Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 23.06.15
Dalit Brothers Who Cracked IIT Face Stone-Pelting Back In Their Village- The Huffington Post
Security provided to UP dalit brothers who cracked IIT after attack- India TV
Teacher’s dumb act ends Dalit girl’s education- The Hindu
Dalit groups stage protest- The Hindu
Woman seeks probe into son’s mysterious death- The Hindu
Assault on Ambedkar’s grandson resented- The Hindu
From ‘killing’ to dream fields- Statesman
Fighting for Dignity- Business Line
Special courts for SC, ST cases in districts soon- The Hindu
“File case under SC/ST Act against Inspector”- The Hindu
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The Untouchables – India
The Huffington Post
Dalit Brothers Who Cracked IIT Face Stone-Pelting Back In Their Village
Despite cracking what is deemed one of the toughest exams in the world, or perhaps because of it, two brothers from Uttar Pradesh are battling casteist stigma in their village. Raju and Brijesh Saroj, sons of a daily wage worker Dharamraj, are among the top 500 scorers in the competitive entrance examination for the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). Even though top political leaders have pledged financial support to these teenagers, they returned to their village in Rehua Lalganj, Pratapgarh, only to have stones pelted at them.
“There were five or six stones thrown at our home. We informed the police,” Raju toldThe Times of India.
This isn’t the first time the brothers (and their family) have been mistreated by the villagers. From their drainage supply being cut off to reducing their access to the public bathroom, the family has faced plenty of stigma and harassment.
Dalit families like theirs have faced centuries of discrimination and violence due to India’s rigid caste system.
“We’ve been tormented for years as all of us have struggled against poverty and stigma to achieve what we are today,” said Munna Saroj, the boys’ uncle.
The two brothers — aged 18 and 19 years — have studied hard and performed well right from childhood.
Their commitment to studies has even got them into trouble in the past. In 2005, Brijesh, then 10 years old, got a sound beating from his teacher for questioning the teacher’s Sanksrit translation.
Both the brothers scored over 95 percent in their class 10 board exams, and were admitted to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya at Pratapgarh on a scholarship. Now the elder brother, Brijesh, wants to study electrical engineering and go on to join the civil services while Raju wants to do an MBA and earn money.
Brijesh’s noble intentions stem from his conviction that a district magistrate can “do a lot” for people, while Raju wants to support his family. “We’ve been brought up in extremely adverse conditions. Our family of seven lives in two small rooms that has two CFL bulbs,” he said.
The Saroj brothers sat for the IIT entrance test along with 13 lakh students earlier in April this year.
Following a report that the brothers were unable to pay their admission fee, several people have come forward in support. While Congress MP Pramod Tiwari and his MLA daughter Aradhana Mishra, whose home constituency the two brothers live in,announced they will give up their salaries for one month each to pay for the brothers’ admission fee, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi also called the two brothers assuring them of the party’s support.
UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav too has promised to pay Rs 1 lakh to the brothers and gift them laptops.
Meanwhile India-based social service organisation Sulabh International has pledged to support the brothers’ education costs. Interestingly, so has comedian Papa CJ, who made this announcement on Facebook:, “I have spoken to boys’ brother & confirmed I will pay admission fees for both of them.”
Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani has said that the brothers’ admission fees will be waived and they would be eligible for scholarship for all other education costs.
Security provided to UP dalit brothers who cracked IIT after attack
Allahabad: The family of dalit brothers Brijesh Saroj and Raju Saroj, who qualified for prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) exam, have been provided police protection after unknown persons attacked their home with stones on Sunday night.
The two had just returned home after being felicitated by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, when their house in Rehua Lalganj village of Pratapgarh district was attacked.
Fearing for their lives, Pratapgarh district magistrate Amit Tripathi rushed SDM Lalgunj YP Singh and half a dozen policemen to guard the family.
Their father, Dharamraj, said that the family tolerated discriminatory acts for years but the boys concentrated on studies. He said that some people are envious of the boys that are why they are attacking them.
The two brothers have been widely applauded for making it to the coveted IITs despite belonging from a poor family. Leaders across all party lines have come in support of the family.
Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani announced a few days ago that the registration fees of the brothers will be waved.
“Informed family that registration fees will be waived off and will be eligible for scholarships that cover tuition, mess and other charges,” Irani posted on Twitter, replying to a tweet that urged the government to help the boys.
Before that, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also had offered them help and directed local party leaders to arrange the admission fees.
Both of them secured under-500 rank in JEE-Advance exam with Raju securing 167th and Brijesh 410th.
Teacher’s dumb act ends Dalit girl’s education
Children drop out of school for various reasons. For 15-year-old A. Muthulakshmi, a Dalit girl suffering from partial hearing loss, a malfunctioning hearing aid effectively ended her schooling.
The teenager, hailing from a poor family in Peravoor, was in tears at the Collectorate here on Monday as she could not pursue her education after her teacher asked her to leave the school for the simple reason that she could not hear properly in the classroom. As her education came to an abrupt end, Muthulakshmi visited the Collectorate with her parents to request Collector K. Nanthakumar to provide her a sewing machine to supplement family income. However, officials turned her away saying she was still a child.
Muthulakshmi was a normal child till the age of 11 when she suffered partial hearing loss. She was studying at Peravoorani Government High School and continued her studies with the help of hearing aid.
In 2014-15, when she was in Class X, water seeped into her hearing aid and stopped working. Her class teacher pulled her up for not being attentive and sharp like other students. When she explained her difficulty, the teacher, instead of helping her to buy a new hearing aid, asked her to leave the school.
“I cried before the teacher asking her not to send me out of school. But, she stood firm and I was soon given a transfer certificate,” Muthulakshmi told reporters. Her father K. Azhagan, a sanitary worker at the Peravoor Panchayat Union, said that he had also pleaded with the teacher to allow his daughter complete at least Class X, but in vain.
With no other option, Muthulakshmi joined ‘Sigaram Vattara Kalainjiam’ and underwent a three-month cutting and stitching course in tailoring. “I am scared of being humiliated,” said Muthulakshmi when asked whether she would go back to school if she gets a new hearing aid.
Dalit girl had to leave school as her hearing aid started failing
Dalit groups stage protest
Traffic movement on the busy Srirangapatana-Bidar State Highway was disrupted for more than an hour near Devapur Cross in Surpur taluk of Yadgir district on Monday.
Hundreds of people, from various parts of the district, staged a protest and blocked the road demanding action against fake caste certificate holders immediately.
The protesters, who came together under the banner of Maharishi Valmiki Sangha and Dalita Sanghatanegala Samanvaya Samiti, alleged that many people who do not originally belong to the Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe community in Bidar, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Koppal and Raichur district, have obtained fake SC and ST caste certificates from the authorities.
Government officials are involved in this illegal act, they said.
Woman seeks probe into son’s mysterious death
Says false complaint filed by some who demanded money
A deserted woman from Uganthanpatti near here submitted a petition to Collector M. Karunakaran on Monday, seeking a comprehensive probe into the mysterious death of his son.
In her petition submitted to the Collector during the weekly grievance day meeting, K. Mariammal said her son K. Poovarasan (19), a diploma-holder, went to meet his friend Muthu from the same area around 10 p.m. on June 16 after the latter asked him to come to his place to consume liquor. As Poovarasan failed to return home even after midnight, Ms. Mariammal went to Muthu’s house, which remained locked.
“Even as I was searching for my son as his mobile phone remained switched off, three persons from my village, including a retired sub-inspector of police, came to my house on June 18. They demanded Rs. 2 lakh for not filing a police complaint against my son who, they said, attempted to rape a woman from the village. When I refused, one Parvathi filed a complaint with the police, who were also searching for my son,” she said.
Against this backdrop, the body of Poovarasan was recovered from an isolated place near Madhavakurichi.
“Since I refused to pay the money, the trio murdered my son. The Collector should order a comprehensive probe into the death of my son,” Ms. Mariammal said.
Action against teacher
A group of people from Ramanathapuram submitted a petition to the Collector seeking action against a woman teacher of a government-aided middle school for allegedly referring to the name of the caste of Dalit children.
Physically-challenged youths Suresh Kumar of Keezhapattam and K. Esakkiappan of Moortheswaram submitted a petition to Dr. Karunakaran seeking his intervention for the early disbursal of customised bikes.
“Though we have been submitting petitions for the customised bikes for the past four years, we have not got any positive reply from the officials,” they alleged.
Hindu Makkal Katchi cadres submitted a petition to the Collector seeking declaration of ‘local holiday’ for the district in view of Sri Nellaiyappar Temple’s Aani car festival scheduled for June 30.
Assault on Ambedkar’s grandson resented
Activists of Dalit Sangharsha Samiti staged a protest outside Deputy Commissioner’s office condemning reported assault on Anandaraj Ambedkar, grandson of B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra recently.
The functionaries came in a procession from Nachiketa Nilaya and conducted a sit-in protest outside the DC office.
“If this is the fate of the grandson of architect of the Constitution and Republican Sena Party president, what would be the condition of common Dalits in the country?”, the protesters asked.
They charged the private education mafia in Maharashtra for the assault on Anandaraj. He was attacked when he went to protest collection of donation from Dalit students by a private college.
“Supporters of a local Shivasena MLA also took part in the assault along with the college management members”, they alleged.
The protesters urged the authorities to arrest the culprits and conduct a thorough probe in to the incident.
DSS district convener Rajkumar, general secretary Ravishankar participated.
From ‘killing’ to dream fields
t was not very long ago when the stench of gunpowder would fill one’s nose in the Magadh division, a southern region comprising five districts once known as the “killing fields” of Bihar. This particular region reported not less than 150 massacres in between 1992 and 2004, the worst being the December 1998 Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre in Jehanabad district where at least 58 Dalit villagers were gunned down in cold blood by the armed squad of the dreaded Ranvir Sena, a private militia of the upper caste landlords.
How to survive the bullets thus remained the prime concern of the villagers then as bloody clashes between Maoists and the Ranvir Sena were very common. Wailings of villagers were routine phenomenon and the police looked busier in carrying bodies of the victims for post mortem houses. Peace and tranquility eluded just everywhere. A decade on, once Bihar’s “killing fields” have turned into a fertile ground of IITians, thanks to the “Magadh Super 30” coming to the aid of the poor talented children and transforming their lives without charging anything.
In the past seven years since this free coaching institute was launched in Gaya in 2008, it has helped around 30 students cracking the Indian Institute of Technology test. What has worked wonders is that success stories of the poor unprivileged children has inspired scores of youths in the neighbourhood toadopt education. This year as well, six students from this area qualified for the IIT. Of them, the case of Sonu Kumar Gupta who got the all-India rank of 1393 in the IIT stands as an inspiring story.
The boy from Pakri-Guria village under Maoist-infested Imamaganj block in Gaya district grew up amid the sounds of bombings and firing of guns as the encounters between the Maoist rebels and security forces were common in that part of the state. Meanwhile, the Magadh Super-30 secretary Pankaj Kumar Sinha said it gave him a lot of pleasures to fill colours in the lives of the unprivileged children. “We don’t charge anything from students in lieu of admitting them to our institute. This is literally free of cost,” said Mr Sinha adding he had the satisfaction to say that he had provided a platform to the unprivileged.
Fighting for Dignity
More than two decades after manual scavenging was banned in India, a combination of grassroots movement, legislation and corporate help is finally bringing back the pride of a discriminated community, writes Preeti Mehra
Life has changed for Sevanti Fatrod. Not long ago, Fatrod had got married and shifted to her in-laws’ village in the Bhawrasa Nagar Palika in Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. Every morning armed with a basket and scrapping tools, Fatrod would move from house to house to pick up excreta from the dry latrines in her family’s jagir, the residences of the well-to-do higher castes. Later in the day she would follow the same route collecting leftover food from the households. The drudgery became even more inhuman during the rains when the content from the basket would trickle down her body causing infections and diseases.
Coming from the Balmiki manual scavenging community in the Hindu caste system, Fatrod and her family members also picked up carcasses of dead animals, beat drums to announce a death in the village, collected clothes of the deceased from cremation ground, cleaned drains, safety tanks and even worse, faced oppression and the scourge of untouchability.
Though leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, BR Ambedkar and Ram Manohar Lohia raised their voice against this inhuman practice, it was as late as in 1993 that manual scavenging was legally banned in the country. A number of big ticket schemes were introduced for the rehabilitation of scavengers and to bring them into the mainstream. But there was little effect. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights made a statement against the practice at its convention in Geneva in 2002. In 2007, a self-employment scheme for rehabilitation was introduced. But on the ground there was little change. Caste designated labour continued unabated and was even institutionalised by the state-owned Indian Railways.
Cut to today. Fatrod is the head of Garima Silai Kendra (stitching centre) in Dewas. Run by a women self-help group, here a dozen sewing machines sing. “We have formed Jagrati, a self-help group of both the Balmiki and Charamkar community. From the new skill we will earn for our children,” says Fatrod. The 45-year-old has come a long way since she used to move from house to house with a basket in hand. She is one of the community leaders thrown up by the movement to rehabilitate scavengers.
How did the change happen? It happened thanks to a combination of grassroots movement, legislation and corporate help.
It was in 2009 that a movement for change began to bubble from the grassroots all across northern and western India. Till then the change was restricted to Dewas. A young activist Ashif Shaikh from Dewas was appalled by the discrimination and in 2000 started Jan Sahas. He brought together scavengers, youth and friends to start Garima Abhiyan and the Maila Mukti Gatbandhan. The two movements advocated that manual scavengers should stop the practice and liberate themselves from caste-based oppression.
Surveys undertaken by them estimated that there were nearly 3.5 lakh scavengers across the country. The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis had put the number of dry latrines at 54 lakh in urban and 24 lakh in the rural areas. Ninety-eight per cent of the scavengers were women but government schemes ignored this fact. Schemes offered financial help to buy a vehicle and train the scavenger to be a driver. But in a village environment, this was of no use to women.
Understanding these factors, Shaikh and his associates would visit the homes of manual scavengers in the Hindu and Muslim communities. “At first we kept resisting, arguing that we needed the job to fill our stomachs,” recalls Fatrod. “But then we saw our children being ostracised. They were jeered at, made to sit right at the back of the classroom and even sweep the school. The teacher would touch their copy books with a stick. We realised this indeed was slavery and we decided that we will go hungry but we will not continue the task of manual scavenging.”
As the issue began to agitate, around 2004, 26 women and a man in Dewas came together and burned their scavenging baskets, never to pick them up again. It was a historic gesture. “We had made up our minds, but what came later was not easy to handle,” says Fatrod. “The higher castes were furious. We not only faced a social boycott but didn’t have either a job or money. We had never done any other work and had to run from pillar to post to get hired as manual labour.”
Desperate need for an alternative
It was then that rehabilitation became imperative. In 2002, Jan Sahas, along with State and national rights organisations had formed the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan (National Campaign for Dignity and Eradication of Manual Scavenging). Now through the campaign, it intensified efforts at lobbying and forcing change.
Most effective was the “Knocking the Door” campaign that saw liberated scavengers visiting the houses of 65 Parliamentarians, explaining the issue and talking about their lives. “When they met the scavengers in flesh and blood and listened to their tales, many of the Parliamentarians were moved and resolved to take up the matter on the floor of the House,” says Shaikh.
In September 2013, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 was passed by both the Houses of the Parliament. Apart from financial assistance, it promised that one adult member from every manual scavenger family will be trained in a livelihood skill with a monthly stipend. Later a subsidy and concessional loan would be given to the person for an alternative occupation.
Since the passing of the Bill, several agencies, including those of the UN, the private sector, government and civil society, have been on the job of rehabilitation. But hurdles still remain. Untouchability is one.
When a manual scavenger was given a loan to start a kirana shop in her village, the only people who patronised it were from her own caste. The shop was shunned by the others. In the same way, when another woman turned into a vegetable vendor, no one would buy from her and she had to shift base to another village. “We then started to send our children on the bicycle to other villages so that their caste would not be detected,” recalls 40-year-old Tasleema Bee from Ujjain. She belongs to the Muslim Hela community that changed its religion years ago to escape caste oppression, but found that the stigma continued. Tasleema says that even liberation did not help. When scavengers looked for employment, they were again offered only cleaning and other related jobs by Gram Panchayats and city corporations.
Picking up new threads
But thanks to the concerted efforts of the Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan, the Governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are now in different stages of liberation and rehabilitation.
Madhya Pradesh leads the way with more and more scavengers discarding the basket and embracing the pilot projects. Enterprises making garments, agarbatti (incense sticks) and masala as also fisheries are forging ahead to make the difference.
Dewas in Madhya Pradesh is where the rehabilitation is being done with a concerted effort. It’s around 44 degrees Celsius outside and the fan in the small room rotates at a slow pace. The heat, however, does not seem to deter the 12 women who are working on their sewing machines. Each is stitching a ladieskurta.
The tiny room in a decrepit gulley is the Dignity Garment Production Unit at Bhawrasa, part of a pilot project that provides economic security to scavengers.
“We are happy doing this and learning something we can depend upon for our livelihood,” says 35-year-old Chaman Bee from the Dalit Muslim Hela community. She struggled as a manual labourer and often had no employment, but now has found her forte in stitching garments. Though each of the women earns between 1,500 to 2,000 a month currently, the earning will increase once they hone their skills.
For the garments pilot project named ‘A Hundred Hands,’ sewing machine manufacturer Usha International has come forward to help. It provides technical training and sewing machines to the eight large production centres and the 50 small units where women are being trained to cut, stitch and design garments that will feed into a private company founded by Shaikh and ‘liberated’ scavengers Lali bai and Aarti. The company was launched in September 2014 by actor Aamir Khan, who named it Dignity & Design. While the women’s products are being sold right now at village markets, they soon expect to get orders from established boutiques.
The incense answer
In the temple town of Ujjain, an agarbatti making unit has been set up at Juna Sowmwariya Helawadi.
Based out of a large tin shed in the Tarana block and situated close to around 4,000 Hela community households, the unit is headed by Tasleema Bee. Known for her spunk, Tasleema fought an election for the panchayat ward. Despite tremendous opposition from those belonging to the higher caste, she won, thanks to her grit and unity among Dalits in her village.
At the unit, women do not roll the incense sticks by hand in the traditional time consuming manner. They use agarbatti making machines that are fed with charcoal mixture and incense sticks. “I used to embroider Bohra caps that are worn to the mosque. But orders stopped coming. Here I earn between 100 and 150 every day and can go home for a while to keep an eye on my two children,” says 20-year-old Farzana who works at the unit along with her 42-year-old mother, Afroze.
Tasleema explains that earlier the incense sticks were being supplied to ITC Limited. Jan Sahas now has its own incense brand Avinav.
Seeing opportunity in adversity
Jan Sahas has also made agriculture an occupation for the community and provides technical inputs whenever required. Today 4,000 acres is being developed in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, giving livelihood to about 1,800 families.
But the community had to fight to retain the land, which was given by the government in 2005. Some from the upper caste tried to wrest away the land. “What a war we had to wage for our right to the land. We were 25 women who stuck it out. For five-six years it was a big struggle, with all of us frequently at the police station or at a sit down protest. Today, we grow maize, soyabean, pulses,” says Baddi Bai Rathore of Nimaj district, Rajasthan who was in Dewas for a training session organised by Jan Sahas.
In Madhya Pradesh, a group of liberated scavengers has also managed to lease a talab (pond) from the government for 15 years. The result is a fishery collective in Sehour district’s Sidhiganj village, where members are being trained in every aspect of the business.
Despite the successes, more needs to be done. “The aim is to build a platform for representatives of government, UN bodies, public and private sector, social entrepreneurs and civil society for promoting rehabilitation and replicate the pilot in other areas,” explains Shaikh.
As for the acceptance of scavengers in the villages, there are still many shades of grey. In some pockets the discrimination continues. In other villages the dominant castes, up against united Dalits, have accepted the situation.
However, discrimination is less than before, say the women. “Since we left the ‘dirty’ work, our families are more integrated in the villages and are invited for functions. Our husbands get jobs. Our children are more accepted in the schools. It has been a long battle, no doubt,” says Tasleema.
Special courts for SC, ST cases in districts soon
The State government would soon constitute special courts to try cases under Section 14 of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 in all districts and a proposal would be sent by the Registrar General, the government has submitted before the Madras High Court.
When a PIL plea by activist A. Narayanan of CHANGE India came up for hearing, the government submitted that special courts to try cases under the Acts had been constituted in Villupuram and Sivaganga districts.
The first Bench comprising Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam directed the Registrar-General of the Madras High Court to take action within three months and the government to take expeditious steps to constitute the courts in the remaining districts.
Mr. Narayanan in his petition sought for a direction to constitute special courts under these Acts in all the districts, identified as ‘atrocity-prone areas’ designated by the State government in order to ensure speedy trial, justice and compensation to victims.
“File case under SC/ST Act against Inspector”
Members of Devendra Rights Organisation, Tuticorin, staged a demonstration in front of Collectorate on Monday, demanding registration of a case against T. Selvam, Nazareth Inspector of Police, under SC/ST Act.
- Athisaya Kumar, lawyer and coordinator of the organisation, who led the agitation, said the Inspector was placed under suspension recently for the wrongful detention of four Dalits, who were not at all connected to the murder of a realtor, Antony Pandian, from Varthagareddipatti under Tattaparai police station limits in Tuticorin district.
Antony Pandian was murdered on October 29, 2013, along with his driver Shyam Raj while sleeping in the portico of his residence. But, the real culprits were arrested in April this year by another Inspector of Police, agitators said.
They demanded government jobs for the affected Dalits and a compensation of Rs. 20 lakh for each of the families.
News Monitored by Girish Pant & AJEET