Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 20.06.15
Vanniyar, Dalit Groups Clash Over Teasing- The New Indian Express
RAPE BID ON DALIT WOMAN: 1 HELD IN K’PADA- The Pioneer
Tension prevails in parts of Madurai district after miscreants damage Ambedkar statue- The Times Of India
Racial and caste oppression have many similarities- The Conversation
Dakota County residents raise money for Dalit girls’ education in India- Star Tribune
WOMEN SHOULD GET PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN POLITICS- The Pioneer
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The New Indian Express
Vanniyar, Dalit Groups Clash Over Teasing
NAMAKKAL: Tension gripped Kalipatti, a village near Mallasamudram in the district, on Friday following a clash Vanniyars and Dalits. The clash was sequel to a fight between two groups of youth over teasing of Dalit schoolgirls on Thursday
A minor scuffle broke out after relatives of the Dalit girls confronted the youth. On Friday morning, when they accompanied the girls up to the bus stop at Kalipatti, the other group picked up a quarrel which later snowballed into a clash between Vanniyars and Dalits in which two persons were injured.
Demanding stern action against the Vanniar youth, Dalits along with school children blocked Tiruchengode-Salem highway disrupting traffic for about an hour. However, they withdrew the stir after police assured them of proper action. Later, they picketed the Mallasamudram police station.
Sources informed that the police have booked cases against both the group based on their complaints.
Tight security has been posted in the village to avoid any untoward incident.
RAPE BID ON DALIT WOMAN: 1 HELD IN K’PADA
The Pattamundai police on Wednesday arrested one Kalia alias Pravat Jena (23) of Baktarpur village for his involvement in attempting to rape a Dalit woman on June 15.
According to police sources, one Snehalata Mallick, wife of Ramakanta Mallick of Adhajori village under Pattamundai police limits, was coming on the Adhajori road after defecating in a nearby field. She was forcibly taken into an agriculture field by Kalia and his friend Sachidananda Giri who were moving on a bike on the road. Later, Kalia made an attempt to rape her forcibly. The woman managed to rescue her from their clutches. Later, on June 16, she lodged an FIR at Pattamundai police station. Kalia was arrested on Wednesday and produced before the JMFC Court. He was remanded in jail custody after his bail plea was rejected. A haunt is on to nab the other accused, said police.
The Times Of India
Tension prevails in parts of Madurai district after miscreants damage Ambedkar statue
MADURAI: Tension prevailed in parts of Madurai district after miscreants caused a minor damage to a Dr B R Ambedkar statue at Avaniyapuram.
Police said miscreants damaged one of the index fingers of the statue. There was a small damage on the specs on the statue. Banners and flags placed by dalit outfits near the statue were also damaged.
When the news spread, members of various dalit outfits staged a road blockade at Avaniyapuram, Tirumangalam and a few other places.
A large number of police personnel were deployed at Avaniyapuram to avert any untoward incident.
Racial and caste oppression have many similarities
Comparisons can be risky, but not impossible.
Consider for a moment India’s Dalits, or “untouchables,” and African Americans.
Racial inequality in America has its parallel in caste inequality in India even though by definition, race and caste are not the same thing. The story of one struggle for social justice can illuminate the pitfalls and prospects of success of another.
As a researcher in applied ethics, human rights and global development studies, I am leading an ongoing research effort that will compare and contrast the nature of exclusion and marginalization faced by African Americans and Dalit Indians in their respective historical and contemporary contexts.
The Dalit story
Although the Indian constitution bans discrimination on the basis of caste, the social, religious and cultural practice of “untouchability” continues unabated.
Formerly known as “untouchables,” Dalits are excluded from social and public spaces, prevented from drawing water from public facilities and segregated in schools.
Since the caste system was formed over 2,000 years ago, a noticeable percentage of the 200 million “Dalits” have been thrust into the lowest occupations of society, such as scavengers and sanitation cleaners, with little upward mobility.
While there has been some progress since India’s independence from the British Empire, the pace of economic growth in mitigating social inequality has been uneven.
So, in an Indian nation that is rapidly modernizing and urbanizing, opportunities for the Dalits still remain limited. The degradation and the health risks of performing menial tasks are substantial.
Furthermore, with the rise of Hindu fundamentalism in national politics, the continuous expansion of liberty and equality of opportunity is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Discrimination, exclusion, privilege
One can draw parallels in different systems of oppression.
Despite 50 years having passed since the Civil Rights movement, the condition of the majority of poor, urban African Americans is dire, and chances for survival are diminishing over time while the prison pipeline is increasing.
Let’s look at how both caste and racial discrimination perpetuate hierarchy, privilege, discrimination, marginalization and exclusion.
Several African American economists in the US have looked at structural and institutional forms of racial exclusion in terms of wealth and poverty. They have also opened a dialogue with economists in South Asia, where exclusion and inequality relate to caste.
Although some progress was made in the 20th century that allowed greater inclusivity and equity – particularly in higher education – many issues remain despite constitutional bans on caste discrimination.
In America, cultural and political segregation of the public space continues to occur despite anti-segregation laws.
For example, there are concerns among some Supreme Court justices that redistricting of voting districts can lead to further racial inequality.
In India, Dalits in rural villages are forbidden near Hindu temples or disallowed with their shoes on in higher-caste neighborhoods. Mob violence is committed against them with impunity, and a disproportionate number of rapes are committed against Dalit women.
In comparison, post-Civil War white mob violence against blacks has morphed into what one could describe as the state-condoned violence of homicides of African Americans by police today. As of June, out of 467 Americans nationwide who had been killed by cops since the beginning of 2015, 136 were African American.
How race and caste work
Looking at exclusion in America forces us to grapple with issues of violence against African Americans, racial inequality and racial injustice at a time that is often deemed “post-racial,” namely, five decades after the Civil Rights movement.
We see a similar pattern in India, wherein the Dalits are asked to believe that the Indian constitution bans discrimination, even though it does not abolish the caste system itself.
It is after the successes of the African American Civil Rights movement that we have witnessed the birth of the school-to-prison pipeline, state violence against a disproportionate number of African American men in police killings, and the turning back of affirmative action at public universities in some states’ constitutional amendments, such as Michigan.
Meanwhile, with right wing conservative political power in India, caste discrimination is intensifying.
For example, Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims are not eligible for reservations, or what we in the US would call affirmative action benefits at universities, because technically “untouchability” exists only in Hinduism, when in social reality it occurs across religions in India.
Historically, both race and caste have been used to divide society in many ways to the unfair advantage of certain groups over others. Again, there are similarities in the construction of how people have been forced into these categories.
Here in America, people are born into a “race,” and America uses race as a defining demographic category in its census. Biological race by nature, for now, is inescapable, even though some would say that “race” is an artificial category that is socially constructed.
Dalits, too, are born into a caste, which is unalterable, as they are told, and it is due to the sins of a previous life that they are paying the price in their current life. Hinduism believes in the transmigration of the soul, in which the soul enters a new body after death. The caste that one enters into depends upon the actions of a previous life.
The two democracies should learn from each other
So how can the US and India learn from each other in order to solve some of the most pressing problems for the world’s two largest democracies, both of which consider themselves secular and free?
If nations can cooperate on trade and development, there is no reason that they cannot participate in a global dialogue on minority rights through the lens of their religious, cultural and social heritages.
They must learn to come to grips with the fact that the mere assertion of a democratic society does not necessarily translate in to a free and equal one.
Modern democratic superpowers with sizable national wealth, such as the US and India, also have a dark side, involving what some would consider gross human rights violations.
My work will set out to explore how different democracies can promote tolerance, inclusion and pluralism while combating various forms of discrimination and exclusion based on race and caste.
The question will be how to evaluate the claim that both societies make, as the two largest, most “peaceful and successful” democracies in the world.
Dakota County residents raise money for Dalit girls’ education in India
The annual event in Eagan raises thousands of dollars for Dalit girls’ education.
After years of working as electrical engineers in Bloomington, Sandhya Gupta and Sarit Sharma moved back to their native India to work on social justice issues.
There, they’ve embraced the Dalit community, or people sometimes called “untouchables” in India’s ancient caste system. And the duo has been getting financial help from friends in Minnesota for an organization that helps Dalit girls get an education and focus on a brighter future.
“In this community, kids don’t go to school,” Gupta said. “They have never gotten access to education, and because they have been the lowest in the caste system, they don’t even think that it’s their fundamental right.”
A group of Dakota County residents has spent years working with Gupta and Sharma to raise money for Nari Gunjan, an organization that educates Dalit girls in Gupta’s native state of Bihar, India. On July 14, they will put on their 8th annual fundraiser dinner at Eagan’s Indian Zayka restaurant.
The idea for the fundraiser emerged during a conversation between Gupta and Dick Graham, of Hastings, the retired founder and president of DARTS, a Dakota County nonprofit. Gupta was the first recipient of a fellowship in Graham’s name at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Graham heard about her efforts and offered to host a fundraiser at his home. Gupta cooked a meal for about 30 people, and they made a few thousand dollars. The next year, about 70 people attended a similar back yard event and they collected more money.
Then the event moved to Zayka, an Indian restaurant in Eagan. The dinner now raises $15,000-$18,000 each year for Nari Gunjan.
Bill Spinelli, a Hastings physician, said learning about how the Dalit are treated caused him to join the fundraiser committee.
“If they are in the room at all, they would be on the floor,” he said. “And if they are in a house or building that is a high caste person, it is entirely possible, as they left, that the whole place would be scrubbed and cleaned … It was really powerful to me to realize we treat humans that way.”
Though caste discrimination is illegal, Gupta said it remains prevalent. Early efforts with Nari Gunjan involved enrolling Dalit students in private schools. But she said that often prompted other parents to withdraw their children from the schools.
Now the Dalit girls attend government school for half the day and afternoon classes at Nari Gunjan. Gupta and Sharma lead special science and math camps with students and teachers. The girls take life skills classes and do community outreach. They also learn karate for self-protection and to increase confidence, and some have become so skilled they now compete internationally.
Education and optimism
The annual fundraising effort has inspired Minnesotans to visit Nari Gunjan.
Dakota County District Court Judge Karen Asphaug, who had attended the fundraiser for four years, said she jumped at the chance to visit the site with a group in March. She said she admires Nari Gunjan’s founder, Sister Sudha Varghese, and compared her to Mother Teresa.
“This school she has founded is truly a place apart,” Asphaug said. “These are girls who when they come in the school would never be bold enough to look someone in the eye. They are underweight. They are illiterate.”
Some of the girls, about 250, live in hostels on site.
“They live in a place that is peaceful and optimistic and full of laughter,” Asphaug said. “These children are in extraordinary need. They blossom. They absolutely blossom under her guidance, resolve and nurturance.”
The Bloomington Rotary Club, and district and international Rotary organizations, have also helped fund the project. The Bloomington Rotary matches some of the money raised during each dinner.
Bloomington Rotarian Don Stiles also visited Nari Gunjan, where he said girls talked about becoming doctors, policewomen and teachers.
“They spoke about completing their education and getting married after 18 instead of at 12,” he said.
Gupta said they hope the girls learn independence and appreciation of education.
“We want them to start dreaming,” she said. “It’s a luxury many of them don’t have.”
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.
WOMEN SHOULD GET PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN POLITICS
Saturday, 20 June 2015 | MANAS JENA | in Bhubaneswar
The makers of modern India recognize gender-based discrimination and patriarchy in our social life and affirm to ensure gender justice through various provisions in the Constitution such as prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
After 65 years of independence, still women’s participation in socio-political and socio-economic sphere remains a distance dream. For a number of reasons, gender-based violence in public and private sphere has been increasing and it is a matter of grave concern for all of us as a national issue. The participation of women in executive and judiciary remains under represented but the participation of women in governance is very vital to address the concerns of women through policy and legislations. The voice of women is almost muted with insignificant presence in Parliament and State Assemblies of our county. The women should have proportional representation in politics and especially in Parliament and State Assemblies. In a representative democracy, people from all segments should be proportionately represented. The 16th Lok Sabha with 543 MPs has only 12 per cent of women members which is the highest number in the history of Parliament. The Rajya Sabha also has the same percentage of women member. The national average of women representation across all the State Assemblies in India is only 9 per cent. Even there are States and union territories without women member in their Legislative Assembly and several States have no women Minister. The inter Parliamentary union ranked India at 105th position out of 190 countries having women representation in Parliament. Even, India is below global average of 22 per cent as on May 2015.
Women constitute only 22 per cent of the members of Parliament around the world as reported by inter parliamentarian union. India is behind countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh in terms of women representation in Parliament. Globally, the change process of women representation has been very slow which will take a long time in achieving equal representation if some major State intervention will not take place.
There are countries like Rwanda and Bolivia which have more than 50 per cent of women representation and about ten countries, such as France, Sweden, Nederland, Norway, South Africa, Cuba, Finland and Egypt have more than 40 per cent of women in parliament. Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians having 63.8 per cent of the seats in the Lower House. It is because many of these countries have provided reservation to women and many political parties in Europe have voluntarily made provision of women representation in political sphere in a number of ways including party leadership and representation in governance. The countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have made provision of reservation for women in national parliament. As a result, these counties have more than 20 per cent women representation. It is also observed that countries with Proportional Representation (PR) as electoral system, women hold better representation, almost more than one fourth of the seats, and also shows an increase in representation of women because of the importance of party in the electoral system.
Political scholars give emphasis on electoral system to increase women representation. The countries with First Past The Post (FPTP) system such as India have shown under representation of women where electoral system is being recognized as one of the factors that restricts proportional women representation.
The ten countries such as Sweden ,Denmark , Finland ,South Africa , Norway , Germany ,New Zealand ,Nederland and Mozambique with the highest percentage of women in parliament have PR electoral system.
Worldwide it is understood that women reservation is not discrimination against men rather it is a positive intervention and means towards achieving equality. About 85 countries in the world have gender-based quota system to ensure women representation in governance. The status of women representation in BRICS countries is also very discouraging with exception of South Africa and Asia below America and Europe in terms of women representation.
India being a country of diversity with unequal social structure and continued discrimination based on caste and gender the issues of women representation need to be addressed in the governance. The caste discriminated communities such as SCs and STs have been protected under provisions of reservation in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
Similarly, there should be reservation for women and within women reservation to ensure social diversity , representation of women of marginalized communities such as SC, ST, OBC and minority should be inbuilt by inclusion of women of such social groups. Because it is a fact that women of marginalized groups suffer the triple
discrimination based on caste, class and gender, still they are struggling for survival against all kinds of inequalities being practiced by dominant social groups. Take the example of Odisha where SCs ,STs,OBCs and minority constitute a majority of the population, but the women of these social groups are not visible in policy making and legislative bodies .There are women of most backward tribal groups in interior parts who are even not able to come to a minimum level of participation .The literacy rate of Bonda women is 2 per cent only and they suffer all forms of exploitation and discrimination in everyday life.
So how to ensure the representation of such primitive tribal communities who are suffering with extreme poverty and illiteracy and continued internal colonization of dominant caste and class of people. The women of such marginalized groups are not part of the policy decisions about their life and livelihood. The under representation of women in governance is one of the major reasons of growing violence against women and many cases of atrocities, domestic violence, rape ,murder and physical assault, exploitation of labour ,denial of wage and sexual harassment at workplace are not getting registered by policy and not even reported by local media and discussed in our Parliament and Assemblies . The Odisha Legislative Assembly has only 11 women members which is just 7 per cent of the total members. Out of the 11, five are SCs and STs because of reservation for SCs and STs. Since inception of State Assembly in 1936 only 66 women have entered the Assembly, 12 to Rajya Sabha and seven to Lok Sabaha from the State.
Women of Odisha, especially the marginalized groups, are almost invisible in matter of public affairs.
The reproductive role of women, responsibility for family and children, conservative religion and cultural practices, gender and caste-based discrimination, poor economic status, dependency on male and above all, the attitude of male-dominated upper class and caste political parties are the major challenges before women representation.
The convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) speaks about the principles of equal opportunities in public life which has been rectified by 163 nations .The UN Beijing platform for action aims for 50:50 gender balance in all areas of society and advocating for full participation of women on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in decision making process and access to power which are fundamental towards achievement of equality, development and peace.
The Panchyatraj institutions in the country are proportionately represented by women because of women reservation by 73rd amendment to the Constitution in 1992 reserving 33 per cent of seats in Panchyatraj institutions for women. It has impacted well over the local self governance. Rural women including women of SC, ST and OBC have been participating in large number in the local governance. It is unfortunate that the Women Reservation Bill introduced in Parliament in 1996 for 33 per cent reservation has not yet been passed in spite of support by major ruling parties. It is expected that the BJP- led NDA will make it possible in the near future to make history of women representation in governance. There is also a need to amend
The Representation of the Peoples Act 1951 to bring the PR electoral system in place of present FPTP electoral system in practice. Therefore, it is being agreed by many political parties that India should adopt PR system along with women reservation to ensure proportional representation of women in Parliament and State Assemblies towards building inclusive democracy.
(The writer is a researcher and rights activist, who can be mailed firstname.lastname@example.org)
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