka, which is modelled on Indian state-level laws, yet often refer to these Indian laws as an internal matter. Can the Minister tell us whether Her Majesty’s Government have raised, and/or will raise, this cause for concern with the Indian Government in the same way as has been done with the Sri Lankan Government?
The final topic to which I wish to refer raises the plight of the dalits, those deemed to be outside the caste system and therefore treated as inherently untouchable. Their predicament is unenviable. Unable to take work or to come into contact with members of the caste system, many are doomed to undertake the most humiliating and unsanitary tasks, such as the 700,000 or more manual scavengers dealing with human excrement. Others are so poor that they become involved in bonded labour from which they cannot escape, so that this form of servitude is passed from one generation to the next. Dalits are susceptible to any form of exploitation and there is widespread caste-based violence against them. In an attempt to escape from their outcast status, many dalits are converting from Hinduism to another faith—Buddhism, Islam or Christianity. This disruption of the traditional caste system is causing tensions and attracting opposition, especially from proponents of the Hindutva, some of which may be reflected in violence against religious minorities.
I have witnessed the human dimension of the plight of the dalits when visiting a clinic we in HART are supporting in Tamil Nadu for dalits with HIV/AIDS. These unfortunate people are doubly untouchable, as HIV/AIDS adds its own stigma of untouchability to their outcast status. It is a privilege to embrace such vulnerable people, but the joy they express when we touch them or eat the food they have prepared brings home the appalling suffering they endure as the ultimately marginalised and dehumanised members of Indian society. This is also a challenge to the EU-India Strategic Partnership joint action plan’s description of India as, “a paradigm of Asia’s syncretic culture and how various religions can flourish in a plural, democratic and open society”.
It is impossible in one speech to begin to do justice to the vast nation of India with its indescribably rich tapestry of ethnic groups, cultures, traditions, achievements and problems. I greatly look forward to the speeches of other noble Lords who will bring information and insights from their own knowledge and experience to create a constructive and comprehensive debate worthy of the issues confronting this great nation which we are proud to call a friend. I beg to move.
December 15, 2008
Dayal Wins Human Dignity Award
Notice arriving by email on December 14, 2008 from Professor Prabhu Guptara, UBS:
Dr John Dayal has won the Maanav Adhikaar Paaritaushik (Human Dignity Award) in memory of Professor M. M. Guptara.
Dr Dayal has spent his life in investigating, and then helping individual cases of human rights abuse, as well as struggling against structural human rights abuse aimed at whole groups (such as Dalits, Muslims and Christians), and fighting organised human rights abuse - for example in Vadodara and in Orissa.
At a time in our nation's history when we have been struck down from the heights by the current global crisis as well as by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, it is important not only to celebrate the strengths and beauties of the various cultures in our country, but also to recognise individual efforts to cleanse our country of its evils.
"Over several decades, and at the cost of his own health and finances, Dr Dayal has helped people regardless of ethnicity, gender, economic status, religion or any other criterion. That is something surely worth celebrating," said Professor Prabhu Guptara.
Recognising that the award is only a token, the Guptara family deeply appreciates Dr. Dayal's lifetime of exceptional efforts and service to our country.
December 10, 2008
India's Challenge After Mumbai
One of my latest articles on Jim Wallis' blog...
November 24, 2008
Article on Jim Wallis Blog
Please see our recent article published on Jim Wallis' blog: God's Politics
November 17, 2008
The Audacity of Hope: Obama’s Victory has Given Wings to the Dalit Dream
Many have asked our opinion on the results of the American election. While we're not prepared to issue an official statement, the following article is worth a read.
The Audacity of Hope: Obama’s Victory has given Wings to the Dalit Dream
by Shobhan Saxena
9 Nov 2008, 0210 hrs IST
Hope is a tricky word. It never guarantees anything, but it makes the world go round. Hope was the only possession of the skinny lad with dark skin and a funny name, starting with B, when he arrived in New York, wondering if America had a place for him, too. During his years at Columbia, as he majored in political science, the young man learnt a few important lessons from some American greats. Emerson taught him that “consistency is a virtue of an ass”. From Abe Lincoln, he learnt that freedom is worth dying for.
As he pored over history books, he became sad and angry. And he came out of the campus craving for Change — not just for himself but for his people who hadn't been free as long as he could remember. The name of this man was Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, and the year was 1913. Barack Obama came out of the same university with the same degree 70 years later, with the same mantra on his lips: Change.
As he gets ready to assume the most powerful office on this planet, a few sceptics are wondering if Obama is a product of the Black movement for civil rights. To be fair, he has never claimed that legacy. He is not the son of a descendant of those Africans who were abducted from their land and sold as slaves in the New World, where they shed sweat as whips lashed and bloodied their skin.
Obama might have avoided invoking names like Malcolm X in his stump speeches for practical reasons, but the blacks see him continuing the lineage of King, X & Company. But, they aren’t the only ones who look up to him; the Dalits of India, too, see Obama as a symbol of Black Power, a phenomenon they closely identify with. After all, America’s black movement has had a great influence on the Dalits’ fight for their rights.
So impressed was Ambedkar with Lincoln that when he launched a political party for Dalits, he called it the Republican Party of India — his tribute to Lincoln, the GOP leader who fought for ending slavery in the US. “Like Dalits in India, the blacks in US also faced discrimination in public transport, schools and jobs. When Ambedkar saw this, he could empathise with them and he supported their struggle,” says Chandrabhan Prasad, Dalit activist and writer. “Even after he came back to India, Ambedkar kept following the black movement in the US.”
The fifties were feverish — for blacks in the US and Dalits in India. Fired up by the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, the blacks began to believe that being born in America didn't make them American. So, they began to fight for their rights. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery. In 1956, King began to walk for the freedom of his people. In 1963, more than 200,000 people joined King’s March on Washington and listened to his “I Have a Dream” speech with tears in their eyes. In India, Ambedkar closely followed the King’s moves and led more than 500,000 Dalits to take refuge in Buddhism in 1956.
During the next couple of decades, the blacks and the Dalits moved on parallel tracks, often influencing and guiding each other. As Dalits veered towards Buddhism, many blacks moved to Islam or erected their own churches; the word Negro — a symbol of slavery — was replaced by Black. The Dalits too dumped the term Harijan “as a symbol of Gandhi's upper caste politics”. As Dalits got some benefits of reservation, black Americans too fought for affirmative action and got it in 1965. In 1970, when Dalit Panther was founded by Namdev Dhassal, it was inspired by Black Panthers.
“Because both the communities see themselves as oppressed, there has always been mutual identification and influence between the blacks and Dalits,” says Gail Omvedt, an American scholar who has spent decades in India, researching the caste system.
Although race and caste are not the same thing, in practice they are very similar — both discriminate on the basis of birth. This week, as politics went beyond race in the US, triggering a wave of hope across the world, the obvious question being asked is: “Will India get its Obama anytime in the near future?” Though Omvedt feels UP chief minister Mayawati could be the one, K P Singh, who teaches sociology at University of Washington, Seattle, is not so hopeful.
“I think the Dalit leaders in India are not capable of doing this because they believe in political slavery to their respective parties, not the community. Most Dalit leaders except Ambedkar have betrayed the Dalits. Currently, all political leaders are busy fulfilling their ambitions and achieving their personal growth, but the Dalit community as a whole is left behind unrepresented and unheard,” says Singh, who is one of the young and educated Dalits trying to link and inspire the Dalit movement with the Afro-American movement.
The inspiration has always been there. Now, thanks to Obama’s campaign and victory, there is a buzz about India’s next leader. “I don't think that the Indian elite is going to put a Dalit at the top just like that, but they will be under a moral pressure to do so, particularly when the Dalits are all fired up with Obama’s ‘yes we can’ slogan,” says Prasad.
Going by the parallel trajectory of the two movements, it shouldn’t be surprising if India, too, launches a leader like Obama. “He did not project himself as a product of the black movement, but the people, particularly the African-Americans, saw him that way. That’s important,” says Omvedt. With a wide range of leaders claiming to be true inheritors of Ambedkar’s legacy, the competition may be tough, but the Obama victory has done them a great favour: it has destroyed a myth and shattered a barrier between them and the future.
As far as the Indian elite are concerned, they seem to be more comfortable with the status quo. “When the whole world was celebrating the change in the US, our leaders, led by the Gandhi family, were busy partying at the coronation of a king in the last kingdom of South Asia,” says a Dalit leader of the Congress.
The Dalits seem to be following Malcolm X’s words that “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today”. And now, with the great hope generated by Obama, the answer may be already blowing in the wind. It may just be a hope, but it will keep the Dalits going till they find their own Obama.
October 23, 2008
Stark Truths of Hinduism
An excellent article by my friend, colleague and partner in this work, Dr. Udit Raj.
Stark Truths Of Hinduism
The Hindu Right fears not conversions but equitable society
by UDIT RAJ, Chairman of All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations
RIGHT-WING HINDUS never had any issue with Christians or with conversion when it came to using — and exploiting — Christian institutions. They have had no problem in availing Christian medical facilities. No abhorrence has been evinced toward convent schools, where the so-called upper castes were taught the English that got them jobs abroad and enabled them to articulate their views at global forums. That changed around 1998, when the BJP came to power. Targetting Christians became politically useful. A massive campaign was launched against Sonia Gandhi, making an issue of a person of foreign and Christian origin wielding power over a Hindu majority country. It culminated in the hatred for Christians, who are now seen as villains instead of the gentle community they had hitherto been known as.
Wisdom lies in understanding the causes which escalate the processes of hatred. So it becomes our responsibility to fathom the mystery of conversion, usually assigned as the basis for attacks on Christians. The RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP blame those said to offer inducements to convert; they also accuse the global Church of pumping money into India to influence the country’s have-nots. In such a context, the word ‘conversion’ becomes synonymous with ‘terrorism’, a connotation that could not be further from the truth. What does conversion mean except the choice of another faith or ideology? Laws against conversion are in operation in several states and, to date, not one case has been reported where a conversion was made in the greed for inducements.
What worries the Sangh Parivar is not the welfare of dalits but a possible reduction in upper-caste Hindu numbers. Their prejudice is so entrenched that they are not in a position to sense the agony of those who suffer under the caste-based system. In general, Hindu believers treat the disadvantaged as sinners reaping the fruits of a past life. Thus, a leper is to be shunned; the exploitation of dalits is justified. On the contrary, a Christian finds an opportunity for spiritual fulfillment in serving the leper and healing the sick. Before they build churches, Christians normally build schools and hospitals. Why do major Hindu religious establishments involve themselves only in collecting donations and not in performing such community services?
Let us examine the few hopes still left for Hinduism. Are dalits, tribals and members of backward groups allowed to become priests? Tall claims are made of dalits being trained to become priests or being welcomed to take up Hindu rituals. But, on the ground, the traditional situation has not changed. Though physical untouchability receded in the 20th century, the mental block remains.
The Hindu Right and the socalled upper castes see ‘saving’ Hinduism as their mission. But, in this competition with Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, the superficial brotherhood shown by right-wing Hindu organisations toward tribals and dalits does not ultimately win their hearts. Unless the problems inherent to Hinduism are addressed, conversion can never be stopped. A Christian marries his or her co-religionist; a Muslim does the same. Is that possible for Hindus across caste? Are the upper castes ready to welcome reservation for their Hindu brothers? Is their society ready for inter-dining and for inter-caste marriages? Without these conditions being fulfilled, no one on earth can stop the rejection of Hinduism by the socalled lower castes. The so-called upper castes can only stop conversion if they introspect, eradicate the evil in the caste system, and visualise themselves in a situation where they and their families are carrying human excreta on their heads. Then, they will feel the suffering of those condemned to do so for life.
(Udit Raj is a dalit activist)
October 22, 2008
Three Sons Murdered, She Seeks Protection...
Another noteworthy article...
Three sons murdered, she seeks protection for the rest
by Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Express News Service
Oct 21, 2008
Lucknow, October 20: A Dalit woman from Allahabad, who has taken to arms to protect her family, visited the state capital on Monday to meet Director General of Police Vikram Singh.
Vidhyawati (45) from Allahabad, was seeking protection from the men accused of murdering her three sons. They were threatening to kill her and her family, she said.
Armed with a licensed gun, she, however, could not meet the police chief. The police took her application and assured her that it would be forwarded to Singh.
In her application, Vidhyawati named former village pradhan Manik Chand Patel, his son Doodhnath and cousin Rakesh Patel. She accused them of murdering her son and now forcing her not to give statement against them in court.
The men had been released on bail a week ago from the Allahabad District Jail.
The Deputy Inspector General, Allahabad Range, MK Prasad, said: "We provided an arms license to her after she complained about the threat to her family.
Security has been arranged for her when she visits the court for hearings."
Two of Vidhyawati's sons were allegedly poisoned in 2003 and 2004. A third was killed brutally in 2006 and his body was found on the railway tracks.
The murders took place after she staked claim on her father's land following his demise.
No FIR was lodged in this connection.
"My rivals were trying to capture my land and when I opposed it, they beat me up. Because of the threat I left the village but did not let them capture the land," said Vidhyawati, who is currently living in Soran with a physically-handicapped husband and two children.
October 14, 2008
A Moratorium on Conversions: Who Decides?
In the first wave of attacks on Christians in modern India during the late 1990s, a Christian leader flinched under the pressure of Hindu extremists and called for a five year moratorium on conversions. Extremist Hindu forces have repeatedly said Christians are engaged in forced and fraudulent conversions and this is the chief reason for ‘spontaneous’ violence against Christians. The Christian leader apparently succumbed to the incessant propaganda campaign.
During the rule of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government, the emboldened RSS maneuvered to bring various Christian denominations and associations into a dialogue that would result in a public agreement to end conversions among the downtrodden castes of India. Major Christian organisations were forced to come to the table due to political pressure and veiled threats. After every meeting with the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the spokesperson of the RSS informed the media that the Christians had agreed to their agenda of stopping conversions in modern India.
In the midst of this theatre of the absurd, the All India Christian Council (AICC) was one of the main groups that refused to dialogue with the RSS. This aligned with the position of major civil society leaders and human rights movements in India. This decision was also taken in conjunction with Dalit-Bahujan leaders. The AICC differentiated between a genuine dialogue with non-Christian religious leaders and the sham of ‘discussions’ with Sangh Parivar outfits who have already decided, before the meeting begins, what they want the outcome to be. The AICC supports a genuine dialogue with other faiths out of our respect for our neighbours – Jesus said we must love our neighbour as ourselves – and in order to maintain civil law, decency, and peace.
Currently, the issue of a moratorium on conversions has emerged in the media in fulfillment of the propaganda of the Sangh Parivar. If the Hindu nationalist parties come to power in New Delhi, I suspect Christian organisations will be forced to come to the table again. Once again the AICC will refuse any dialogue on the issue.
Why? The answer is found in a deeper question.
Who ultimately decides the issue of conversion?
According to the India’s Constitution the freedom of religion is given to every individual Indian citizen. He or she has the freedom to believe and practice the faith he or she chooses. The freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution gives every Indian citizen the right to propagate his faith as long as civil norms and decency are maintained.
In the context of the caste revolt in modern India, a revolution which began with Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar, and Periyar, there is another logical reason. If our country does not give the Dalits, tribals and the OBCs (Other Backward Castes) the right to choose their faith, we have effectively imposed permanent slavery of the caste system on them. It was Ambedkar who said that ‘I was born a Hindu but I will not die a Hindu’. In 1956 he fulfilled that promise with hundreds of thousands of followers. Since then, rightly or wrongly, the liberation of the oppressed castes is fatefully tied with the choice to convert out of the religion that imposes the caste system on them.
The Indian State tried to deal with caste discrimination by banning the practice of ‘untouchability’ in the Constitution. With affirmative action provisions through reservation programs, the State tried to lift up the low castes of our society.
In contrast, the Hindu fundamentalist groups led by the RSS only revived and enforced casteist religious practices that demean both the Dalits and also women. These extreme groups have done nothing to enforce the banning of the caste system within their religious systems. It was the Vice-President of the VHP who said the life of a cow is more valuable than the life of a Dalit. This was immediately after five Dalit young men were lynched to death in Jhajjar, Haryana, for skinning a dead cow.
Hindutva groups tried to revive the practice of Sati and have distributed books which contain the Law of Manu which codified the caste system in ancient India.
So who decides on a moratorium on conversions? The RSS? The media ? Those who come to the table and dialogue on this issue? Or the oppressed Dalit and low caste person in India? Dare we take away this final and most basic of human rights from the most dehumanized group of people in human civilization?
Those of us in the AICC movement – we are a coalition of many Christian groups from mainline to Pentecostal – refuse to strip this right from the Dalits or any oppressed group. And we acknowledge there are two sides to the coin. Thus, we refuse to take away this right even from those who are Christians but may choose another faith. Simply said, we believe that, without the freedom of conscience, all other freedoms become meaningless.
We unconditionally condemn all forced and fraudulent conversions and we consider the terms themselves as oxymoron. We condemn proselytizing or any effort to denigrate another faith.
The targeting of Dalits who turned to Christianity in Orissa is now out in the open. This is blatant violence against Dalits who exercised their freedom of conscience. The Dalits are not stupid in matters of conscience. Their leader Ambedkar has shown them the way. They neither need the State nor upper caste religious leaders to tell them how to make their choices.
The AICC is determined to protect and serve the Dalits. We have stated long ago that we will love and serve them unconditionally with Christ’s love whether they are Christians or not.
The Dalit Christian ethnic cleansing of Orissa must be contested by every means possible under the Indian Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The freedom of religion must be supported in every corner of our beloved country.
Two Dead Priests, Two Opposite Reactions, and the Future of India
(originally published Sept 2008)
Today I mourn for my country. I am a proud Indian. We have achieved much and have much potential. But the death of a Catholic priest in Andhra Pradesh and a Hindu swami in Orissa caused a chain of events that is worth analysing. And, viewing the results, I worry about the future of our great nation.
Much of the world is watching how India cares for the flood victims in Bihar. And most of the world knows that, due to a recent agreement, India will now generate nuclear energy on a large scale. However, neither the wise use of sophisticated technology nor good disaster management are the signs of a successful democracy. A mature democracy is proven by the way people disagree with each other.
On Saturday night, August 23, 2008, Lakshmanananda Saraswati, a famous Hindu swami who dedicated his life to work with tribals, was murdered in Kandhamal District, Orissa. The killers were unknown assailants. The murder of the priest was brutal, and four other members of the ashram were shot and killed. The reaction of Christian groups, which had many public disagreements throughout the years with the swami about his accusations of fraudulent conversions, was unified. Christians condemned the violence. One of the largest networks of Protestant churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said it “stands against every act of violence and terrorism.” The leader of the 16 million members of the Roman Catholic laity called for authorities to “arrest those responsible for the deaths of Saraswati and his associates.”
Exactly a week before the swami’s death, on Saturday night, August 16, 2008, a Catholic priest who dedicated his life to work in rural village, was murdered in Nizamabad District, Andhra Pradesh. The killers were unknown assailants. The murder was brutal. The body had about 20 stab wounds, had been submerged in water, and was badly disfigured with the eyes gouged out. The reaction of the Sangh Parivar – a loose-knit group of hardliner nationalist Hindu organisations – was deafening silence.
In Orissa, many of my Hindu friends peacefully mourned the death of the swami. However, the Sangh Parivar quickly rejected reports that the killers were Maoist guerillas. Without proof, they dismissed the position of the Orissa authorities and even claims of responsibility from a Naxalite leader to various Indian media. The Sangh Parivar publicly blamed Christians and called for a strike. The result was violence, including at least 35 deaths, 4,000 Christian homes destroyed, 50,000 people displaced, one nun gang raped, and over a hundred churches burned, according to Protestant and Catholic Christian leaders.
In the last week, the anti-Christian violence spread to Karnataka – home of India’s high-tech capitol, Bangalore – with 17 churches heavily damaged. Most were attacked simultaneously on Sunday, September 14, 2008. There were sporadic attacks on Christians and Christian institutions in another south Indian state, Kerala, and across north India in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand. The central government is worried about the spreading violence and finally told the Orissa and Karnataka governments on September 18, 2008, that, under Article 355 of India’s Constitution, they must stop the ‘internal disturbance’ or face federal action.
In Andhra Pradesh, the Christian community organised a rally and protests after the death of the Catholic priest. There were meetings with government officials. About 3,000 people marched through the capital of Hyderabad on Sunday evening, August 24, 2008. The candlelight march disrupted traffic and little else.
We are the world’s largest democracy. I am proud of our pluralist, multi-faith culture. In general, our religious communities exist in harmony.
But is there change in the air? Why did the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief say at the end of her visit to India in March that we are at a tipping point? Ms. Asma Jahangir’s press statement from Delhi said, “India faces a real risk of deadly communal violence erupting again unless much more is done to deter religious hatred and prevent the political exploitation of existing tensions.”
Now her prophecy has come true.
In a democracy, citizens must respect the rule of law. We can argue passionately. We can hold opposite opinions. But the war of ideas must happen without violence. When Christians commit violent acts, Christian leaders like myself condemn them. We try to nurture peace, not revenge.
We are not always successful, but what worries me is the refusal of some groups in other communities to unconditionally condemn violence. They talk of issues, especially allegations of missionaries performed ‘forced conversions’, which have made their followers angry and uncontrollable. My Christian colleagues say these arguments are simply propaganda. And the facts seem to agree. My organisation’s request under the Right to Information Act in July revealed that, in five years, there were only three complaints of forceful conversions under Gujarat’s 2003 Freedom of Religion Act. And there has never been a conviction in any of the five states that have implemented so-called anti-conversion laws.
But here is the crucial point. Anger is acceptable. Violence is not. Sadly, my friends don’t seem to see the difference.
Violence does not help end poverty. Violence does not grow our democracy. Violence deserves unconditional condemnation. Violence requires a firm response by leaders with integrity – both in the government and societal groups.
It is time for serious soul searching in an emerging super power.
October 13, 2008
Pregnant Women Bear the Brunt of Orissa Violence
Here is a glimpse at the story of true human tragedy in Orissa.
October 09, 2008
Article: The Sangh Parivar's plans for Orissa are on Track
Another good article to bring our awareness to the fact that all of the violence in Orissa and beyond is a coordinated, well-thought-out plan.
The Sangh Parivar's plans for Orissa are on track
by Angana Chatterji
Indian Express, 4 October 2008
It's still religion, stupid.
The riots in Kandhamal district, Orissa, in August and the ongoing violence targeted Christians in 310 villages, with 4,104 homes torched. More than 18,000 were injured and 50,000 displaced. A month after, homes continued to burn in Raikia, Tikabali, Tumudibandha, and Daringbadi. Some of these were houses of Christians residing in relief shelters, burnt by Hindu extremists as retaliation for the Christian refusal to reconvert to Hinduism. On September 28, three bodies, including of a woman, were
uncovered from Badasalunki river in Kandhamal.
The Government of Orissa systematically diminished the extent of suffering, damage, and dislocation borne by Christian communities in August-September 2008, as in December 2007, and denied the dangerous extent of communalism in Orissa. Both to the Supreme Court and the Central government, and to civil society in general, the Orissa government failed to explain how it would tackle the emergency in the state.
In the aftermath of August 2008, many Christians abandoned Kandhamal district, departing for Beherampur and Bhubaneswar in Orissa, and other states like Maharashtra, Goa, and Kerala. The police repeatedly refused to lodge FIRs that Christian communities sought to file, and made no provisions for witness protection for those willing to file charges.
Prima facie, their inaction suggested fear (of Hindutva workers) and complicity (with the Sangh Parivar) within police and district administration personnel in shielding Sangh Parivar activists. Discounting
the evidence, police did not arrest prominent Hindutva leaders complicit in the August violence, stating that such action would generate further turmoil. While in Kashmir, state forces placed leaders of the
self-determination movement under house-arrest in the largely peaceful protests of August 2008, in Jammu and Orissa, Hindutva leaders were not restrained as they called for vigilante terror.
On September 28 , Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik announced a 'peace package' responding to the demands of, in particular, Hinduised Adivasis. No reciprocal 'peace package' was announced for Christian communities. The Orissa government progressively presented the discourse on the Kandhamal
crisis as an issue between adivasis (Kondh, Kui) and Dalits (Pana)/Dalit Christians, premised on land disputes and conversions to Christianity, trying to divert focus from the leadership and responsibility of Hindutva organisations in orchestrating the violence. The government's figures dispute their allegations of escalation in Christian conversions, as Christians in Orissa numbered 8,97,861 in 2001, just 2.4 per cent of the state's population, as per the Census (2001); and the Christian population
in Kandhamal district... was recorded as 1,17,950 to 5,27,757 Hindus. Land issues in Kandhamal, as in most Adivasi and Dalit areas in Orissa, remain unresolved, fraught with the inequities of history. Yet, in Kandhamal, it is the communalisation of this issue via Hindutva's use of certain Kondh and Kui Adivasi communities, and the refusal to grant Dalit, including Pana converts to Christianity access to affirmative action, that cultivates injustices and nurtures acrimonies. These conditions enable the
Hindu right to conscript adivasis for its activities, and generate divisiveness between adivasis, Dalits, and Christians.
Funding for hate, from across India and the world, continues to incentivise the Sangh Parivar. Governmental regulations focus on Christian and Islamic groups, and neglect to monitor Hindu 'charities' that operate as sectarian organisations. A recent article by Soumitro Das in the Hindustan Times explained that, as opposed to the lack of scrutiny on funding of Hindutva-affiliated organisations, monies received by Christian organisations are monitored via stringent provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 1976. In the annual report on foreign contributions, Das clarified, "There are also no records of mass conversions." That is not the case with Sangh organisations, which have undertaken extensive coercive conversions to Hinduism in Orissa, with the intent to communalise, violating conversion laws. The following Sangh-affiliates, registered charities in the US, allocated sizeable amounts of money under 'programme services', disproportionately directed to Hindutva-affiliated groups in India. Per 2006 tax records, Ekal Vidyalaya allocated more than two million dollars to India, India Development Relief Fund (IDRF) allocated 1.6 million USD, and Sewa International USA allocated 284,800 dollars. Other organisations channelled funds for the Sangh Parivar to Orissa via groups located in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and elsewhere. All together, substantial money continues to be accumulated from upper caste/landed communities in Orissa.
The events of August and September 2008 are evidence of the Hindutva's cadre's state of preparedness. The composition of the rioters attests to the mass of the organisation, and the precision of execution points to premeditated forethought and groundwork. The Sangh Parivar's plans for Orissa are on track.
Angana Chatterji is associate professor of anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies and author of the forthcoming book: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India's Present, Narratives from Orissa
Article: Malegaon, Modasa and Mehrauli Blasts: The Hindutva Connection?
In the wake of the violence against Dalit Christians perpetrated by the Bajrang Dal and other extreme Hindu outfits, we have asked for a ban on the Bajrang Dal. Their terrorism is no less than that of extremist Islamist groups. They have been implicated in various bomb blasts and the article below outlines their activities and the sheer ineptitude of the police authorities to arrest and book terrorists of all religious hues.
Malegaon, Modasa And Mehrauli Blasts: The Hindutva Connection?
By Subhash Gatade
4 October 2008
Saba Parveen still repents the fact that she sent her younger sister Farheen to Bhikku Chowk to buy some Pakoras. Little she could have the premonition that she would never get to see her 10 year old sister a class V student alive.
The blast at Malegaon's Bhikku Chowk, has literally shattered the family of Shaikh Liaquat Wahiuddin, Farheen's father who lives around 100 feet away from the Chowk near the Kasbapada masjid. A father of three daughters and two sons and a wife has seen all the hell broke lose soon after the bomb blast.
The couple fainted when they reached Wadia hospital to see their own daughter who had suffered severe burns in the blast turned lifeless.
The latest bomb blasts in Malegaon have seen four deaths wherein a motorcycle parked near old SIMI office which was laden with explosives exploded killing four people on the spot. It was worth noting that the people living in the vicinity of the Chowk had informed the police about this unclaimed motorcycle standing there for hours together. But the police did not bother to turn up and reached the place only after the blast which saw these deaths.
It is not difficult to imagine the palpable anger which exists among people about the callousness of the police and the insensitivity of the administration. People of this town which has a significant no of Muslim population have not forgotten the treatment meted out to them by the police and the administration when there were similar blasts in the city during their religious congregations killing 40 people in 2006. Despite enough hints about the involvement of Hindutva terror groups in the perpetration of these acts, where a torso with a fake beard was also identified, ultimately saw few Muslim youths getting booked for this crime who are still languishing in jail. A CBI enquiry which was ordered after lot of pressure claims to have reached a deadend.
In a recent meeting with Baba Siddique, the 'guardian' minister of Nasik, representatives of different Muslim organisations in Malegaon gave vent to their feelings of disgust and deep hurt over the developments. Angry community leaders asked the minister "You blame SIMI for blasts in temples, you blame SIMI for blasts in market places, you blame SIMI for blast Masjids. The latest blast has taken place just below the SIMI office. Now whom will you blame ?" (Mailtoday, Oct 3, 2008)
Hemant Karkare, chief of the Anti Terrorist Squad of Maharashtra Police, who was instrumental in nabbing the activists of Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samity for the bomb blasts in Thane, Vashi and few other places in Maharashtra (June 2008) and his team of officers also shied away from blaming some or the other Islamic terrorist organisation for the blast.The perpetrators of the bomb blast who had packed a splendour motorcycle with nuts, bolts, nails and ballbearings and three kilograms of explosive material, near a mosque, beside a SIMI office and the time chosen by them - on the eve of Eid - has definitely put local police and ATS groping in the dark.
But according to an investigative report filed by Mailtoday (1 October 2008) : "Police, however, are sure of one thing - that the blasts in Malegaon and Modasa in Gujarat were a coordinated effort, as both occured at around 9.30 p.m. in Muslim dominated areas.Karkare felt that the Gujarat and the Malegaon blasts were similar in nature also."
In fact any close watcher of the bomb blasts in the country cannot miss the fact that bikes have been a favourite instrument of the Bajrang Dal to attack Muslims. A narcotest of those involved in Nanded bomb blasts (April 2006) which saw deaths of two Bajrang Dal activists had clearly revealed that 'mysterious blasts' in Parbhani in 2003 and Jalna (2004) which involved perpetrators on bikes throwing bombs at the congregation and fleeing were actually the handiwork of a terror module of the Bajrang Dal itself.
The report in Mailtoday further adds "This is similar to the blast in Mehrauli market in New Delhi blast on Saturday and also some other cases where bombs were placed on bikes."
Of course Mailtoday is not alone in pointing fingers at Hindu terror groups for these bomb blasts, a detailed writeup in Indian Express ( Hindu Extremist Groups on Radar In Malegaon Probe, Sagnik Chowdhury, 1 October 2008) reiterates the line of thinking of the ATS officials as far as the particular blast is concerned. " A day after the Maharashtra police said it could not rule out the possibility of Hindu extremist hand in Monday's blast in Malegaon, investigators are revisiting the crude bombs that were planted in auditoriums on the outskirts of Mumbai earlier this year." The ATS is planning to question the activists of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Sanatan Sanstha and other stray Hindu extremist organisations for their possible involvement in the act.The 1020 page chargesheet filed by the ATS in September against the members of these organisations for their terrorist acts is an added reminder for it to pursue the case in a balanced manner.
A deeper analysis of terror strikes since 2006 also reveal that there are at least five such terror strikes which targeted minorities and their religious places and they still remain unresolved. A report filed by Aman Sharma (Mailtoday, October 3, 2008) provides details of these blasts and the status of investigations. Jama Masjid blast (14 injured, April 2006 - Friday) where low intensity, crude bombs were placed in a polythene bag is still pending with Delhi police, no outfit has been named. Malegaon (40 killed, September 8, 2006 - Friday) which saw four bombs outside mosques on Shab-e-Barat where RDX-ammonium nitrate bombs in boxes on bicycles was used, still remains unresolved. The investigation in Samjhuta express blasts (66 killed, Feb 19, 2007) where six bombs were planted inside Indo-Pak Samjhauta Express has also not shown any progress and neither any organisation has been named. The case of Mecca Masjid blasts (11 killed, May 18, 2007 -Friday) where two bombs were planted inside Mecca Masjid in boxes, is also pending with CBI. The enquiry into Ajmer Sharif bomb blasts (3 killed, October 11, 2007 - Friday) where two bombs in tiffin boxes wee used and where ammonium nitrate bombs were triggered by mobile phone has also not made much headway. The case at present pending with Rajasthan police has also not named any organisation.
Looking at the fact that communal common sense dominates the functioning of the police and the media in our country it is difficult to predict what will happen next. The investigations into the recent Kanpur blast (24 August 2008) which saw deaths of two RSS activists, Rajiv Mishra and Bhupendra Chopra, while making ammonium nitrate bombs, is an example worth studying. While the police took two of their colleagues for narcoanalysis, it did not even bother to question their alleged mentors -one of whom happened to be a Professor in IIT with RSS background.
September 03, 2008
Article: Communal Violence is Sequel to Dalit Assertion
Check out this article out of Hyderabad today which shows how Dalit empowerment may be the true impetus behind increased communal violence in places like Orissa.
August 31, 2008
Destroying a Dream
The following is a nice summary of challenges for Dalits in both lower and higher education. It's a great article by a famous Western scholar who has become an Indian citizen.
Destroying a dream
By Gail Omvedt
The Week, Aug. 17, 2008
Destroying a Dream
Atrocities are events that happen in villages. We recoil at scenes of the brutal slaughter of a young couple breaking caste rules to seek love; naked and beaten bodies of a family which had had the gall to cultivate land that dominant caste villagers wanted; police kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach until she has a miscarriage.
Or we may think of the atrocities of daily life: low-paid and scorned labour, having to endure the humiliation of separate tea cups in hotels and lack of equal access to water of the village well, the temple, street or public square where Dalits are not welcome.
We do not think of atrocities as events that happen in schools. Education, after all, has been the dream of so many Dalit and non-Dalit youth from the supposedly 'superior' and the supposedly 'low' castes. Universities, research institutes and colleges are supposed to be places for 'free play of the mind', and where thinking is taught.
Schools are supposed to be training grounds for the India of tomorrow, free from the slime and degradation of the past. Every social reformer and revolutionary has focused on education; the reservation of 'seats' in educational institutions has been a central hope for the destruction of caste differences.
Yet, when a Dalit boy or girl steps into an educational institution, it may be their first step of confronting a humiliation unknown outside of their kin and caste circles. Schoolteachers may scorn them, treating them as unable to 'speak right' or think clearly, often expecting them to do the menial tasks, such as cleaning toilets ("After all, this is YOUR work.") and beating them brutally when they don't-an experience of Dalit girls in a village near Coimbatore.
College teachers may treat them as 'reserved' students, as not really capable of being taught, sometimes failing them, sometimes passing them without giving any encouragement or paying attention to their work. (This can happen even in top institutions; it has been reported, for instance, by JNU students that professors would do the latter.) Fellow students can reveal with every word the inherited ways of thinking; there are many examples of 'caste' students refusing noon meals if cooked by Dalit teachers.
In 2007, two research scholars of IISc-Bangalore, committed suicide. For V. Ajay Shree Chandra, a Dalit boy, it was discrimination, rejection of his work and verbal abuse that led him to end his life. For R. Chaitra, an OBC girl, it was pressure from family to marry against her wishes. In Kerala, Rajani S. Anand, a Dalit student of engineering, committed suicide as she could not get a loan to fund her studies. Dalit students at AIIMS have been abused.
Various special schemes for Dalit and Adivasi students often exist only on paper. For example, a Navodaya model school with 163 Dalit students from all over Karnataka, located near a reserve forest in Dakshina Kannada district, has no science laboratory, science teacher or sports ground, and all teachers are on contract (which means they do not benefit from government salaries and are insecure and poorly paid).
The result is backwardness in education. Dalit literacy remains significantly lower than the average and drop-out rates have gone up. As per a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General released on August 3, 2008, this rate increased in 2003-04 from 2001-02 in several states. Literacy rates for SCs and STs were 55 per cent and 47 per cent, according to the 2001 Census, compared with the national average of 65 per cent.
Education has been the hope of free India and the dream of social revolutionaries who hoped to free their people from the menial and scorned work of the past. But the road to education is not a free, four-lane highway. For the Dalits, it is full of potholes, speedbreakers and roadblocks.
Omvedt is fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.
July 15, 2008
Caste Discrimination in IIT Delhi
Earlier in my blog I pointed out cases of discrimination against Dalit students in higher learning. Here is a current case researched and written by Anoop Kumar. When will this tyranny end?
IITs: Doing Manu Proud – II
Caste Discrimination in IIT Delhi
By Anoop Kumar
(On behalf of Insight & National Dalit Students’ Forum)
“A caste-hindu by his very make up is incapable of showing any consideration to an untouchable candidate. He is a man with strong sympathies and strong antipathies”
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica)
I. Termination of Dalit students
In June, 2008, 12 Dalit students (11 SC & 1 ST)  were terminated by the IIT Delhi administration citing their ‘low academic performance’ as the reason. 11 students are from 1st and 2nd year and 1 from the final year. After receiving the termination letter, some of these Dalit students complained to the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes about being victimised by the IIT administration due to their caste background.
They alleged that IIT faculty members are highly prejudiced against students coming through reservation provision and are very hostile to them. They complained of being graded poorly in some courses despite performing well. The SC Commission summoned the Director of IIT Delhi and asked him to investigate into the allegations made by the Dalit students and also to review their termination. IIT administration, then, formed a 4-member Committee (consisting of present and past IIT faculty members) that had its hearing on 23rd and 24th May, 2008.
On 1st July, the IIT administration submitted a 1-page report to the SC Commission stating that it has decided to revoke the expulsion of 3 students (2 SC and 1 Muslim) by showing leniency, as they were short of very less credits. The report further stated that ‘no case of caste discrimination was brought out by the students in their meeting with the Review Committee’.
This is a blatant lie on the part of the IIT Review Committee, as when the Dalit students tried to raise the issue of caste discrimination, the members of the Committee refused to listen to them. The members only inquired about their academic performances and refused to take up questions related to caste discrimination.
The last paragraph of the 1-page report submitted to the SC Commission by IIT Delhi reiterated that ‘IIT Delhi is very sensitive to the special needs of SC/ST students and faculty members spare no efforts in helping them, and indeed all weak students, to come up to our higher academic standards. It is only when we feel that a student is unable to cope up with studies, and would not be able to complete the degree requirements in the maximum allowed period of six years, that we terminate the registration so that the student can avoid further wastage of time and make an alternative education plan for himself.’ (emphasis added)
II. IITs and SC/ST Students
Every year, IITs select students through its Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) offering around 5500 seats for its various undergraduate (B. Tech and Integrated M. Tech) courses. Studies suggest that close to half the seats reserved for SCs and STs remain vacant and that of those admitted, a significant proportion, perhaps up to 25 percent, is obliged to drop out. Even though the IITs reserve 15 % of the seats for SCs and 7.5 % for STs, they are often unable to fill even half of this quota.
Now, if we do some simple calculation, we can very easily conclude that the SC/ST community looses about 773 IIT undergraduate seats out of the total allotted 1237 seats every year. That amounts to a massive loss of 62 % of the total allotted seats due to both, unfilled seats at the time of admission and subsequent drop outs.
Recently, a news paper article mentioned, taking help from the Right to Information Act, that “In IIT Bombay, 21 SC/ST students were asked to terminate their undergraduate B.Tech course in 2006-07, 20 SC/ST students in 2005-06 and 19 students in the prior year. The yearly average for SC/ST students’ termination in IIT Delhi and IIT Kharagpur is 11 and 8 respectively.”
Except IIT Guwahati (founded in 1994) and IIT Roorkee (included as IIT in 2001), all the 5 other IITs are at least 45 years old. I would like my readers to calculate the total number of losses suffered by the SC/ ST community in all these years and critically analyse the impact of such losses for the community, that has been suffering the inhuman exclusion in every sphere of life and whose only life line has been the Constitutional provision of Reservation in education and in government jobs.
Hence, it becomes very important for all of us to ponder over two questions that emerge out:
Why even today, about half of the seats for SC/ST students remain unfilled in the IITs?
Why is there such a high drop out rate of SC/ST students in IITs?
To many, the obvious answer to both the questions is that SC/ST students are ‘weak in studies’. It means that on an average, SC/ST students cannot compete with general category students, both in the entrance exam as well as during his/her stay at IIT.
Before probing into the ‘weakness’ of SC/ST students, I would like to point out that -
The cut-off marks at IIT entrance exam as well as passing marks in particular subjects in IITs are not fixed.
The cut-off marks for SC/ST students in IIT entrance exams, in any year, is normally 10 % less than the general category cut-off in that year.
The IITs follow relative grading in course work. There is no fixed minimum passing marks. Even if any IIT student has scored 60 % in any particular subject, there are chances that he/she might be declared failed, if the average score of other students is slightly higher. Or he/she might not be failed. Since there is no fixed passing marks, to pass students who have scored less than average becomes the prerogative of individual faculty members.
I came to know about the termination of Dalit students from IIT Delhi in the second week of June. While interacting with these students and listening to their stories, I became aware of how the IIT administration deals with Dalit students. To have a better understanding, I decided to interact with more Dalit students from IIT Delhi as well as some of the ex-students. The present report is based on my interactions with them.
III. The manufacturing of ‘weak’ students and the construction of ‘merit’ in IITs
While interacting with IIT Delhi’s terminated Dalit students, three questions came to my mind.
Were these students ‘weak’ in studies and were not able to cope up with the rigorous studies in IIT Delhi?
Or/ and did they just not apply themselves and study hard?
Or were there other factors involved that might be beyond these students?
The truth that emerges out is shocking, to say the least. Dalit students who are admitted in IITs are marked as ‘weak’ and ‘non-meritorious’ from the very beginning and their stay in IITs are made as painful as possible. Such behaviour has been institutionalised and has been perfected into a fine art by many faculty members.
According to the IIT administration, all SC/ST students entering into the IITs are ‘weak’, as they come through Reservations. They use each and every opportunity, both inside as well as outside the classes, to make sure that these students are kept aware of this fact that ‘all general category students are meritorious whereas SC/ST students don’t deserve’ to be in IIT’.
However, the truth is that most of the Dalit students entering into the IITs are often toppers of their respective schools. They are, mostly, second generation literate and hail from lower-middle class, rural or semi-urban backgrounds with non-English medium schooling. In comparison, the general category students are invariably from upper-middle class, urban, upper-caste, English medium backgrounds. Not only are there marked differences in the backgrounds of the students from these two categories but also their routes to IIT differ immensely. And I would like to argue that this is where the ‘merit’ is constructed.
‘Merit’ via coaching centres
A recent study conducted by ASSOCHAM reveals that private coaching centres that train students for entrance exams of the IIT and other prestigious engineering colleges ‘mint Rs.100 billion ($2.30 billion) a year - an amount that can fund 30 to 40 new IITs’. In fact the city of Kota in Rajasthan, which boasts of the best coaching centres in India, is flocked by aspiring IIT candidates from all over the country. One particular coaching centre in Kota, in fact, claims that 1 out of every 4 IITians is their ‘product’.
As we all know, studying in these coaching centres is not cheap at all. On an average, a student spends more than Rs. 1 lakh for an 8-month coaching during his/her preparation for IIT entrance exam. As a response to the impact of the coaching industry and the undue advantage that it gives to their students, IIT has recently made changes in their admission procedure by fixing the number of attempts a student can take and have also made changes in the examination pattern. However, these cosmetic changes have not been able to restrict the number of students flocking to the coaching centres.
Now, the question is who are those students who flock to these coaching centres to crack the tough IIT entrance exams? The answer is not that difficult if one interacts with IIT students, from both general category and SC/ST category.
The majority of Dalit students have cleared the IIT JEE exam through self-study or by taking private tuitions, as they were not in a position to pay huge fees for these centres. In comparison, it is very rare to find a general category student who had not studied in one or the other big coaching centres. Due to this, the general category students are much better equipped for IIT JEE exams and this reflects in the merit list of the general category which has higher cut-off marks. Still, some of the SC/ST candidates are able to score higher than that cut-off and reach to the general category list. The lower cut-off marks for SC/ST students thus becomes the first indicator that points towards the notion that ‘SC/ST students are weak’.
There is not even a single voice that opposes the coaching centres and the undue advantage they provide to the rich, urban, upper-caste students in comparison with those who, without money, are left to do self- preparation.
The IIT JEE exam is one of the toughest exams. Why? ‘To attract the best minds in India’ is the stock reply. If this is so, then what are these coaching centres with Rs.100 billion annual turnovers doing? They are, in fact, manufacturing ‘best minds’ from those who have deep pockets in this country and are aiding in the unequal competition between students from different backgrounds. However, no body acknowledges this fact, as these coaching centres are boon for ‘upper’ caste families, since they help them in their claim of being ‘meritorious’.
English language as another marker of ‘Merit’
Majority of the Dalit students entering into IITs are from non-English medium schools, whereas the medium of instruction in IITs is English. Once admitted in IIT, these students find it very difficult to follow the classes since they are taught in English, which results in their low performance in initial years, as compared to other students.
Since all the SC/ST students, on being admitted in IITs, are already marked as ‘weak’, the initial low performance of non-English medium Dalit students feeds into this stereotyping and they easily become the poster boys of ‘quota students’ in the highly prejudiced IIT campus. A few Dalit students who are from relatively better backgrounds (read English medium) are able to escape such ignominy, getting an opportunity to pass off as a general category student, leaving behind these hapless students to suffer the punishment of being ‘quota’ students.
Instead of acknowledging the difference in background and the problem of medium of instruction, the IIT faculty members also, due to their casteist prejudices, quickly brand these students as ‘undeserving’, ‘not up to the mark’ and ‘forced into IIT through reservation’. Rather than supporting students to cope up with English and gradually come at par with the other students, they are hostile or at best indifferent to their plight.
On the pretext of their low performance in IIT, many faculty members humiliate and demoralise these Dalit students, both inside and outside the classes, by making remarks on their academic capabilities implying, “since you don’t deserve to be here, now you suffer”.
It is their way of retaliating to the reservation provisions and since they cannot stop these students from entering into IITs, they try to punish them for that ‘crime’ through such behaviour. To counter reservation, there is a strong urge to prove that Dalit students are weak and what better way to do it than targeting those who are already little handicapped in the IIT environment!
The rigorous IIT schedule from the day one does not make things easier for these Dalit students either. By the time they are in a position to cope up with the IIT culture and rigour, they are already under heavy backlog of many courses and find themselves to be on the verge of being terminated due to ‘low academic performance’. Many of them drop out by the end of their 1st and 2nd year and those who some how pass, barely manage to get their degree in 4 years. Most of them take another 1-2 years to get their B. Tech degree, their stay being further marked by demoralisation, stigma and huge alienation.
More than 80 % of the children in India, those who are fortunate enough to pass 10th std., do their schooling in Hindi or other regional languages as their medium of instruction. Yet IITs, that claim to be the institutes of ‘national’ importance and teach in English, have failed to develop a proper mechanism to counter the problems faced by these students once admitted in IITs. Is it due to the incompetency of the IITs or are they simply not bothered, as they believe that the ‘best minds fit for IITs’ can only be found in urban, English-educated, upper caste students? I believe both reasons to be true; besides, it gives them a big stick to beat reserve category students with.
Engineering colleges in India have copied their entire syllabi from the knowledge produced in the west. The faculty members teach from the western texts and techniques, which they had learnt from there in the 1960-70s. The academic research and development of syllabi is in such a sorry state in this country that there is hardly any innovation in teaching, both in texts and techniques. During interaction, IIT students tell you how these professors teach in the class, through their old notes (known as kharra in Hindi slang), promoting only rote learning and discouraging any discussions in the class.
Apart from their incompetency, IIT faculty members are also not interested in developing any mechanism to resolve the question of language, as it does not affect their caste and class interest. IITs have turned themselves completely into institutions for providing lucrative jobs both in India and abroad for the kith and kin of the urban, English-speaking, upper caste, middle class and in the process completely sidelining their basic objectives of providing scientists and technologists to the country. It also suits multinationals very well, as they need English-speaking labourers. Also, the knowledge of English gives them the sense of superiority vis-à-vis the lower caste, which they don’t want to lose at any cost. Like Sanskrit earlier, now English has become the marker of their ‘merit’ and ‘knowledge’.
If IITs remained true to their real objectives of promoting research and development in sciences and technology for the country, it could never have afforded to create an environment that promotes rote learning and found the ‘best brains’ in a very small segment of the country, branding others as ‘merit-less’ and ‘incompetent’.
IV. Institutional Mechanisms
If the Dalit students admitted in IITs through JEE are so ‘weak’ that it results in such a high drop-out rate, my question is, has the IIT administration devised any mechanism to support these students to come at par with others? Let us examine -
a. Orientation Programme
There is no such programme for SC/ST students at any point of their stay in IIT, leave alone at the time of their admission. Such programmes, in the beginning, would help Dalit students immensely and provide them the confidence in IIT administration. There are hundreds of studies available in many parts of the world that prove the efficacy of such programmes for those who face marginalisation in the society.
b. Remedial Classes for English language and proficiency
In the first semester, IIT Delhi offers one course in English language to all those coming from non-English backgrounds. It is of 3 credits and the faculty teaches XII std. level English grammar. It usually has 1-2 classes per week. Thus, IIT expects these students to become proficient in English by attending 18-20 classes which are held in one semester. The interviews with students revealed the non-seriousness of such efforts. Every body said that this course is absolutely ineffective, as the teacher concentrates only on the English Grammar, which anyways they have studied in the schools. The students also allege that even this is not taught seriously and students just try to pass in this course in order to get the very valuable 3 credits. Some of the students even fail in this course and have to repeat the course next year.
The main problems faced by the freshers in IIT are that they are unable to catch the accent of most of the professors and also find it difficult to comprehend the text books in English. So, what is important here is the ‘language’ of science and not English grammar per se and its remedy is not just one course in English grammar.
The remedy lies in individual faculty members identifying students with such a problem and supporting them by giving some extra time and promoting an atmosphere where the students feel confident to interact with them. However, for such an environment, it is important not to treat all such students as ‘weak’ and victimise them due to their poor English. Given the level of students-teachers interaction (it is one sided), insincerity and incompetency of IIT faculty members, asking for this is really a very tall order.
c. SC/ST Cell or Equal Opportunity Office
Every university and college in the country has an SC/ST cell to monitor the implementation of reservation as well as to redress the grievances of the SC/ST students. But IIT Delhi has probably never heard of it or they have given themselves the clean chit of being a caste discrimination-free campus! Hence, the IITs have no such mechanism and the SC/ST students have no space where they can share and interact with the administration on their specific problems. Such a cell also works as a grievance redressal mechanism against caste-based abuses and discrimination suffered by Dalit students. Given the tendency of IIT faculty members to hurl casteist abuses and indulgence in discriminatory grading, such mechanisms are absolutely necessary.
d. SC/ST Course Adviser
According to the IIT prospectus (page 17), “A number of measures exist for helping students belonging to SC and ST categories. A senior faculty member is appointed as adviser to SC/ST students for advising them on academic and non-academic matters.”
However, the truth is that not even a single Dalit student was able to tell the name of the Professor who is supposed to look after the problems of SC/ST students. Nobody was even aware of this provision and had never come across any information or notice regarding it.
e. Standing Review Committee (SRC)
This Committee composes of a number of faculty members including the Dean for under-graduate students and is supposed to identify students, whose performance is not up to the mark starting from the end of the 1st semester and work with him/her to solve those problems. However, if one interacts with the students, one will hear many horrifying stories of how in SRC, instead of patiently dealing with the student’s problems, the members literally rag the students and create an atmosphere where the Dalit students feel like criminals in front of police officials. Getting one’s name in the SRC becomes another marker of being a ‘weak’ student. The list is sent to the faculty members and that information is used by many faculty members to humiliate Dalit students in the SRC list, as then it is ‘officially proved’ that these students are ‘undeserving’ and ‘not fit for the IITs’.
f. Student Counselling Service
IIT Delhi runs a Student Counselling Service under the aegis of Board for Student Welfare, for ‘assisting students in sorting out their difficulties and dilemmas in an environment where they can talk freely and in confidence about any matter which is troubling them.’ The staff includes psychologists, a psychiatric, and is also drawn from faculty and student volunteers.
Many of the IIT faculty members believe this Counselling service to be the panacea for all ills. So, if a student is facing difficulties in a course, the professor often suggests, “to visit the counsellor and get your mind checked”. During my interaction, the Dalit students gave mixed reaction on the efficacy of the counselling services. Many of them are of the opinion that they visit counsellor for the problems that is purely academic and hope that these are conveyed to the concerned faculty members but all of them were unanimous in its ineffectiveness in dealing with the caste problem. More over, the counsellor also treats them as ‘weak’ students, as one incident narrated by an ex-student shows. In 2002, when this student went to the Counsellor with his problems, he was categorically told that he was having such problems as he was a reserved category candidate and would never able to cope up with the IIT atmosphere.
g. SC/ST faculty members
Since IITs are ‘institutes of national importance’, there is no provision of reservation in faculty recruitment. While interacting with the Dalit students, none of them were able to name even a single professor from these two categories. However, later we were able to identify one Dalit professor, who retired 6 years back. It is shocking to know that in all these years following the inception of IIT (more than 45 years), it has failed to recruit faculty members from marginalised backgrounds. This itself is a testimony of the type of exclusion practised by the IITs.
h. Support System
Dalit students not only lack institutional mechanisms but they themselves also cannot help each other, as IIT Delhi has banned the formation of any students’ groups in the campus, other than those that are run by the administration (for extra-curricular activities). In the past, some of the students have tried to organise themselves informally but were not successful, as the administration started harassing them. Also, it was difficult to interact with all the SC/ST students clandestinely, due to the difficulty in identifying students from other departments.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the USA, on which IITs are said to have been modelled, have a plethora of recognised student bodies of different minorities (for example, a very strong Black Students’ Union) and run various programmes that provide the much needed space for these students to interact with each other, which helps them in articulating their problems and negotiating with the administration.
However, IITs believe that there are only two types of students – General Category and ‘weak’ students that don’t deserve to be in IIT. Hence, they copied every thing from MIT but forgot to replicate the democratic institutional spaces provided by MIT for students from different backgrounds.
i. Study on problems faced by SC/ST students
It is interesting to note that IITs have not carried even a single systematic study of problems faced by the Dalit students. One look at the website of MIT will tell you about the number of studies conducted on the problems faced by women and African Americans and the steps taken by MIT to solve those problems. However, IITs here are not at all interested in doing such a study and making efforts to solve the problems of Dalit students, as they believe that all SC/ST students are born inferior.
V. Experiences of Dalit Students in IIT Delhi
During the course of my interaction, I interviewed 20 Dalit students from IIT Delhi, where they shared their experiences of the campus. But I have included only a few narratives in this report and have not mentioned their names to prevent their identification. There are many narratives which I have not included where I felt that the nature of the incidents might betray the student’s identity, even if I did not reveal their names. Needless to say, these incidents were much more overt in nature.
Student No. 1 (Final Year B. Tech) -
Professors in IIT are undoubtedly better from rest of the country, but there are some who need to be corrected. They ask the students’ caste and category when they perform poorly. They believe that all SC/ST students are weak and all weak students are SC/ST. In my first semester, the Physics professor was taking my viva and I was not able to answer, on which she became very annoyed and asked me, “Are you from quota?” I said, “No.” Then she explained, “Quota means SC/ST.” I again answered, “No.”
She was asking the same question to the general category students, if they were not able to answer in the viva. What is this mentality of the professor? Is it correct for professors to ask the category if one is not able to answer? Throughout her classes, I had the fear that if she came to know my category, she would do something wrong in my grading. So, I was quite nervous and never went to her for any help or to clarify my doubts. I don’t understand why professors create these kinds of situations.
Student No. 2 (IInd Year, B. Tech) -
I was doing a course in the Bio-Tech department. Due to my illness, I didn’t appear for one of the exams in that course. There is a rule that if the student has not appeared in examination due to medical reason, he/she is allowed to sit for the re-exam, after submitting the medical certificate. When I asked for my re-examination, the professor immediately replied, “Reservation lekar IIT mein aa jate ho aur exam bhi nahi dete.” (You come through reservations in IIT and then don’t even sit for exams).
I could not say anything because here students don’t speak anything before the professors, as our fate lies ultimately in their hands. They may fail us if they wish. However, I kept on requesting for re-examination. Later, he agreed but I was failed in that exam. One more time I had gone to the same professor to clarify something related to my term paper. He immediately said, “No, I don’t know anything”. I never went back to him again then. Due to such behaviour from IIT faculties, we are forced to feel like a criminal in front of the police.
Student No. 3 (IInd Year, B. Tech) -
Last year, I was attending a course and by then, I was already in the SRC list. This list is sent to the concerned faculties. When my professor got the list, she told me, “SC/ST students are very poor and if I ask something from you, I don’t think you will be able to answer that”. When I protested on her statement, she said, “Oh! so you want to fight with me!”
After that she became very hostile to me. Whenever I went for some clarification, she used to get angry and rebuke me for not being able to understand ‘simple English’ and always made very discouraging comments like, “Are you always sleeping in the class? Why did you join IIT if you don’t know English?”
However, unlike other students, I persisted in meeting her, as I needed continued support. One day, she got very angry and told me, “I think you are mad. You should get medical check-up. Go and visit the counsellor”. Then I realized that it was getting tough to cope up with her. I called my father and then both of us went and met the professor. She was very rude to both of us and told my father that there was something wrong with me and I must consult a doctor. My father tried to talk to her but in vain. The professor did not budge from her point that I am mad. At the end, I failed in the subject. I paid the price of asserting myself and asking guidance from the professor.
Student No. 4 (Final Year, B. Tech) -
In one of the classes of Energy Studies, in 2006, the professor started saying that reservation is unjust, as undeserving students from reserved category are selected while upper caste students, who are meritorious are left out and indulge in theft and robbery. All the students listened to him quietly but I wonder what would have been the response of the professor if any SC/ST students had argued with him in the class.
Student No. 5 (IIIrd Year, B. Tech) -
In the last semester, I was giving viva exam for Energy Conversion lab. When I was not able to answer the question, one of the professors asked my lab partner whether I was from reserved category. He replied “yes”. The professor uttered “Ohh!” and did not ask any further questions from me.
Student No. 6 (IIIrd Year, B. Tech) -
I want to narrate one of my experiences of SRC (Standing Review Committee) meeting which is supposed to monitor the student’s performance but actually does nothing. The objectives remain on paper only. It is never helpful in sorting out student’s problem or to improve his performance. No one wants to hear our problems. Only your past examination marks are asked and then you are grilled / ragged for that and that is why most of the students don’t want to go to its meetings.
Before the SRC meeting, we are supposed to fill a form stating our problems. In the meeting, one of the professors sits with all the records, and briefs other faculty members about the concerned student. In one such meeting, I was also called. I filled up the form where I mentioned all my problems. When I went inside, one professor showed my records to the two neighbouring professors and said in a hushed tone, “SC student”. Then one of the professors said, “Ok, let him go”. No body asked anything about my problems. I felt it was utter waste to attend the SRC meetings. I didn’t understand the purpose of filling up the form if they did not ask anything.
Student No. 7 (IIIrd Year, B. Tech)
Here in IIT, we cannot form any group. Pravin Togadia and Ashok Singhal can come and speak in the IIT hostel (they came in the tenure of the previous IIT Director) but the students cannot organise Dr. Ambedkar Jayanti in the campus. Since the last 2-3 years, the SC/ST Employees Association is organising Dr. Ambedkar Jayanti, as the administration has not been able to harm them but 3-4 years back, when some senior Dalit students had tried to organise that, they faced stiff resistance from the IIT administration and were categorically asked the rationale for celebrating Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday in IIT campus.
If any Dalit student wants to organise an orientation programme for SC/ST freshers, he is harassed by the faculty members like anything. It happened with one of our seniors. Since IIT does not organise any such programme, he tried to contact the IIT administration for organising this. Immediately, a letter was sent to his home saying that, “your son is involved in politics”. Later, he was harassed by the faculty members also.
One funny incident that I want to share will reflect the prejudices and ignorance of IIT faculties. A few years back, on Dr. Ambedkar Jayanti, the SC/ST Employees Association invited IIT Director as the chief guest. When asked to speak, he just said one sentence, “In IIT, there is no caste discrimination” and went back to his seat!
VI. Interview with ex-students of IIT Delhi
“Do you think all of us should carry audio recorders while attending classes?”
- Shibu (name changed), a Tribal ex-student of IIT Delhi, who teaches in one of the state engineering colleges, shares his experiences in a telephonic interview.
Q. Sir, some SC/ST students of IIT Delhi have raised the question of caste discrimination. What is your opinion? What has been your experience in IITDelhi?
A. There is no doubt that casteism prevails in the campus very much. The faculty members strongly believe that all SC/ST students are weak and that is why they treat them as inferior. We keep hearing their comments in the class about how weak we are. If we don’t do well in our exam, they blame it on our being from SC/ST category. They will never encourage you in your studies. Once I asked my professor to allow me to work in certain project under him. He flatly refused saying that this project was beyond my capabilities and I could not manage such a project. It was very heart breaking for me.
One reason why they are able to comment on us without any fear is the absence of SC/ST faculty members. There are no single faculty members from these two categories and that is why Dalit students face so many problems. There is no body to check them. Students cannot confront, as their entire career depends on these teachers. They are the ones who will give you marks.
Q. So, is there no way in which Dalit students can protest against such comments?
A. Dalit students cannot form any group here and general category students also maintain a very safe distance from them. Most of them try to avoid the Dalit students, as they also suffer from the same disease and believe that they are superior. I have seen very minimum level of interaction between the two groups. A few Dalit students who are from relatively well-off positions might be able to penetrate in their groups but otherwise Dalit students suffer huge alienation both in the class and hostel. That is why, he has no other choice than tolerate silently all the adverse comments. There are not many cases of physical violence in IIT against the Dalit students but in all other state and regional engineering colleges, this is a huge problem. The majority of cases of physical violence have been against Dalit students.
Q. Is there no mechanism for redressal relating to caste abuses and prejudices in IIT like the SC/ST Cell or Equal Opportunity Office?
A. No, there is nothing of this sort. At least I am not aware of that. May be officially they might have some but none of us were aware of any such mechanism during my stay in IIT Delhi. There is so much mental harassment of Dalit students. How are you going to prove that? There is no evidence. How will you prove that the teachers made some bad comments about SC/ST and are hostile? Do you think all of us should carry audio recorders while attending classes? I was always asked to answer tough questions in the class by some faculty members. I knew I was targeted being the only reserved category student. But they could very easily say that by asking questions regularly they are in fact trying to persuade me to work much harder. Such a logic can be very convenient for them. But I can see the real intentions in their eyes. They want to humiliate me but I cannot prove it. It is so subtle. They have turned caste discrimination into a fine art and have mastered it very well. I don’t think many SC/ST students can escape from this. You have to suffer.
Q. I have heard that there is a provision of a separate course advisor for SC/ST students, who is supposed to advise and support Dalit students in their studies? What was your experience with him?
A. I was completely unaware of such a course advisor during my stay.
Q. What about the campus placement process?
A. Not many Dalit students get proper placement from the campus. There are many instances where, in the whole batch, only SC/ST students are left without jobs. We are not aware how this elimination process during placements works but the fact remains that private sector companies don’t hire Dalit students. In our placement CVs, our category is mentioned by the institute. Since private companies do not give any reservation, then what is the need of mentioning our category? And moreover, many good companies don’t allow students with CGPA less than 6.75 to sit for their placement exams and interviews and not many Dalits have such CGPA. They, by then, have been so much demoralized by the whole environment that they are concerned only about getting their degrees. Even in those companies where there is no such CGPA criterion, the chances of getting a job are very less for Dalit students. They are forced to only think of less lucrative government jobs like the Public Sector Units.
Q. What is your experience while teaching in one of the reputed state engineering college?
A. The situation remains the same even if an SC/ST becomes a faculty. They try to harass you here also. Here also, they try every possible means to force you out of the institute. Once you join, they will immediately start giving extra works- both teaching and non-teaching. They will speak very softly but you will immediately get tough courses to teach. Some of them might even provoke students against you. Normally, Dalit faculty members are very student-friendly, as they genuinely want to support students, being aware of the problems faced by them. However, most of the time, this gesture becomes counter- productive, as students start believing that you are a weak person and start taking you for granted. In my institute, there are only two more Dalit faculty members and I sometimes listen to their harrowing experiences and wonder how they managed to stay in that institute for so long.
“I knew I was stigmatized for ever”
- Rakesh Kumar, a Dalit ex student of IIT Delhi narrates his experience
I completed my B. Tech Course from IIT Delhi in 2003. When I was in my first year, I was attending the Chemistry class (one of the first few classes) and some of the students after giving their attendance, tried to escape from the class through the back door. One of the students (with surname Srivastava) was caught. The professor got very angry and started scolding him and asked the names of other students who had run away. There were 5-6 students. One of them had surname ‘Meena’, which is a Tribal surname. As soon as the professor heard his name, he became angry all the more and started making derogatory comments like ‘I know how they come here’, ‘these SC/ST students don’t deserve to come to IIT’ and ‘they are ruining the IIT atmosphere’. He spoke for more than 15 minutes giving a ‘discourse’ on how ‘un-teachable’ SC/ST students were. I was sitting in the class listening to him.
Now when I look back and reflect about my four years of stay in IIT, I can understand how that one particular incident had marked my student life there.
How could I trust the IIT professors when they had already passed the judgment on me? I could not draw courage to reveal my caste identity to my friends in IIT. I knew I was stigmatized for ever. Since I knew English, I tried to pass off as general category student in front of my class mates. But that was not a happy solution. I used to feel so much uneasiness. I used to hear lots of derogatory remarks about Dr. Ambedkar, Mayawati and about other Dalit students within my friend circle but I could never reply.
After completing my B. Tech, I worked for six months and then joined Jawaharlal Nehru University for my post graduation. Here, things were far better. I came in touch with the Dalit students’ group working there and slowly became assertive about my identity. I started appreciating my background much more. I belong to khatik caste. My forefathers used to take out the skin of dead animals. My family had migrated to Delhi long back and both my parents have raised me by working in tanneries, skinning dead animals. Why should I be ashamed of my parents, my identity? Now, I am very much comfortable about my identity and in fact feel proud about my parents.
VII. Brand IIT: The Myths and the Reality
Many efforts are being made to cleverly create a façade of IITs as great, ‘quality’ institutions, producing ‘brilliant’ researchers, engineers, etc. Why this façade is being created?
It is to hide a very important fact.
The Indian Parliament envisioned that the IIT system would “provide scientists and technologists of the highest calibre who would engage in research, design and development to help building the nation towards self-reliance in her technological needs”. A Central statute, the Indian Institute of Technology Act, 1956, & 1961 declared the IITs to be “of national importance”, thus paving the way for huge financial support from the government as well as for the conferring of a high degree of autonomy.
However, instead of providing scientists and technologists for the country, IITs have turned themselves into institutions for providing lucrative jobs both in India and abroad for the kith and kin of urban English speaking upper caste/middle class and in the process completely sidelining their basic objectives. That is why the ‘quality’ of IITs is being marked in direct proportion to the pay packages offered to the students by the multinationals and not by any technological innovations.
This is the reason behind so much hostility against SC/ST students in these campuses, as their entry into these institutions will threaten the chances of the ruling class in the job market. They want to monopolize these opportunities and don’t want to share it with any marginalised community in the country.
Hence, the need behind all the chest thumping, talks of ‘merit’ and IIT being the ‘centre of excellence and quality’ becomes necessary in order to hide the fact that the IITs, rather than preparing students for research and development (the reason for their creation), have completely metamorphosed themselves into institutions that cater only to the interests of the parasitic upper caste/middle class and the multinationals.
If the IITs remained honest towards their basic objective of facilitating the development of the country through research, they would have gladly accepted the entry of students from the communities that have been directly involved in the production processes like Dalits and Tribals, instead of stigmatising these students as inherently ‘weak’, based on their performance in entrance exam.
IITs: Foreigners’ benevolence towards a Third World country
The ‘upper’ caste IITians- both faculties and students- bemoan a lot about the reservation policy for SC/ST students, claiming that it downgrades the quality of Brand ‘IIT’. However, the truth is that these IITs, themselves, are products of the largesse of the developed countries. These countries, in the name of ‘aid in development for a Third World Country’, not only, provided them technical and financial support to start with, but are still helping them to upgrade and to remain at par, through liberal scholarships and various other assistance, so that the Indians could run such ‘institutes of excellence’.
IIT Bombay was founded in 1958. It was set up by UNESCO and the erstwhile Soviet Union. IIT Madras was established in 1959 with the technical, academic and financial assistance from the Government of the erstwhile West Germany. IIT Kanpur was established in 1959 by the US government and a consortium of nine USuniversities helped to set up the research laboratories and academic programmes there. Similarly, IIT Delhi was established in 1961 by the benevolence shown by the former colonial masters United Kingdom. Till now, not even a single IIT has been able to stand on its own in terms of research, cutting edge technology, training, even after guzzling huge amount of money from the Indian exchequer and huge financial aids from various other sources including foreign countries.
A large number of today’s merit-mongers (the IIT faculty members) benefited from these foreign scholarships together with an opportunity to study in liberal foreign campuses. It would have been interesting if the citizens of these countries had opposed these opportunities provided to Indians, arguing that such efforts were diluting the ‘quality’ of their campuses and taking away opportunities from their own deserving candidates!
Ranking of IITs at the international level
In the Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities (2006), IIT Kharagpur was the only engineering college from India listed among the top 500 universities worldwide and that too among the lowest bracket (below 400). The purpose of this ranking by the Chinese university was, “to find out the gap between Chinese universities and world-class universities, particularly in terms of academic or research performance.”
This ranking is an honest attempt by the Chinese to improve their universities and technical institutes. In contrast, nobody has ever heard of such an attempt from India. Except one, no other IIT figures in the list of top 500 institutes worldwide. It is intriguing that the IITs, monopolized by much ‘meritorious’ upper caste community, are not able to compete with foreign institutions, even after years of continued support and assistance from many reputed institutions and at the expense of huge public money, the budgetary allocations for IITs for the year 2005 being a whopping 650 crores!
 ‘IITs: Doing Manu Proud’ was a report brought out by the Dalit Media Network, Chennai in December, 2000. It can be accessed on http://www.ambedkar.org/research/IITs.htm . This report looked into the cases of caste discrimination in IIT Madras. It is probably the first of its kind and therefore I have put this report as part II to acknowledge it.
 There is a lot of confusion regarding the total number of students that have been terminated. Despite all our efforts, the IIT administration has refused to provide any information regarding the same. There are conflicting reports regarding the numbers and IIT has deliberately tried not to clear the air. In fact, the IIT Director lied before the Scheduled Caste Commission and said that only 7 Dalit students have failed. However, IIT Delhi has now acknowledged in the media that 12 Dalit students have been terminated. The Dalit students allege that the numbers are much more. Around 20 Dalit students have been terminated this year, they say.
 ‘The IIT Story: Issues and Concerns’, Frontline, Vol. 20-Issue 03, Feb 01-14, 2003
 ‘Quotas are route to inequality at IITs and IIMs’, DNA NOW, June 24, 2008
 ‘ IIT coaching classes a Rs 10K crore Industry?’, The Times of India, 3rd July 2008 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/3190000.cms
 India’s PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s address on the first convocation at IIT Kharagpur, 1956
July 10, 2008
Healthcare: A Justice Issue
June 15, 2008
60 Million Child Laborers in India
The Dalit Freedom Network is a movement that is dedicated to releasing children from child labor and preventing children from entering bonded labor. The vast majority of child laborers in India are low caste and Dalit children. Each child in each of our schools is a child that has been plucked from child labor and human trafficking. We now have nearly 15,000 of such children in our schools. Join us in eradicating bonded child labor and the trafficking of children in India.
January 19, 2008
Racism blindness, cricket, and the Untouchables
On January 8, 2008, CNN/IBN’s ‘Face the Nation’ broadcast focused on racism within India. It was not surprising that, during a call-in survey, 83% of their audience agreed that India has its own racism. The caste system is at the core of this social illness.
Reporters interviewed black students from Africa in the famous Jawaharlal Nehru University who prefer to stay inside the campus rather than venture out onto the streets of New Delhi to face racist comments and taunts. The broadcast was triggered by the huge controversy around allegedly racist comments by one of India’s cricket players to an Australian player in the ongoing cricket series between the countries. The match referee banned the Indian player for three matches. The Indian team has appealed.
While it appears the Indian player is not guilty, it is baffling to see how some Indians are trying to take a higher moral ground on the whole issue of racism. The argument is that India raised its voice against Apartheid. We are the ones who condemned racism in America. We are the pluralistic society that will not stand for racism.
Yet, while this is true, one of the CNN/IBN panel members expressed the unsaid truth. He stated that Indians are hard-core racists due to the caste system and our obsession with being fair and white in skin color. Nowhere in the world is there such an obsession with becoming fair-skinned. Cosmetic companies blatantly run ads which are racist in character. There are numerous quacks who offer creams and treatments that are harmful, but promise to make your face ‘fair’ in a couple of weeks.
Professor Kancha Ilaiah, a political scientist who was on the show, pointed out that Indian life is replete with terms that are racist. When the lower castes are called ‘Chamars’ or ‘Bhangis’ or ‘Chandalas’ or ‘Kalia’ and similar names, it degrades and insults people who were born into this category, occupation, and place in the caste system.
A few Australian papers indirectly pointed out that all is not well in India on the racism front. But the editors did not go on to directly point out what I commonly hear during my travels around the world. In the wake of globalization, the world is very aware of India’s caste or racism problem.
Increasingly, very few people are buying the argument that the caste system is not racism. From genetic discoveries to binding United Nations’ judgments, the truth is becoming obvious.
In fact, not only is caste a form of racism, it is a greater evil. Educational achievements or economic successes sometimes eliminate the barriers of most racism. But my beloved country is full of examples of Dalits who returned home after great accomplishments only to be scorned by the upper castes. In 2001, Dalit leaders said with one voice at the UN conference at Durban that caste is worse than racism because there is no way out of the caste system. Once a Dalit, always a Dalit.
What’s the solution? Non-governmental groups, like ours, can continue to empower Dalits through primary education, microeconomic projects, and more. The national and state governments should enforce the good laws which are already on the books. But transformation of our racism-laden society will only happen when corporate responsibility is practiced. Corporations wield power and respect. Companies, whether Indian or multi-national, must address racism in their operations. And, more important, they must invest in schools, colleges, and continuing education which teach the equal potential for every human being. Knowledge of the truth sets people free.
August 15, 2007
India's Statue of Liberty
On August 15th, India celebrates her 60th birthday as a modern independent nation. Celebrations are already on as Indians proudly remember their past 60 years and the many successes in them. The Dalit freedom movement too celebrates the founding of the democratic Indian nation. There is much to be proud of.
In the fields of agriculture, technology, education, economics and our experiment with 'democracy' we have done well. We have managed to remain a pluralistic, democratic, free India in spite of attempts to destroy our diversity, plurality of religions and our democratic foundations by fundamentalist forces. These forces have never reconciled to the idea of a modern Indian nation built on the modern Indian Constitution.
We remember our founding fathers: Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Predictably, the elitist media and spin doctors will pay some lip service to Ambedkar or completely forget him as did the speechwriters and advisors of President Bush when he gave his speech in New Delhi in March 2006 and mentioned Nehru, Gandhi and Tagore as India's great founding leaders.
Tagore was a great Indian but not a founding father of the Indian nation. Ambedkar was. Without Ambedkar, the author of India’s Constitution and a Dalit, there would be no social justice in the nation; there never would be the empowerment of millions of Dalits and lower castes in modern day India through the means of 'reservation' and affirmative action by the State in keeping with the requirements listed in the Constitution.
Without Ambedkar and Nehru there would be no religious freedom of the kind we have known in India for 60 years. It has withstood efforts of the Hindutva forces – those who live by the slogan ‘one nation, one religion, one culture’ – to take away this freedom from the masses through anti-conversion laws dubbed as 'freedom of religion' laws. Thankfully, three governors of states ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have recently rejected the anti-conversion laws passed by legislators.
The Indian National Congress party – traditionally nonsectarian and currently in power nationally – seems to have a schizophrenic mentality towards these laws. While the Congress governors in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are contesting the laws passed by the BJP governments, the Congress leadership allowed the state of Himachal Pradesh – where the Congress party is in power – to pass an anti-conversion law despite wide spread protests by civil society groups.
This catering to a 'soft-Hindutva' line has been one of main reasons for the demise of the Congress Party in northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the Hindi heartland. Those who want Hindutva do not opt for the softer version. They go for the real thing. And anyway the majority of oppressed peoples and the minorities do not want Hindutva because it will not deliver freedom, dignity and development for the masses. The people of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, two of India's most populated states, have repeatedly demonstrated this.
The present Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, a Dalit woman, reportedly is building a statue of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the city of Lucknow which will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York. If this really happens it would be a fitting symbol of liberty and equality within the Indian nation as we celebrate our 60th birthday: an Ambedkar statue with the Constitution in his hand. The Hindutva founders declared over 60 years ago that they would discard the present Constitution in favour of a 'Hindutva' Constitution! I don't think it will ever happen.
There is good news for the Dalit campaign for freedom, equality and empowerment. The IT Indian giant Infosys recently set an example by picking dozens of Dalit candidates and training them for India's IT sector. Bharti, the company that owns Airtel which is perhaps India’s largest mobile phone operator, has followed and just announced they will train low caste engineers and other minorities who are left out because of the lack of access to English education and other facilities. This is very good news indeed. Will US companies and other foreign companies follow suit?
And what about Infosys, Bharti and others going one step further and investing in schools that will give English education to Dalits and lower castes? This would resolve the problem at the root.
If they are listening, we welcome them to work with us in the Dalit Freedom Network. We are committed to building a united, democratic, free, modern and equally empowered Indian nation on our 60th birthday.
June 19, 2007
Will India Now Have Her First Woman President
In a series of dramatic developments in New Delhi, the female Rajasthan Governor who refused to sign the anti-conversion law of the State-led BJP Government became the consensus candidate of the UPA government (the Congress Party and its allies) for the post of the next President of India. Women’s rights groups, civil society leaders, and large sections of the media are enthusiastic about Mrs. Pratibha Patil as the UPA candidate as the July 19th Presidential election nears. India seems to lead the way in putting women in power at the highest level of Government.
Though the post of President is seen as ceremonial, it does play an important role in India’s governance structure as the President has to sign all Central Government bills before they become law. If the President believes the Constitution is being violated in some way, bills can be sent back to the Parliament for reconsideration. The President also has enormous sway in an era of coalition politics when no single party is able to obtain the majority. The President decides which coalition is able to prove its majority in Parliament.
Mrs. Pratibha Patil’s main challenger in the Presidential election is going to be the current Vice-President, Mr. Shekawat, who has been a BJP political leader in the past. Presently, however, Mr. Shekawat does not have the required numbers to win the Presidential race.
The Left and some other allies of the ruling UPA alliance rejected two other political leaders nominated as first choice candidates by the Congress Party. The Congress Party seemed to have got it wrong, as it did not seem to gauge accurately the mood among its allies.
The Left and their allies were concerned that the next President of India had an impeccable record on the ‘communal’ front in light of the rise of right wing Hindutva political forces that time and again have assaulted the secular fabric of the nation. After all, the main agenda on which the present alliance was formed was the provision of a secular alternative to the communal agenda of the BJP party.
The Left party’s main concern about the two candidates who were not accepted was their perceived communal leanings. One of the candidates is the present Home Minister of India whose handling of some communal issues (including the handling of the anti-conversion law which was passed in Himachal Pradesh) has left some major political parties and major communities disappointed. There was also some criticism of the handling of two violent communal incidents in Gorakhpur and Belgaum.
In addition, there is widespread discontent within civil society on the draft bill curbing and restricting foreign aid to charities involved in social and educational work that is alleged to have been drafted by the present Home Ministry. While money through business is allowed to come freely (and by which India’s caste structured society benefits the elitist minority), money through aid for empowerment, health and education of the majority oppressed is being severely curtailed by restrictive laws. There is no acknowledgement that India’s new wealth and the new class of the super rich has not given rise to an equivalent new Indian generosity and philanthropy. Human rights groups believe that charities will be further harassed and intimidated by political parties who do not like the empowerment of the oppressed and marginalized peoples if the new draft bill goes through Parliament.
Representations have been made to the various allies of the present Government. Various petitions and delegations have approached leaders in the present Government to scrap the present draft bill on foreign contribution, as extremist political parties will harass and curb organizations that do not toe the line of their Government. During the BJP rule, scores of NGOs were harassed, intimidated and a few were even shut down.
Further, Dalit leaders have protested that the draft bill is anti-Dalit as much of the educational and health work going on among them will be threatened by political forces that do not want their empowerment.
There are some political leaders in the Congress Party who support the ‘soft-Hindutva’ line and it is because of them that anti-conversion laws and the present draft bill on foreign aid have been passed even under Congress rule when the party’s public posture is that they are secular, pro-poor, and care for minorities and the oppressed sections of society.
This ‘soft-spot’ for undemocratic agendas has been the downfall of the Congress Party. Some of their leaders not only hold a ‘soft-Hindutva line’ that results in anti-minority acts, but there are also others who hold a ‘soft-caste’ line thus allowing for widespread discrimination against Dalits. Thus, their base among the Dalits and backward castes in the north and among the minorities has largely eroded.
Those who have supported the present UPA alliance were shocked when the Congress Party-ruled Himachal Pradesh government passed the anti-conversion bill as a direct result of the ‘soft-Hindutva’ line, when one of the allies of the UPA government, the DMK, had scrapped the anti-conversion bill in Tamil Nadu soon after they came to power on a manifesto of holding to the secular, democratic traditions of India.
So, given Mrs. Pratibha Patil’s excellent track record on the communal front and following democratic traditions in her stints as Minister in Maharastra and as the Governor of Rajasthan, come July 19, based on the numerical strength of the UPA alliance and barring any major cross voting across political lines, India could welcome Mrs. Pratibha Patil as her first female President… and a strong secular, democratic President at that!
June 16, 2007
''...and now disclosure of discrimination by IIT in Chennai…''
Reflect on some of the major Indian headlines and other news stories in recent months:
**50,000 Tribals and Dalits convert to Buddhism**
**Caste violence triggered by the Gujjar community in Rajasthan**
**The growth of the Dera sect in Punjab, most of whom are Dalit Sikhs**
**The Chief Justice Mishra Commission recommends reservations for Dalit Muslims and Christians**
**The OBC reservation issue referred to a full bench of the Supreme Court**
**Media and human rights groups focus on the human trafficking issue, most of them being SC/ST children and women**
**Election of the Dalit leader Mayawati as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh**
Despite all of these, a section of the upper caste intelligentsia and extremist right wing groups continues to deny the caste issue, blaming the social disruptions, the emergence of the caste vote and the Dalit voice on other forces. They say it is a conspiracy hatched by the foreign-born Sonia Gandhi or the Vatican or the West. There used to be a time when Indian political rulers would blame any Indian crisis on the ‘foreign hand’. In fact, when extremists murdered and burned Graham Staines and his two sons to death, the then-Defense Minister blamed it on the ‘foreign hand’, contrary to hard evidence.
My friend Udit Raj sent me the enclosed report on caste discrimination in one of India’s premier Institutes of Information Technology in Chennai which has been a Brahmin upper caste enclave for many decades. Earlier I had reported of the caste configuration among the lecturers in Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Now read the story of the Chennai IIT and judge for yourself if we really must advocate for Dalit rights…
DALITS NOT WELCOME IN IIT MADRAS
There are only a handful of Dalit students and faculty members at the elite institute, but they face widespread discrimination and harassment
PC Vinoj Kumar Chennai
All the noise against extending reservations for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in centrally-funded institutions might be a little irrelevant given that an institute like IIT Madras has parted with only a fraction of the 22.5 percent quota for students belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs). According to information provided by the institute's deputy registrar, Dr K. Panchalan, in September 2005, Dalits accounted for only 11.9 percent of the number of students. They were even fewer in the higher courses — 2.3 percent in ms (Research) and 5.8 percent in Ph.D. Out of a total of 4,687 students, Dalits made up only 559.
Activists who have been fighting for proper implementation of reservations for Dalits describe IIT Madras as a modern day agraharam — a Brahmin enclave. Located on a 250 hectare wooded campus in the heart of the city, the majority of the 460 faculty members and students here are Brahmins. According to WB Vasantha Kandasamy, assistant professor in the Mathematics department, there are just four Dalits among the institute's entire faculty, a meagre 0.86 percent of the total faculty strength. There are about 50 OBC faculty members, and the rest belong to the upper castes, she says.
Vasantha says Dalit Ph.D scholars are routinely harassed. "They are forced to change their topic of research midway. They are unduly delayed, and are failed in examinations and vivas. It is a stressful atmosphere for them." She says her support of Dalit students got her into the bad books of the management.
There have been many agitations against the management in the past over not filling the Dalit quota and the alleged harassment of Dalit students. Activists say there were even fewer Dalit students and faculty members in the institute some years ago, and it was only because of efforts by parties like Paatali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Dravidar Kazhagam (DK), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal (VC) and Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam (PDK) that the situation improved. In 1996, K. Viswanath, general secretary of the IIT SC/ST Employees Welfare Association, remarked in a letter to the institute's director that the institute was yet to have a professor from the SC/ST community even after 37 years of its existence. There were only two Dalits of the rank of assistant professor and there was just one Dalit scientific officer, he noted.
In 2000, the PDK published a book based on a study it did on the anti-Dalit attitude in the institute. The study noted that there were several departments at the institute where even after 41 years, "not a single Dalit student has been selected for doing Ph.D or has successfully completed his degree". The study also stated that, "almost all M.Tech and ms Students in IIT were Brahmins." The PDK is now demanding that the institute come out with a white paper providing details of the total number of Dalit students who have completed postgraduate and doctoral programmes. "The National Commission for SC/ST should closely monitor if reservation policy for Dalits is being strictly followed in student admissions," says Viduthalai Rajendran, PDK general secretary.
The PDK is not alone in levelling such charges. Retired IAS officer V. Karuppan, who is state convener of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), recalls that in 2005 a "meritorious" Dalit student was denied admission to the Ph.D course in the Mathematics department. "They didn't call him for an interview initially. But he was asked to appear for the interview after we argued his case with the authorities. But in the interview, they asked him irrelevant questions and failed him," he says.
There have been many complaints of discrimination against Dalit students in the campus. The PDK study cites the case of a Dalit student Sujee Teppal, who had scored 94 percent in Maths, Physics, and Chemistry in the public intermediate exam. Sujee had also secured admission in bits, Ranchi and bits, Pilani but chose to attend IIT Madras, where in spite of her meritorious track record she was made to join the mandatory one-year "preparatory course" for Dalit students. According to the PDK study, "at the end of the course in which she only re-learnt her 12th standard syllabus, she was declared failed." The institute refused to reverse its decision in spite of the intervention of the National Commission for SC/ST and the then state SC/ST minister Selvaraj in her favour.
Another serious charge against the institute is that successive directors have flouted rules in appointing faculty members, and do not advertise vacancies in newspapers. Former Congress MP Era Anbarasu has brought the issue to the notice of Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh in several letters. In the memorandum submitted to the minister on September 2, 2006, he states: "The ambiguity is apparent because even the number of vacancies is not announced. In order to broaden this arbitrariness, applications to the entry level position of assistant professor are invited for all the 15 departments at the same time. Norms and guidelines for selection are wilfully abandoned by the respective departments."
Anbarasu wants a high-level committee to probe irregularities in appointments and the violation of reservation policies by the IIT management. He has levelled charges against director MS Ananth, whom he calls a "highly casteist man". He says that disregarding all norms, Ananth has mostly chosen faculty members from his own community of Iyengar Brahmins. Of the six deans in the institute, four are from the Iyengar community.
In his memorandum to Singh, Anbarasu has demanded that the present director be replaced with someone from the OBC/SC/ST community as the institute has had only Brahmins as directors so far. "I met the minister (Arjun Singh) three or four times and discussed with him these issues. He promised to order a probe, but nothing has happened till now," he says.
A PIL filed by Karuppan last year against the allegedly flawed selection process in IIT Madras was dismissed by the High Court. Karuppan has now filed a review petition. He also met the IIT director along with a senior leader of the CPI to discuss the reservation issue, and says the director told him that no policy of reservation for SC/ST was applicable to IIT Madras. Karuppan says there are several cases pending in courts against the institute's selection and reservation policy. They include writ petitions by the IIT Backward Classes Employees Welfare Association, and the Vanniar Mahasangam.
An angry Thol Thirumavalavan, general secretary of the Dalit Panthers of India, says, "Dalits are only working as sweepers and scavengers in the institute". He wants the IIT management to release a white paper containing details of appointments and admissions given to Dalits and OBCs. "The Tamil Nadu government should demand this information from the institute," he says.
When Tehelka tried to meet IIT Director MS Ananth to get his views on the allegations against him and the institute, his secretary wanted this correspondent to send a mail stating the purpose for the interview. In the mail to the director, it was stated that the interview was needed "on the issue of SC/ST reservation policy in IIT, Madras." His reaction on Anbarasu's memorandum to the Union HRD minister levelling charges of corruption against him was also sought. However, his secretary said the director was not available for comments.
May 31, 2007
Is Corporate and Rich India Watching the Explosion of Violence in Rajasthan?
The Gurjar community in Rajasthan wants to be classified as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) and does not want the Other Backward Caste (OBC) tag. Their Muslim co-brothers belonging to the same tribe in Jammu and Kashmir already have Scheduled Tribe status. There are five million Gurjars in Northwestern India with a large majority in Rajasthan. While another similar tribe in Rajasthan, the Meenas, were given the ST status, the Gurjurs were kept out. Governments have not followed a fair and just policy in giving reservation (affirmative action status) to marginalized groups. Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have been denied reservation benefits for decades.
The current BJP-led state Government in Rajasthan came to power promising the Gurjurs ST status. But now the same Government's police have opened fire on 30,000 protesters and killed several people who were simply demanding that the promise be fulfilled since the BJP has been in power now for three years. The firing on protestors by the police has resulted in widespread violence all over Rajasthan. Gurjars have burned police stations, railway stations and have taken the violence across the state.
The caste monopoly and resulting discrimination during the decades after India’s independence (not to mention the discrimination of hundreds of years) have come to haunt today's ‘Rising India’. The uneven economic and social development of the last two decades have made the problem worse for the oppressed tribes, the Dalits and the most backward castes. Many millions have lost their land and are displaced. Millions more work for a pittance and are exploited simply to boost the new economy.
The reservation system is now seen as the major way of dealing with poverty and social deprivation of the marginalized masses. This too will not meet the needs of the millions as Government job and education is severely limited.
What is extremely disappointing is that ‘Rising India’ does not care about the education and job opportunities for the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. The Rising India with its 9% economic growth does not care about investing some of their profits in providing English school education for the masses. It is not thinking of building tens of thousands of new schools that give quality education with a worldview that gives equal dignity to all human beings.
Therefore, it is not surprising that now the Meena tribe in Rajasthan is rising against giving the Gurjars ST status because they do not want to share the limited reservation benefits. One hopes that tribal violence does not break out in Rajasthan and the adjoining States on the reservation issue.
Is Corporate and Rich India watching? Can India survive the gross disparities between the majority oppressed peoples and the minority privileged? The growing anger against the State will sooner or later erupt against the Corporate world if Rising India does not include the majority people in the recent extraordinary economic and social development. The Prime Minister’s recent words to the Corporate world to include the oppressed poor in their prosperity fell mostly on deaf years, especially when watching the rise of corporate CEO salaries.
For more, see this link…
May 27, 2007
Indian TV's Evolving Grasp on the Caste Churning in India
Barkha Dutt is one of our most prominent and smartest TV talk-show hosts. I remember the Barkha Dutt NDTV talk-show episode covering the issue of OBC reservation when the Dalit/OBC minority group in the audience walked out in disgust as the rest of the audience and program agenda was clearly pro-anti-reservationist. It seemed to me that this time Barkha was out of her depth on the caste churning and discourse in society and was disconnected with caste discrimination in India like so many of the urban elite in this country.
Soon, however, there was a change. Barkha wrote a piece on how the upper caste English-educated had an undue advantage in Indian society and how those who did not have the means for a private English-medium school education had to struggle to make it in the ‘Shining India’, and that this business of the ‘merit’ discussion was only valid if everyone (especially the Dalits and the OBCs) had the same opportunity as those who claimed ‘merit’ (which was the merit of talent plus English education, plus private coaching, plus right orientation, plus right location, plus right upbringing, plus... the rest!).
Barkha has now done a brilliant piece (link enclosed below) on the Mayawati phenomena and expressed the same kind of disgust we have felt about the upper caste prejudice and writings about her coming to power. This is seen all over and especially on the web where the upper caste fraternity are having a field day lampooning Mayawati instead of coming to terms with the emerging, evolving India of the majority oppressed – the Dalit-Bahujans.
This is crass prejudice and arrogance based on nothing but India's hidden apartheid of the caste system.
The oppressed majority will take time to learn how to manage the power and governance structures. Sure, Mayawati should not act with a vendetta against those whom she perceives as her opponents. Sure, she should be inclusive and not run with divisive politics. Sure, she will have to grow in her leadership role and not run using another feudal system of leadership. But Indian political leadership and governance has become increasingly feudal in nature and it is not just the Gandhi clan which is feudalistic.
Mayawati has promised social justice for the oppressed. She is pro-reservation for Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. She is in fact in favor of some affirmative action even for the upper caste poor. We all hope she delivers and does not vacillate like she has done in the past and align with the communal and casteist forces for the sake of political power.
There is one further major point in Mayawati's inclusiveness the media has missed. For a Dalit Chief Minister who has come to power on her own she has given far more members of the upper castes a share in power than the upper castes have ever given to the Dalits through the centuries given their population percentage. That is a telling comment on caste fairness!
May 23, 2007
What Next for Dalit Christians?
Finally, the Justice Mishra Commission has come out in favour of reservation for Dalit Christians and Muslims. The main argument, like the one in the petition before the Supreme Court, is that religion should not have been used as the criteria to determine Dalit reservation in the Presidential Order of 1950.
One member in the Commission, Asha Das, has dissented saying that the Parliament or Judiciary cannot change religious practice. Her argument is that Islam and Christianity as religions do not in principle have the caste system as part of their religious ethos. She is silent, however, on how Parliament was able to give reservation to Dalit Sikhs and Dalit Buddhists when both Sikhism and Buddhism also do not allow for the caste system. Further, she is silent on the research data which reveals that the caste system and caste-based discrimination of Dalits has penetrated all religions in India. Those who perpetrate crimes against Dalits do not first verify if their victims are Dalit Hindus or Dalit Christians. The fact that they are Dalits is enough to abuse and discriminate against them.
I think that despite the Mishra Commission's recommendation, the Government is going to vacillate on the issue when the case appears for its hearing in the Supreme Court. The UPA Government has a strong upper caste lobby which is against any positive action or reservations for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims. They are also against reservations for Other Backward Caste (OBC) students in higher institutions.
The extremist Hindutva lobby fears that if Dalit Christians are given reservations, then all Dalits everywhere will exit Hinduism into Christianity and other religions. They are going to try and block this initiative by any means necessary. Their agenda is to keep the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes trapped in the caste system. Their response to the Commission’s recommendation shows the hypocrisy of the anti-conversion laws forced into practice in state after state under the guise of preventing forced and fraudulent conversions. If anyone has used forced and fraudulent means to imprison and discriminate against millions of people (namely the 250 million Dalits) it is the Hindutva brigade. Instead of passing anti-conversion laws, why are they not working on laws that will abolish caste ideology and the practice of the caste system in India? It is caste slavery that is pushing Dalits and the Backward Castes into other faiths.
The fight for Dalit Christian reservation is largely led by Dalit Christian groups who are involved in the Dalit Freedom cause. Now non-Christian Dalit groups like Udit Raj's Confederation and others also support Dalit Christian reservation.
Upper caste Christians are not really in the forefront of the struggle, even though there are some exceptions. The question for the predominantly upper caste Christian leadership of the Church is: How long will it take before you proactively remove casteism and the caste system in the Church? The writing is on the wall. Dalits will not be denied their just rights anymore both inside and outside the Church. The caste system is being revealed for what it really is – India's Hidden Apartheid. How long before Church leadership removes this disgusting blemish of caste practice in the Church when it comes to marriage, community, leadership and fellowship? Will the Church in India (across denominational lines) split and break apart due to the unwillingness of the minority upper caste leadership in the Church to deal with the caste system within the Church? How can one argue for the unity of the Church based on the glaring unrighteousness and injustice within the Church?
I hope the international business community is detecting the major caste churning going on in India and is not fooled by the upper caste business community who live in perpetual self-denial about the caste system. The election of a Dalit as Chief Minister of India's largest state (Uttar Pradesh) is the loudest political signal coming out of India this month. Multinationals cannot afford to walk around blindfolded to caste realities even as they rush in to enjoy the profits of the new Indian economy
The 'India Rising' is but one small facet of the India mosaic. The larger face of India is of the majority oppressed and facing discrimination, the poor, the suicidal farmers and the abused Dalits.
May 08, 2007
If There is Such Discrimination in India's Premier Institute . . .
In the wake of the agitation launched by Upper Caste students against giving reservation to Backward Caste students, a government-appointed committee has delivered its report on the All India Medical Institute, the country's premiere institute which trains medical doctors.
Leaving aside the politics of the agitation by students of AIIMS, the truly condemning part of this report is the how the Dalit and Backward Caste students feel they are being treated by upper caste students and lecturers. The percentage of lower caste students who report discrimination in such a top Institute underlines the prejudice that runs deep in educational institutions across the nation. The educational institution at the school, and at the graduate and tertiary levels is the place where an integrated and caste free community can be built. If it does not happen here, it will not happen elsewhere.
This is the reason why we need a new model, a new initiative of primary and secondary schools that create caste free communities, while giving the Dalits and Backward Castes a quality education in English and mother tongue which thus far has been available only to the rich and upper caste students. It is about creating an equal opportunity wherein the depressed caste students have the same opportunity to compete with other students at the graduate and higher levels of education.
The Dalit Freedom Network has helped start nearly 60 such schools and is moving towards the first 100 and then towards the first 1,000 institutions that will make a difference in the lives of millions of children who will know that God has created all men and women equal.
Enclosed find the newspaper article from ‘The Hindu’ on discrimination at AIIMS.
`AIIMS Director Venugopal played provocative role in anti-quota stir'
By Aarti Dhar
Charge by Thorat Committee in report submitted to Union Health Minister
NEW DELHI: The three-member Thorat Committee constituted by the Centre in September last year to look into allegations of discrimination against reserved category students at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here has charged its Director P. Venugopal with "playing a provocative role" in the origination of the agitation against 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in elite Central education institutions.
The committee, headed by University Grants Commission (UGC) Chairperson S. K. Thorat, submitted its report to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss on Saturday.
The report also suggests that the anti-quota agitation was "planned" by a group of people who had strong views against the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admissions) Act, 2006 (then Bill). The members in their report claim they have enough evidence to support their findings.
According to the report, AIIMS became the venue for the so-called anti-quota agitation primarily to paralyse health care for thousands of people and attract public attention against reservation. Paralysis of emergency services would also put pressure on the Government to withdraw the [then] proposed Bill, it says. The report says the AIIMS administration went to the extent of penalising and punishing the students and staff who did not support the agitation while questioning the credibility and role of the Youth for Equality - a student body that spearheaded the agitation.
The voluminous report says the AIIMS administration failed to ensure safeguards for weaker sections of society guaranteed under the Constitution like undergraduate programmes and special coaching for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes students.
It also says that the conduct of the faculty towards the SC/ST students was not fair and objective and the teachers often "misused" their powers given to them for internal assessment.
As many as 69 per cent of the reserved category students alleged that they did not receive adequate support from teachers, 72 per cent said they faced discrimination, and 76 per cent said their evaluation was not proper while 82 per cent said they often got less than expected marks.
In practical examinations and viva voce, these students said, the treatment meted out to them was "not fair". Worse, 76 per cent said higher caste faculty members enquired about the castes of their students while 84 per cent said they were asked, directly or indirectly, about their caste backgrounds. An equal percentage of students alleged that their grading was adversely affected due to their background.
The reserved category students also alleged "social isolation" at various levels, including even from faculty members, with 84 per cent students saying they faced violence and segregation in the hostel that often forced them to shift to hostels No. 4 and 5 where there was a concentration of SC/ST students.
The Thorat Committee has recommended that a committee of students, residents and faculty be set up to examine and study social divisions on the campus and suggest measures to remedy the situation. The two other members of the Committee are K. M. Shyam Prasad, Vice-President of the National Board of Examinations, and R. K. Srivastava, Director-General of Health Services.
© Copyright 2000 - 2006 The Hindu
May 02, 2007
12-Year-Old Charlotte's Speech
Last week I was in Canada campaigning for the Dalits and met up with some close friends of mine, a family I have known for many years. I am constantly amazed as to how in the providence of God so many are becoming a voice for the Dalits all over the world.
So when I met Charlotte, who is only 12 years old and the youngest in the family, and found out that she won a prize for a school speech in an elocution competition, I very much wanted to see it because she had spoken about the Dalits. One look at the speech and I knew that this was a first rate speech by my young friend Charlotte. That evening when I was speaking to a group of leaders, I invited Charlotte to give us the speech again. From the mouth of babes wisdom shall come forth...is a quote we all remember.
Here is Charlotte's speech:
Honorable judges, teachers, parents and fellow students. My name is Charlotte Maxwell, but I would like you to imagine that I am Martin Luther King, because I would like to share with you his story and his dream.
My parents called me Michael Luther King, but I preferred the name Martin like the great German preacher “Martin Luther” so when I got older I changed my name to Martin.
My Daddy and Granddaddy were both preachers. In fact we all served as pastors of the same church, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta Georgia from 1914 on.
I went to an all black high school and graduated when I was 15 years old. Then I went to an all black college before going on to get my preaching degree from a mostly white seminary where I was honored to be our class president.
I spent my life as a preacher, peacefully defending the rights of black people. All I wanted was that we would be treated as equal citizens across America.
Do you know that in many places, we had to use different doors to enter buildings, we had to drink from separate water fountains and we had to sit at the back on public busses!
Probably the highlight of my life was on August 28, 1963, when I had the privilege of giving a speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. – that beautiful monument to the man who stood up and fought for the freedom of my ancestors who were serving as slaves.
I called the speech “I Have A Dream”. Let me share a little bit of it with you:
“I have a dream that is deeply rooted in the American Dream: ‘that all men are created equal.’
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I was surprised and delighted to be given the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts the next year – I was only 35 years old, the youngest person to have ever received this award.
Unfortunately, four years later I was shot and killed on the balcony outside my motel room in Memphis, Tennessee.
If I was alive today, I would be pleased to know that black people in America are treated with great respect.
If I was alive today, I would be a friend of that exceptional leader out of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years of his life in solitary confinement because he was guilty of the crime of being born black.
But I would be deeply distressed about the challenges facing my black cousins in Africa – especially the widows and orphans who are fighting for survival after losing many of their families to AIDS.
But today I would like to tell you about an even greater problem. A problem that so few know about, but so many should. In that great country of India, the home of the world’s largest democracy, is a group of people that desperately need our help.
I am speaking about the Dalit people. These are people who follow the Hindu religion, but are not part of the Hindu caste system, and therefore are called “the out-castes”.
They are not allowed to have contact with the upper caste people and therefore are also called “the untouchables”.
There are about 250 million Dalit men, women and children in India. This is about one quarter of all the people in the country, about 8 times the number of people in Canada and about 6 times the number of people who have AIDS.
We often hear about AIDS victims, but not often about problems facing the Dalit.
They are commonly refused entry to public parks and temples. Use of public wells is denied and many restaurants keep disposable drinking glasses for Dalit use. Their women are frequently abused and sold into prostitution.
Seven out of every ten Dalits live below the poverty line. Millions of Dalit children serve as bonded laborers or slaves.
They are only allowed to go to certain schools, live in certain areas and hold the lowest of jobs. And this has been going on for 3500 years.
“Dalit” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “crushed, broken or downtrodden”.
Sanskrit is the historical language of the Hindu religion. The Dalit are not allowed to learn Sanskrit. According to Manu, the law giver, Dalits should not even hear the reading of the scripture in Sanskrit. If this happens, boiled lead should be poured into the offending Dalit’s ears.
In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “Whatever you do to help the overlooked or ignored around you, you are doing to Me.” There could be no higher goal than to serve Him by helping these people.
Would you pick up the torch that has fallen from my hand? Would you decide now that you will learn more about the oppressed people around the world and then when you have a chance, will you give them a hand? For that I can only say thank-you.
April 12, 2007
Examples of Ongoing Dalit Oppression
I was in Jhajjar Haryana, where Dalit youth were lynched to death. I also witnessed the revolt conversions of the Dalits to Buddhism, Islam and Christianity. Later on, there was more violence in Haryana against the Dalits.
Recently, there was yet another violent outburst. All of these were incidents that were covered by the media. Many more are not covered by the media. Human Rights Watch reports that there are 100,000 atrocities against Dalits in a year.
Our viewpoint is that the societal attitude of the upper castes has combined with official machinery in the land to violate the dignity and rights of the Dalits.
The following two part story by Subramanyam in one of India's largest Eng! lish newspapers, The Hindu, tells an accurate account of what is happening in Haryana and as he says, ‘is symbolic of what is going on in the nation 60 years after Independence...’”
Part 1: http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/14/stories/2007031402091100.htm
Part 2: http://www.hindu.com/2007/03/15/stories/2007031505331100.htm
It is for these reasons, and untold more, that we continue to work on behalf of Dalit freedom!
April 03, 2007
Genetic Evidence for the Aryan Roots of the Caste System
A large number of historians have long contested that the dehumanizing and discriminating caste system has its origins in the Aryan conquest of India. The Aryans constructed caste ideology as a religious, political and social tool to rule the original inhabitants of the land. The Aryan invasion thesis has been contested by some historians and most recently by the extremist Hindutva forces who are committed to the perpetuation of the caste system.
Finally, the Human Genome project analyzing the DNA composition of humans has produced scientific evidence stating that the genetic origin of the upper castes in India is more European than Asian.
I enclose below a large quotation from the results of the research carried by Utah University in collaboration with Andhra University, etc. But what follows is the main result of the research:
“Analysis of these data demonstrated that the upper castes have a higher affinity to Europeans than to Asians, and the upper castes are significantly more similar to Europeans than are the lower castes. Collectively, all five datasets show a trend toward upper castes being more similar to Europeans, whereas lower castes are more similar to Asians. We conclude that Indian castes are most likely to be of proto-Asian origin with West Eurasian admixture resulting in rank-related and sex-specific differences in the genetic affinities of castes to Asians and Europeans.”
This genetic evidence supports the long held view that caste slavery was constructed by foreigners who entered India and who created an elaborate social and spiritual system to dominate and rule the original inhabitants of the land. This genetic finding is no less important than the other finding which states that all human beings have come from one pair of original parents.
Caste, Racism and Slavery
Regardless of this fact about our common origin, human civilization is filled with examples of how one set of human beings has enslaved others on the basis of color, ethnic identity, nationality and religion. Human history is also replete with efforts to deal with racism and slavery. The modern anti-slavery and anti-racism movement has received another boost with the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the passing of the law that abolished the transatlantic slave trade through the work of Wilberforce and others. Abraham Lincoln said of Wilberforce, “Millions yet unborn will thank God for the memory of this man.’’ Watch the movie “Amazing Grace” if you have not yet seen it.
Of all the slaveries inflicted on human beings, the caste system stands out as the longest standing system designed to keep the Dalits in perpetual slavery. Caste discrimination based on descent and occupation is nothing less than apartheid. The Dalits are visible victims of this invisible apartheid at work in Indian society. It is hard to believe that this system and ideology has brainwashed Indians for 3,000 years.
Given the scientific evidence and the social and moral arguments against the caste system, is this not the century to abolish the practice of the caste system globally?
Since the caste system degrades men, women and labor, it is imperative that India abolishes the system first as it stands in the way of India unleashing the full potential of its people and becoming the global power it is capable of becoming! Abolish anything that encourages the practice of the caste system, including caste-based marriage advertisements. Abolish the practice of the caste system in all religions by law!
More than the law, we must strengthen public opinion against this system which is so divisive in nature and scope that today it impacts all of life – politics, religion, education and economics, to name just a few areas.
Extract from www.genome.org
“The origins and affinities of the 1 billion people living on the subcontinent of India have long been contested. This is owing, in part, to the many different waves of immigrants that have influenced the genetic structure of India. In the most recent of these waves, Indo-European-speaking people from West Eurasia entered India from the Northwest and diffused throughout the subcontinent. They purportedly admixed with or displaced indigenous Dravidic-speaking populations. Subsequently they may have established the Hindu caste system and placed themselves primarily in castes of higher rank. To explore the impact of West Eurasians on contemporary Indian caste populations, we compared mtDNA (400 bp of hypervariable region 1 and 14 restriction site polymorphisms) and Y-chromosome (20 biallelic polymorphisms and 5 short tandem repeats) variation in 265 males from eight castes of different rank to 750 Africans, Asians, Europeans, and other Indians. For maternally inherited mtDNA, each caste is most similar to Asians. However, 20%–30% of Indian mtDNA haplotypes belong to West Eurasian haplogroups, and the frequency of these haplotypes is proportional to caste rank, the highest frequency of West Eurasian haplotypes being found in the upper castes. In contrast, for paternally inherited Y-chromosome variation each caste is more similar to Europeans than to Asians. Moreover, the affinity to Europeans is proportionate to caste rank, the upper castes being most similar to Europeans, particularly East Europeans. These findings are consistent with greater West Eurasian male admixture with castes of higher rank. Nevertheless, the mitochondrial genome and the Y chromosome each represents only a single haploid locus and is more susceptible to large stochastic variation, bottlenecks, and selective sweeps. Thus, to increase the power of our analysis, we assayed 40 independent, biparentally inherited autosomal loci (1 LINE-1 and 39 Alu elements) in all of the caste and continental populations (∼600 individuals). Analysis of these data demonstrated that the upper castes have a higher affinity to Europeans than to Asians, and the upper castes are significantly more similar to Europeans than are the lower castes. Collectively, all five datasets show a trend toward upper castes being more similar to Europeans, whereas lower castes are more similar to Asians. We conclude that Indian castes are most likely to be of proto-Asian origin with West Eurasian admixture resulting in rank-related and sex-specific differences in the genetic affinities of castes to Asians and Europeans.”
March 18, 2007
Wilberforce and the Caste System
The West is commemorating the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade law that began the process of dismantling slavery in the modern world. William Wilberforce, a parliamentarian, a friend of the then Prime Minister Pitt, and a Christian human rights activist, led the struggle against slavery in the British Parliament all his life. The new film ‘Amazing Grace’ is being released on March 23, 2007, in London, the date marking the 200th year of the abolition of the slave trade in the British empire.
Did Wilberforce have anything to say on caste discrimination and the Dalits? Yes. He spoke on the caste system and untouchability in the British Parliament 200 years ago and described caste discrimination against Dalits as akin to slavery. Speaking on the caste system he said, “The institution of caste is a system at war with truth and nature.”
If Wilberforce were alive today he would describe Dalits as modern slavery’s biggest challenge. It is not enough for us to hide behind the statements that we have all kinds of laws against the discrimination of Dalits. Rather, caste discrimination is a mindset, a worldview of fellow human beings, and what family and society constructs for us as we mature through childhood. If children are constantly told about their ‘jat’(caste), if popular Bollywood movies talk about ‘jat’, and if cultural events are built around people of certain ‘jatis’(castes), then caste slavery will not vanish. Bonded child labourers, girl trafficking, and 100,000 cases of atrocities against Dalits are symptoms of the problem, but not the disease. The disease is the caste system.
Hypocritically, the upper castes are quick to raise the issue of racism. Take for example the recent British television series ‘Big Brother’ and its claims of racial discrimination against Shilpa Shetty in the UK, but completely overlooked is the blatant racism against the Dalits within our own nation.
The question has to be asked, “Why is it that the upper castes have not led a movement for the abolishing of the caste system for 3,000 years when the disastrous effect on national development, unity, progress and economy due to caste discrimination is plain?”
If Wilberforce were alive today he would be leading a global campaign to abolish the caste system.
What are you doing about this?
March 17, 2007
By Social Conviction I am an Ambedkarite
From a speech, New Delhi, 2005
By social conviction I am an Ambedkarite.
By secular ideology I am a Nehruvite.
By culture and nationality I am an Indian.
By outlook I am global.
By vocation I am called to justice and reconciliation.
By faith I am a Christian and refuse to be co-opted into Brahmanism.
At times I am shocked by the force of the attack of my Brahmanical detractors. They belong to various faiths including my own. Brahmanism is the poison of Indian culture and life.
Yes, we have identified our struggle against Brahmanism – which is both an attitude and an ideology. Our fight is not against any particular group of people. The general term Hindu does not identify the worldview to which we are opposed.
Brahmanism at its core denies the fundamental social and spiritual equality of human beings. It also denies equal value to the woman. It does not want the blood of Indians to mix across caste lines even though racially we are all Indians. Brahmanism has refused to abolish the caste system for 3,000 years. It is because of this ideology and attitude that the nightmare of the Dalits and the backward castes continues. Brahmanism has used Indian thought, philosophy and religion for its own racist agenda.
The present agenda of Brahmanism is to co-opt other faiths and ideologies and avoid the unpleasant and painful task of the reformation of the discriminatory social order. Co-option is the way to stifle all voices that challenge the degrading social system.
I am indebted to the great Dr. B.R. Ambedkar for his analysis of the Brahmanical social order. I am indebted to him for his theses on the annihilation of caste. The caste system is a social, religious and political tool to control and manipulate the lives of the Indian majority. With the great Ambedkar I believe the true greatness of India will come to the fore when the caste system ends and disappears into the annals of history. The progress made in the last 50 years in giving social justice to the Dalits and the most backward castes is still far away from eradicating the disease of the caste system. The Brahmanical minority continues its domination of our political, social, economic and religious landscape.
The rise of religious fundamentalism has come as a great advantage to the perpetration of Brahmanism. Caste-based right-wing Hindutva extremism can once again be used against the Dalits, the oppressed castes, the Christians, Muslims and other minorities. In the war of civilizations, the Brahmanical ideologies have been brazen enough to suggest that Christians and right-wing Hindus should join together to deal with Islamic fundamentalists.
I am indebted to Jawaharlal Nehru when it comes to subscribing to the secularism of India which is different from the secularism of the West. In the West secularism has come to mean the end of religion and the death of God. The secular state in the West is an atheistic state. In contrast Indian secularism believes in the freedom to embrace and practice any religion of choice or birth. Nehruvite secularism allows for a plurality of faiths to coexist and gives people the freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe or not believe in God or any faith. The right of free speech gives the right to propagate whatever beliefs one may have. We know that Nehru himself was an agnostic. I believe in religious freedom for everyone. To me this represents the true Indian secular state. I believe that even God does not interfere with the will of man and his will to choose to believe or not to believe.
The great Jawaharlal Nehru opposed the anti-conversion laws which the Hindutva brigade is obsessed to pass all over India. These anti-conversion laws which are disguised as freedom of religion laws are designed to remove the last means of revolt of the Dalits and the oppressed peoples of India against the caste system – the freedom of conscience and the freedom of choice. Why doesn’t the Hindutva brigade pass laws abolishing the caste system first? Let us forbid the practice of the caste system in any religion in India. In the words of Ambedkar let us annihilate the caste system first!
I am proud to be an Indian by nationality and culture. I have inherited an ancient civilization and culture with many traditions and a rich diversity of languages, arts and ways of living. I love the Indian way of life which is free, spontaneous, hospitable and creative. I also know the insecurity of the Indian life, of how the loss of the main bread winner in the family can drastically alter one’s life and living conditions.
I am very comfortable with my skin which is dark brown. I do not desire it to be more fair, white and lovely like some ridiculous color-biased ads on Indian television. I long for my nation to achieve its full potential in every area of life.
I am troubled when I see that the vast majority of people who are profiting under the new economic climate in India are once again the elitist upper castes who have had access to quality education (especially private English-medium education) and happen to live in the right place (urban areas) at the right time because of their financial power.
I accept with a great concern the grinding poverty which is the daily portion of a large majority of my fellow Indians. I cannot deny the poverty of my people. I refuse to be deceived by the glamour of the rich and famous because there is an even greater reality facing me in the slums, towns and villages of India. I want us to reach out to the poor and destitute of this land even as they commit suicide, sell their children, eat one meal a day, or sometimes simply starve and watch their children die because of a lack of medical care.
I have to confront the two faces of India: the “India shining” and the “India deprived”. The ‘India deprived’ has a monumental battle to break into the world of the ‘India shining’ because of the lack of quality education and the financial muscle that is required to break into prosperity.
The poor are poor not because of their karma in a past life, but because of a whole set of complex factors. Those of us who experience the good in this life are called to reach out and give to those who do not have the basic necessities of life. The teaching of bad karma in a past life kills the spirit of individual generosity and philanthropy which is why there has never been a robust philanthropic culture in our nation. Why engage in philanthropy if people are getting their just deserves for sins in a past life or sins in this life? Even in the recent economic boom where many an Indian has attained great wealth in the West, we have not seen a comparable rise in Indian social philanthropy.
In a quickly globalizing world, my outlook has become global. I realize that a citizen of the 21st century must be global in his outlook because we do not have the luxury of living and acting alone. If I destroy the environment in India there will be dire consequences in other parts of the world. If I unleash hatred in one part of the world, the impact will be felt in another part of the world. Today we cannot have localized wars as the destruction, economic impact and images go far and wide. War anywhere is immoral and so is any form of terrorism. Both involve unleashing violence on the innocent who just want to get on with their lives.
Human rights everywhere are important to me because of my global outlook. No abuse of human right is local. While I acknowledge the notion of national sovereignty I also allow for voices to be raised and protests to be staged everywhere when there is severe abuse of human rights. How can we be quiet about Darfur or Burma, children sold in the sex trade or bonded child labour or the plight of the Dalits? Indians have every right to raise the voice, protest and lobby against racism anywhere. But the same right applies to people outside of India when they respond to the massacre of innocent Muslims in Gujarat or atrocities against the Dalits or something else. We do not live in an insular world anymore. Globalization is not just about money, technology and culture. It is also about social justice across the globe. The world of today needs a global social conscience against that which is inherently evil and not acceptable to our common humanity.
As much as I want justice I also want reconciliation and peace. I want the caste nightmare to end in my lifetime even as I want all people to live together in peace and harmony. Even as the monster of the caste system/discrimination is destroyed we must not unleash another monster of oppression or violence of the empowered Dalit-Bahujan castes. I do not think revenge and violence will bring reconciliation and peace.
The 21st century has opened with violence, terrorism and war. The so called war of civilizations is not good for anyone.
By faith, I am a disciple of Jesus. He calls me to be a peacemaker as much as he calls me to be a worker for justice. He does not want me to compromise on justice and compassion.
Like every human on the face the earth I too am a spiritual being and have my spiritual needs. Jesus meets my spiritual needs. Jesus addresses the issues of my life including my own sin. And believe me – I have had many spiritual needs at different stages of my life. Jesus beckons me to come to Him when I am burdened, heavy-laden and seeking peace. Jesus calls me to show mercy, justice and love to all.
I am called to demonstrate this Jesus-like character regardless of caste, race and creed. He asks me to show unconditional love to all regardless of their religious beliefs. In my own life time Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa have served as powerful examples of those who have achieved justice, reconciliation, peace and love.
Jesus accepts me-an Ambedkarite, a Nehruvite, an Indian, a justice campaigner, a peace lover, a proud Indian and a citizen of the world. I continue to evolve as a human being.
So the question that remains? Why are my detractors unable to see that this struggle against Brahmanism is clearly about human dignity, equality, justice and freedom?
March 01, 2007
The End of Upper Caste Propaganda in Global Forums
On February 23, 2007, the Indian government delegation appearing before the UN treaty body the CERD (International Convention of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination) testified that in India there are no more Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Sudras and Dalits! It is unbelievable that the Government spokesperson for this viewpoint was the Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Deepankar Gupta. The CERD body was not amused by this blatant denial of the operation of the caste system and the kind of unconvincing answers given by the Indian delegation to the pertinent and straight forward questions raised by the CERD experts on the issue of Dalits discrimination. India is a signatory to this International Convention.
Over a week ago, the States of Uttarkhand and Punjab held their State elections. Pollsters were openly describing the impact of the Upper Caste vote bank, the Dalit vote, the Jat Vote and the Backward Caste vote.
Hello Mr. Deepankar Gupta! Which India and New Delhi are you living in that you can deny that the caste system exists? Is it the city of the ‘Hindustan Times’ newspaper which weekly carries pages of matrimonial columns where the marriage advertisements are sub-divided along caste lines? Or do you also deny that these advertisements occur week after week? Perhaps we should deny that even a paper like the ‘Hindustan Times’ exists before the CERD committee. Alas, how far we Indians have fallen as we deny our soul-destroying social disorder.
The Indian Government and the economic bosses of India need to know that just as the phenomenon of ‘the world is flat’ has benefited India enormously in terms of jobs, economy and global presence, the same ‘flat world’ now fully reveals what was hidden about India for thousands of years – the social disorder of the caste system.
Fifty years after India’s Independence, the atrocities against Dalits have increased and not decreased. There are over 100,000 registered cases annually of violence against the Dalits today! The lack of a social conscience among the power brokers of Indian society stands exposed in the flat world.
We are only fooling ourselves by not addressing our social disorder. The flat world does not believe that the caste system is abolished. They now know that caste dominates Indian politics more than ever in our history. Caste polarization is a political and social reality. As the Dalit delegates to the UN conference at Durban announced, caste is worse than racism. The Prime Minister has compared the Dalit problem to apartheid in South Africa. So it is a moot point to enter into a philosophical discourse on whether casteism and racism are the same. The Dalits who are violated daily do not live in the lecturers’ hall of the universities. They live outside in the slums, the towns, the villages, in the bastis. They are found among the child laborers and the girls trafficked in the sex trade all across India.
The same disorder of caste ideology which devalues women and the girl child is causing havoc with our social balance. On December 12, 2006, UNICEF finally declared that we Indians kill off 2.5 million unborn female babies each year. This is nothing but the genocide of Indian women and there will be terrible consequences in the years to come as the ratio of men and women falls rapidly in many parts of the country.
This is the time to banish the caste system out of our social structure, minds, lives and society, and not the time to bluff the world in Global Forums. Time has run out for the caste system and its blatant devaluation and dehumanization of human beings.
February 06, 2007
India's Dalits: Between Atrocity and Protest
By Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch
Published in openDemocracy
Surekha Bhotmange, a Dalit (or so-called "untouchable") member of the Hindu caste system in Maharashtra, was cooking the family evening meal on 29 September 2006 when a group of upper-caste men surrounded her home. Surekha, her 17-year-old daughter Priyanka, and two sons, 23-year-old Roshan and 21-year-old Sudhir, were dragged out of the hut. The two women were stripped, beaten and paraded through the village. The young men were beaten up so badly their faces were disfigured. All four died. Almost all of Khairlanji village witnessed this spectacle of caste vengeance. No one did much to stop it.
The attack was a retribution for previous activism. The upper-caste farmers from the area were using the Bhotmanges' land as a throughway for their tractors. The family resisted, with the help of a Dalit rights activist. Siddharth Gajbhiye. Gajbhiye himself was beaten up. Surekha Bhotmange was a witness, identifying twelve perpetrators who were then arrested. On the day that the Bhotmange family was attacked, all twelve had been released on bail. They took their ghastly revenge.
Surekha's husband, Bhaiyyalal Bhotmagne, was visiting a neighbour at the time of his family's murder. He saw his family being dragged out and remained helplessly hidden, watching what happened. He was the only witness to come forward. At his village, there are only a handful of families from his Dalit caste. The rest, perpetrators or spectators, who consider themselves higher caste, did not say a word. Police arrived a few hours after the incident, but no report was filed. When a terrified Bhotmange filed a police complaint the following morning, he was initially ignored. Only when the bodies were discovered was a case registered and some arrests made. The main perpetrators, however, were not taken into custody.
For a month, photographs of the brutality circulated among Dalit rights activists. The incident, however, barely registered in the national press. In November, a protest was organised by some Dalit activists and erupted into violence. Police teams were stoned, cars set ablaze. Eventually riot police were called in, some politicians rushed to the area to promise justice, while others blamed the Naxalites (Maoist groups leading a violent insurgency in the region) for instigating the violence. Several policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty, as were the doctors who failed to file proper autopsy reports. In December, the Central Bureau of Investigation finally filed charges against eleven of those accused.
The cost of violation
The Indian government, faced with difficult internal conflicts in vast swathes of the country, has routinely called upon people to reject the gun and enter into dialogue. Yet the Khairlanji incident showed once again that it is often only when marginalised people turn to violence that there is any hope of getting the attention of politicians and the authorities. In late November, Maharashtra state had again erupted into violent Dalit protest; three people died, a train was burned down, and several areas had to be placed under curfew. While the trigger was an attack on the statue of Dalit leader BR Ambedkar, it was apparent that the rage had been building up since Khairlanji.
Violence is unjustified, but for many it appears to be the only way to get attention. This is because - despite all the anti-caste legislation and all the policies to end caste-based discrimination - justice for Dalits remains elusive.
More than a sixth of India's population - approximately 160 million people - live at the bottom of the caste structure: denied access to land, clean water, and education, left out by the recent modernisation process and surging economic growth, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of police and higher caste groups.
For example, a Dalit bridegroom and his wedding procession were pelted with stones on 2 November 2006 by members of upper castes in Bihajar village of Rajasthan state. He was punished for riding a horse to the wedding, a privilege these upper-caste groups claim only for themselves. The following month, an upper-caste landowner chopped off all five fingers of a 10-year-old Dalit girl's hand with a sickle after catching her stealing a few spinach leaves from his property in Bihar state. She had been foraging for edible leaves for the family meal.
Such incidents of prejudice are routine, with Dalits punished for wearing watches or riding bicycles, all symbols of affluence and reserved traditionally only for the higher caste groups. While "unotuchability" was abolished decades ago, the practice continues. Its pervasive persistence emerged during the December 2004 tsunami, when many higher-caste survivors refused to share emergency shelter and food rations with Dalits.
Since the police tend to ignore Dalits' complaints, only a small proportion of incidents of violence against Dalits is registered. Yet the National Crimes Bureau still registered 26,127 cases in 2005. Even when complaints are filed, despite special laws to protect Dalits, justice is usually delayed and the rate of conviction remains abysmal.
Efforts by Dalits such as Surekha Bhotmange, to demand their rights have provoked a brutal backlash from higher caste groups. In fact, incidents such as these, where witnesses, or those that seek judicial remedy, are brutally savaged, have become depressingly common. A Dalit rights activist from Punjab, Bant Singh, campaigning for the rights of landless or marginal farmers, has come under vicious attack a number of times. Members of the upper-caste, landowning community gang-raped his daughter. He pursued the case and secured the conviction of those responsible, who were sentenced to life imprisonment. Supporters of the rapists then organized further retribution: on 5 January 2006, Bant Singh was so badly beaten that both his arms and a leg had to be amputated.
Though their rights are inadequately defended, Dalits are courted by all political parties as a significant vote-bank. Since before India's independence, when Mohandas Gandhi first condemned "untouchability", numerous political leaders have claimed that they would work towards ending the medieval practice. In 2006, the Indian government called upon the private sector to voluntarily adopt affirmative action policies that ensure jobs for Dalits. There has been a strong backlash from upper-caste members, who make arguments similar to those who oppose affirmative action in the United States.
The real challenge is that, for all of the laws, policies and positive political rhetoric in favour of caste-abolition and the rights of Dalits and other low-caste members, words have hardly translated into change. Dalits rightly see mostly empty promises, with little law-enforcement or active campaigning designed to create public outrage.
While the Indian constitution outlaws caste, oddly the Indian government has refused to acknowledge its failure to end caste-based discrimination. For instance, at the United Nations, India has claimed that caste bias cannot be equated with racial discrimination. The government insists that altering an age-old tradition takes time, and cites its numerous laws and schemes as a measure of its commitment to protect victims of caste-related atrocities. Instead of seeing UN commentary and criticism as a tool to address the problem, the government goes into denial in international forums.
However, in December 2006 prime minister Manmohan Singh agreed that the "only parallel to the practice of untouchability was apartheid", a statement that was immediately criticised by the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - which had rejected the UN recommendations when it held power in New Delhi.
The promise of reform
Yet the Khairlanji incident and the violent protests that followed demonstrate once again that India is failing in its obligations. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called upon the government to take special measures to "prevent acts of discrimination towards persons belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes, and in the case where such acts have been committed, to conduct thorough investigations, to punish those found responsible."
India's claims that caste and racial discrimination could not be equated were dismissed in 2002, when a general recommendation on descent-based discrimination specified for the first time that descent-based discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of caste, is a human-rights violation.
Although India does have laws to protect vulnerable communities such as the Dalits, it is obvious that with widespread prejudice within the bureaucracy there is very little will to actually implement and enforce these laws. That will only change if those that fail to implement policy receive administrative punishment or are prosecuted.
Manmohan Singh has promised reform. It is crucial that his government act swiftly so that no others ever suffer the fate of the Bhotmange family.
January 18, 2007
Cry My Beloved Country
I welcomed the New Year 2007 with gladness and sorrow. The forces of economic globalization are very excited about India. The economy grew by over 8.5% in the last year. The Finance Minister gave a confident and glowing interview on an Indian channel and was upbeat about the economic development. Various media channels put up their Indian of the year and a number of them were those in the fields of business and technology. And of course foreign direct investment continues to flow freely.
The shops in India are filled with goods that Indians could only imagine a decade ago. The hotel industry is booming and the costs of booking rooms in India’s star hotels is now higher than what one pays in the USA.
The television channels splashed the lavish lifestyles and expenditures of the rich and famous in Mumbai, New Delhi and of course that state of enjoyment and spending money – Goa!
I had to travel home to Belgaum after Christmas and was struck by the fact that the Mumbai airport looked like the Victoria Terminus of yesteryear – the crowds at the airport, mostly Indians, all trying to catch a flight during the holiday season.
There is no question about it. India has changed. India is changing! Today’s new political slogan is ‘India Rising’.
But the other side of India’s brutal reality hit the nation during the same beginning period of the New Year. This was the barbaric case of 30 children, boys and girls of the poor, a lot of them from the low castes, sexually abused, brutalized, killed and their body parts likely sold in the New Delhi suburb called Noida, a new city where multinationals have put up their shops, malls and factories. (Outlook magazine offered a poignant editorial on the topic on January 15. http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070115&fname=GSagarikaGhose&sid=1 )
Soon thereafter, stories started about missing children in India. Mumbai reported more than 4,000 missing children. Hyderabad estimated the figure of 8,000 missing children in Andhra Pradesh. More figures began to pile up. The Government, which was on the defensive, said that about 50,000 children were missing in India, but then the NGOs said that the number of missing children in India was closer to one million. ‘India Today’ a reputable magazine in India said that the NGOs were closer to the truth.
Think about it. The India that is rising has about one million missing children who are most likely sexually abused, dehumanized, killed, maimed, and body parts sold without any mercy and compassion. Most of these children would be from the Dalit community and other low castes. Most would be poor; many would be lured, and some would be kidnapped by hoodlums, criminals and those who deal in human trafficking and the sex trade.
Permanently transfixed in my mind is the picture of two mothers crying on national television for their missing children who were killed in Noida. They were crying and angry at how the police system had failed.
Cry my beloved India for your children of the downtrodden and poor, for even as some are ‘rising’ many more are ‘drowning’ under a system that does not value all human lives as precious and equal.
Rise my beloved India to undo this historic injustice that the minority powerful continue to inflict on the majority powerless before the India that is not shining rises up in violence as it did in Maharashtra after the killings of the Dalits in Khairanji.
December 15, 2006
Link to an Important Article
Have a look at this very important article.
The fear of democracy of the privileged
by P. Sainath
The 50th death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is a time to remember that the larger society ignores or distorts the Dalits' struggle for their rights at its own risk
December 12, 2006
Memorandum to the Prime Minister of India
December 11, 2006
The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India
Sub:- Appeal to extend reservation benefits and safeguards to Dalit Christians and end discrimination of Dalits based on their religion – Requesting – Reg.
The world admires India for the way we cherish the values of freedom, democracy, secularism, equality and justice. The Founding Fathers of India perpetuated these fundamental rights in the Constitution of India. In this country of many religions, languages and cultures, the Government must uphold the principle of secularism – ‘Sarva Dharma, Sama Bhavana’; and the people live by ‘Sarva Dharma Sad Bahavana’. But there is something un-Indian, unconstitutional and inhuman in a policy which discriminates against a large portion of the population. We appeal to you to understand the problem and join hands to end the inhuman treatment.
Provision of Protective Safeguards
The Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 exist to protect victims belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SC) against growing atrocities. But when atrocities were committed against Dalits in Chundur, Karamchedu, Neerkonda and other places in Andhra Pradesh, a section of the victims were denied the benefits of these laws solely on the basis of a discriminatory clause in a Presidential Order. We appeal to yout to see this bitter truth and take immediate steps to get this Order repealed.
The Constitution guarantees reservation facilities to all the Scheduled Castes (Dalits), Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections in view of their socio-economic disabilities and cultural backwardness. Act 341 of the Constitution requires the President of India to specify those affected by these disabilities and the traditional policies of untouchability. The President brought out the list of Scheduled Castes through a Presidential Order known as the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 on 10 August 1950.
Flaws in the Constitutional Provisions
Unfortunately, while fulfilling his constitutional obligation, the President added an unconstitutional clause that has gone beyond the requirement of the Article. He added that the Scheduled Castes enumerated in the list must belong to a particular religion to receive benefits. Thus, while the Constitution considers all Scheduled Castes equal and does not discriminate on the basis of religion, the Order denies Scheduled Castes the right to religious freedom.
How this religious criterion found its place in the Presidential Order remains a mystery. The clause in question was originally rejected by the Drafting Committee of the Constitution under the chairmanship of Dr BR Ambedkar during its meeting on 11 February 1949, as it clearly violates the religious freedom guaranteed in Article 25 of the Constitution.
Shocked by this draconian clause in the Presidential Order, innumerable protests were held in different parts of the country to end this discrimination. As a result, the Order was amended to include the Scheduled Castes following Sikhism and Buddhism in 1956 and 1990, respectively, promising inclusion of the Scheduled Caste Christians as soon as possible. In spite of the assurance made by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and the succeeding Prime Ministers to end this discrimination, justice still evades them.
All people believing in the promotion of human rights, secularism and justice must raise their voices to end this Indian version of apartheid. Dalit Christians are absolutely affected by the traditional practice of untouchability. Dr BR Ambedkar rightly said, “To the general mass of Hindus, the untouchable remains an untouchable even though he becomes a Christian.” Babu Jagjivan Ram concurs: “Strangely enough there is untouchability even among Christians and Sikhs. The caste system of the Hindu society has contaminated all religious groups.”
On behalf of all such Dalits, the All India Christian Council (www.christiancouncil.in), and the All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Organisations (www.scstconfederation.com) along with Christian and Dalit leaders from around the Country have just concluded a Day long Dharna at Jantar Mantar, seeking immediate steps to amend the Article 341 to include Christians of Dalit Origin
Your Excellency, we may recall the All India Christian Council along with All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Organisations have called for State wide dharnas in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka during the month of November 2005 and the Public outcry was overwhelming to the injustice meted out to Dalits based on their faith. A copy of the report is enclosed for your perusal.
Further, we would like to state that barring BJP, all the Major Political Parties have supported the cause of Dalit Christians and to end 56 years old subjugation of Dalits.
Thanking you in anticipation.
Dr. Joseph D’souza Dr. Udit Raj
All India Christian Council All India Confederation of SC / ST Organisations
Copy submitted to:
1. Dr. A.P.J. Kalam, Honorable President of India
2. Ms. Sonia Gandhi, UPA Chairperson and President, All India Congress Party
3. Presidents of All Political Parties
December 11, 2006
Article: Caste War
From the Times of India newspaper, December 2006
by Balchandra Mungekar
"It is unfortunate that the barbaric killing of a Dalit family a mother and her three grown-up children, should have taken place in Khairlanji village of Maharashtra, and violent protests broken out soon after throughout Ambedkar's home state. Ambedkar's analysis of caste was unique on three counts. First, after rejecting the commonly made defence that caste implies division of labour, he argued that caste results in the division of labourers, strongly underlining the ascriptive role of caste. Second, he maintained that caste system did not create more inequality but graded inequality. This gave every caste a sense of superiority as it found some other caste below it, which makes the fight against caste system difficult. And third. Ambedkar showed that the caste system has deplorable impact on the country's moral fabric inasmuch as it "killed the public spirit, destroyed the sense of public charity and made public opinion impossible". There is thus a lack of sympathy for the deserving and suffering, that of appreciation for the meritorious and charity for the needy. We are witnessing slow but steady change towards greater social mobility Liberal democratic values evolved during the freedom movement and later enshrined in the Constitution, legal abolition of untouchability, spread of education, growing pace of urbanisation, development of means of communication and transport, and effective role of the state in modernizing the society have all resulted in weakening the ascriptive role of the caste which makes society more achievement-oriented. In this respect, notwithstanding faulty implementation and growing resentment, the reservation policy has succeeded in creating some space for Dalits in mainstream society. However, the pace of social integration is not as promising as one would have expected. The intensity of assertion on the part of Dalits of basic democratic rights, and desire to live with dignity self respect and confidence is increasing. This is being resented. Dalit assertion for better and dignified life is looked upon as a challenge by those who perceive that their caste-based arrogance is under threat. Their response is atrocities against Dalits. Unfortunately the perpetrators also belong to the Shudra community vindicating Ambedkar's argument that caste created graded inequality. Khairlanji is a fresh instance in this regard. Bhaiyalal Bhotmange's family, with four to five acres of land, was self sufficient to some extent. His l8-vear-old daughter Priyanka and 20-year-old son Roshan were studying in college. Sudhh 21 years old and blind, would help the family in its routine work. Bhaiyalal's wife Surekha was hard-working. They had some bank deposits that they planned to utilise for Priyanka's marriage next year and for setting up a small retail shop for Roshan to make him self-emoloved. Why was his family butchered then? They refused to succumb to the ever-growing pressures of his co-villagers who demanded more access through his fields for carrying their cattle and agricultural implements. The reality was they envied Bhaiyalal's financial position that had emboldened him to live with self-esteem He was taught a lesson. However, Khairlanji is not an isolated incident. Atrocities against Dalits such as rape, intimidation, arson, murder, kidnapping and abduction have been a routine part of our social life. The number of such atrocities against Dalits during 2003-05 was 69,216. Of these, four states - Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, MP and UP - accounted for about 60 per cent. This is despite constitutional safeguards, and various legislations such as the Prevention of Atrocities Act. The reason is obvious: The partisan and prejudiced attitudes of law-enforcing machinery that gets support from vested interests. As a result not all cases of atrocities are registered, conviction rates are dismal, and states are not filing appeals. The pace of trials is so appalling that by the end of 2005, as many as 87,000 trials were pending in the courts. Acts dealing with atrocities must be implemented stringently State and district administrations must be held responsible for their non-compliance by holding periodic reviews. Trials must be conducted quickly and the guilty punished. The nation must take atrocities against Dalits very seriously."
July 25, 2006
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India's Civilization Blindness
Calling all faiths and all Castes to abolish the caste system and the Dalit nightmare
A friend of mine recently wrote about the Dalit issue on her blog. The proponents of Brahmanism launched a scathing attack on her because she was Western and because they presumed she was a Muslim or a Christian or a leftist.
A long-term refined strategy of Brahmanism has been to 1) attack any outside voice against caste discrimination and the Dalit issue as outside interference; 2) attack racism in the West; 3) say that the outside voice has a conversion agenda; and 4) engage in violence against Dalits and those involved in the emancipation of the Dalits.
(It is interesting to note that when my friends and I supported the Dalit revolt and conversions to Buddhism in November 2001, we were attacked by the forces of Brahmanism, as well as some sections of Christianity. Why is it that these forces find it difficult to accept that there are an increasing number of concerned people around the world who want to end the Dalit nightmare by seeing the caste system abolished because it is wrong, evil and destructive?)
Unfortunately for Brahmanism, the forces of global communication and the power of the worldwide web will not allow the Dalit nightmare to remain hidden. This far-reaching problem becomes quickly evident through a simple survey of India’s newspapers and the numerous daily accounts of atrocities against the Dalits in one part of the country or another.
The discrimination against the Dalits and the problem of the caste system is ‘India’s Civilization Blindness’. V.S. Naipaul called India a wounded civilization. Yes, India is a great civilization, but has been deeply wounded for a long time because of the blatantly discriminatory and oppressive caste system. The caste system infects most of India’s religions. It has stolen the sense of worth, self-esteem and dignity of labor from a vast majority of people. The notion of ‘holy’ and ‘unholy’ labor or higher or lower jobs according to a person’s birth background has deteriorated many a developmental vision and program in India. This wounding is the only explanation as to why India has not achieved its true potential and greatness in the modern world.
Brahmanism’s many attempts to sanctify this spiritually-sanctioned racism are no longer acceptable. It is like the ‘Western Civilization Blindness’ of Colonialism which carried on during many centuries in many different parts of the world. Western Colonialism continues albeit in new clothes. Caste discrimination continues both in its old clothes and in its new garb. To accept that the criminal justice system in India has largely failed to give social justice to the oppressed and marginalized communities is to acknowledge that various governments in a free, democratic India have lacked the will to enforce social justice as one of the highest priorities in Indian civil life. It is only at election time and because of the need for votes that politicians repeatedly make renewed commitments to social justice.
There is one way to end the Dalit nightmare and eliminate the caste system – Get people of all faiths and all castes to work towards its complete abolishment. It may take many decades, but it must be done. Here is why:
1. The discrimination and exploitation of one group of human beings by another is morally wrong and evil. Caste exploitation and its inhuman discrimination have gone on for too long – more than 2,000 years! Dalit discrimination and caste discrimination carries on wherever Indians have immigrated. The 500,000 Dalits in the UK have put out a report on discrimination within the British Indian community against them. Dalit discrimination by other Indians happens in New York, Vancouver, Fiji, Africa and a host of other places. Ask the Dalits in these various foreign lands. Their religious identities do not matter. Dalit-Christians in America face discrimination from upper caste Indian Christians in America. Indian temples overseas do not have Dalits as priests just as the Brahmin-dominated India-based temples prohibit Dalits from the priesthood. Canadian Dalits also speak of caste bias in the Indian community. The case of the Canadian upper caste mother who had her (upper caste) daughter and (Dalit) son-in-law killed because of their mixed caste marriage is still fresh in everyone’s memory.
2. How can any Indian tolerate the existence of millions of bonded child laborers, most coming from Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) backgrounds, broadly classified by Ambedkar as belonging to the oppressed sections, and today carrying the tag of Dalits? While the Indian Government denies the existence of child laborers and bonded child laborers, one need only go to towns like Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, and the hinterland of states like Bihar and Orissa to see the true picture.
3. How can any Indian (resident or non-resident) allow the existence of the vast number of young girls and women trafficked in the sex trade in the sub-continent, nearly all of whom also come from the SC/ST communities? India-based cable television channels like NDTV and CNN/IBN have, thankfully, started telling the stories of the horror of girl trafficking.
4. How can the world allow for constant and repeated atrocities against the Dalits in different parts of India on a daily basis? The criminal justice system does not work for the Dalits in the towns, villages and the outlying areas of India. When fewer than 2% of registered cases of atrocities against Dalits ever reach conviction, where should the Dalits run? The Naxalite groups now labeled as ‘terrorist groups’ are filled with young men and women of the depressed castes who have failed to find social, criminal or economic justice. Unleashing the brute power of the State is not the answer to quell their cry for deliverance.
5. The link between the caste system and the oppression of women of all castes is too close for us not to notice. The sheer number of dowry deaths exposed even in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai are a shame to the nation. Dowry deaths, girl trafficking, sexual abuse of women, and other gender-related atrocities are derived directly from the value (or lack of value) given to women within the age-old caste ideology. The Indian Constitution is diametrically opposed to the laws of Manu which codified the value given both to women and people of various castes. Manu’s social system still governs rural India, and it forms the worldview of the educated upper castes which, incidentally, are guilty of a higher percentage of female infanticides than witnessed in the rest of the population.
6. It is in India’s best and long-term interest for caste identity to dissolve, thereby producing one common Indian identity in our pluralistic religious culture. It is in the dissolving of the caste identity within the different religious traditions in which caste discrimination persists (the caste poison has spread into most of the faiths in India), that a much needed religious reform can take place. If any religion is unwilling to reform itself on the caste issue, then the depressed castes have every reason to revolt and exercise their freedom of conscience to embrace a religion which guarantees emancipation and dignity.
7. A successful reformation will level the playing field in India’s developing economy and pluralistic democracy. The exploitation of caste politics and vote bank will meet its own death. The huge caste dispute of recent months over ‘affirmative action’ for the backward castes will also dissolve when all Indians have the same social and economic advantage. Present-day upper caste students are not able to perceive the huge social advantage they have which naturally grants them a significant economic, social and political advantage in the country. It is not acceptable that the minority (5% upper caste Brahmins) continues to enjoy the majority of the educational, economic and political privileges in the nation. The issue they bring of merit is nonsense as the oppressed peoples have never had the same opportunities socially and economically.
8. In the coming together of all creeds and castes to fight for this emancipation, we can deal a death blow to the age-old propaganda of the casteist forces decrying that social and human rights activists are engaged in Dalit Freedom because of a religious agenda, a hate agenda, a conversion agenda or a ‘demean-India’ agenda. The sole motive for the emancipation of the Dalits and the backward peoples must be unconditional love. The goal must be the end of the process of oppression and dehumanization. This is in the best interests of India’s democracy, India’s economy and India’s role in the world.
July 21, 2006
Memorandum for Dalit Rights in the Interim Constitution of Nepal
We support this demand for Dalit Rights in Nepal’s new Constitution. It is thorough and is a just demand to set right centuries of discrimination. Many of Nepal’s Dalits have been driven to violence in order to fight for their rights. The new Nepal must unite all the peoples of Nepal and treat them as created equal before God. The document acknowledges that the Dalit identity remains regardless of religious affiliation and therefore requires the new State to address the rights of all Dalits.
This is pleasantly contrary to the injustice continuing against India’s non-Hindu Dalits who are deprived of any ‘affirmative action’. Despite even that blatant discrimination, Ambedkar made his historic decision to move to Buddhism. Only after years of campaigning and agitation, have Dalit-Buddhists and Dalit-Sikhs had their rights restored.
The poverty-stricken Dalit-Christians continue to suffer this further discrimination under successive Indian governments, even though they have proven that the caste stigma is perpetuated in the Christian community and that their social needs do not vanish when they embrace another faith. The vast majority of India’s Christians are Dalits. The Supreme Court is now hearing public interest litigation on the blatant religiously-based discrimination against Dalit-Christians.
The Government-appointed Mishra Commission is trying its best to scuttle the issue and has been constantly delaying its report. Instead considering the direct plight of Dalit-Christians, they are now asking some eminent panel of a private company to discuss the issue. The blatant diversionary and discriminatory tactics of the Commission is on full public display. So much for the Government spin on justice for India’s Dalits.
Memorandum for Dalit Rights in the Interim Constitution of Nepal
The Dalits in Nepal have been discriminated and excluded by the State directly and indirectly for ages now. Untouchability practices have been quite prevalent in the country and the state has till date taken no effective measures to curb such practices. The Nepal government, despite its ratifications to various international conventions has failed drastically in emancipating the lives of 4.5 million Dalits. For instance the Concluding Observations of the CERD on Nepal dated 12th March 2004 (CERD/C/64/CO/5) made various recommendations for elimination of all forms of caste based discrimination of the Untouchable Dalits of Nepal. It recommended to the Nepal Government to implement special measures to advance and protect the persons subjected to discrimination, to undo under-representation of the disadvantaged groups in governmental bodies, legislative bodies and the judiciary. However, the reality remains that, the Dalits not only experience incessant discrimination and subjugation but also less adequate representation in the legislative, executive, judiciary, local bodies and services under the Nepali Government.
In this context, after the collapse of the Nepal's monarchy, the coalition of seven political parties' government and the Communist party of Nepal (Maoist) have agreed to frame a new interim constitution within one month. On this account, a six member drafting committee comprising of legal luminaries was nominated by those political parties to draft the interim constitution. The mandate of the drafting committee was to submit a draft of interim constitution by 15 days. While the people in Nepal demand for inclusive democracy where the interests of all sections of the society especially the Dalits, women and minorities are met, it's very unfortunate to note that the present Nepal government has outlined an exclusive methodology wherein the interests groups were deprived of from any representation whatsoever in the drafting committee. Such a divisive role played by the government causes heavy dents on the fabric of the nation that is crawling towards democracy and rule of law.
Therefore, in this context, we fervently appeal and submit in this memorandum that while making the new constitution we incorporate in it all human rights, fundamental rights and freedoms protecting the Dalits in tune with the International Conventions as fundamental rights in the interim constitution so that each succeeding executive government would be bound by the constitution and in the governance would take effective measures to ensure enjoyment of their fundamental rights, freedoms and non-discrimination. Understandably, the memorandum voices the concerns and interests of the Dalits and we as well are aware of other concerns from other sections such as women, minorities and ethnic communities with whom we are in solidarity with.
Memorandum for Dalit Rights in the Interim Constitution of Nepal
Identification of Dalit communities
• The state shall identify castes who have suffered from the social practice of untouchability and work and descent-based discrimination within a period of (six months) from the commencement of the interim constitution.
• The list of caste identified by the criteria above shall be known as Dalits and this list shall be specified by law. (Special right to form association and political organization)
• Notwithstanding any thing else in this constitution, the Dalits shall enjoy the special right to form associations and political organizations to protect and promote their language, identity, culture, religion, region and their other interests.
Right to dignity
• All persons shall enjoy the right to live with dignity free from any action by the state or by any person which compromise this dignity.
• The state shall not discriminate against any person who claims to be a citizen so long as his/her father or mother is a citizen of Nepal at the birth of the child.
• The state shall take all measures to create a suitable environment where all persons may achieve this right.
Rights against untouchability
• "Untouchability" is abolished and its practice in any form and in any public or private place is forbidden. Enforcement of any disability arising out of "untouchability" shall be treated as heinous offence punishable in accordance with law.
• The state shall enact a comprehensive and stringent law to eradicate the practice of untouchability by creating an independent court system and a special prosecution machinery to accord the highest priority to such offences.
• Everyone is equal before the law and has the equal right and benefit before the law.
• The state shall not unfairly discriminate against any citizen only on the grounds of caste, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, culture, region, descent, language, marital status, ethnic or social origin and disability.
• The state shall take all measures to ensure that citizens fully enjoy their rights and freedoms.
• To promote the achievement of equality the state shall take legislative and other measures to protect or advance persons, groups of persons by unfair discrimination.
• The state shall ensure that Dalits are (proportionally and equitably) represented in all public institutions including the executive, legislature and judiciary at all levels, and public education.
• The state shall take all necessary measures, by reserving seats or posts at all levels and all stages of recruitment, appointment and promotion till Dalits are adequately represented. The state shall take special measures to ensure that the Dalits are (proportionally and equitably) represented in all sectors of the economy and society including privately owned enterprises and institutions.
• The state shall enact suitable laws to implement the provisions set out above in a period of (one year).
Rights against exploitation
• No one may be subjected to slavery, servitude or forced labour including (begar, haliya, khali, balighare, badi).
• No one may be subjected to forced prostitution, trafficking and other forms of sexual exploitation.
• No children under the age of 16years shall be employed in hazardous or dangerous occupations.
• The state shall enact a law that prohibits all such practices and makes them punishable.
Right to Education
• The state shall ensure that every citizen gets free, equal and compulsory education which enables them to participate fully in the economy and the political life of the country.
• The state shall take all measure to ensure that Dalits are adequately (proportionally and equitably) represented at all levels of the education system by providing facilities, opportunities and monetary support to achieve the realization of these rights.
Right to family
• Every citizen shall enjoy the right to choose a spouse irrespective of religion, caste, region, language.
Right to property
• Every person shall have the right to acquire, own, possess and enjoy the benefits of land anywhere in the territory of Nepal without discrimination.
• The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures to foster conditions which enable its citizens to gain access land on an equitable basis.
• The state shall take all reasonable legislative and other necessary measures to ensure that Dalits own and occupy adequate land to ensure a dignified livelihood.
Right to work
• The state shall guarantee Dalits employment on terms and conditions which allows them to lead a decent and dignified life.
• The state shall ensure that there is no discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of caste, gender, religion, language.
Right to adequate housing
• Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing.
• The state shall ensure that there is no discrimination against Dalits with respect to access to housing in any part of the territory of Nepal.
Right to freedom of religion
• Everyone shall have the right to practice, profess and propagate any religion of their choice.
• No person shall cease to be a Dalit because of conversion to another religion.
Directive principles of state policy
Access to justice
• The state shall ensure that every citizen shall have the opportunity to have any dispute resolved by the application of law before an independent and impartial tribunal using a fair procedure.
• The state shall ensure that Dalits have access to free and competent legal services to represent their interests.
Distribution of resources
• The state shall ensure that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are distributed equitably to serve the common good.
• The state shall ensure that Dalits shall have (proportional and equitable) control and ownership over the material resources without any discrimination.
• The state shall in its annual budgetary exercise allocate funds, in proportion to the population, towards special program and schemes to advance the social, economic and political interests of Dalits.
Recognition and representation
Representation in the constituent assembly
• Dalits shall be represented in the constituent assembly equitably and proportionally.
• (All decisions by the constituent assembly which relate to fundamental rights, directive principles and the political institutions of the nation shall be adopted unanimously)
Representation interim government
• Dalits shall be represented in all the institutions which make up the interim government equitably and proportionally.
Representation in all political bodies
• Dalits shall be represented equitably and proportionally at all levels, and among all candidates fielded by, the political party.
Independent constitutional institutions
National Dalit Commission
• There shall be a National Dalit Commission comprised of 5 members appointed by a constitutional council which includes the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, speaker of the House of Representatives, president of national assembly, and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.
• The National Dalit Commission shall monitor the implementation of the constitutional and statutory provisions, as well as ratified International Conventions, which protect and promote Dalit rights and interests.
• The Commission shall submit an annual report to the Parliament certifying compliance with all the relevant constitutional provisions and actions taken to remedy any failures to comply.
• The National Dalit Commission shall have the power to entertain complaints from any concerned/affected individuals and summon any person and direct them to provide to any information necessary to make suitable orders to resolve the complaint.
Key Points Which Emerged out of the three day Consultation
Major provisions outlined by three day consultation amongst Dalit activists, constitutional and legal experts, human rights defenders, jurists, and other prominent personalities.
• We urge the drafting committee of interim constitution to ensure equitable, proportionate and compulsory representation of Dalits in the constituent assembly, interim government and all other state machineries.
• We urge the drafting committee of interim constitution and all political parties, to Identify Dalits, who suffer from the social practices of untouchability and work and descent based discrimination, so as to list them through the interim constitution.
• We urge the drafting committee of the interim constitution to ensure right to dignity, right against untouchability by enacting a comprehensive and stringent law to eradicate the practices of untouchability.
• We urge the drafting committee of the interim constitution to ensure equitable and proportional representation of Dalits in all public institutions i.e. the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
• We urge the drafting committee of the interim constitution to ensure that the Dalits are equitably and proportionally represented in all privately owned enterprises and institutions.
The Monarchy has come to an end and an interim political set up is in place now. The exercise for drafting a new Constitution for Nepal has also started in right earnest.
June 13, 2006
Book Review: Castes Cannot be Annihilated by Dalits Alone
A great book review. Have a look.
Castes Cannot be Annihilated by Dalits Alone
book review by Balmurli Natrajan
Review of "Anti-Imperialism and Annihilation of Castes" by Anand Teltumbde, Ramai Prakashan, Thane; 2005.
In the spirit of Marx's praxis, which requires us to understand the world in order to change it, Dr. Teltumbde highlights the major reason to study caste and imperialism - to eradicate both! Ambitious in scope, yet moving easily between the desirable and the possible, this book provides both intellectuals and activists with a roadmap (albeit a rough one) to attempt this task.
The book starts by interrogating a problem - the lack of a strong and widespread anti-imperialist consciousness in India. The answer advanced is that this problem is largely due to the acceptance of the caste system, which makes the "average Indian's social consciousness" his or her caste consciousness (87). This is not left to remain as a question of false consciousness of Indians. Instead, Teltumbde offers a complex argument for how caste is an imperialist institution working internally in India sharing similarities with the more conventionally accepted external imperialism of the multinational corporations. Both these forms of imperialism work through comprador elites in political, economic and social lives of India. Consequently, he argues for viewing the anti-caste consciousness expressed by Dalit proletarians (who form the bulk of all Dalits and the largest single social group among India's proletariat) as an expression of anti-imperialist consciousness. Throughout, Teltumbde locates his analysis of the current situation in India within historical and global contexts. The statistical evidence and analytical arguments that he marshals for this book make it invaluable for any serious discussion of the impacts of colonialism and imperialist globalization today.
Teltumbde speaks about the need for the annihilation of caste as an integral (not secondary) part of the anti-imperialist struggle. This means that the anti-imperialist struggle, which is the struggle for democracy and freedom of all people, must be worked through addressing the problem of caste in India - intellectually (to gain understanding of the context for imperialism in India) and organizationally (to unite all victims of imperialism in the struggle against it). Annihilation of caste then means the struggle against an economic structure and its attendant sociocultural superstructure (205) which primarily manifests itself through caste atrocities, caste discrimination and caste deprivation.
There is every likelihood that the ideological Left will dismiss Teltumbde's call to acknowledge caste as a part of class and consequently caste struggle as an integral part of class struggle. They may also be uncomfortable with the idea of taking caste as an imperialist institution. On the other hand, Dalit organizations too may dismiss him primarily because his entire analysis is very much Marxist, although a pleasantly heterodox and non-dogmatic one, and hence not appeal to them, and secondarily, since he characterizes much of their leadership as pursuing petty-bourgeois politics. Arguing that the Left movement and the Dalit movement have made historical errors in understanding Indian history, economy and society, Teltumbde is nevertheless able to foreground the need for their convergence, since in his analysis the Left and Dalit movement are both against imperialism - external and internal to the nation.
This is a carefully argued book. For example, Teltumbde does not simply view castes as mere vestiges of feudalism as Eurocentric Left analyses commonly make it out to be. Instead, he notes how Indian feudalism differs from classic accounts and how caste played a determining role within it. Here he echoes recent Marxist writers who argue that castes are a self-regulating exploitative system which operate as part of both, the base (infrastructure) and superstructure of society (40). Further, he shows how castes do change but still continue to organize production and politics in India today. It is especially noteworthy to see how Teltumbde shows how the Indian economy is embedded within society, a path that has a tradition in the scholarly literature deriving from Karl Polanyi in economic sociology and anthropology. This understanding is important to get away from an economistic reading of class in India. Arguing that India is primarily a semi-feudal and semi-colonial economy with different classes being positioned in different (and mixed) modes of production, Teltumbde asks us to view Dalit struggles against the caste system as indeed class struggles corresponding to the pre-capitalist modes (107).
The brief discussion on reservations is very sharp and usefully identifies the flaw in the anti-reservation argument that bases itself on "economic needs." Instead, as Teltumbde painfully points out, reservations are primarily a countervailing measure against societal disability or socially-produced disability, and not any intrinsic Dalit disability. This is a salutary move that prevents a naturalization of the social on the Dalit body. Put simply, Teltumbde argues that it is because of casteism in society that caste based reservations are needed. His book draws attention to how caste-based humiliation and discrimination does not go away with class mobility for Dalits (242).
Teltumbde is most provocative when he argues that the primary caste contradiction is between Dalits and all non-Dalits or savarnas (111) and not between dwija and not-dwija. He also shows how one can and needs to perform a class analysis to show contradictions between castes (215). For example he boldly highlights Dalit and OBC class contradictions by showing how the dwija vs. non-dwija categories which place the large population of OBCs as allies of all Dalits, hide the real class contradictions between them. Thus, Teltumbde is not satisfied with opportunistic attempts to put together electoral formations of "bahujan" since these do not represent the "ground reality" of Dalits (218). Nonetheless, he is also careful to argue that each of these legalistic caste categories itself contains a heterogeneous class population. As OBC groups emerge as new economically powerful classes in the countryside, and also enter positions of power in the state machinery in urban centers (as bureaucrats and politicians), the caste-class analysis too must reflect this. This means that we also need theories to show how forms of alliance and collusion are built between intermediary powerful castes (OBCs) and upper castes who are now increasingly in charge of more urban, private and modern machineries of coercion, capital and ideology. In this context, Teltumbde's reminder that "class analysis should embed caste realities not in a salutary terms but in order to make caste struggle as an integral part of the class struggle-for the latter, taking principle contradiction as between dalits vs non-dalits" is timely and crucial.
Perhaps the most underdeveloped area in the book is an engagement with the question of caste-based identities and the question of how to annihilate caste identities that have acquired a real basis in Indian politics and social struggles. While three material manifestations of caste are addressed in the book - caste atrocities, caste discrimination, and caste deprivation, these are only the most visible and strong manifestations of caste and need to be surely annihilated. Yet, caste also exists in non-dramatic ways for creating caste-based identities through caste-based marriage alliances, in celebrations of caste as cultural difference, and in creations of social or network capital that is caste-based (e.g., old boys network). We are not given any indication how to engage with these manifestations of caste and whether this needs to happen at all. Perhaps Teltumbde thinks that class struggle (involving dalits and non-dalits as a class) against the hegemonic caste manifestations will go a long way in
dampening caste identities, so that whatever remains of them would be inconsequential for a class struggle like many other identities such as those based on region and language.
Nevertheless, it will be useful to note that these non-dramatic signs of caste are key for reproducing caste as patriarchy because arranged marriage inevitably means control over women's sexuality, cultural displays always operate through control over women's bodies and actions which are supposed to maintain "caste traditions," and caste networks typically means women's exclusion. Here Teltumbde's insistence on keeping caste distinct from other non-class forces while salutary for caste does not do justice to the growing literature on how gender and patriarchy are at the heart of caste.
This silence also extends to the possibility of inter-caste marriages as having the potential to annihilate caste consciousness. Of course, entering such a marriage does not automatically lead to the end of caste consciousness. This is made possible only through constant vigilance against casteism and caste-based thinking by those who enter such marriages. Are such marriages not seen anymore as a powerful ally of anti-caste struggles as Ambedkar himself viewed it not too long ago? Not engaging with this issue prevents the book from raising a more interesting question: Can there be castes (social groups of identity, i.e., communities) without casteism (atrocity, discrimination, deprivation)? It seems highly unlikely given that castes usually enter into a relationship of hierarchy via difference. Caste identities therefore also need to be annihilated in addition to caste discrimination and atrocity (sociopolitical) and deprivation (economic).
Raising the question of the annihilation of caste identities will however surely produce the most vitriolic objections from all castes and their so-called leadership - all of whom are invested in continuation of caste as identity-marker (in hierarchical and non-hierarchical ways). The phrase "annihilation of caste" has gone out of fashion nowadays, either suspected of being an upper-caste response to caste (seeking to wish it away rather than address its roots which lie in the economy as much as in the sociocultural relations of everyday life) or of being an impossibility (presumably by those who know what is possible and what is not). It remains unclear how to best address this issue since community consciousness is also used by those fighting oppression.
Teltumbde's book is a useful intervention that needs to be defended by all progressives. He is very clear that "...castes cannot be annihilated by Dalits alone" and calls for the active participation of all castes, especially upper castes (213). In this context, the critique of Dange (and the problems of the social consciousness, more than the social origins) of upper castes in the anti-imperialist/anti-caste struggles is very useful to foreground for progressive Left anti-imperialists. To speak of the annihilation of race in the USA is today not viewed as progressive, since the current consciousness and political-economy of race has made it possible to fight against racism but not against racial identity. I believe, however, that the possibility of annihilating caste still exists in India. This book shows us how to think of annihilation without making familiar mistakes. Every once in a while we see a work of intellectual power that pushes debates forward with clarity and courage. This is a book of that kind.
June 11, 2006
Survey Says... India's 'National' Media Lacks Social Diversity
In an earlier paragraph I told the story about the media bias in India and how heavily it is influenced by the upper caste elite. No wonder that in the case of reservations/affirmative action for Other Backward Castes (OBCs) and Dalits there has been this major media bias. Pro-reservation rallies and gatherings have not been carried by the media. Audiences in the TV talk show rooms are heavily biased toward the upper castes and even when an interview is taken from Bihar or some interior part of India, the person interviewed more often than not is an upper caste representative.
I have maintained that the Indian reality has been interpreted to the West by the upper caste media and spokespersons. This is the reality the West knows and understands. The Indian reality according to the majority oppressed and downtrodden is not known in the West.
Now here is an important piece of actual research of the heavy upper caste domination of the media in New Delhi carried by some serious researchers. Read it for yourself and look at the tabulations and come to your own conclusions as to the reality of who holds power and influence in India. Is it wrong therefore for the majority to ask for proportional representation in all walks of Indian life?
India's 'national' media lacks social diversity, it does not reflect the country's social profile.
Survey designed and executed by Anil Chamadia, Feelance Journalist; Jitendra Kumar, Independent Researcher from Media Study Group; and Yogendra Yadav, Senior Fellow, CSDS.
§ Hindu upper caste men dominate the media. They are about 8 % of India's population but among the key decision makers of the national media their share is as high as 71 %.
§ Gender bias rules: only 17 % of the key decision makers are women. Their representation is better in the English Electronic media (32 %).
§ Media's caste profile is equally unrepresentative. 'Twice born' Hindus (dwijas comprising Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs, Vaishyas and Khatris) are about 16 % of India's population, but they are about 86 % among the key media decision makers in this survey. Brahmins (including Bhumihars and Tyagis) alone constitute 49% of the key media personnel.
§ Dalits and adivasis are conspicuous by their absence among the decision makers. Not even one of the 315 key decision makers belonged to the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes.
§ The proportion of OBCs is abysmally low among the key decision makers in the national media: they are only 4 % compared to their population of around 43% in the country.
§ Muslims are severely under-represented in the national media: they are only 3 % among the key decision makers, compared to 13.4% in the country's population.
§ Christians are proportionately represented in the media (mainly in the English media): their share is about 4 per cent compared to their population share of 2.3 %
§ Social groups that suffer 'double disadvantage' are also nearly absent among the key decision makers: there are no women among the few OBC decision makers and negligible backwards among the Muslims and Christians.
§ These findings are based on a survey of the social background of 315 key decision makers from 37 'national' media organizations (up to 10 key decision makers from each organisation) based in Delhi. The survey was carried out by volunteers of Media Study Group between 30 May and 3 June 2006.
Nepal - An Untouchability Free Country
Please read this article I picked up in a blast email on June 6, 2006, from the Dalit Solidarity Network - UK.
Nepal decleared untouchability, discrimination free country
KATHMANDU, June 5 - A meeting of the House of Representatives (HoR) on Sunday declared Nepal as an untouchability-and-discrimination-free country.
The historic declaration came after a discussion on a proposal of urgent public importance tabled by CPN-UML lawmaker Parashuram Meghi Gurung. The declaration is expected to act as an important breakthrough in creating an equitable society by bringing together dalits and backward groups into the national mainstream.
The proposal, passed unanimously by the HoR, will ensure a fair representation of dalits, comprising almost 22 percent of the population, in the process of forming the constituent assembly and a new constitution.
The proposal was seconded by Hari Acharya of People's Front Nepal (PFN), Ram Hari Dhungel of Nepali Congress (NC), Tanka Prasad Rai of NC-D and Govinda Bikram Shah of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) while MPs Lila Mani Pokharel, Tara Meyangbo, Janak Raj Giri, Yadav Bahadur Rayamajhi and Bhakta Bahadur Balayar participated in the discussion supporting the proposal.
"The practice of untouchability will now onwards be considered as a social crime and the government will enact laws in such a way that the inhuman and discriminatory practice is more punishable," Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Narendra Bikram Nembang told the House prior to tabling of the proposal for decision. He also assured the House that a new Bill will soon be introduced in this regard.
He also assured that the government would make special arrangements for dalits in education and employment sectors, besides the ongoing provision of scholarships for dalit students in schools and reservations in higher studies.
June 01, 2006
The Rediff Interview of Dr. Udit Raj
Please read this important interview of Dr. Udit Raj on the reservation issue.
The Rediff Interview
Udit Raj, Chairman, Confederation of SC/ST Organizations
"What more do the upper castes want?"
May 16, 2006
Dr Udit Raj (formerly Ram Raj) is the chairman of the All-India Confederation of the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Federations.
In 2001 he embraced Buddhism. "Conversion is a rejection of whatever caste stands for. It is a great walkout from Hinduism," says the man who is now a follower of Dr B R Ambedkar and supports conversion as "a healthy process."
In an interview to Managing Editor (National Affairs) Sheela Bhatt on the current anti-reservation movement favouring reservation for Other Backward Classes, Dr Raj spoke about why reservations are important for Indian society.
Question: How do you see the vigorous protests of medical students against the reservation policy for OBCs?
Udit Raj: I don't think it is very vigorous. Few medical students are doing it. In fact the media is helping them.
On May 2 and May 10, we had our agitation which was much more bigger but the media didn't report it or gave little coverage. This shows that the liberal voice in India is shrinking.
Unfortunately, the Indian Medical Association is also going on strike. On May 11 students and IMA protestors disrupted traffic at India Gate, New Delhi. We never do that. We restricted ourselves to the Jantar Mantar area assigned to us by the police.
It seems the doctors want to draw more attention. It shows the protestors' mindset. Medical students were protesting with brooms and trying to say that some (kind of) labour does not have dignity. Every labour has dignity. This is unbecoming of doctors.
If professionals like doctors behave like this it shows they are not interested in academics. The doctors' protest is illegal and against the spirit of the Constitution.
Question: There is a background for their agitation. There is a big change in the law.
UR: In the last winter session, Parliament amended the Constitution. It was the 93rd Constitutional amendment where Other Backward Classes have been given reservation in IITs, IIMs and universities.
On August 12, 2005 the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in the case of P A Inamdar & Others versus State of Maharashtra and others that the state can't impose its reservation policy on minority and non-minority unaided private colleges, including professional colleges and medical colleges.
My organisation, the Justice Party of India, Left parties and many others strongly protested at a huge public meeting. It was attended by leaders like (Janata Dal-United leader) Sharad Yadav, (Communist Party of India-Marxist MP) Nilotpal Basu and (Communist Party of India Secretary) D Raja.
We protested that we will not accept the Supreme Court judgment. Later, the 93rd Constitution Amendment was brought and passed unanimously by all the political parties except two members who abstained. The OBCs were given 27 per cent reservation but at that time nobody opposed it.
Question: Why didn't the doctors oppose it then?
UR: Because the media is playing a greater role now. When Arjun Singh gave a statement nobody opposed it for a week. But the media started going to campuses for stories and reactions. The media took up the role of agitators in this issue by opposing the government's move and the protests gained momentum before television cameras.
In Bangalore more than a lakh supporters of reservation came out on the streets but no television channel reported that. How do you explain it? Dalits and OBCs are coming together and supporting the government that is not taken as news.
Question: What are your arguments for having quota in higher education even for OBCs?
UR: First, wherever reservation is implemented in the southern states it is working well. In Mysore state in 1921, reservations were implemented. In Kolhapur state it was introduced in 1902. In Tamil Nadu reservations are up to 69 per cent but nowhere have you seen a law and order problem.
Two, in Tamil Nadu, the education standards and administration are not compromised. What these students are protesting about is the issue of merit. What is merit? They are talking about something that is achieved with the help of cramming, tutoring, support by public schools and knowledge of English.
India doesn't have to its credit in the international arena any great invention of modern times achieved by students in general categories. They get higher marks to get into big universities. But these big institutions don't think merit should also consist of patriotic feelings, hard work, honesty and a humble aptitude.
For our society these are not element of merit. Not many Dalits or OBCs have the money to fit the current merit criteria.
And just give me one answer: Why are these doctors not opposing the colleges who disregard merit and take money in form of capitation fees?
Why are they not opposed to the NRI quota?
Why are they not opposing those inferior students of private medical colleges who are rich? Is it not affecting the medical profession?
The medical students should call off their strike because it is not in the interest of the nation. The integration of society is more important than any other thing.
Reservation is the method to integrate society; it will take time but have patience.
Question: Facts don't support the argument that it will integrate society.
UR: Till the reservations were given, Dalits in Indian society were totally isolated. They were living on the outskirts of villages and were humiliated. But after reservations they are sitting side by side with the upper castes.
They are now in state assemblies and Parliament only because of reservations. How are you forgetting that? Similarly, the OBCs will gain now. Although it will shrink the privileges of the Dalits for the sake of justice we the Dalits want reservations for OBCs!
Reservation serves the purpose of social harmony.
Question: If quotas are introduced now, eventually there will be reverse discrimination. How will it bring about social harmony?
UR: For long, in many places 70 per cent to 80 per cent seats were open in the general category. The upper castes were using it. Right? Now they have been given 50 per cent of the total seats whereas the upper caste population is just 15 per cent. I think that is good enough. What more do the upper castes want?
It is a good deal that 15 per cent of India's population has 50 per cent of the seats. Do you want India's majority on the streets agitating against this 15 per cent? What do you want us to do? Do you want the majority population initiating the demand that let reservation be given on the basis of the proportion of the population of each caste?
Question: Whatever reservation now exists for the Dalits and tribals is not filled up by them? OBC reservation may also remain underutilised.
UR: Blame it on the mindset of the upper castes. Many Dalit medical students are suffering because during internal assessment, they become victim of biases. The Dalit student's identity is known and the supervisor knows he is poor in English and that creates a bias.
Only in India are Indians victims because of their lack of knowledge of English. It is not just lack of sophistication, it is the mindset of the upper castes that is a hurdle in filling up posts.
Question: Why don't you understand that (Human Resources Development Minister) Arjun Singh's action and politicians' support to him is nothing but vote bank politics?
UR: They will have to support reservation otherwise a majority of India will throw them away in the coming elections.
Even if politicians don't support reservations from their hearts electoral equations are such that they have no option.
The agitators must understand the combination of Indian society and where they stand! They should part with the pie of cake they have!
May 31, 2006
Questions and Answers: Caste Discrimination
Thanks to a blog respondent, I feel prompted to answer some lingering questions several have asked:
Why do you think there should be reservation on a caste-based system?
Why can’t we have basic encouraging programs from the government like free education and stipends from schools - higher education for the backward castes?
Why don’t you think the reservation system spoils excellence?
Why are politicians not implementing the quota system in the number of Ministers and Members of Parliament?
Why do you want to reverse the whole process? Do you mean that for 3,000 years the upper castes ruled, and so now let the backward castes rule and the upper castes be their slaves?
Aren’t we talking about making the same mistake our ancestors made for centuries?
We have two major problems and challenges in India.
1. Caste Discrimination and Practice
A caste analysis of India cannot and must not be ignored for the good and well being of our country. If we are not proactive about including the 70% majority backward castes and Dalits in the fruits of development, our country is headed for big trouble. All our economic progress and achievements will be swallowed up by the kind of violence and rebellion we now see in the extreme Maoist and Naxalite movements that are spread from Nepal to Tamil Nadu. Who are these extremists except Tribals, Dalits and Backward Castes who have lost out on India's post-Independence progress?
This is because the English-educated upper caste of the 'India Shining' crowd are not even aware of the oppression and discrimination levied against Dalits, Tribals and the Backward Castes, leave alone taking the initiative to do something positive to include them in national development. I grant that there are those like our previous Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, and others from the upper castes who have tried to be inclusive in their thinking. However, these are of course the exceptions and not the rule.
We must note that the caste system has always been a policy of reservation. It has guaranteed 100% reservation of all the lucrative jobs, economic growth, and power (including religious power) for the minority elitist 15% upper castes for several millennia.
It is now the responsibility of the upper castes to determine how best they are going to undo the historical and present discrimination against the Dalits, Tribals and Backward Castes which has ranged from discrimination in marriage to education to economics to power to religion.
Why do you think the present government of Tamil Nadu, after coming to power immediately announced the bill to allow Dalits to become priests in government-aided temples? Why are Dalits not allowed to become priests in the first place? What about priesthood for Dalits in the major temples run and operated by the Brahmanical order?
I think the upper castes should lead the struggle for abolishing the caste system in the Parliament. Once the caste system itself is abolished and we do not face division and discrimination on the basis of caste, perhaps we can then think of economic criteria as a solution to reservation.
2. Hypocrisy in the Higher Levels
I do not deny that that there are the upper caste poor who must struggle to obtain seats in higher educational institutions. Some Christians face the same fate -- they are from Dalit backgrounds and their economic condition is pathetic. Muslims are no exception; they have a considerable number of people who are poor.
I think one of the major problems of the nation is the hypocrisy of our politicians and their policies towards education. The government should have long ago established English-medium schools with access to education of the vernacular language. Privately run English-medium schools have proliferated in the last couple of decades. This is a great business once again for the English-educated, powerful, elitist castes and those who can afford to join these schools. Those who are able to join such schools are thus given an unfair advantage in terms of training and education.
Why are all the institutes of higher learning in English when our national language is supposed to be Hindi? Who have the politicians tried to fool all these years except the majority Dalits and Backward Castes? Why do our politicians of the South who speak so passionately about education in their mother tongue send all their children to English-medium schools?
If the government had started English-medium schools for the Dalits and the Backward Castes 50 years ago, they would have made a clear statement that they had a planned program to include the deprived castes in national development and power.
While I agree with the argument about the state of the upper caste poor, I also must look clearly at the state of the Backward Castes and Dalit poor. Unfortunately, the percentage of the poor and those who are in actual back-breaking poverty who come from a Dalit, Tribal or Backward Caste background is completely disproportionate to the percentage of the poor among the upper caste.
What are our solutions for those people? We have to be inclusive in our thinking as Indians and find a solution for the majority population.
May 28, 2006
The Caste Bias in the Indian Media
I have written earlier that the caste bias in most sections of the India-based English language media became very obvious during the debates on reservation or affirmative action benefits for OBC students. Many a Dalit leader has told me in recent years that a major part of the problem in Indian media is that Dalits have no voice. The lower castes have no voice as most of the media in India – both print and electronic –is owned and run by the upper caste fraternity. Most of them have grown up in the privileges accorded to them by the Brahmanical caste system that gave them all the privileges (in fact affirmative action!) through the discriminatory system.
The Western media ignorantly buys everything served up by the upper caste media in India and is thereby also guilty of misrepresenting the caste divide in India. The majority millions are conveniently forgotten.
The question must be asked: ‘’Where on earth do we find that a majority as big as 70% of the population is unable to express their own viewpoint and find their own voice?’’
Are the power brokers in society and the media barons in the world listening?
Please read the enclosed story from Shivam Vij in Lucknow, representative of the struggle of the majority voiceless to find a legitimate voice and place in the system.
Caste in the Newsroom?
By Shivam Vij
Caste discrimination in the newsroom? Rubbish, say most upper caste journalists in Uttar Pradesh. It's all over, say backward caste journalists.
How many journalists in the Lucknow office of Dainik Jagran , India's largest selling newspaper, belong to the Schedule Castes or the 'Other Backward Castes'?
"I have never counted and I will never count. Caste is not an issue in this organisation," says Dilip Awasthi, a senior editor with Dainik Jagran. But a backward caste journalist says that Dainik Jagran in Lucknow in particular has been run as a "Brahminical paper".
Unlike Awasthi, backward caste journalists can count their numbers on the fingertips. Ask them and they start listing names — an exercise which some upper-caste scribes are also able to undertake. There are not even half a dozen Dalit journalists in Lucknow, most of whom do not handle the political beat, and no Dalit journalist works for an English paper. As for OBC's, you will find at the most one in every paper.
Why are the numbers so few?
"They don't go to schools!" says Awasthi.
And the ones who do? Has he never met a single SC/OBC journalist who's talented enough for a job?
"Never. They can't write a single sentence properly."
Is there deliberate discrimination against lower caste candidates who apply for employment?
"I refuse employment to 15 people every day, and 14 of them are upper caste Hindus. All that matters is talent. Go to media schools in the city and ask them how many Dalits or OBC's are enrolled with them. The caste situation in the media is no different from what it is in society."
Off the record, a Dalit journalist alleges: "I was denied employment by a paper because the editor said I wrote like the spokesperson of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is not true. That their reporters write like spokespersons of [the upper-caste dominated] Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a non-issue for the paper."
Interestingly, no one has ever heard of employment discrimination against Muslims in the Lucknow press. In fact it is said that every political bureau has at least one Muslim in it because it is felt that only a Muslim can get stories from inside Muslim society. (Since there has never been a Hindu-Muslim riot in Lucknow, communal relations here are much better than riot-affected cities.)
"Naturally," says Awasthi of Jagran, "I would like to have a Muslim to cover Muslims and a woman to cover women's issues."
And a Dalit to cover Dalits?
"But where are they?" he exclaims.
"How is it possible," questions political reporter Kamal Jayant of Aaj, "that in a country with a huge unemployment problem no Dalit comes to them for a reporter's job?"
"The root of the problem is ownership. When the media is owned by the upper caste, it has to be dominated by the upper caste," says Kashi Prasad of Eenadu TV Uttar Pradesh, who does not write his surname, Yadav, in his visiting card. Journalists belonging to castes that figure at the lower end of the caste system often hide or change their surnames lest they invite prejudice.
JP Shukla, Lucknow correspondent of The Hindu, very emphatically says there is no question of any kind of employment discrimination, because: "An educated Dalit prefers his reserved job in a government office rather than a hard life as an underpaid stringer with a Hindi daily. And English dailies take the convent educated lot." Amit Sharma, Lucknow correspondent of The Indian Express denies that there is employment discrimination, and if the backward caste journalist feels it, "it could be because of his inner feelings [read: complex] that he belongs to a lower caste."
Caste here may get inter-twined with class. An upper caste journalist privately admits that he may unconsciously discriminate on class basis, but for backward caste aspirants this discrimination is received as casteist. It is his caste because of which he lacks 'class'. Amidst all this generalisation, backward caste journalists are not short of examples. AP Dewan, a Doordarshan reporter who is Dalit by caste, knows two cases off hand. He remembers one Yogendra Singh who committed suicide because no paper would give him a job, and how Doordarshan would not even take one Dharmendra Singh as a free apprentice. The latter, an alumus of IIMC (Indian Institute of Mass Communications, Delhi), had to forgo the electronic media and work with Rashtriya Sahara in Noida. At the same time, Dewan claims as President of the now defunct Doordarshan India Journalists Association, that jobs reserved for backward castes in Doordarshan have not been filled for years.
Some backward caste journalists, very wary of being quoted, recall how they personally faced hardships in initially getting employment, as compared to upper-caste colleagues.
"A Muslim friend called me the other day to arrange a newspaper internship for her daughter. But I don't recall any backward caste person approaching me for help in employment," says Ratan Mani Lal, Director of the Jaipuria Institute of Mass Communications.
"Employment in the private sector is often given on the basis of connections, and upper caste individuals tend to have connections amongst upper castes." says Vivek Kumar, who left his job with The Pioneer in Lucknow in 2000 to become an academic. He now teaches at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in Delhi.
The Dalit and the OBC suffer from stereotypes of talent. "It is presumed that a candidate won't be talented because he is Dalit," says Dewan.
About this tricky issue of talent, Kumar of JNU says: "This is exactly the same as in reserved jobs for backward castes. First it was 'candidate not available' and now it is 'candidate not suitable'. And who decides a candidate's suitability? The upper-caste editor." So would he support reservation in the private media? "Why not? Reservation is nothing but equality of opportunity."
The new Congress-led government at the centre has promised to look into the area of caste-based reservation in the private sector. If and when that happens, it will affect the media as well, and you may begin to see the bylines of a greater variety of castes.
That was about employment, but those who do manage to get a job, do they face discrimination at the work place? Once again upper caste journalists say an emphatic no and backward caste journalists say an emphatic yes.
"Between 1996 an '99 I was with Hindustan," remembers Kashi Prasad of E-TV, "I was posted in Sultanpur when the paper established its office there. As a Yadav I was the only journalist there belonging to a backward caste. I would sit in the same room as my junior upper caste colleagues, and local leaders would come and touch their feet and ignore me. So I asked them to shift to another room." These seemingly petty problems become very humiliating when an individual goes through them.
Discrimination manifests itself in the form of marginalisation. Backward caste journalists say they are marginalised not only in places like the Press Club but also inside the newsroom, where upper caste journalists may form a closely knit community.
Dewan of Doordarshan claims that in office he is not given basic facilities like a stenographer or a computer or air-conditioning, which have been given to journalists junior to him. Is he sure this is because of his caste? "Absolutely because of that!" he says, "But this is nothing. In the media in UP Dalits and OBC's face much worse. They are forced to be submissive and have to quietly endure everything."
Amit Sharma, Lucknow correspondent of The Indian Express, confirmed that backward caste journalists in UP face prejudice amongst their fraternity. "Whatever they say is taken lightly and often ridiculed," he says, "and this sometimes makes them irritable and affects their self-esteem." Sharma, however, denies discrimination in employment.
Kashi Prasad of E-TV says, "Not only is there greater discrimination in districts and small towns, a lot many journalists in Lucknow come from small town or rural backgrounds. They carry a greater burden of caste than one would ordinarily perceive in Lucknow."
However, JP Shukla of The Hindu, who says he is himself from a rural background, denies that there is any such thing as caste bias amongst journalists. Shukla, a Brahmin by caste, says that the primary caste equation in UP is that of a clash between Dalits and OBC's, and the upper-castes have no role in it. (During an earlier interview for a story on The Hoot, Shukla had read excerpts from a book of memoirs that he was writing, in Hindi, which exalted the caste system.) Secondly, says Shukla, that Maywati and the BSP are such a powerful political tool in UP that nobdu dares discriminitae against a Dalit.
After the Mandal Commission report of 1991, says Kashi Prasad, "Society was polarised into those who were for caste-based reservation in government jobs and those who were against it. Upper caste journalists, seething in anger about reservations, have been prone to prejudice against backward caste individuals in the office." There is thus a great need for backward caste journalists to 'prove' their merit. The problem with this, for one, is that a backward caste journalist is seen first as belonging to a 'low' caste and then as an individual.
Pawan Kumar, a Dalit who works as a sub-editor with Aaj , says that a backward caste scribe has to work much harder to be accepted, whereas his upper caste colleagues would be regularly promoted even when they are not meritorious.
The claim is buttressed by Vivek Kumar of JNU with the example of a friend who would file his stories only in his first name. But the day he started adding his surname Shukla, he was surprised to find his byline on page one off and on. "Now his name bore the burden of his caste," he says. On the other hand, Kashi Prasad claims he was not given an independent beat in a newspaper for years, unlike his upper-caste colleagues.
How caste biases operate in the coverage of caste politics has been documented earlier by a couple of stories in The Hoot. But apart from elections, what about the coverage of caste on issues like caste discrimination in society, cases of caste-based violence, etc.? Are they given due space? If it's newsworthy, it finds a place in the paper, says, Jayant of Aaj. "Thanks to competition," he says "if one paper doesn't carry it, another does. But what angle such stories are given may be problematic in some cases." At the height of the Mandal Commission imbroglio in 1991, he says, stories of upper caste protests were exaggerated by the media with an activist intent. It is very obvious, therefore, that you never find a feature in a UP paper about caste discrimination in society, the sort that appear in Delhi editions of papers like The Indian Express and The Hindu. Vivek Kumar of JNU says that while at the Pioneer, he once interviewed the then UP Governor Suraj Bhan, a Dalit, and asked him questions on the position of Dalits in society 48 years after independence. What should have been a page-one eight-column interview, he says, was reduced to two columns on page four. Some days later the paper sent another correspondent to interview the Governor, this time without any 'Dalit angle', and it was right there: eight columns on page one.
Vijay Dubey of Eenadu TV points out a rift between Thakur and Brahmin journalists in Gorakhpur over some local issue recently, and other backward caste journalists readily provide specifics of how a journalist belonging to a certain caste would often be assigned the task of covering the leader of that caste. The logic is that caste affinity helps you get a scoop.
But this argument is turned on its head when backward caste journalists are said to use their caste to get close to politicians and benefit in getting scoops and other necessities of life. "This is unfortunate branding," says Dewan of Doordarshan, "Before I helped save Mayawati's life in the 1995 "guest-house" attack on her, no one knew what community I belonged to. But after that the world around me changed completely. Upper-caste journalists labelled me a Mayawati stooge and in 1998, got chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to get me transferred out of UP. Later when Mayawati again became CM, some upper-caste journalists instigated her against me and as a result, she hasn't spoken to me for 18 months."
Journalists in the English papers may be a little more progressive, but Kumar of JNU complains that the upper-caste individual can choose to be anything in the garb of progressiveness. A source in The Times of India says, "Caste is always implicit. You are always aware of what is the caste of which person and what that means in caste hierarchy."
While local English papers remain urban-centric, Hindi papers do cover grassroots level activities, socio-religious affairs and some amount of rural reporting also finds space. But in all this, it is an upper-caste ("Brahminical") culture that is reflected; the lives and customs of a segregated, backward caste society are unimportant.
There is no dialogue over this issue; nobody seems to see the need to give so much as a patient hearing to the grievances of journalists belonging to depressed castes. The arrogance with which senior journalists like Awasthi of Jagran dismiss the issue, suggests that a Dalit journalist is persona non grata for them.
Says Vivek Kumar of JNU, "When you live life in your own group you never think you are excluding anyone. The only time you think there is discrimination is when Mayawati dismisses you as Manuwaadi."
May 26, 2006
The ‘Merit’ and ‘Quality’ Argument: Not Simply Valid in the Present Controversy Over Affirmative Action for OBCs
Even as I write this, the UPA government along with its allies has announced that it will bring a bill in the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament to give 27% reservations (guaranteed seats through “affirmative action’ rights) to Other Backward Caste (OBC) students in institutes of higher learning. That the government is doing this is a statement to the undeniable reality of caste inequalities in the nation, one of the main factors behind the creation of two Indias – the “India Shining” of the English-educated upper caste elite and the “India in Darkness” of the lower castes and Dalits. The last election was a wake up call to the political parties that the “India Shining” slogan was a non-starter. The majority millions (Dalits, low caste) were not participants in the economic boom of the minority population.
Reservation (or affirmative action) is only the first step in undoing a wrong of 3,000 years. It is important that upper caste students do not think only of themselves. If their parents, elders and the Indian education system have not educated them on the caste problem in Indian society, it is time they read the works of Ambekdar, Phule, Periyar and a host of others. Isn’t it amazing how ignorant the powerful upper caste elite are about the system they imposed on the rest for millennia? Isn’t it surprising how caste consciousness is meticulously followed in our matrimonial advertisement columns and yet is mysteriously denied when it comes to the issue of reservations for OBC students?
Read the following excerpt from Ravishankar Arunachalam to understand how the reservation system has worked in the state of Tamil Nadu and how OBCs and Dalits have great merit and quality if they are given the opportunity.
Mathematics of Reservations
by Ravishankar Arunachalam
Imagine that the government came up with a proposal to build a new world-class technology institution to provide quality education to all students. Imagine, too, that a debate rages on the viability of building such an institution - in terms of the costs involved, student quality, desired outcomes etc. Now, imagine that such a debate takes place with little reference to IITs or the role they have played in technical education. Outrageous, you would think? Yet, something similar is happening in the reservation debate, both within and outside AID. The record of states which have implemented OBC reservations already is seldom brought up.
The Case of Tamil Nadu
States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have already implemented reservation for OBCs in educational institutions. I will restrict my references to Tamil Nadu alone, since I do not know about the situation in other states. In Tamil Nadu, the total reservation is 69%, the split up for which is given [at] www.tn.gov.in/policynotes/bc_mbc_welfare.htm).
BCs and MBCs of Tamil Nadu are together equivalent to the “Other Backward Castes”, as they are referred to in the rest of the country. The most obvious observation from the table above is that the percentage of reservations is only equal to or lower than the percentage of the group in the overall population. So the reservation system is only trying to bring about proportional representation in educational institutions. It does not result in a reverse-discrimination (which would mean BCs get more than their proportional share in order to right historical wrongs), as many people claim. FCs, who form the “others”, still get the bulk of the 31% open-quota seats even though their population percentage is only 13%.
Overall, the experience with reservation has been very positive, and that is why there is wide-spread support for it in the state. The government health-care system in Tamil Nadu is better than most other states, and one reason has been the quality doctors that the system produces, a factor attributed to reservations. Many of them also opt to serve in rural areas. Not surprisingly, the TN chapter of the Indian Medical Association supports quotas for the OBCs.
Now it is not difficult to see why the anti-reservation polemic does not refer to states like Tamil Nadu with an OBC reservation record. It is because there are no instances of bridges cracking due to faulty design and patients dying due to incompetent doctors. These are often cited as the potential dangers due to reservations, either directly or more subtly as “quality will deteriorate”. I am not saying that there are no problems with govt doctors or hospitals in TN, but these problems are present in other states too, and the overall quality is still better in Tamil Nadu.
Who Gets In and Who Doesn’t?
Of course, forward castes aren’t happy with the situation, in spite of having a larger representation than their proportion in the population. The problem is that the total number of seats available is so low that most people are left out. But this is true of every single category, and not just FCs. Many of us, belonging to the forward castes, have a lot of friends who are “left out”, and feel outraged that its due to reservations (though many FC candidates score lower than even the reserved-category cut-off marks, and still blame reservations!). But the question to ask is: What about the lakhs of people from the MBCs and BCs who get left out? There are thousands of farmers’ daughters and weavers’ sons who either are unable to get to high school, or even if they do, do not get adequate support from home and are unable to afford coaching classes. We seldom know them and do not encounter them in our day-to-day lives. Yet they are real students, who are not only unable to get into these seats, but do not even get the opportunity to compete on an even footing. Are we pre-supposing that these students are all devoid of merit? According to the math above, for every FC friend of ours, there are at least 5 BC/MBC students who were denied the opportunity to get a seat. Who speaks for them ?
Such examples immediately bring up the point that reservations haven’t resulted in what they intended to do. Again, experience in Tamil Nadu points otherwise. There are any number of good students from backward castes who get into Anna university every year due to reservations, and excel in their careers.
In addition, there is already a provision for excluding the creamy layer of each caste from reservation (the list of conditions that exclude a person from enjoying OBC reservation benefits, is at http://ncbc.nic.in/html/creamylayer.html) so that only the needy get the benefits.
What about purely economic criteria, leaving out caste? While that might work in an ideal caste-less society, we have to acknowledge that caste is still a huge factor governing societal relationships today. Those who think that “caste is not a factor in urban India anymore”, need only look at the matrimonial columns of any popular newspaper.
The Supreme Court has also ruled that reservations based on purely economic conditions is unconstitutional. Besides, economic conditions can easily change over time, whereas caste does not offer any mobility. That is why, in spite of reservations, it takes a lot of time for real empowerment of the lower castes. And just because a caste is “considered” low, it won’t become an OBC. It has to satisfy several conditions to be included as socio-economically backward, for example that the proportion of graduates is 20% lower than the state or local average (complete list of guidelines at http://ncbcnic.in/html/guideline.html). The outrageous fact is that there still are clearly identifiable castes and sub-castes which fall in such categories, exposing the deep-rooted nature of our caste system.
May 16, 2006
The Dalit Nightmare Continues
The Dalit nightmare is endless. The connivance of village leaders (called ‘sarpanches’) and the police, coupled with social discrimination, makes Dalits suffer endless atrocities. Nearly 50,000 major atrocities against Dalits were reported in 2004 alone. Little or no action was taken against the culprits.
The enclosed story from Mahmadpur, just an hour’s drive from New Delhi, tells a sorry tale about what needs to take place for Dalits to find any justice. Dalits represent modern slavery’s biggest challenge. This is something for us to keep in mind even as the world begins to prepare for 2007 which commemorates a major anniversary of the law that abolished slavery in UK under the great work of William Wilberforce 200 years ago.
The modern world cannot rest until caste slavery is abolished.
Justice for Dalits Still a Dream: The Hindu http://www.hinduonnet.com/2006/05/11/stories/2006051105731100.htm by Siddarth Narrain
IN FEBRUARY this year, Dalits in Mahmadpur — a small village near Kunjpura in Karnal district, Haryana — were attacked by members of the land-owning Rode community. Over 30 Dalits were seriously injured. The immediate provocation for the incident was a procession the Dalits were planning on the occasion of Ravidas Jayanthi. The police, on the advice of the village sarpanch (who belongs to the Rode community), refused to allow the procession to be taken past the "upper caste" area in the village. When the Dalits attempted to take out their procession, the police stopped them. The next day, in blatant violation of the law, the sarpanch allegedly instigated upper caste youth to attack the Dalits with hatchets and sickles by making announcements on a loudspeaker from the local temple. The attackers did not spare even women and children.
Tension between Dalits and the dominant castes in Mahmadpur had been simmering for a while. The Dalits had not supported the sarpanch during the panchayat elections, leading to resentment among his supporters. The sarpanch had cancelled a grant of land for a Ravidas ashram in the village made by his predecessor, and filed a case in the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging the decision. Added to this, a Brahmin girl from the village had eloped with a Dalit boy around four months before the incident. They got married recently.
The events that followed the February incident were shocking. Instead of arresting those who attacked the Dalits, the police arrested 15 Dalits on false charges ranging from "dacoity" to "attempt to murder." Instead of framing charges against the sarpanch for allegedly instigating the violence, the police tried to pressure the injured Dalits into forming a 10-member "peace committee," with equal representation from both communities, and suggested that they reach a settlement.
Only after sustained pressure from Dalit rights groups, and political parties such as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bahujan Samaj Party, did the police press charges against the sarpanch. He was finally arrested, weeks after the incident, and is now out on bail. Under sustained pressure, the police arrested eight other persons responsible for the attack. According to Sibash Kaviraj, Superintendent of Police, Karnal, the reason the sarpanch was not arrested earlier was to allow him to take part in the proceedings of the "peace committee."
The incident in Mahmadpur — a little over an hour's drive from Delhi — and its aftermath reflect a larger problem of the failure of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. It was enacted in 1989 specifically to act as a deterrent against physical, caste-based violence.
The Act widened the scope of criminal liability and included several acts of commission and omission not covered by the existing Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955. It provided for administrative measures for enforcement of the Act by making provisions for the establishment of Special Courts, and for the appointment of Special Public Prosecutors to conduct trials of offences under the Act. Special Courts have been given enormous powers, including the power to extern potential offenders from scheduled areas and tribal areas, and to attach the property of persons accused under the Act. Public officials who do not perform the duties prescribed under the Act can be punished with a jail term extending up to a year.
In a damning reflection of the non-implementation of this law, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its Report on the Prevention of Atrocities on Scheduled Castes released in 2002, had said there was "virtually no monitoring of the implementation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act at any level." It had pointed out that Vigilance and Monitoring Committees, as prescribed under the Act, had not been constituted and where such Committees existed they hardly functioned.
The quality of prosecution was poor because the functionaries entrusted with the work lacked both competence and motivation, it said.
The report also quoted a study of 11atrocity-prone districts of Gujarat that found that 36 per cent of atrocities cases were not registered under the Atrocities Act. In 84 per cent of the cases where the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was applied, cases were registered under the wrong provisions to conceal the violent nature of the incidents. Charge sheets were framed in only 53 per cent of the cases registered under the Act, and over 22 per cent of cases registered were closed after investigation. According to these figures, over 92 per cent of the cases ended in acquittal.
Concerned about the inability of the criminal justice system to deal with caste-based violence, Dalit rights organisations have submitted a set of suggestions to the Police Act Drafting Committee currently framing a draft Police Act to replace the existing 1861 Act. These recommendations include the constitution of an independent body, comprising members of marginalised communities including Dalits, to look into complaints against the police.
They have suggested that the track record of police officers in implementing laws such as the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act be taken into account in evaluating their performance. Police officers found guilty of not implementing the Act should be punished as prescribed in it.
Besides these reforms, what is needed is better monitoring of the institutions created under the Act to correct the gross under-utilisation of the law. Recently, the Supreme Court issued notice to Central and State Governments on a petition filed by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, Sakshi-Human Rights Watch, and the Centre for Dalit Rights, asking for directions to ensure that they appoint nodal officers and set up Protection Cells as envisaged under the Act.
These are measures that the Centre and the States must implement urgently. For those at the receiving end of caste-based violence, what is at stake is not merely a temporary remedy, but the credibility of the legal system's ability to deliver justice.
April 27, 2006
The Shame of Upper Caste India and the Furor over OBC Reservation in Institutes of Higher Learning
For the last couple of days I have watched with huge embarrassment the upper caste-led English media TV talk shows in India react to the proposal of India’s Union Ministry for Human Resources to give the Other Backward Castes (OBCs) reservation in the Central Government-aided institutions of higher learning such as the IITs, IIMs and other central universities.
I am deeply ashamed at the blindness of upper caste India as demonstrated by the talk show hosts and the majority upper caste studio audience members who seem to be completely out of touch with the realities of the social injustices and inequities meted out to the majority Dalit-Bahujan people by the oppressive and degrading caste system. Above all there seems to be a complete lack of the history of modern India vis-à-vis the caste system and a total ignorance of the works of Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar. It seems upper caste India wants to be socially ignorant, comfortable, secure and content in their modern, globalized, English-speaking enclave and let the rest of the caste-oppressed Indians be condemned in their own struggle for existence.
One Indian talk show host described the television audience within the studio as a representative sample of “middle class Indians”. But when pushed into the corner to mark out the identity of those English-speaking Indians in the studio, it was clear to those of us who were watching the show across the nation that the studio audience was 90% upper caste.
In another show, the OBC/Dalit minority audience in the studio staged a walk out because of the farce of the so-called “impartial middle class” India in the studio and the agenda of the show itself which heavily favored the majority audience in the studio.
What is English-speaking, middle class India if not a mainly upper caste India who are there because of opportunity, economics, power and freedom enjoyed by upper caste Indians for 3,000 years? The truth is that upper caste India has enjoyed a perverse system of reservation for 3,000 years through the enforcement of the caste system. The minority upper castes who make up just 17% of the population have usurped over 90% of all economic, educational, political, spiritual and social power in India for 3,000 years. Why not discuss that issue for five minutes in the talk shows? Or is it threatening to the very system that runs India? It is only now in a democratic India that some attempt is being made to redress this horrendous injustice.
Talk of meritocracy in this context is highly hypocritical. Meritocracy works where there has been a consistent level playing field for all over a consistent period. Do most of the Dalits and OBCs have the same level playing field and opportunities? How many Dalits and OBCs in the past 50 years have had access to the highly expensive private English-medium school education?
Why is upper caste India not bearing its shame in what has been done to the oppressed castes in India down through the centuries? Without this sharing of guilt and shame there will be no healing and reconciliation in India. The caste system will bitterly divide and bleed our India.
Why is upper caste India so blind? How can we walk the streets of India and fail to notice what our oppressive caste system has done to the country and her majority people? How can we ignore the oppression and poverty of our people? Is just economics the primary reason for this or is social injustice meted out by a degrading social system? Just look at the conditions of most Dalits whatever their religious affiliation. Are we not ashamed at all for the part we have played in their deplorable condition?
How can we deny that we are faced with two Indias? President Bush may cause us revel in an “India Shining”, but what about the “India in Darkness” which is present in our streets, slums, towns, villages and forests – the India of the vast majority?
And do we think that a mere 50 years of reservation has resolved the Dalit problem and that the OBC reservation of the past two decades has resolved the problems of the Backward Castes?
Upper caste India has to carry its historic shame and guilt and lead the struggle to abolish the caste system permanently in India. Upper caste India must develop a social conscience that intentionally includes the Dalits and the OBCs in all spheres of power – economics, education, politics, science and spirituality – this will mean proportional representation. Upper caste India must embrace and entwine their lives, future and their bloodline with Dalit-Bahujan India for the sake of their own children’s future.
Our politicians will not deliver. We the citizens of India must deliver emancipation to the Dalits and the oppressed backward castes – now and forever.
December 23, 2005
What is the DALIT-BAHUJAN Emancipation Movement all About?
What is the DALIT-BAHUJAN Emancipation Movement all About?
Dr. Joseph D’souza, International President, Dalit Freedom Network
Major Debates Over Caste Discrimination Continue in Indian Society
Another major debate has erupted in Indian political and civil society circles after the October 6, 2005, United States Congressional Sub-Committee hearings in Washington, DC, on the issue of caste discrimination in India. Some questions raised as a result of this hearing are: “Why has it taken so long for the world to hear about the persistent problem of caste discrimination in India? We thought the caste system was abolished in India? Why is it that we have not been told about the connection between caste discrimination and the 25 million bonded child laborers, the girl trafficking, the prostitution trade, the illiteracy and poverty, the constant rape and abuse of women, and the plight of the landless laborers?”
Following the hearings in the USA, there was also an extensive debate on the Dalit issue in the British Parliament on November 22, 2005.
For the Christian community around the world the issue is, “Why is it that we have not heard about the serious nature and scope of caste discrimination within the Church in India – no matter the denominational affiliation, whether Catholic, mainline Protestant or Evangelical?”
The blunt answer to the above questions is that until now the Indian reality has been interpreted and articulated within India and around the world through the worldview of the dominant castes in larger society and also in the Church. For all practical purposes, the dominant castes rule, control and articulate the Indian reality.
Without a “Caste Analysis” India Can Not be Understood
The dominant upper castes have been quite content with a “class analysis” of India (focusing attention on the rich, the new middle-class and the poor), knowing very well that it is only a “caste analysis” of India that can uncover the true but hidden reality at the heart of India – the India of the majority masses. One cannot understand India without understanding the complete nature and scope of the caste system in Indian life. Caste considerations dominate people’s lives from birth to death. This understanding of the caste system and how it controls and regulates social, economic, political and religious life is absolutely essential to interpreting the Indian reality. Add to this the “corruption factor” in Indian society and the Dalits and other oppressed people who are poor are left in a completely hopeless situation. India is not a homogenous society where there is a level playing field on which everyone can prosper.
Caste continues to dominate Indian society despite the fact that the draftsman of the Constitution, the redoubtable Dalit thinker and lawyer Dr. Bhim Rao Babasaheb Ambedkar, wrote his prophetic work “Annihilation of Caste” to reveal to the world the brutal stranglehold of the caste system. The Indian Constitution, taking the best out of American and British statutes, outlawed untouchability, one of the manifestations of caste discrimination, but stopped well short of abolishing caste.
Dalit-Bahujan leaders across India refer to caste discrimination as “India’s silent apartheid” of 3,000 years against its majority peoples – a full 70% of the population. It is a religiously sanctioned racism that has maimed, dehumanized and destroyed hundreds of millions of people through the ages. The horrendous fact is that we continue to destroy millions of people through this system even today in the 21st century.
The Inhuman Discrimination Against Dalits Continues Unabated
Here is what the former President of India, Dr. K.R. Narayanan, recently stated regarding caste:
“An empowered India bereft of the respect for women, values of civilized existence and morality will collapse in the face of the disaffection and discontent of those who have suffered for centuries. Day in and day out we take pride in claiming that India has a 5,000-year-old civilization. But the way the Dalits and those suppressed are being treated by the people who wield power and authority speaks volumes for the degradation of our moral structure and civilized standards.
“Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution, had said political equality devoid of economic and social equality would bring about contradictions in our democratic set-up which if not rectified will lead to its doom. In the dark cloud of inequality and social injustice the silver lining represented by the assertion of the hitherto suppressed and exploited sections for their rights inspire confidence for their future empowerment. Their struggle for empowerment represents empowerment of India.
“As the struggle gains momentum and gets accentuated, there is bound to be reluctance and resistance on the part of the high and mighty to accept their upward rise. The killing of Dalits, their exploitation and the brutality they face is a negation of the empowered India.”
Who are the Dalit-Bahujans?
The Dalit-Bahujans make up what are known in India as the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Castes. Together these groups are classically known as the Sudras or the slave / “vassal” castes. (“Scheduled” means they are listed in a special “index” appended to the Constitution. “Backward Castes” are those whose rank and occupational status are above that of Dalits, but who still remain socially and economically depressed.) The Scheduled Castes were until recently also known as the “Untouchables” because they were deemed literally untouchable by the upper castes. The Scheduled Tribes were defined as “Criminal Tribes” because they occasionally challenged, with arms, the dominance of the local landlords.
The word “dalit” means “broken” or “crushed” and the word “bahujan” indicates membership in the majority people or the larger population.
Combined, these groups make up 67% of the population of India.
Among this suffering humanity of Dalit-Bahujans, it is the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes who continue to bear the brunt of caste discrimination and oppression.
Caste discrimination has an immediate impact on 250 million Dalits. It also affects hundreds of millions more from the Backward Caste communities.
Nature of the Revolt Against the Caste System: Caste Upheaval Influences Indian Politics
Caste turmoil and upheaval fully exploded on the national scene when the recommendations of the Mandal Commission were implemented in the mid-1990s. The Mandal Commission indicated that the Backward Castes were no better socio-economically because of the consequences of the caste system. The Supreme Court supported the view of the Commission and granted affirmative action benefits to the Backward Castes. Upper caste mobs resisted the judgment and anarchy prevailed in major cities for many weeks. Indian politics changed dramatically after the Mandal issue hit the national consciousness. Caste politics became a dominant factor in Indian society, and caste loyalties began to determine elections across the nation. The north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar saw dramatic movements of the political empowerment of the Sudras, or Backward Castes. Dalit politics, too, was established with the emergence of the Bahujan Samaj Party as a major player in Uttar Pradesh and the surrounding north Indian States in the so-called “Cow Belt”. Consistent with the larger caste assertion by the Backward Castes, the Dalits also began to increasingly assert themselves.
The Religious Revolt
Caste had the sanction of religion, and as the extremist and fascist Hindu Right made a bid for political power in Federal India, open calls were given to Dalits to exit the caste-based Hindu society to more egalitarian faiths and communities.
Dalit and Backward Caste ideologues launched a full-fledged attack against the caste system and Brahminism maintaining and pushing forward the movement first launched by Mahatma Phule, fine-tuned by Periyar in the South, and finally polished by Ambedkar.
These anti-Brahminical movements kept the Hindutva brigade from expanding in the northern bases of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar even at a time when the arch-Hindu Ayodhya Temple movement was at its zenith.
History Vindicates Ambedkar’s Stand Versus Gandhi
Increasingly, the Dalit-Bahujan emancipation movement began to gather more strength across the nation. Ambedkar’s true contribution to the nation, his work for the depressed castes, was progressively more greatly understood and appreciated. Even the upper caste movements and political leaders began to co-opt Ambedkar’s legacy and brand name as their own.
Ambedkar’s bitter disagreement with Mahatma Gandhi was no longer locked in archival documents. Suddenly, Ambedkar’s opposing sentiment became common knowledge. Ambedkar wanted the abolishment of caste itself, which then would result in abolishing untouchability and the inhuman discrimination against the Dalits. Gandhi’s proposal to simply deal with the symptom of untouchability and not touch the issue of the caste system was a major mistake and has marred his otherwise great legacy. Perhaps he was influenced by the orthodox upper caste people who surrounded him, telling him that Hinduism as they knew it would not survive the demise of caste, its foundation, steel frame and bonding force.
Fifty years after Independence, caste prejudice and discrimination continue as a persistent disease. Ambedkar was correct in his thinking that caste must be “annihilated” if untouchability is to be genuinely eliminated.
Ambedkar also concluded that conversion was the ultimate solution if Hinduism was not able to reform itself and annihilate caste. He did not see much hope that this cataclysmic reformation would take place.
Again, fifty years later, nothing of the needed reformation has taken place. If anything, with the emergence of the extremist right-wing Hindu movement, caste discrimination and oppression have increased.
The modern-day increase of caste-based oppression is the reason why the Vice President of the world Hindu federation known as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) can say on national television that the life of a cow is more valuable than the lives of five Dalits after five Dalit young people in north India were lynched near New Delhi, when they were found skinning the carcass of a dead cow.
This is why a Shankaracharya (major community leader) said that Dalits should learn to live in the position in which they were born. This leader was more brutal in his statement than was Gandhi who simply said people must be happy and perform to the best of their ability in their given occupation – scavenging, tanning, sweeping, etc.
The movement for emancipation of the depressed classes kept pace with the freedom movement Ghandi led. While Kabir and Phule’s folk teachings influenced the masses, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar made a frontal assault on caste, using the brilliance of his legal training and his access to the political negotiating tables in London and New Delhi in the days preceding the transfer of power from Imperial Britain to Independent India.
Ambedkar was an intellectual giant and India’s great reformer. Born a Dalit in Maharashtra, he had experienced caste’s depravity first-hand. He bitterly disagreed with Mahatma Gandhi’s cosmetic solution to the problem of untouchability.
History has proven Ambedkar right. The Indian Constitution should have banned the caste system along with the problem of untouchability. Trying to remove untouchability without removing the caste system was like dealing with mere symptoms rather than combating the root disease.
Ambedkar Champions Freedom of Conscience for the Oppressed Castes
Ambedkar championed religious freedom for the Dalits, thereby leading hundreds of thousands of Dalits into Buddhism in 1956 at a public ceremony in Nagpur. Still today, Dalit and Backward Castes have seen an exit to egalitarian faiths as a way out of caste-based bondage. Religious freedom and spiritual rights remain a fundamental component of the Dalit struggle for emancipation.
In a counter-move, the upper caste political leaders have devised and passed several anti-conversion laws during the past few decades in the dubious name of “freedom of religion”. These laws have been a deliberate move to keep the Dalit-Bahujans locked in the dehumanizing caste system.
With the rise and the destructive specter of right-wing Hindu fundamentalism and fascism (which advocates a return to a so-called “Hindu India” where the caste structure dominates and rules), Ambedkar’s struggle and thoughts become hugely relevant, not only for the oppressed sections of India, but also for Indian nationalism itself.
During the recent rule of the right-wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the extremist right-wing groups distributed huge quantities of the book the “Manusmriti” which codified and imposed the caste system on the Indian masses. This book was written by the law-giver, Manu, whose statue is installed in the premises of the High Court of Rajasthan. This is the same book which states that if a low caste person hears the word of God, he should have molten lead poured into his ears. Articulating the name of the Lord invites having his tongue cut off. Other infringements of caste laws carry the death penalty. Is it any wonder that the powerful upper castes perpetuate violence against Dalit women, Dalit men, and Dalit children with such impunity?
WHAT IS THE DALIT-BAHUJAN EMANCIPATION STRUGGLE ALL ABOUT?
1. Building a Worldwide Alliance for Dalit Emancipation
It is the process of building a broad-based, pan-Indian alliance of individuals and groups to bring an end to caste discrimination and exploitation. It is a national and global struggle for the human rights of the Dalits and other oppressed sections of our society. The movement seeks to build both a national and global union against the caste system and the ensuing inhuman oppression and discrimination.
The movement works with everyone who is committed to ending the dehumanizing caste system. Caste, creed, nationality and economic standing are no bar in building this alliance for ending India’s silent apartheid of 3,000 years. We believe in a better future for all Indians.
2. Ending Caste Discrimination Around the World
It is the process of building a global alliance to end caste discrimination around the world. Caste discrimination is not limited to India alone. It is rampant in South Asia and extends to wherever the people of the sub-continent live. It is present among Indians living in the United Kingdom, USA, Canada and other places.
The right wing Hindutva movement has now spread across the world with offices in all of the major Western nations including North America, the Caribbean, the UK, and the nations of the European Union. These organizations in the West have financed the violent, caste-based, right-wing Hindu fundamentalist groups in India.
Caste discrimination should be a legitimate item on the UN agenda and on the agenda of global human rights movements and organizations. Without the active collaboration and support of all global entities that believe in the intrinsic dignity of all humans, caste discrimination will not end.
3. Eliminating and Prosecuting Caste-Based Violence
It is a movement seeking to end caste-based violence against people of depressed castes. The constant rape of Dalit women, the burning of Dalit homes and the blatant physical attacks on Dalits is not acceptable. Year after year physical attacks against Dalits are reported and documented, but fewer than 2% ever reach conviction in a court of law. According to one conservative estimate there are over 50,000 major atrocities committed against Dalits every year. We work towards applying the rule of law to those who perpetrate these crimes.
4. Eradicating Bonded Child Labor
It is a movement designed to deliver the vast majority of Dalit children who make up the bonded child labor market in India. Bonded child labor is a crime against humanity. Estimates report that at least 15 million bonded Dalit children work in inhuman conditions for a paltry sum. Most bonded laborers in India are from Dalit and other backward communities.
5. Rejecting Gender-Based Oppression and the Trafficking of Girls
It is a movement seeking to end girl prostitution, trafficking of women in the sex trade, and other violence against women. There is a huge inter-state trafficking of girls in the sex trade. Dalit and other Backward Caste girls from Nepal are bought and sold into the sex trade in the major cities of India.
Sex trade in the sub-continent draws its victims from the Dalits, Tribals and oppressed castes. The targeting of Dalit and Tribal women for these trades is a symptom of the caste system and its view of Dalit/Tribal women in particular and women in general.
The movement is deeply conscious that caste discrimination extends to all women in India and that Dalit women are twice oppressed. We reject this oppression. We are deeply concerned for the hundreds of thousands of minor/teenage Tribal girls who work in affluent homes in the cities and urban areas of India. We are concerned about the abuse they face – sexual and physical.
Caste ideology also places a low value on women. This prejudice and worldview has resulted in the female feticide of tens of millions causing an alarming decline in the female population in many states of India. Unless addressed immediately, Indian society is hurtling towards a major social disaster and increased abuse of women.
6. Standing Against the Deceit of Cultural / Extremist Nationalism
It is a movement that rejects the “cultural nationalism” (a direct acquisition from Nazi nationalism) of the extremist Hindu right. The right-wing groups and their silent subscribers have used the idea of “external” enemies like “minorities” to try and cover up caste discrimination and unite the oppressed castes in violence against Muslims and Christians in the name of “nationalism”. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists are not the enemies of India, nor are they enemies of the Dalits and other oppressed peoples.
In fact, most Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs were Dalits and Backward Caste people who turned to these religions to escape the tyranny of the caste system. True nationalism is not separating India along false divisions in society, but instead, it should be uniting and integrating the peoples of India. True nationalism must see the larger Dalit-Bahujan population delivered from caste oppression and discrimination. Their children, their girls, their women and their men must be delivered from modern day slavery.
7. Deploring Religious Exploitation and Encouraging Authentic Spirituality
It is a movement that deplores the religious exploitation of Dalits and other oppressed groups by any religious entity. It is a movement that categorically rejects Pseudo-Spirituality even as it champions religious freedom for the oppressed masses. On the one hand, Dalits have been enslaved by one religious system that denies them any spiritual rights and privileges – such as rights of spiritual equality, access to the temple priesthood, and access to all temples and all religious rites. On the other hand, other religious systems have offered them a place in a “heaven” of the future while continuing to practice caste discrimination within their religious communities.
The Church in India is also guilty in this regard. Large sections of the Church in India have betrayed the legacy of Jesus, the legacy of Wilberforce, and the legacy of William Carey when it comes to dealing with the issue of the caste system and the ensuing inhuman discrimination within society and the Church. At the same time, Dalit leaders acknowledge their debt to those Christian missionaries who reached out to them in love and accepted them as fellow human beings. The present movement seeks an end to this exploitation and Pseudo-Spirituality. It encourages Dalits and other oppressed peoples to seek true and authentic spirituality – spirituality that truly addresses their spiritual, social, emotional and physical needs.
Dalit-Bahujan ideologues speak of this struggle as one of spiritual democracy versus the spiritual fascism of the caste system.
8. Promoting Full-Life Transformation and Empowerment for the Dalit-Bahujans
The movement is about the economic and social empowerment of the Dalit-Bahujan people through effective economic and educational programs. It aims to build effective micro-enterprise projects along with macro-enterprises.
It also calls for the review of various foreign governmental aid programs which do not reach Dalits. We ask for a proportionate disbursement of all aid money and projects. It also calls for a review of funding coming through NGOs into India and the disbursement of the same among the Dalits and other oppressed sections of society.
We acknowledge the heart wrenching poverty that is prevalent among the Dalit majority coupled with the huge problem of overall illiteracy. We believe economic dignity is a critical part of human dignity and that the oppressed must be freed and empowered to take care of their personal economic needs and prosperity.
It aims to provide Dalit-Bahujan children – the future – access to quality English-medium education to allow them to play their leadership role in an increasingly globalized India.
Thus far, Dalit children (and large sections of the Backward Castes) have had no access to such quality education. English-medium education is the preserve of the moneyed upper caste and middle class elite. This movement rejects the hypocrisy of the elitist castes whose children are educated in English, while the children of the oppressed castes are encouraged to study in the “vernacular” in the name of culture and extremist nationalism.
In addition, we are deeply concerned for the lack of medical care and health problems connected with the Dalit-Bahujan people.
We are disturbed that in the battle against AIDS the Dalit and oppressed caste victims of this disease are once again marginalized in the various programs launched to fight this epidemic. The pattern remains the same whether it is the Dalit victims of the Asian Tsunami of 2004 or the Dalit victims of the Gujarat Earthquake of 2001. Dalits are marginalized even in the midst of catastrophe.
9. Recognizing the Global Security Threat Caused by Caste Discrimination
It is a movement that recognizes the huge security threat that ongoing caste discrimination against the Dalit people and other oppressed sections poses to India and the rest of the world. Disenchanted, bitter and angry young men and women drive the extremist violent Maoist and Naxalite left-wing movements from Nepal to South India. As India increasingly becomes two nations in one – one for whom India is shining, and the other for whom India is in darkness – these violent movements will only increase and will attack not only local governments but also international institutions they deem as collaborators with the elitist castes who oppress the masses.
The movement also recognizes the threat of the oppressed castes exiting into other faiths, legitimizing violence and attacking the ruling castes and their institutions. All in all, these facts produce a depressing outlook for the great nation of India if we do not see the abolishment of caste in this generation and the achievement of authentic Dalit Freedom.
10. Demolishing the Tyranny of Caste Hierarchy
It is a movement that seeks to end the oppression within Dalit and Backward Caste groups due to the notion of a superior/inferior caste hierarchy. It acknowledges that in some places, sections of the liberated Backward Castes oppress and discriminate the Dalits out of a mistaken sense of their “better” identity, or patently at the behest of the upper castes. It also acknowledges that the Dalit groups themselves need to unite to end the tyranny of the caste system and that the small number of liberated and well-to-do Dalits must not forget the plight of their brethren who continue to suffer. Restorative reconciliation between castes is an integral part of the emancipation agenda.
We believe in the truths of human equality, freedom of conscience and equal opportunity for all. We reject all forms of racism, caste discrimination, color prejudice and gender discrimination.
We invite all concerned people everywhere to become part of this struggle for the emancipation of Dalit-Bahujans. Action points have been developed for the above goals of the movement. Remember: our work immediately impacts the 250 million Dalits, as well as the hundreds of millions of other oppressed sections of Indian society.
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October 19, 2005
The Globalization of the Dalit Problem
The cruel caste system has been a huge, never-ending problem for us as Indians. Our inability to eradicate caste completely even after the rise of prophets like Mahatma Phule and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar reveals our own blindness to one of the most dehumanizing systems the world has ever known. There is no point in saying that the Indian Constitution has abolished untouchability because we all know that the law has not taken care of the root system that gave rise to the practice of untouchability. There is no point in saying that we have reservations for the Dalits, because if there were no reservation system, we would have effectively consigned all Dalits to their inhuman existence. We would not then have the few Dalit-Bahujan leaders who have risen to speak out on behalf of their people. To our utter shame, no significant campaign or movement has risen up after India’s independence among the upper caste leadership in the nation, nor overseas, to end the caste system in Indian society.
If we are honest, we must admit that caste prejudice runs very deep in the Indian psyche.
So today, when Dalits agitate for some kind of quota system in the private sector, India’s upper-caste-dominated industrialists shut the door in their faces! Dalit-Bahujan leaders are forced to appeal to the overseas multinational companies to voluntarily provide for affirmative action just as they have provided such benefits for African-Americans and other minorities in their own nations. In order to make their case, the Dalit-Bahujan leaders have no option but to describe their lives as they know it in modern India. Let us be clear about this one thing: Caste is alive and well on planet India. Let us have the honesty and courage to deal with this problem and avoid the spin of the last several decades which says there is no caste system, nor the ensuing discrimination that has resulted in our cities, villages and towns.
Politics has not delivered on the issues of Dalit discrimination or the abolishment of caste, Dr. Ambedkar’s main dream and desire. What is required is the development of a national and global social conscience on the issue of caste discrimination and its atrocities. This new social conscience must be both national and global because the caste problem is not only limited to India. It is present in all South Asian nations and in other parts of the world where Indians congregate. The case of the foreign-based Indian woman who had her daughter and son-in-law murdered because of their inter-caste marriage is well known. The rise of the extremist Hindutva movement also has meant the rise of the caste-based structure in society. How can we ignore the blatant distribution of the Manusmriti by the Sangh Parivar elements in Western India when their government was in power? The Sangh Parivar has not been shy of spreading this divisive and soul-destroying ideology even in the West and especially in America. When after the lynching of the five Dalits in Jhajjar, Haryana, the Vice President of the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad – the world Hindu federation) can say that the life of the cow is more precious than the life of the Dalit we are brought face to face with colossal social blindness.
This social blindness can be cured only when there is the realization that all men and women are created equal and have equal intrinsic value and worth. True change can come only when everyone knows and agrees that Dalits and upper caste alike they are equally created in God’s likeness and there is no such thing as a God-given hierarchy of human beings.
There is now a growing national and global alliance of people – irrespective of caste, creed and religion – who believe that both the caste system and its consequences – the practice of untouchability and discrimination – must be abolished. It is this alliance which must educate, inform, campaign and be engaged in activism resulting in the growth and development of the social conscience which will revolt against any caste-based discrimination or prejudice. It is this conscience that will eventually abolish the caste system and that will realize India’s greatness and true potential – the potential of its huge and utterly deprived masses.
Nevertheless, this is going to be a long, difficult struggle and campaign. Those who have profited economically and politically from the caste system will not yield easily. As we have noticed recently in the Gohana episode where 50 Dalit houses were burned, these forces will attack any assertion of Dalit rights.
The vast majority of our own people do not know the meaning of “India Shining” – a slogan of the upper-caste-dominated Indian elite. India does not shine for the masses – not simply because they are poor, but because of the social system that denies them equal opportunities, empowerment, capital and freedom. Globalization has resulted in “India Shining” for the privileged minority, but now let globalization also result in “India Shining” for the majority Dalits and other oppressed castes/tribes.
October 05, 2005
Towards Building a Pan-Indian and Global Coalition for Dalit Emancipation
A 3,000 year old system of caste discrimination is only going to be abolished as we continue to build a pan-Indian coalition of men and women totally committed to Dalit emancipation and the abolishment of caste. We must learn from the abolishment of slavery in the USA and UK and the dismantling of the apartheid system in South Africa. The goal of the Dalit Freedom Network is to see the abolishment of caste in our generation and to build the necessary pan-Indian and global coalition to make this happen. In the achievement of this goal we will draw upon committed people from all sections of society in India and overseas -- caste, creed and nationality is no bar if we want to become part of this emancipation movement.
We are sick of every atrocity against the Dalits and other marginalized groups in India -- be it social, economic, physical and spiritual.
The leadership of this movement will continue to reflect the pan-Indian and global nature of this coalition. We believe that this coming together of all likeminded men and women from all walks of life is crucial at this time. Brahminism, which has divided us in the past, continues to divide us in the present and will like to see us divided in the future. They know that we will never be able to end Dalit discrimination and abolish caste if we are divided.
Already the Dalit Freedom Movement is becoming a grass-roots movement in India and other parts of the world. But a huge amount still needs to be done. We welcome you to the movement. We have been involved in lots of work in India and abroad and the conference in Washington is another small step in a much larger struggle for freedom.