Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 14.02.16

 

Dalits Get Road to Burial Ground,at the Cost of Jobs – The Indian Express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Dalits-Get-Road-to-Burial-Groundat-the-Cost-of-Jobs/2016/02/14/article3276285.ece

CUSTODIAL DEATH OF MAQBOOLPURA YOUTH – The Tribune

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/amritsar/four-cops-booked-judicial-probe-report-awaited/195997.html

Quota Course Correction in Higher Education – The Sunday Standard

http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Quota-Course-Correction-in-Higher-Education/2016/02/14/article3275814.ece

Free society from stranglehold of caste system: UoH professor – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/free-society-from-stranglehold-of-caste-system-uoh-professor/article8235418.ece

29 Departments Fail to Utilise SC Sub Plan Funds Effectively – The Indian Express

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra_pradesh/29-Departments-Fail-to-Utilise-SC-Sub-Plan-Funds-Effectively/2016/02/14/article3276363.ece

Rohith suicide: Scheduled Castes panel summons Guntur Collector – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/rohith-suicide-scheduled-castes-panel-summons-guntur-collector/article8236437.ece?ref=tpnews

Atoricities on Dalits in Punjab increasing day by day: Channi – Punjab News Express

http://punjabnewsexpress.com/punjab/news/atoricities-on-dalits-in-punjab-increasing-day-by-day-channi-46760.aspx

Man booked under SC / ST Act – The Hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/man-booked-under-sc-st-act/article8235508.ece

The Miscarriage of Merit – Day After

http://www.dayafterindia.com/detail.php?headline=content&catid=8687

Dalits and Muslims: India’s favourites for the death penaltyThe Express tribune

http://tribune.com.pk/story/1046325/dalits-and-muslims-indias-favourites-for-the-death-penalty/

Marked by caste, race, religion in ‘cosmopolitan’ Bangalore –The Hindustan Times

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/sc-st-grievances-in-focus-jnu-might-figure-at-vcs-meet-116021400175_1.html

 

Note: Please find attachment for DMW Hindi (PDF)

The Indian Express

Dalits Get Road to Burial Ground,at the Cost of Jobs

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/Dalits-Get-Road-to-Burial-Groundat-the-Cost-of-Jobs/2016/02/14/article3276285.ece

By S Deepak KarthikPublished: 14th February 2016 06:36 AMLast Updated: 14th February 2016 06:36 AM

MAYILADUTHURAI:The dalits belonging to Thirunalkondacherry village, which was recently in news for a protest with the mortal remains of a 100-year-dalit man demanding a proper pathway to the burial ground, have now got what they demanded; a proper access road.

But it has cost the dalits their job. Following the protests, the caste Hindus in the locality have ostracised the dalits, mostly agricultural labourers from working in the fields in their locality.

The dalits of Thirunalkondacherry village, who had protested against the system demanding a proper access road by refusing to perform the final rites of the deceased and thus attracted the attention of the entire state, have earned the wrath of caste-Hindus.

They allege that the caste Hindus try to ban dalits’ work opportunities and insist fellow villagers to refrain from employing the Thirunalkondacherry dalits.

Earlier, relatives of the 100-year-old deceased, A Chellamuthu had approached the Madras High Court seeking an alternate pathway to take out the funeral procession.

The High Court had intervened and following their protest, the district administration sanctioned a sum of Rs 15.70 lakh to lay a tar road to connect the village with the dalits’ burial ground.

The 498 meters stretch linking their neighbourhood with the burial ground, passing through irrigation canals and swampy fertile lands, is now a roughly laid mud road, facilitating proper access. The road would soon be given a tar coat too.

The works are half way through. The once inaccessible pathway now has a two-layer crude soil road reinforced over gravel.

The Tribune

CUSTODIAL DEATH OF MAQBOOLPURA YOUTH

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/amritsar/four-cops-booked-judicial-probe-report-awaited/195997.html

Four cops booked, judicial probe report awaited

PK JaiswarTribune News ServiceAmritsar, February 13

Even after over one and a half months since the custodial death of a Maqboolpura youth, Kinka, in the Vallah police chowki, the judicial probe initiated in the case is yet to be completed. While the police are awaiting the report, the four policemen who were booked and suspended in the case have not been arrested yet.

Harjit Singh Dhaliwal, Assistant Commissioner of Police (East), said the police was yet to receive the judicial report in the case and further action would be taken only after going through the findings of the judicial probe.

Kinka, a resident of Maqboolpura, had allegedly committed suicide in the police lock-up inside the Vallah police chowki on December 21. The police had booked four policemen, including the chowki in charge, Manjit Singh. The police also suspended the SHO, Mohkampura police station, Narinder Kaur Mallhi, a day after for negligence.

Harsimranjit Kaur, Judicial Magistrate (First Class), was entrusted with the judicial probe in the case. A team of doctors had conducted a post-mortem examination of the deceased.

Dalit youth Kinka was arrested and handed over to the police by a couple of persons who had alleged that he had stolen a mobile phone. However, no case was registered against him and there was no official entry in the record book of the police about detaining him. He reportedly committed suicide by hanging himself in the lock-up with the help of a piece of cloth, which he had torn from the blanket offered to him by the police. After prime facie investigations, the police charged the chowki in chrage and three other policemen of murder under the SC/ST Act.

The family members and relatives of the deceased while agitating had alleged that the policemen had visited the house and demanded Rs 2,000 as bribe to dispose of the case amicably. However, they expressed their inability to give the amount. Seeta, the mother of the deceased, said she had given him (Kinka) lunch at the police chowki.

Investigations revealed that the chowki in charge as well as the SHO failed to inform the family about Kinka’s death. The family came to know about this after several mediapersons approached them.

The Sunday Standard

Quota Course Correction in Higher Education

http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/Quota-Course-Correction-in-Higher-Education/2016/02/14/article3275814.ece

By Cithara Paul

Published: 14th Feb 2016 07:39:04 AM

NEW DELHI:  BJP as a political party may still be grappling with its stand on the reservation policy, but the Narendra Modi government has swung into action after singeing its fingers over the recent suicide of Dalit student Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad and the following unrest in the universities across the country.

Determined not to let the issue be “hijacked’’ by the Opposition, the government is on a course correction drive and has ordered the first-ever profiling of all reserved category students in Central universities, IITs and IIMs. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has asked the institutions to furnish details of the percentage of reserved category students and details of the procedure adopted for their admission.

Rohit Vemula“There was no serious monitoring of whether the affirmative policies of the government are being carried out, hence there were no accurate details with the government,’’ a ministry official told The Sunday Standard. He added that the move—being carried out by National Commission for Backward Castes (NCBC) under the ministry—is expected to gather all information about reservation category students, including their socio-economic and family backgrounds. Though the official did not want to connect Vemula’s suicide to these developments, he did not deny that the process got priority after it.

Vemula had become a rallying point for the Opposition, with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi attacking the Modi government. The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a constituent in the Congress-led UDF government in Kerala, which is known not to have caste sensitivity, had invited Vemula’s mother and brother to attend its political rally in Thiruvanathapuram this week. In the rally, many speakers cited the suicide to attack BJP. IUML state president Panakkad Hyderali Shihab Thangal said that the “Sangh Parivar agenda has become a threat to Dalits too, just like it is to several other sections of society”.

CRISIS OF CATEGORY

  • A recent Human Resource Development data found that most of universities and IITs fell short of the requisite 27 per cent of reservation for OBCs

  • 24%: Uttarakhand’s HNB Garhwal University

  • 40%: Central University of Kashmir

  • 19%: Central University of Tamil Nadu

  • 13%: Central University of Punjab

  • 45%: Vishwa Bharati University, West Bengal

■ In IITs under-graduate engineering programmes, OBC admissions did not cross 25%.

The Hindu

Free society from stranglehold of caste system: UoH professor

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/free-society-from-stranglehold-of-caste-system-uoh-professor/article8235418.ece

STAFF REPORTER

‘Time is ripe to stage a united struggle against the Sangh Parivar’

Economics professor in the University of Hyderabad K. Lakshminarayana on Saturday called for a relentless struggle by the oppressed sections of people, including SCs, STs, BCs, and minorities, to free the society from the stranglehold of the caste system.

Inaugurating the 6th State conference of the Kula Nirmulana Porata Samiti (Struggle Committee for Caste Annihilation), Prof. Lakshminarayana said that the caste system perpetuated for centuries had been reinforced by the policies of liberalisation, privatisation, and globalisation pursued since 1991 by successive governments at the Centre and in States.

“There is no change in the living condition of dalits and other communities, which had been oppressed by the upper class people in the past, as the latter continued their stranglehold over the means of production.

Rohith episode

Referring to the suicide by UoH student Rohith Vemula in the wake of social discrimination on the campus, he said that even higher educational institutions were not free from caste oppression in the market-driven socio-economic order, even as the oppressed sections of people, as in the past, continued to do menial jobs in different walks of life.

Coming down heavily on the arrest of some students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he said: “The time is ripe for a united struggle against the Sangh Parivar organisations, which projected their own “Hindu view of nationalism” and alienated the minorities and other oppressed sections of people, blunting the diversity of cultures, religions, and beliefs.”

Questioning the credentials of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he contended that those who projected themselves to be true nationalists did not even take part in the freedom struggle.

In his presidential address, KNPS State president Dudu Prabakar said that the samiti would strive to bring together Ambedkarites to realise the dalit icon’s vision of “caste-less society.”

The Indian Express

29 Departments Fail to Utilise SC Sub Plan Funds Effectively

http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra_pradesh/29-Departments-Fail-to-Utilise-SC-Sub-Plan-Funds-Effectively/2016/02/14/article3276363.ece

By Amrut Rao , Published: 14th February 2016 05:29 AMLast Updated: 14th February 2016 05:49 AM

MAHABUBNAGAR: The Scheduled Caste (SC) sub plan, meant for the upliftment and development of the SC communities, has gone for a toss in Palamur district. Of the 31 departments entrusted with the responsibility of implementing the plan and were given generous funds for the purpose, only two departments have achieved 100 per cent progress. The two departments are Animal Husbandry and Panchayat Raj.

While Animal Husbandry spent the allotted Rs 4 lakh by organising fertility camps and sanctioning sheep rearing units, Panchayat Raj spent Rs 38.33 lakh completely. A cursory glance at the spending of the departments gives a grim picture of the state of  affairs.

District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) was allotted Rs 43.95 crore towards the sub plan. Interestingly, not a single penny was spent so far by the officials even after completion of ten months in the financial year. This does not stop here. The officials were able to spend just 74 per cent of the funds under the sub plan during 2014-15. Of the Rs 13.22 crore sanctioned, only Rs 9.83 crore was spent during this fiscal, by sanctioning 2,070 units out of the targeted 2,385 units.

The officials also lag behind in utilising funds for the implantation of UPA government’s flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in the district. Of the total Rs  167.82 crore sanctioned funds, the officials were able to spend just Rs 26.87 crore. Of the Rs 1.44 crore allotted for the farm machanisation scheme of agriculture department, only Rs 16 lakh was spent with a mere 11 per cent achievement to crucial wings like MEPMA stands at 0.63 per cent, ICDS (9.31 per cent) and Housing (27 per cent).

The officials were able to spend just Rs  21.36 crore out of the sanctioned amount of Rs 245.05 crore under the provision of drinking water to the SC colonies scheme. Similar is the status of provision of basic amenities in the SC colonies programme in the district. Of the 105 sanctioned works worth Rs 31.92 crore, only 34 works were completed by spending Rs 9.36 crore.

The status of the sub plan in Telangana Transco throws up a similar bleak picture. Of the 2,926 sanctioned works worth Rs 15.16 crore, only 533 works were completed by spending just Rs 2.76 crore.Horticulture department failed to sanction a single poly house under a scheme of the state government. Only 18 per cent of the funds allotted for drip irrigation were spent during the last ten months.

Taking a serious note of the issue, district collector Dr TK Sridevi instructed all departments to take steps for achieving 100 per cent targets before the end of the financial year.

sc sub plan

Mahbubnagar Collector Sridevi instructs all departments to achieve targets under the plan before the end of the financial year.

The Hindu

Rohith suicide: Scheduled Castes panel summons Guntur Collector

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/rohith-suicide-scheduled-castes-panel-summons-guntur-collector/article8236437.ece?ref=tpnews

  1. SAMUEL JONATHAN

It also issues notices to Telangana CS, V-C of UoH, and Cyberabad Police Commissioner

Collector and District Magistrate of Guntur Kantilal Dande has been summoned by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes in the case relating to the suicide of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit research scholar of the University of Hyderabad, on January 17.

Mr. Dande is leaving for New Delhi to be present before the Commission on February 15.

The NCSC has issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Telangana, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad, and the Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad, to be present with all relevant documents.

The NCSC decision to issue notices comes in the wake of a petition filed by Radhika Vemula, mother of Rohit, over the alleged discrimination faced by Rohit on the campus causing him to take his life.

The NCSC has also taken cognizance of the controversy which erupted over the caste of the deceased scholar and the subsequent inquiries by both the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments.

It began with the ABVP and other BJP-affiliated organisations questioning the validity of the SC caste certificate produced by Rohit during his admission in UoH. The Telangana police and A.P. revenue officers soon launched an inquiry.

Top police officials from the Cyberabad Police Commissionerate have visited Gurazala and Guntur and spoken to Rohit’s father and his grandfather and recorded their statements.

Caste certificate

Revenue sources in Guntur said that a SC certificate was issued in the year 2004. Another certificate was issued in 2014 through Mee Seva, an online government portal.

While Ms Radhika stated that she belonged to SC (Mala) community and had brought up her three children in a Dalit colony, her estranged husband Mani Kumar claimed that Rohit inherited his caste, Vaddera, listed as an OBC community.

Later, it had emerged that Radhika, born to Dalit agricultural coolies, was adopted by Anjani Devi and was married to a man from OBC community. The NCSC has also questioned the top police and revenue officers on the Action Taken Report on the recommendations issued by the Commission dated January 20.

Punjab News Express

Atoricities on Dalits in Punjab increasing day by day: Channi

http://punjabnewsexpress.com/punjab/news/atoricities-on-dalits-in-punjab-increasing-day-by-day-channi-46760.aspx

February 13, 2016 06:22 PM

Punjab News Express

MOHALI:  The atrocities on the Dalits in Punjab are increasing day by day and there is complete lawlessness prevailing in the state. Speaking in the annual meeting organized by the Forum for the weaker sections in Mohali Today,  Charanjit Singh Channi leader of opposition in Punjab Vidhan Sabha said that Moga case, Abohar Case, Channu Case, Diyalpura Case, Ludhiana Case are some of the recent examples of the Atrocities on the Dalits in Punjab.

In all the cases the accused are being shielded by the government agencies and the victims families are being pressurized to reach out compromise. The condition of the Dalits in Punjab has worsened. Assuring the forum, Channi said he would fight for the rights of Dalits in Vidhan Sabha and on the party level also. Channi also assured the members of the forum that their genuine demands would also be taken at appropriate level.

Sh J R Kundal, Chief Patron and Sh R L Kalsia, Chairperson of the Forum presented the charter of demands to Mr Channi. The demands highlighted the atrocities on Dalits, policy of reservation not implemented in true spirit in Punjab policy says 25% while till now the Dalit population is 33% in Punjab, backlog of vacant posts not fulfilled, implementation of 85th and 81st amendment is not in true spirit, education level for the Dalits is very low, non availability of the teachers in schools is also matter of concern, 25% of the budget under the special component plan should not be diverted and it should be lapsed either.

Others who were present on the occasion included Er. Sarup Singh, Sh PL Loi, Col. Rithvi Raj Kumar, Sh R A Suman, Sh. J P Mehmi, Sh D R Paul, Sh M R Mattu, Sh P R Mann, Sh G C Kler, Sh. Ashok Kumar, Sh H R Sarangal and Sh Pars Ram Singh.

Its State general secretary Bandari Lakshmaiah spoke.

The Hindu

Man booked under SC / ST Act

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/man-booked-under-sc-st-act/article8235508.ece

STAFF REPORTER

Police arrested one person from Paravai near Samayanallur under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act here on Friday.

In the complaint filed by M. Pandi (37), a Dalit residing at Sathyamurthi Nagar in Paravai, he has alleged that he and his wife P. Dhanalakshmi were verbally abused with casteist remarks by their neighbour M. Duraipandi, a caste Hindu.

Police sources said that Pandi and his wife, running a tea shop near their house, are regularly supplying tea to the staff members of a school located nearby. Pandi said the issue snowballed as Duraipandi discouraged the teachers from buying tea from his shop as he was a Dalit. He urged the staff to buy tea from any shop run by a caste Hindu. Hearing this through one of the staff members, Pandi confronted his neighbour a few days ago. In a quarrel, Duraipandi hurled casteist abuses at Pandi and his wife, he said in the complaint.

Though a case was registered at Samayanallur police station, Duraipandi is yet to be arrested.

Day After

The Miscarriage of Merit

http://www.dayafterindia.com/detail.php?headline=content&catid=8687

By Sunil Dang

Implementing reservations for Dalits in private sector is the only way to ensure equality guaranteed by the Constitution — CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said while speaking at a workshop on ‘Right to reservations in private sector as a human right’ in Hyderabad. I know I am going to become most hated man for defying Yechury but national unity is more important than Yechury. On one hand we are talking about making India a super power and asking multi-national companies to come and take advantage of our meritorious human resource while on the other hand a senior politician like Sitaram Yechury is asking for them to choose a candidate simply because he or she is a Dalit. Will that MNC come to India? If they won’t who should be made responsible for the job opportunity and economic benediction that India would lose?

After more than 65 years of our independence, we are still in mode of building a country where citizens would not be treated as SC, ST, OBC or any other category or caste. We are still not Indians and for this credit goes to our leaders who continue to rely on divide and rule. In the name of social justice, there is section of some political leaders who still batting for reservation on the basis of caste. At this point I would like to ask such leaders who favour caste-based reservation in private sector — wasn’t it the responsibility of our leaders to ensure social justice through reservation system. If they have failed to meet the objective of reservation system after around 65 years since inception of our constitution, why such political leader are trying to hide this failure by asking private companies operating in India to pay for that.

Today, private companies are hiring people completely on the merit and this is the only way a businessman would like to recruit. He or she would want best brain available in the job market and hence reservation in private sector would not only deprive a private company from the best merit it would hit our economy drastically. This move has to be shunted immediately because it would derail the sustained economic development which kick-start after India implemented liberalization. Suppose reservation is implemented in private sector then Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) will have to make its team on the basis of caste. Since, BCCI is also a private company, they would require to make a team that have equal representation of the castes in their 11 member team. Phew!

If we don’t refrain from such idea of reservation in private sector, there is danger of brain drain to other countries going northward further. Is our country ready to afford that brain drain and hit on the Indian economy that they would contribute overseas? It would be better if we focus on the root cause of the precarious condition of the Dalits. We need to enhance the literacy level among the economically deprived Dalit section and at the same time we need to focus on the economically deprived section among the forward caste as well. It’s not about caste and creed, it’s the economic deprivation which is creating a huge bridge among the haves and have nots. Our leaders need to address this problem rather than hiding their failure in ensuring social justice in India.

These leaders should have a glimpse of Supreme Court ruling of October 2015 asking government authorities to refrain from relaxing the eligibility criteria basing it on various kinds of reservations. The bench of Justices Dipak Misra and PC Pant remarked, “The fond hope has remained in the sphere of hope… The said privilege remains unchanged, as if (it is) to compete with eternity.”

So, I urge our leaders to make India than to break India by such a divisive innovations.

The Express tribune

Dalits and Muslims: India’s favourites for the death penalty

http://tribune.com.pk/story/1046325/dalits-and-muslims-indias-favourites-for-the-death-penalty/

By Aakar Patel

Published: February 13, 2016

In October 1931, Gandhi said of Ambedkar that “he has every right to be bitter. That he does not break our heads is an act of self-restraint on his part.” Meaning that given the background of the atrocities against him and his communities, Ambedkar was entitled to be harsh with his words.

I thought of that as another college protest has attracted the ruling party’s anger. In Delhi, police have registered charges of sedition against students at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over an event protesting the hanging of Afzal Guru.

Sedition is the “the crime of saying, writing, or doing something that encourages people to disobey their government”.

The FIR was lodged by the BJP MP from East Delhi, Maheish Girri, who in a written complaint called the students “anti-constitutional and anti-national elements”. Girri also wrote to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani, telling them “strict action should be taken against the offenders so that such shameful and anti-India activities are not repeated”.

This is a repeat of the sequence in Hyderabad where the BJP acted strongly against students protesting the hanging of another man, Yakub Memon. That episode ended with the tragedy of one of the students hanging himself.

JNU, which says it had not approved the event, has set up a committee to inquire but again, the same problem of representation has arisen. The students’ union says there is no member on it from marginalised communities.

There was a choice here for the BJP. Instead of throwing the book at the students, it could have shown some understanding of the issue, which is linked to caste directly. Why are dalits protesting against hangings in Hyderabad? Why is the focus on Muslims at JNU? Why are the students insisting on representation from marginalised communities when they are being judged by a committee? The fact is that India reserves the death penalty mostly for dalits and Muslims.

A study that will be published later this year by the National Law University shows that 75 per cent of all death sentences and 93.5 per cent of all death sentences for terrorism were given to dalits and Muslims. The obvious issue here is that of prejudice. The government shows no signs of acting strongly when upper-caste Hindus commit acts of terrorism, as the case of bombings in Malegaon shows. And there is no hurry to hang the killer of Beant Singh, while Rajiv Gandhi’s killers have had their death sentences commuted. They had also been convicted of terrorism, but not all of us are judged by the same rules. Let us leave aside the others like Mayaben Kodnani, convicted of murdering 95 Gujaratis and not even in jail.

The second issue is that of economics.

Dalit and Muslim are also synonyms for ‘poor’. Afzal Guru got almost no legal representation in the trial court stage. Given the reality, it should not surprise us that dalits and Muslims and their supporters are protesting against the government. They have every right to and are justifiably upset. They are seen as out of control and unbalanced, but they are arguing on fact. It is the BJP MPs who keep shooting off letters to Smriti Irani, demanding firm action against those who are acting on emotion.

Those in the upper castes insist that all Indians must buy into their fantasies that they are a perfect society that everyone must bow to. Hindutva’s constituency is middle class and upper caste. It detests the idea of reservations because it senses its privileges are being encroached upon. This is why the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh also does not like reservations and their statements on this have got the BJP into trouble during elections.

The prime minister’s response to this has been to accuse the opposition of invention and lies. But the facts are absolutely clear on the ground. Dalits are getting a voice and are standing up for their rights. There is nothing wrong with that and if they use intemperate language, they should not be treated as criminals. It is important the Indian government engage them, and listen to their argument, not only their slogans.

Compare the wisdom of Gandhi we saw at the beginning to the knee-jerk actions of the leaders of Hindutva, first against the students in Hyderabad and now in Delhi.

Indians must show some mature understanding of the issues. As long as the government does not even attempt to do that, we should not be surprised that those whom we are oppressing so cruelly and relentlessly will say, write and do things that encourage people to disobey the government.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2016.

The Hindustan Times

Marked by caste, race, religion in ‘cosmopolitan’ Bangalore

http://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/sc-st-grievances-in-focus-jnu-might-figure-at-vcs-meet-116021400175_1.html

Sudipto Mondal, Hindustan Times

Updated: Feb 14, 2016 12:46 IST

In a protest at the Bengaluru Town Hall in October 2014, I remember a protestor holding up a placard with ‘Stop this racism. We are all born equal’ written on it. He was demonstrating against a mob attack on Michael Haokip, leader of the local Union of Thadou tribal students from Manipur.

Michael was attacked in east Bengaluru for not speaking Kannada. “Equal to whom,” I had asked. “We want them to be equal to every other Bangalorean. They have the right to enjoy all the freedoms that we do. Be able to live where they want, mix with who they want, speak the language they want. The police should not misbehave with them just because they’re outsiders,” the activist had said.

I met him again at a demonstration in March last year when four African students were attacked by a mob at a bar, again in east Bengaluru. “Things are getting worse. Bengaluru has never been this intolerant,” he had said then.

When I met him last week, he was agitated about the attack on and stripping of a Tanzanian woman in north Bengaluru. Planning the date of a protest, he was brainstorming for a new set of placards that once again spoke of the need for ‘equality’. Why equality? “Because only if we are equal can we be truly cosmopolitan, a true melting pot of cultures, one community,” he said. Again I question, “Equal to whom?”

There is something unreasonable in the demand that a Thadou or a Tanzanian should be treated equal to other Bangaloreans. How can we confer upon them something we don’t enjoy ourselves?

As a second generation Bangalorean, I find it strange that the city’s ‘cosmopolitan’ image is debated only when a person from North-East India or Africa is subjected to differential treatment, when pro-Kannada organisations deface English boards and attack Tamils, who have lived here for centuries, when Hindutva extremists attack lovers, or when people who speak no other language but Hindi and English are hounded.

On February 3, a couple of days after the attack on the Tanzanians, over 10,000 Dalit students ran for their lives through the main roads of Bengaluru with the riot police in hot pursuit. The students, who had come from across the State under the banner of the Bahujan Vidyarthi Sangh (BVS), were demanding that private companies pursue a policy of diversity, equal opportunity and positive discrimination.

They wanted the removal of the centuries-old, man-made barriers preventing their entry into a modern, cosmopolitan and industrialised working-class. Some would say they were demanding reservations. They were brutally lathicharged by the police when they blocked the road demanding chief minister Siddaramaiah come and address them. The CM was busy at the global investors meet where ‘captains of industry’ had gathered. That the city violently rejected the Dalit students’ attempt to be part of its prosperity, did not raise questions on the nature of our cosmopolitanism.

If spectacular video footage and photographs in the media are the triggers for these high-decibel conversations, then the BVS activists had pen-drives full of that too.

So how can one event be used to make a blanket statement on a city? But, of course, there is more. There are sectors of the city’s industry that are upper-caste dominated as are sectors of neighbourhoods. Despite their obvious lack of diversity, these spaces have somehow come to symbolise what is multi-cultural about Bengaluru. Their hybrid languages, their clothes, their music, their food, their literature, their hangouts, their pubs, their parties, their oral histories and their cultural assertion. They have come to represent that which some loosely call Bengaluru’s cosmopolitanism.

To locate the upper caste areas of Bengaluru, just post a question on tamilbrahmin.com or any such web portal. The results will lead you to the oldest and best laid out neighbourhoods in the city that were the first to receive broad roads, piped water, electricity, underground drainage, telephone lines and, now, 4G internet connections.

Classified ads, announcing properties on sale and rent in these areas, clearly say that the prospector must be ‘vegetarian’. There is a special place, outside the hearts and moral frames of these home owners, reserved for Dalits and Muslims.

In 2009, one of the city’s most well known realtors, who happened to be Muslim, was renovating his ancestral house and wanted to move into a rented property. He looked for one in the best areas of the city. But those areas were for vegetarians only. He finally moved into a relative’s house and is too embarrassed to openly confess that he couldn’t find himself a house on rent despite having been in the real estate business for two generations.

Dalit activist, writer and Right Livelihood Award winner Ruth Manorama says after she got her award in 2006, she had enough funds to move to a better office. She approached an old upper-caste couple, both retired scientists with children abroad, to rent out one of their properties in Jayanagar 4th Block. “They had seen me all over the papers and knew I was Dalit. They said to my face that they cannot rent their house to a person from another caste,” she says.

There are those who have been kept out and then there are those who have been displaced in the pursuit of urbane cosmopolitanism. The city’s most iconic cultural space, the Ravindra Kalekshetra, was a slum until 1957. The Vikas Soudha, where many State ministers sit, the multi-storey building which houses senior bureaucrats and the office of the State Human Rights Commission were slums until 1986. Jayanagar 4th Block, where Manorama was denied a house, was once the site of a slum with more than 1,000 units.

All these slum dwellers – mostly Dalits, Adivasis and ‘lowered’ caste Muslims and Christians – were relocated outside the city where snakes, leopards and other wild animals roamed. “How is city life different from rural life? The same categories of people are forced to live on the fringes of villages as well,” says Isaac Arul Selva, a slum rights activist, “How can a city that defines belonging in such narrow terms ever be welcoming of an African or an Iranian or a Naga tribal?”

There are those who use other metrics to argue that the city is more inclusive than others: Its older residents speak more than four languages. Pork is sold in Muslim areas and Beef is sold in Hindu areas. Women can smoke in public. In some places they can even dance with men. Couples have been living-in since the 1960s. There is a classmate of mine whose name is Shahdil Samuel Soundarajan and he lives in Shantinagar, the oldest and most multi-cultural area of the city. Cricket unites. Football unites. Masala Dosa unites. Traffic jams unite.

‘I have made friends who are like family’

Hellen Thomas

24-year-old Hellen Thomas left Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, four years ago to study in Bengaluru. A commerce graduate from the city’s Acharya College, Thomas feels Bengaluru is not very different from her hometown, except for things being more expensive here. People from African countries, she feels, often tend to get fleeced by auto drivers and landlords when negotiating rent or deposit amounts.

Speaking of her experience here so far, she says, “Bengaluru has been home. I am grateful for a lot of things this city has given me and my college has been really supportive towards foreign students like me. In the past four years, I have made friends whom I consider family.”

Referring to the recent mob attack on a Tanzanian student, she adds, “Such incidents can happen anywhere in the world. I am of the opinion that we all have to learn to cope and change for a better society and I would advise the same to the locals. Of course, mob violence should not ever take place and I think we need to individually take responsibility since change can only start with us.”

The Tanzanian says she sometimes finds it hard to understand the accent in which the locals speak English, “But I have gotten better at figuring it out. I also know a couple of Kannada words, such as illa (no) and beda (I don’t want).” Though Thomas mostly eats Tanzanian food, which she cooks at home, she loves pani puri and sambar.

Her advice to Tanzanians thinking of moving to Bengaluru is: “Go for it if you’re ready to learn and grow.”

(Prajwala Hegde)

‘Know your rights’

Tori Macdonald

30-year-old Tori Macdonald left her Edmonton home in Canada, two years ago to be with her Bengaluru-based boyfriend. Currently a chef at The Humming Tree, Indiranagar, Tori has studied culinary arts and dabbled in various jobs at restaurants and cafes and even at a butcher shop back home.

Of life in Bengaluru, she says, “Because of my boyfriend and his family, I have a support system here which not many foreigners are lucky enough to have.” She feels that Bengaluru has a welcoming vibe and says she has never had any problems, apart from the initial unpleasant experience of haggling with auto drivers. “Earlier, auto drivers would quote a higher fare after seeing the colour of my skin, mistaking me for a tourist. But now, I put my foot down and tell them that I won’t pay a rupee extra.”

She also talks about several instances where she got treated better just because she was white. “Many times at a bar or pub I get served quicker than my boyfriend. I feel Indians are one of the most racist people.”

Though she has never lived in any other Indian city, she is aware that this attitude is not restricted to Bengaluru. “There is also a language barrier while communicating with auto drivers or shop keepers. But, I have somehow managed or had someone to help me.”

Her advice to foreigners is, “Stand up for yourself. And know your rights.”

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET

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