Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 05.11.15

In Gujarat’s Patan district, separate anganwadis for Dalit children – The Indian Express


Tension in Temple Fest at Madurai; Cops Hurt – The New Indian Express


Girl to decide her life partner – The Hindu


Apex court allows absorption of 1347 SC, ST contract engineers – Deccan Herald


A New Wave Of Caste Atrocities – Tehelka


Caste Relations Go South – Tehelka


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The Indian Express

 In Gujarat’s Patan district, separate anganwadis for Dalit children


In Hajipur’s two anganwadis, which take in children between six months and six years, untouchability is one of the first life lessons they learn.

Written by RITU SHARMA | Patan | Updated: November 5, 2015 11:41 am

A digit separates anganwadis 159 and 160 in Hajipur village of Gujarat’s Patan district but the divisions are far greater. Now that’s complicated math for a three-year-old. So one morning, a few weeks ago, Manavi Chamar walked towards anganwadi No. 160, lost in conversation with her four-year-old neighbour and friend Suhani Patel. But she was stopped at the gates and asked to go to No. 159.

Gujarat Anganvadi

“Anganwadi No. 159 is for us Dalits. That day, people in the other anganwadi told my daughter to go to her own. She came home and asked me why she couldn’t go with her friend to No. 160 and I didn’t know what to say,” says her mother Pinki Chamar.

Nearly 130 kilometres from Ahmedabad, Hajipur is a village of about 2,000 people. Like in most other villages of Patan, the Patels or Patidars constitute nearly 70 per cent of Hajipur’s population. The 40 Dalit houses in the village are spread over two mohallas.

 In Hajipur’s two anganwadis, which take in children between six months and six years, untouchability is one of the first life lessons they learn.

Anganwadi No. 159 was set up in 1997. Three years later, the Patidars and the Brahmins demanded a separate anganwadi for themselves and moved into the premises of the adjoining primary school. The new anganwadi, No. 160, now shares its space and entrance with the school, the boundary wall of the school separating the two anganwadis.

Around 9 am, Varshaben Rawal, a housewife, reaches No. 160, carrying her two-and-a-half year old son Arya. “Children of Brahmins and Patels come to this anganwadi while the other one is for Dalits. Parents like me would never want their children to sit, play and eat with our children,” she says.

“My husband is a school teacher and I am a graduate, so I am very particular about these things. After finishing my household chores, I come here and sit with my son to make sure he gets the best of learning and food,” says Varshaben, as she follows her son inside the playroom of the anganwadi.

The discrimination in the anganwadis has been brought to the notice of the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR). On July 11, 2014, SCPCR member Madhuben Senama and her team visited Hajipur and submitted a report to the chairperson of the Commission.

Bharatiben Gadhvi, who took over as chairperson of the SCPCR a week ago, said, “It is true that my predecessor took no action on the report. But I have written to the District Education Officer of Patan and sought a report in 10 days. I will be able to talk only after I get that report.”

When contacted, Patan District Development Officer Ratankanwar Gadhvi Charan, whose office supervises the functioning of all anganwadis in the district, said, “I have just joined last week. I am not aware of this issue. I will look into the matter.”

Nayantaraben Patel, the anganwadi supervisor for Patan district who is from the Women and Child Development Department, dismissed the presence of two centres in Hajipur as an “old practice”. “They have been around since 2000. You’ll see separate anganwadis in other places too. Also, since we have to have a centre for every 1,000 population, Hajipur has to have two centres.”

Sociologist Ghanshyam Shah, a former national fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research, said that while Gujarat has always seen caste divisions, such blatant discrimination in primary schools is a more recent phenomenon. “The lower castes are now ghettoised in government schools as the upper castes prefer private schools. Thus the entire premise of the anganwadi structure and the mid-day meal scheme strengthening the social fabric by bringing together students from all communities has failed in the state,” he said.

Inside the playroom of No. 160, Rekhaben empties a bag of plastic toys and puzzles and the children crowd around her. Rekhaben, who in charge of nearly 62 children, is a Dalit. “The parents tell me that I am a good worker and treat their children like my own, but I know my limits,” she says.

Around 11.30 am, she stands outside the threshold of the kitchen, where the Gujarati delicacy sukhdi is being prepared, while the parents supervise the cooking.

“We don’t object to Rekhaben being around as she does not cook and follows all the practices diligently,” says Varshaben.

On the other side of the wall, at No. 159, the centre for Dalits, Ashaben Chamar has come to drop her daughter. “I don’t stay back. Bharatiben (anganwadi worker Bharatiben Chamar) takes good care of the children,” she says.

Does she want her child to go to the other centre? “No, how can she go there? This is where we are supposed to send our children.”

As she leaves, she waves out to her daughter, who is now sitting on the floor with the other children, facing Bharatiben and chanting in chorus: “Gurur brahma, gurur vishnu…” Seconds later, across the wall, at No. 160, children break into the same shloka.

The New Indian Express

 Tension in Temple Fest at Madurai; Cops Hurt


By Express News Service Published: 05th November 2015 05:04 AM  Last Updated: 05th November 2015 05:04 AM

MADURAI: Tension broke out in Keelaurappanur village near Tirumangalam on Wednesday evening as a rift between the Dalits and Caste Hindus over a temple festival led to a road blockade by the Dalits during when at least three police vehicles including that of the Superintendent of Police Vijayendra Bidari’s car were attacked.

At least five policemen suffered minor injuries in the stone pelting, sources said. According to police, stones were allegedly pelted by a section of Dalits protesting the decision by police and revenue officials to allow the caste Hindus dissolve the mulaipaari (sprouted grains kept in pots) in the village tank as part of the festival.

Trouble arose on Tuesday at the Vadakku Vaiselvi temple in the village, when the Dalits alleged that they were being discriminated by the Caste Hindus during the rituals and for worship inside the temple. As the issue could not be resolved through talks, officials stopped the festival on Tuesday itself and the temple was locked up.

On Wednesday, the Caste Hindus requested the police to allow them to dissolve the mulaipaari in the village tank. While Dalits refused to join the ritual, Caste Hindus were allowed to dissolve the pots in the tank on condition that they should not enter the temple or carry out a procession.

Police said the Dalits did not object initially but later protested. Even as the SP Bidari and other officials were pacifying the protesters, stones were allegedly pelted from inside the streets in the village.

Police resorted to mild force and brought the situation under control.

Four cases have been registered at the Tirumangalam Town police station and 12 Dalits have been detained.

The Hindu

 Girl to decide her life partner



A 19-year-old girl from the caste Hindu community who married a 22-year-old Scheduled Caste youth has expressed her desire to live with the youth, after a local court asked her to decide the course of her life as the law allows every major to do so in the country.

The girl’s father Krishnamurthy of Sendamangalam filed a criminal miscellaneous petition in the court on Wednesday stating that S. Anbarasu of the same area had abducted his daughter Dharaniya (19), a second-year college student, recently and married her without her parents’ knowledge. The petition also said that the boy was yet to complete 21 years and he had produced a fake certificate in the sub-registrar office to register the marriage. He wanted the court to declare the marriage as void and allow him to take custody of his daughter.

Judicial Magistrate No.2 K. Rajesh Kannan, on learning the girl’s wish, dismissed the petition on the ground that anyone who had completed 18 years of age could decide his or her own life. He also asked the police to check if the certificate submitted by the youth was fake, as charged.

Last Tuesday, they got married and took refuge in Sendamangalam police station. Later, they were taken to the Nallipalayam police station where relatives of the couples turned up.

Superintendent of Police S.R. Senthil Kumar held an inquiry, but the girl refused to go with her father. Police picketing were posted in Sendamangalam to prevent any clash between the communities.

Deccan Herald

 Apex court allows absorption of 1347 SC, ST contract engineers


November 5, 2015, New Delhi, DHNS

The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a plea for absorption of as many as 1,347 assistant engineers and junior engineers of Scheduled Castes and Tribes category, who were working in different departments of Karnataka government on contractual basis since 2003.

A bench of Justices J S Khehar and R Banumathi passed the order invoking inherent power of the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution to issue the direction for giving permanent position to the petitioner engineers.

The apex court disposed of 1,347 petitions filed by each affected candidate after the Karnataka HC had in 2012 rejected their plea for making them permanent after serving various departments for over 10 years. It said that the engineers who possessed the requisite qualification in 2001 would be absorbed based on their merit.

The court’s order came as a huge relief to the engineers who worked in Public Works department, Panchayat Raj and Water Resources and Rural Development.

Senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani, appearing for the petitioner-engineers, contended that High Court had virtually re-written the recruitment rules by frustrating the government notification relating to The Absorption Rules, 2005.

She submitted that the High Court, without going into the very object of recruitment of permanent employees, decided to set the clock back to November 21, 2001, the date when the rules came into force with an upper age limit of 40 years.

“By the judgment dated 13.07.2012, the HC virtually raised the upper age limit by as many as 11 years making persons who are now 51 years of age, eligible and entitled to be considered for recruitment against the backlog vacancies of a period earlier to 2001 while the age of retirement in the state is 60, with the result, any person now appointed for the first time pursuant to the impugned directions, will have to undergo probation for a period of two years and on successful completion thereof, will have only seven years left before retirement,” the petitioners claimed.

The High Court had held 2005 Rules of the State government as violative of fundamental right to equality though the government decided regularise services of the engineers by appreciating their services as contract engineers as they were responsible for the successful completion of various projects and belonged to socially backward class, the counsel contended.


 A New Wave Of Caste Atrocities


Cover Story

 In Haryana, as in the rest of the country, caste-related violence is on a steady rise. The government, however, chooses to look the other way

On 23 March 2014, four Dalit girls from Bhagana village, in the Hisar district of Haryana, were allegedly gangraped by upper caste men from the same village. It has been one-and a- half years since, but the alleged perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice. The local court in Hisar has acquitted all the accused in the case. The Dalits of the village have been protesting but the government appears to be deaf to their voices and the legal system has abandoned their cause.

Located just 10 km away from Hisar town, Bhagana is a typical Haryanvi village inhabited mostly by upper caste Jats who live in the centre and a small number of Dalits who live on the periphery. The various agendas of the present and past governments have given this rural prototype of caste relations a miss. Now, Bhagana has become one more epicentre of caste violence that is erupting across villages in Haryana and other parts of north India.

The victims of the Bhagana gangrape and their families now live amidst fear as the alleged rapists roam around freely. By denying justice to the victims, the system has itself made caste hierarchies concrete in the village. According to the Dalits of the village, the upper caste men continue to evetease girls, which is why Dalit women prefer not to venture in the village after sunset.

Shanti (name changed), 14, one of the victims, waited for a long time to see the alleged perpetrators get punished but now she has little hope for justice. “Initially I was determined to fight, I believed that I would be able to send these people behind bars. But I am broken now and I have lost hope. The rapists roam freely while I have to bear the brunt. For what? For being raped!” she says before breaking down. Her mother narrates how they struggled to get justice, “We did everything we could; we contacted the National Commission for Women (NCW) and even Sonia Gandhi, but nothing changed. The NCW refused to even take up our case.”

Shanti’s family had lost hope. However, some of the other Dalits of the village chose to come together and struggle against a callous and unfeeling system. In the Dalit quarters of the village, the walls are decked with portraits of BR Ambedkar. The children greet one another with a Jai Bhim rather than a Namaste. Dalit activists from the village have been holding protests and demonstrations ever since the gangrapes took place. When the judiciary gave them no respite, they set up several fronts against the government and its machinery. Presently, they have one front in Delhi and one in Hisar.

The consequence of protesting against violence committed by the upper castes against them has been grave: many were locked up behind bars, others were framed in cases which range from ‘stealing wood’ to sedition and a large number of protesting families were even evicted from the village. According to these activists, the state government and the dominant castes want to break their struggle so that they can be made to submit to daily forms of caste oppression. The activists voiced their grievances to many ministers and state officials, but empty promises were all they received.

When innumerable appeals and protests failed, the activists did something that would expose the inherent hypocrisy of the entire system surrounding the caste issue. As a final mark of protest, the Dalit families from Bhagana, many of whom were sitting on a dharna in Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, announced that they would be converting to Islam. Suddenly, an issue that had been sidelined for almost two years became the centre of attraction for political organisations and media houses alike. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) rushed to the spot to forcefully stop the conversion and the Delhi Police, in order to wash their hands off the issue, assaulted the protestors and asked them to abandon their protest.

The conversion episode only reflects the cold and bare realities of the system. The police, hand-in-glove with the self-appointed guardians of ‘Hinduism’, cracked down upon a people who wanted to escape the confines of an oppressive social order by choosing another religion. However, the same forces were least concerned about the inhuman atrocities that were repeatedly being inflicted on the Dalits of Bhagana. All this happened in Delhi, the seat of democracy. This begs the question: is the state a mere mute spectator or has it become an accomplice of casteism?

Satish, now Abdul Kalam, has been at the forefront of this struggle for justice. “I have left everything for the upliftment of my community. I have decided to follow the path of our great leader Babasaheb Ambedkar,” says Satish. His eyes look deeply determined. “I am hopeful that one day we will be able to get justice from this system if we continue to struggle.”

Satish believes that because of their consistent and sustained struggle, certain things are changing. “I am optimistic that if we don’t break down, we will win eventually and get the perpetrators punished,” he says. The struggle of the Dalits of Bhagana is not confined to getting the rapists punished. There are bigger issues, like the commons of the village being occupied by the Jats of the village; despite complaints, the police have done nothing about it.

The struggle is also against the social boycotts that the Dalits have to face on the orders of Khap Panchayats. Their struggle is to let their cattle drink water at the same pond from which cattle belonging to upper castes drink water. Their struggle is, in short, for a dignified and equal life.

Delhi, our bastion of progress, development and modernity is a mere three-hour drive from Bhagana. Though the incidents of caste violence from rural Haryana may come across as primitive tales of a barbaric past to the average Delhi citizen, the fact is that it is not the only news from the neighbourhood. There is such news in abundance: last month two Dalit children were burnt alive by caste Hindus in Sunpedh village in Faridabad, merely two hours from Delhi; again last month, in Bathla near Hisar, three hours away from Delhi, a Dalit man was hanged to death from a tree by caste Hindus; three weeks ago, in Sonepat, only two hours away from Delhi, a Dalit boy of 14 was found dead after the police caught him for petty theft. The list goes on.


 Caste Relations Go South


Cover Story

As atrocities soar, the legacy of Dalit empowerment in the southern states is being thrown away.

An unidentified man came to meet journalism student Huchangi Prasad at the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes hostel in Devanagare in central Karnataka at dawn on 23 October. The stranger told Prasad that his mother was hospitalised following a heart attack and promised to take him to the hospital. True to cinematic cliches, there was an ambush midway by a mob of 10-odd men.

Prasad’s crime was that he had written a ‘controversial’ book about the caste system a year earlier, which had apparently come to the attention of lumpen Hindutva elements only now.

“The attackers pushed me around saying my writings were anti-Hindu because they talked about injustices of the caste system in Devanagere. They put kumkum all over my face. Then they pulled out knives and said they will cut off my fingers so that I will never write again,” says Prasad.

He managed to break free from the group and flee to the woods nearby. Hours later, when he was sure that the group had left, he returned to the hostel and later filed a police complaint.

The incident came merely three months after — and just 100 km from where — rationalist writer MM Kalburgi was murdered. The repeated attacks on Dalits across north India are now finding resonance in southern states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Some political observers attribute this to the change of political atmosphere in the country under the new regime at the Centre.

According to statistics compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crimes against the SCs rose to 47,064 in 2014 from 39,408 in 2013. In 2012, there were 33,655 crimes against Dalits, about the same as in 2011. In addition, as many as 744 Dalits were murdered last year, up from 676 in 2013. In this national statistics, south India’s contribution is also seeing a steady increase.

While looking at the south Indian states in terms of caste practices, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are seen on similar planes. Overt and sometimes hidden discriminatory practices range from blatant use of double tumblers in hotels and tea shops to denial of entry in temples and honour killings. These ‘concealed untouchability’ practices have forced Dalits to withdraw from the public sphere to avoid humiliation.

The government’s assurances to guarantee employment and land for the Dalit community often end up as unfulfilled promises. Any demand for land or assertion of rights still invites trouble from the dominant communities. Often, the administration’s failure to punish the culprits, which is mostly made up of the dominant castes, has emboldened the culprits to heighten their attacks.

Mohammed Tahsin, a Bengaluru based social observer, says that the caste system is most vigorously practised in Dakshin Kannada, Udupi, Hassan, Mandya and Chitradurga where Brahminical hegemony is quite dominant. “Dalits continue to be segregated from the rest in villages across the state and dwell in separate colonies meant for them,” he says.

In Haryana, as in the rest of the country, caste-related violence is on a steady rise. The government, however, chooses to look the other way

Dalits, who comprise 21 percent of the population of Tamil Nadu, continue to be at the receiving end of upper caste ire. The state figures in the top five where a high number of atrocities have been reported over the past five years.

Dravidian politics has not only failed the Dalits but also created a deep division between the OBCs and the Dalits. Anti- Brahminical sentiment of the past slowly gave away to explicit anti-Dalit sentiment. With Dravidian parties going soft on caste issues with an eye on the votes, the state has witnessed the mushrooming of several caste outfits, which aim to protect the ‘purity’ of dominant castes.

Kathir, managing director of Evidence, an organisation working for the political and civil rights of Dalits, tells Tehelka that no less than 230 types of ‘untouchabilities’ are practised in Tamil Nadu. “It is shocking that the government is still in denial over honour killings even after 73 cases were reported in the last three years,” he adds.

“The BJP in the state was careful not to eulogise the caste system, but ever since they came to power at the Centre, this started to change,” says Samuel Raj, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF). BJP president Amit Shah and S Gurumurthy, the president of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, openly glorified caste at a recent public meeting in Madurai. This exaltation emboldens the fringe outfits, which in turn carry out discrimination with impunity.

Caste is being perpetuated by the young upwardly mobile middle class as is evidenced by the number of educated youngsters heading casteist organisations. One of them, murder accused Yuvaraj, was given a rousing reception by an adoring crowd upon surrendering to the police. Yuvaraj is accused of killing Dalit youth Gokul Raj, the alleged reason being his purported love affair with an upper caste girl.

“Earlier, the atrocities used to be condemned by all major political parties. Stalwarts such as Periyar, Singaravelar and Jeevanandham stood like rocks against the caste system. It is only the Left and the Dalit movements which raise these issues now,” says Raj.

C Lakshmanan, associate professor at Madras Institute of Developmental Studies (MIDS), Chennai, says that Dalit movements also wither away due to divisions manufactured by dominant castes for electoral gains. “One of the many stumbling blocks,” he says, “is the de-politicisation of issues by NGOs which diffuse the anger of the people and appropriate people’s issues for their own interests.”

Lakshmanan points the finger at an ‘insensitive’ educated Dalit middle class and says the political culture of giving away freebies diverts the attention of voters and makes them myopic.

In may, Chitralekha, a Dalit auto-rickshaw driver, concluded her 122-day dharna outside the Kannur district collectorate in Kerala. She was prevented from using the male-dominated auto stand at Edatt. “They were not able to accept that a woman auto-driver — that too a Dalit — was doing the same job as they do. Since then, they have been torturing me,” Chitralekha said at the time. Though the government initially promised support, it failed to provide her a proper rehabilitation package.

Close on the heels of the Chitralekha incident, another young Dalit woman entrepreneur, Soumya Devi, was denied a workplace in the startup village in Kochi promoted by the Kerala government.

Even though Kerala has some positive social indicators to flaunt, random incidents of atrocities against Dalits show that it has not broken free of caste divisions. Scholars and activists claim that the last few years have seen a spike in the number of attacks on Dalits in the state.

Rupesh Kumar, a noted writer and documentary filmmaker, tells Tehelka that while it is unfair to view Kerala with the same prism as other southern states when it comes to caste violence, discrimination is quite evident in the social structure of the state. “A school in Perambra village in Calicut, named the Government Welfare Lower Primary School, has become a ‘Dalit only’ school after the members of upper castes stopped enrolling their children,” he says. Enquiries by Tehelka found that the school had not received a single student outside the Paraya community for the past 10 years.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET

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