Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 10.01.16

Caste Skew in the Time of Calamity? – The new Indian express


A Dalit awakening in Palakkad – The hindu


Fresh survey of flood-hit villages sought – The hindu


Intolerant hoodlums back with a vengeance Kashmir times


Civic body chief among 32 booked for fake encounter – the tribune


CM’s village goes for consensus; stakes high in Hooda’s home turf – The tribune


Fight for what’s left: The story of Jiten Marandi, the Jharkhand activist – The Indian express



The new Indian express

Caste Skew in the Time of Calamity?


CHENNAI: While the District Disaster Monitoring Committee (DDMC) had warned and evacuated around 500 families living in Kattupalayam village, about 120 Dalit families living few a miles away had no clue that their houses were going to be washed away in a flash in the recent floods.

Besides, in most areas, while people from upper castes were alerted and moved to safer places, Dalits residing in flood-prone zones were left without much support, alleged a fact finding report prepared by various Dalit organisations across the State. They claimed to have surveyed 122 affected villages in six districts, including Chennai, Cuddalore and Kancheepuram.

The report alleged that around 80 per cent Dalit households did not receive any early warnings or timely evacuation.

Rubbishing the findings, Tiruvallur District Collector K Veera Raghava Rao told Express that they did not receive any such complaint from the public so far. “Early warnings, relief and rescue operations were carried uniformly wherever necessary irrespective of caste or creed,” he said.

Officials at Kanche-epuram said they would be able to comment only after verifying the authenticity of the report. Chennai District Collector E Sundaravalli was unavailable for comment, despite repeated efforts.

The report claimed that the survey was conducted among 63,796 households, including 29,462 Dalit families during the third week of December. According to I Pandian, director of Social Awareness Society for Youths (SASY), around 150 Dalit households from Thirukandalam Tribal Colony were not allowed to enter a relief camp set up in the nearby village where caste Hindus lived.

The hindu

A Dalit awakening in Palakkad


It was a chance visit by Qatar-based engineering professional C.D. Sajith Kumar to his alma mater, Nair Service Society College of Engineering, Akathethara, near here, four years ago to attend a reunion of his batchmates that initiated a set of changes sweeping the adjacent Dalit colony, Kongappadam.

Students of the Kongappadam Dalit colony near Palakkad with C.D. Sajith Kumar who started an educational initiative in their colony.– Photo: K. K. Mustafah

Though not far away from the hustle and bustle of Palakkad town, Kongappadam, with 230 people from 32 families, had remained extremely backward, especially in the case of education.

“Only three persons from the colony had attended high school in the last 60 years owing to discrimination and neglect. None completed school final. Nothing happened in the colony in the last two decades since I left the college and it remained frozen in a time warp,” recalls Sajith Kumar, who started an educational initiative using the facilities of a single room anganwadi.

The result has been overwhelming.

Sajith’s efforts brought many an educationist, teacher, and subject expert to Kongappadam. In a short span of three years, a dozen colony students passed school final with flying colours and joined higher education. Four are now preparing for medical and engineering entrance. “I am determined that at least one student from the colony should join the engineering course at the institution close to the hamlet. In a way, that would be a major step towards ensuring social justice,” said Sajith in an interaction with The Hindu .

Titled, Ente Kongappadam, the initiative has already won the appreciation of the government and socio-educational initiatives.

“What is remarkable is that the project is not just about running a tuition centre. It is aimed at boosting the morale of not just students, but their parents too. The entire colony has started thinking collectively about awakening. Even the elders are empowered through this programme to acquire their rights,” said tribal social activist Dhanya Raman.

An online educational portal targeting disconnected and disempowered children of all backward regions in Kerala has been initiated by Sajith with the active involvement of socio-cultural organisations.

The government has agreed to cooperate. It would focus mainly on Dalit and tribal areas apart from children of fish workers.

A chance visit by an engineering professional is changing the destiny of Dalit children at Kongappadam.

The hindu

Fresh survey of flood-hit villages sought


Organisations including Dalit Watch – Tamil Nadu and National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) – on Saturday demanded a fresh survey of flood-affected villages to include Dalits who have not received compensation. The organisations conducted a study of around 30,000 households in Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Nagapattinam and Cuddalore, Villupuram and 20 slums in Chennai, demanded that families of those who died be given compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each.

Kashmir times

Intolerant hoodlums back with a vengeance


Intolerant hoodlums are back in action. After a brief lull since BJP’s humiliating debacle in Bihar elections, which put brakes on the aggressive Hindutva agenda of the saffron brigade, the daggers are out of their holders. Like before, there is no word of admonishment from the top; other than a sheepish assurance that the government stands committed to inclusiveness and that India belongs to everyone. Such ambiguities cannot help to treat a malaise that is deeper and comes with systemic injected doses of hatred and mob mentality – psychological poison for a society. Hatred cannot be tamed without treating it and so the culture of intolerance is back as a sequel to the first round, after a commercial break.

The Benares Hindu University IIT has kicked out Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey, credited for his monumental work on secularism, human rights and peace, following allegations by some Hindu right wing activists that he was ‘anti-national’. Pandey is an engineer, distinguished academic, grassroots activist and peace crusader; yet he has been unceremoniously sacked from his post as a guest faculty in the Indian Institute of Technology BHU. Pandey is accused of being a naxalite because he has been taking up the cause of justice for common people in the areas where naxals are active. He is also accused of screening the banned documentary film on Nirbhaya on the campus, which he never did, but organized a discussion of sexual violence. Pandey was shown the door without even investigating or probing those allegations. He rightly retorted that he was being victimized for being a “humanist” and that he was “neither an anti or pro nationalist”. This is part of the wider Hindutva Project of completely saffronising institutions; those where RSS affiliated persons are now in-charge have begun showing scant tolerance for dissent, often in the name of “nationalism”.

Allegations against Pandey are not the only ones taken as gospel truth. In Hyderabad’s Central University, few Dalit students were asked to vacate their hostel rooms after ABVP lodged complaints against them and for their active campaigning of Yakub Memon’s mercy petition. Earlier, activists of Ambedkar Students Union, on the campus, were expelled for screening documentary film “Muzaffarnagar abhi Baqi Hai”, even though a committee headed by the vice chancellor did not find them guilty of any wrong doing

On Thursday, IIFI students were lathicharged when they were protesting against Gajendra Chauhan, the Film Institute chairman who was appointed at the prestigious post even though he has a mediocre record in acting solely for his political affiliations. The students have been protesting for several months against the appointment but the government has refused to even engage with the protesting students, joined by eminent film personalities including Bollywood stars and a galaxy of intellectuals. Earlier, this fortnight, from across India there have been reports of big or small simmering of protests over two films Bajirao Mastani and Shahrukh Khan’s Dilwale. Some would say, so what? Such fringe elements opposing this and that have always existed in this country.

The champions of Hindutva would dismiss allegations of intolerance and prod why there were no protests or award wapsi after the Bihar elections and thus concluding that the entire intellectual campaign against intolerance some months ago was politically motivated. Such a perverse argument is aimed at delegitimising the right to protest and also to brand, with one sweeping remark, intellectuals as puppets of some political power; and thus belittle and humiliate intellectual thought and intellectual thinkers. Such attempts to oppose any dissent by invoking ‘foreign funding’, ‘international conspiracy’ or anti-nationalism and by asking Muslims refusing to echo the majoritarian voices with the threat of sending them to Pakistan enhance the threats to the process of ideas and expression that stem from thinking. An Orwellian world is being created where thinking is a crime. Can one turn around the Bihar election argument and ask them: whether a humiliating debacle is what silenced the fringe elements into near silence during the last two months or so? After all, the protests and campaigns against intolerance are not happening in vacuum or whipped up frenzy but a natural response to waves of intolerance. When intolerance ebbs and takes a back seat, so would protests.

The systemic stamping of dissent has been built and strengthened on the discourse of denial and demonization of opponents; as also on the plea that such forces of irrationality seeking bans and opposing dissent are fringe elements and have always existed in society since times immemorial. Such logic might be satisfying for those who only want India’s image salvaged, not a deep cleansing of the society. The present trend of intolerance is far different from what has been witnessed before, much of it during Congress regimes, which shamelessly often used the fringe elements trying to crush dissent for political expedience.

The present trend is a systemic attempt to gag intellectual space and push freedom of expression into a dark alley. There is need to understand the striking patterns, the systemic way in which the government is becoming a part and parcel of the mechanism of throttling freedom of expression. The fringe elements are allies of the BJP and are naturally emboldened by BJP being in power. The RSS controls the government and makes sure that such fringe elements are patronized by those in corridors of power and RSS is historically opposed to democracy, secularism and the very idea of thinking. It believes in the politics of control and suppressing populations through both propaganda and arm twisting. With the result, the fringe elements are further emboldened because the government chooses to look the other way while they go on a rampage.

The present government has surpassed the record of previous governments’ ugly attempts to control cultural and intellectual life of the country. Its urge to control intellectual and academic bodies is systemic, organized, communal and brazen. A Hindu majoritarian culture is being imposed through usurping bodies like Indian Council of Historic Research, National book trust, film institute and censor board. As Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate eased out of Nalanda University, sums up, “Under Modi, government intervention is more extensive, politically organized and connected with Hindutva movement.” The more recent manifestations of intolerance – Sandeep Pandey’s oustre, victimization of Dalit students and the lathicharge on students of Film Institute – are reflections of the systemic way in which intellectual spaces are being saffronised from top to bottom. That has not happened in the past in the way that it is being practiced today.

Why this present wave of intolerance becomes different from previous times is because it has both the open and tacit support of the government of the day. The latter mostly remains in denial and allows its chosen saffronised heads of institutions to further give legitimacy to the discourse of irrationality but punishing the victimized and harassed, without a hearing and without a fair probe. The judge, jury and the advocate are all part of the same group. The dangers of such a situation to democracy, democratic rights and secular polity cannot be underscored. Worse still; this may be just the beginning.

the tribune

Civic body chief among 32 booked for fake encounter


The city police have registered a case against SAD leader and Machhiwara Nagar Council president Daljit Singh, his aide Peter and nearly 30 unidentified persons for allegedly threatening a key witness in a double murder case, to turn hostile.

The case was registered on the complaint of advocate Pankaj Suri. The complainant said the accused entered his office on January 7 and reportedly threatened Baljit Singh Bunny, a key witness in a double-murder case, of dire consequences if the latter made any statement in the court in connection with a fake encounter case in which two Dalits were killed.

Suri said the accused also threatened Satpal Singh, the father of the two Dalit brothers who were killed in the fake encounter.

Two days ago, Baljit Singh alias Bunny of Takhran village had claimed that he was threatened not to appear in the court. Bunny said he apprehended threat to his life and false implication in the case. He said the opponents made all efforts to stop him from appearing in the court.

“Despite this, I appeared as a witness in the court and revealed the truth,” he said.

He said he and his father were threatened by the Machhiwara council president last evening.

The tribune

CM’s village goes for consensus; stakes high in Hooda’s home turf


When it comes to the panchayat elections, the native villages of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on the outskirts of Rohtak present a study in contrast.

While Khattar’s native village Nidhana Tigri has gone for a consensus for the election of sarpanch, a high voltage drama is unfolding in Sanghi, Hooda’s native village.

Sanghi village, where the polling is slated for January 10, will witness one of the bitterest and costliest election campaigns in the recent history, where a former advertisement professional Satish Hooda is locked in a tough contest with three-time sarpanch Rishipal, a Hooda loyalist.

A visit to the two villages revealed that the election campaign was more ‘visible’ in Hooda’s village, with a large number of posters dotting the road leading to the village and candidates more aggressively campaigning for the D-Day. However, the campaign had been more sober in Khattar’s village even in the run-up to the election of 16 out 18 wards unanimously.

However, more than a week to go for the second phase of polling on January 17, Khattar’s native village has already unanimously elected Saroj Kataria, a postgraduate Dalit, who is arguably one of the most-educated women candidates in the region.

“The unanimous election of Saroj is all the more creditable, as it is for the first time that the sarpanch has been elected unopposed in the village, where the Jats form about two-third of the total about 5,000 electorates,” said Satpala, a Nidhana resident.

Meanwhile, civic amenities, including power, road and water and education, remain the top priority of the candidates. Development, however, continues to elude the villages even after about 50 years of state’s creation.

“I am contesting the elections for a systemic change, as the existing system has failed to redress people’s grievances. People should vote for me, so that the administrative machinery works for their welfare,” asserts Satish Hooda, contesting for sarpanch’s post from Sanghi.

On the other hand, newly elected sarpanch Saroj Kataria said she would work for bringing the benefits of various welfare schemes of the Central and state government to the various sections of society. “I will try to bridge the gap between the administration and the people,” she added.

The Indian express

Fight for what’s left: The story of Jiten Marandi, the Jharkhand activist


Jiten Marandi fiddles with his black Nokia phone as he strides up Ranchi’s busy Piska More in a sea-green shirt and trousers. It has been two years since he was freed of charges of being the “key accused” in the Chilkari massacre of October 26, 2007, where 19 people, including the son of former Jharkhand chief minister Babulal Marandi, were gunned down by Naxals at a public function. His arrest and six-year-long incarceration — set aside first by the Ranchi High Court in 2012 and then the Supreme Court in 2013 — was the inspiration for Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court, a film that spins an absurdist tale about an omnipotent state and how it smacks down on dissent. (It was India’s entry to the Oscars but failed to make it to the longlist.)

Activist Jiten Marandi (Photo: Manob Chowdhury)

The Jharkhand police arrested Jiten along with nine others in 2008 because he shared a name with a Naxal area commander. (All 10 accused have been acquitted.) Like Narayan Kamble, the bard in Court imprisoned on charges of “inciting” a Dalit sweeper to suicide, Jiten had been an open sympathiser of the Leftist cause. He was a part of the large, often loose, network of tribal activists in Jharkhand speaking out against the march of “development” — steel projects by Arcelor-Mittal, Jindal or Essar, or more recently, the Greater Ranchi project, and their costs of displacement —through music, theatre and debates. They occupy a grey area between activist and sympathiser, in states vulnerable to Maoist insurgency like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Jiten hasn’t watched Court, which is set in Mumbai, but believes it to be important as it highlights “how those speaking against the system are being hauled in under fake cases”.

Karando has kachcha roads, a school and gets electricity for a few hours every day, but when Jiten was growing up, this village in Giridih district of then-Bihar was part of the jungle. His adivasi peasant family owned a small piece of land. They farmed for six months a year and took up odd jobs for the remainder of it. He was one among six children and in charge of grazing cattle.

“But I wanted to study,” says Jiten, who roughly calculates his age at 30 today. “I must have been around 10 when I first attended a school. I accompanied my elder brother to a gathering of students under a tree outside the government teacher’s residence. He dropped out in four days, I continued.” Jiten, who spoke in his native Santhali, picked up subjects fast, including Hindi. But, by the time he reached Class IV, he had to stop studying for lack of money.

Music filled that void. “I was a good singer and would perform at every family gathering. There was one song I had learnt from my uncle, sung to a folk tune. It spoke of the exploitation of adivasis at the hands of the rich, and it would always win me praise,” he says. So when a group of dancers, performers and singers were passing through his village, he decided to join them. For 10-year-old Jiten, this was “both school and a means for survival.” With the members of the Jharkhand Abhiyan, he travelled as far as north Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

He was 15 when he began to be interested in Left politics and Naxal ideology. “Through the 1990s, the Naxals in Bihar had redistributed the land that the moneyed landlords had tricked the uneducated poor into signing off to them. I began to believe that the movement, away from parliamentary politics, was key to change,” says Jiten. He was attracted, he says, to their ideas of equality. His belief in the “movement” has since been dented, but not destroyed. His mistrust of the state and the police has only been confirmed through the years.

Even before the Chilkari massacre, Jiten’s politics had landed him in trouble. As a cultural activist propagating the Leftist cause, he had been arrested twice in 2000 — while taking part in May Day and International Women’s Day celebrations. He was charged with possession of Naxal literature and of planning an attack against the state. He was granted bail 11 months later. But he was rounded up again in 2005, during a raid on the Mazdoor Sangathan Samiti office in Dhanbad, as was a prominent labour leader of the state. “While the cops interrogating me for Maoist links admitted that I didn’t seem to know much, it didn’t stop them from branding me as one,” says Jiten.

He realised he had become a soft target. “In none of the arrests did the police record my statement. So there was no official record that I was a cultural activist,” he says.

Having come up against the might of the police, Jiten’s music began to reflect what he saw and experienced: the resentment among adivasis at the large-scale displacement caused by projects like the Koel-Karo hydro-electric project, and persistent police harassment.

“Today, there are 7,000 youth languishing in jails across Jharkhand in similar cases,” says Jiten, who is now part of the group Utpeedit Bandi Sahyog Samiti, which provides legal aid to such prisoners. The organisation has examined 102 cases in Jharkhand, where young men and women were arrested as alleged Naxalites or Maoists. “Most of them are farmers opposing acquisition of land in some form or another. They were arrested on charges of murder, bomb explosion, possession of illegal weapons. And the same witness has sometimes been used in multiple cases,” says Marandi, who has spent the last two years since his release studying the cases, meeting the families of the accused and factchecking the FIRs filed. A compilation of the research will be released as a book in February and also presented to the Supreme Court along with a petition for the release of the prisoners.

On the day of the massacre, Jiten was in his village shooting a video for a song, titled Mujhko ugravaadi bana diya tumne (You’ve made me a terrorist). “Two days later, printed alongside my picture was a report in the local paper Prabhat Khabar, that I was the first to fire shots at Chilkari,” says Jiten. Shocked, he called up the newspaper office to object. “The paper followed the report with a corrigendum and a report that included a statement by the police that I wasn’t an accused in the case. I found out that the chargesheet submitted by the police named a person called ‘Jitan’, based on the names the witnesses had heard the Naxals calling each other,” he says.

But on April 5, 2008, he was arrested again and this time, the questioning hardly deviated from the Chilkari massacre. Jiten then knew he was in for a long haul.

After a three-year-trial, six were acquitted, and four, including Jiten, were sentenced to death.

Why did he think he was picked on? “I have often been told by the police that I should stick to singing about social issues, not speak against industrialisation or development. Anyone who voices their opinion against land acquisition and for the rights of the poor at janta darbars is looked upon as a ‘leader’,” he says.

When the death sentence was announced, his wife Aparna, a year or two younger than Jiten, didn’t break down but felt rage well up inside her.

It was a year-long struggle of this once-shy woman and the support she managed to garner, that eventually helped him get an acquittal. “If Jiten had been awarded a life sentence, he would have ended up as a mere statistic among the thousands who languish in Jharkhand jails. So with help from other activists, I began to meet and organise press conferences to talk about his wrongful arrest,” says Aparna.

Aparna brought on board a retired district and sessions court judge, SK Murari, to fight the case on behalf of Marandi in the high court. “There were many loopholes. For instance, the story of the massacre in the chargesheet was vastly different from what the police had filed in the FIR. In the former, the firing began from the back of the pandal and the masked Naxals then took the mic, took off their disguise, announced that they were after Babulal Marandi’s family before resuming the firing. The FIR, however, had not mentioned the mic or announcement,” says Murari, who also argued in the court that it was peculiar behaviour on part of the accused to reveal their identity.

The trial resulted in acquittal of all four accused in December 2011 but Jiten spent another year in jail as the government invoked the Jharkhand Crime Control Act (2002) against him. Neither were his legal worries behind him when he walked free.

On December 8, 2012, on her way to Hyderabad for a programme to organise support for her husband, Aparna, with her four-year-old son Alok in tow, was arrested from Hatiya station in Ranchi. In a strikingly similar operation to that of Jiten’s, the police claimed she was Santoshini, a Naxal from Dumka in Jharkhand, who had set fire to a police vehicle. She was released on bail six months later.

The winter sun is setting and the cold of the cement floor of Aparna and Jiten’s house in Janakpura, on the outskirts of Ranchi, is now seeping into the feet. Sparsely done up, with a chair, table and a divan in the living room, it gives a sense of lives in transit.

“Legal fees (to fight his and Aparna’s cases) make for a chunk of our expenses,” rues Jiten, who does a number of odd jobs to sustain the family, such as selling Ayurveda medicine, keeping poultry hens, running a ration store and renting out a cycle rickshaw.

Jiten knows that his “movement” had fragmented, and that it has not taken people along. He says he does not subscribe to the violence of Naxal ideology. But he believes that it matters, even more than democratic institutions, which he no longer believes in. “They have access to people living in the most dense of the state’s jungles. If they don’t empower the people living there, no one will be able to stop their displacement. You might think they are terrorists but rebellion is in the blood of the adivasis and Dalits of Jharkhand. Since the time of Birsa Munda, our fight for jal, jangal, jameen has been going on.”

As for him, Jiten knows his freedom is precarious. “I know I am constantly under watch. My case exposed the faulty functioning of the police in Jharkhand. I can easily become their target again,” he says.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET


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