Dalits Media Watch – English News Updates 28.02.16


Dalit Woman Who Wanted To Be Cop Raped By 2, Filmed By Batchmates – News world india


Shame : Minor Dalit Girl Gangraped – The samaya


Tamil Nadu Government School Without Dalit Students – The Sunday standard


Book Review: The Ballad of Bant Singh- A Qissa of Courage – Dna


What Mayawati vs Smriti Irani Is Really All About – Nd tv


Dalits ditch Shakespeare, Dickens for ‘own’ stories – The times of india




The need to implement Dalit Bahujan ideas of social justice – Two circles net


The angry Jat: Why the community wants reservation – The new Indian express



News world india

Dalit Woman Who Wanted To Be Cop Raped By 2, Filmed By Batchmates


A 22-year-old woman, who aspires to become a police officer, was allegedly gangraped by two youths whereas another recorded the act on his mobile phone in Karimnagar district of Telangana, police said today.


G Srinivas and M Anjaiah allegedly raped the woman, who belongs to scheduled caste, while M Rakesh recorded video of the act on his cellphone, police said.

One of the three accused had joined in the same coaching class, for the competitive examination for police recruitment, as the girl had, they said.

A senior police officer said the incident took place on the outskirts of Veenavanka village on February 10 when the three accused, the complainant, and her woman friend were returning to their village after watching a movie.

“The trio took the two women to a hillock and it seems one of the women sensed danger and ran away. Two of the accused allegedly raped the victim while the third one shot a video on his cell phone,” the officer told PTI over phone.

The victim told her parents about the incident only two days ago, after which her relatives beat up the trio on February 24 evening and they were admitted to a hospital in the neighbouring Warangal district.

Afterwards, a rape complaint was filed. The accused have also been charged under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Information Technology Act.

“No one has been arrested so far as two of the accused are still undergoing treatment. Police are keeping a watch on all three,” the officer said.

The samaya

Shame : Minor Dalit Girl Gangraped


Ghazipur: A minor Dalit girl was gangraped and set on fire by three persons in Godsaiya town here.

The young lady had gone to mitigate herself in a field when three youth of the same town purportedly gangraped her yesterday evening, police said.

Before escaping, they poured lamp fuel on her and set her burning, they said.

She was rescued by locals and admitted to the district hospital by police after the incident.

An FIR has been lodged against Sonu Yadav, Pradip Yadav and another person after a complaint by the victim’s grandfather, SP Ram Kishore Verma said.

The Sunday standard

Tamil Nadu Government School Without Dalit Students


MADURAI: Kuruvithurai is a village in Madurai district, six kms away from Solavandan town. The Adi Dravidar colony here has 150 dalit families—all of them prefer not to send their wards to the only panchayat union primary school there, fearing that their children might face discrimination at the hands of caste Hindu students and villagers.

Less than a month ago, a clash broke out between the two groups over dalit youths playing a song from a Tamil movie on loud speakers which the caste Hindus found provocative.

For more than two decades, dalit children are forced to go to the government higher secondary school in neighbouring Mannadimangalam panchayat a few kilometres away. “Even for that, the students had to take another route through a grove as they were taunted if they took the main road to school,” said Satish who had just returned after having a haircut in Sholavandan town as local barbers did not entertain dalits.

When approached, panchayat union leader M Karnan was in the defensive. “Despite the government providing the same facilities at both the schools, for some unknown reasons, dalits do not send their children to our panchayat union school,” Karnan said. He belongs to the caste Hindu community.

On further probe, it was found that the discrimination was not restricted to children alone. Even the government staff from the SC community had to face the wrath of caste Hindu villagers. “The parents did not allow their children to take food made by me,” said Pandieashwari, a dalit noon meal staff from the anganwadi. She has been posted to the school a year ago.

The panchayat leader Karnan had a theory for this too. “After last month’s communal clash, the parents (caste hindus) were not ready to retain her as a school staff. They suspected she might not prepare proper food for the children. However, we intervened and ensured that she returned to the school after the tension petered out,” Karnan  said.

After the recent clash, relationships have strained further between caste Hindus and dalit students. “We don’t even look at each other even when we play together in inter-school or zonal level sports events,” said Pandiaraj, a class 10 student from dalit colony.

The caste Hindus claim they reject the practice of such discriminations and accuse dalits of misusing the privileges given to them.


Book Review: The Ballad of Bant Singh- A Qissa of Courage


Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar points out in Annihilation of Caste that “the effect of caste on the ethics of the Hindus is simply deplorable”. Virtue, he says in his stinging, cutting-to-the-bone critique, “has become caste-ridden and morality has become caste-bound”.

In the Indian social milieu, the irrational and unnatural institution of caste is not restricted to Hindus alone. It manifests in some form or another in religions like Islam and Christianity. It is unfortunate that Sikhism and the Bhakti movement, which were part of the larger, anti-caste project, have been corrupted by the very primordial systems they once opposed.

It is in this backdrop that poet, journalist and translator Nirupama Dutt’s powerful narrative on Bant Singh, a “symbol of Dalit resistance in Punjab” must be read. While Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide exposed these fault lines in Indian society, The Ballad of Bant Singh: A Qissa of Couragemakes for necessary reading, especially for those who live in ivory towers and deny that casteism still exists. It details the struggle of the Dalit Sikh agrarian labourer and activist of Burj Jhabbar village who lost both his arms and a leg when he was brutally attacked by upper-caste Jat men. His crime? He had dared to take on a Jat man and two others and ensured their conviction for the gangrape of his minor daughter, who was engaged to be married.

The book paints a moving picture of the Dalit Mazhabi Sikhs (Dalit converts to Sikhism) and their hardships and of Bant, the gutsy “singing torso”, who continues to fight for the cause of the dispossessed with his moving rendition of songs. Dutt writes about the hardships that these Mazhabi Sikhs face – youth working as attached labourers with Jat families at low wages and women whose bodies are seen as “an object of casual, easy abuse”.

The turning point for Bant, who came from the Choorha caste of sweepers, the Dalits among Dalits, was when he heard poet Sant Ram Udasi, also a Mazhabi Sikh and a Naxalite poet. This drew Bant, whose songs form an integral part of his activism, to the ultra-Left CPI (M-L) Liberation Party and Mazdoor Mukti Morcha.

Flitting between narratives, Dutt recounts the horror of the attack on Bant by seven boys who bashed his limbs to pulp with metal handles of hand pumps. “One of the farmhands who reached first was so horrified at the state Bant was in that he fainted,” notes Dutt, adding that Bant asked his rescuers to “first take care of this man and then attend to me”.

More was to follow. When he was taken to the Mansa Civil Hospital, the doctor demanded a bribe of Rs1,000, which Bant borrowed from a chemist and a tea vendor. The “landlord-police nexus” ensured that the charges against the accused were watered down. It was only after his comrades held a press conference in Chandigarh that the blackout by local reporters ended and the wheels of justice were finally set in motion.

Bant represents the rooted, organic idiom of the Communist movement. Despite his Leftist leanings, Bant has no knowledge of Marx and Mao, with his ideals rooted in the soil of Punjab. The book makes only a fleeting mention about the Naxalite movement in Punjab, whose poet Udasi inspired Bant. Some more details would have certainly helped. In a society where an accident of birth can determine the course of one’s life, Bant’s brooding: “So ridiculous that birth should decide the fate of a person!” lingers long after the book has been read.

Nd tv

What Mayawati vs Smriti Irani Is Really All About


Was it drama, ideological fight or a clash of cultures? What was it that created such a sensation and so many media headlines? Both are feisty politicians with very strong heads on their shoulders. Both are stubborn. Both are extremely successful. Mayawati, the five-time Chief Minister of UP, assumed the mantle at a very tender political age of 35 years. Smriti Irani became a cabinet minister at 38, reason for much heart burn in her own party. Even before she entered politics she was a national icon for many middle class bahus and brides-to-be.

The battle of these two extremely ambitious women was the talk of town this week when they clashed with each other in parliament. Mayawati started the assault. The BJP had planned to hijack the agenda of the house with the JNU issue when Mayawati ambushed it with her Dalit agenda. She raised the issue of Rohith Vemula and thundered that “ever since the BJP has come to power, it has tried to impose the RSS ideology”. Her MPs chanted – “Dalit virodhi sarkaar nahin chalegi (Anti-Dalit government won’t survive”). Mayawati wanted Smriti Irani’s head. She demanded that she should be sacked. Ms. Irani was hysterical. Like a good actress, she tried to emotionalise Rohith Vemula’s suicide – “Come and take my head if you want” was her retort.

And, immediately, Smriti Irani was dubbed a drama queen by her opponents and terrific speaker by her supporters in the party and some outside. Even those who had been critical of her handling of the Rohith issue were praising her on social media. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted her full speech, a public pat on the back. She was bold and furious. Some said the speech showed the birth of a new top-level leader in the BJP.

But Mayawati was more strategic. She did not shout. She is known to not speak much. She rarely interacts with the media and neither does she say much in the House. But she did not want to miss this opportunity. This is about a Dalit student. She wanted to convey the message that the BJP is not pro-Dalit despite an attempt to usurp Baba Saheb Ambedkar this year by none other than Prime Minister Modi.

Mayawati knows well that in the 2014 parliamentary elections, Modi and the BJP successfully lured Dalits to vote for them. Mayawati and her BSP drew a blank and the BJP romped home with 71 seats in UP, where the state elections are a year away. And after a bad loss in Delhi and Bihar, UP will be very crucial for Modi himself and for the BJP as well. It is this battle which will settle the question as to if Modi is still the darling of the masses or if 2014 was just a bubble. Mayawati is also fighting for her survival. She has been virtually written off by political pundits after the Lok Sabha elections. And the country has not heard about her or from her in the recent past. With an aggressive BJP, Mayawati has to send a very strong signal to her core constituency and voters of UP at large that she is still relevant and ready to fight. This was the golden moment. She seized it well.

The BJP is aware that Rohith’s suicide has snowballed into a major controversy. The message that has gone to the Dalit community is that two central ministers – Bandaru Dattatreya and Smriti Irani – have been, directly or indirectly linked to his death, and hence, the demand for their sacking.

The RSS has been trying hard to assimilate the Dalits into its Hindutva project but the Rohith issue has come as a great jolt and reports from the ground are not very encouraging. There is anger among the community against the BJP/RSS. To begin with, the BJP wanted to avoid the debate on Rohith in parliament. Political pundits are of the opinion that the BJP deliberately fuelled the JNU debate to distract attention from Rohith’s death.

The debate on Nationalism has caught the imagination of the country. Smriti Irani was determined to combine both the issues and sidetrack Rohith, but Mayawati did not let that happen. Mayawati’s act was a disruption, Irani’s was to damage-control. One was calculative, the other was emotional. One is battle-hardened, the other a greenhorn. A comparison would be lopsided but the “other” fought well with limited success. Neither of them emerged victorious.

Mayawati is a product of the most understated but most brilliant revolution this country has ever seen. Dalits have always been treated most inhumanly in our culture. The Constitution gave them political equality but political power eluded them till the early 90s. Kanshi Ram did the most magnificent political experiment in UP, aroused Dalit consciousness to a level that they craved power for themselves, and formed the first Dalit government which was unthinkable till a few years ago. Mayawati was his most loyal pupil.

But if she did not get respect, Mayawati has no one to blame but herself because of her greed for money and the corruption that she spawned. The BJP always believed that it was the emergence of this Dalit class which stopped the march of Hindutva. The Dalit assertion in UP was so powerful that after the Babri demolition, the BJP could not attain a majority on its own and since then has been out of power in the state except for once.

In the House, Smriti Irani’s anger reflects that angst of the RSS. She challenged people to name her caste, but she forgot that she represents a political party and an ideological force which in its moorings is upper caste, and the Dalits call them Manuvadi, followers ofManusmriti, which is essentially the Das Capital of the Brahmanical order perpetuated for thousands of years in our society.

This is a war and it will accentuate further. There will be more such battles. The two cultures will further clash. Shrillness and shouting will not help, this has to be understood. Drama can bring applause once, may be twice, but reality will soon dawn. And reality is far more cruel.

The times of india

Dalits ditch Shakespeare, Dickens for ‘own’ stories


MUMBAI: Several students and researchers, especially Dalits, from the Department of English at Mumbai University are moving away from literary titans William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens to increasingly focus on issues closer home and subaltern society. The number of Dalits pursuing doctoral studies has gone up because of reservation, and the presence of more research guides, several of them Dalits themselves, who have done studies in this area and are more comfortable with these issues.

The range of translated literature now available to students is another reason for the shift in focus, say professors. Areas that have attracted interest include comparing African-American (another oppressed group) literature with Dalit literature in India, especially Maharashtra, autobiographies of Dalits, and even “Dalit US” personalities like US president Obama.

Shivaji Sargar, a professor in the department, said, “Dalit autobiographies are different from mainstream Marathi autobiographies. While Marathi autobiographies are mostly written at the fag end of people’s lives, Dalit autobiographies are written by people in their 30s and 40s. It’s about their struggle in life and involves more activism. These autobiographies have caught the interest of many students.”

In the last cycle of syllabus updation, Dalit studies, he said, was included in the English literature curriculum even at the undergraduate level. Scholars are also studying how different authors have dealt with ‘untouchables’ in their writings, said Sargar.

An increasing amount of literature is available now, and there are more translated works from Marathi, said a professor. Students originally from the state have an advantage as much literature is available on the community in Marathi, said Sargar.

Sumeet Patil, currently pursuing his PhD from the department, said he was impressed with the works of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. After reading Ambedkar, he decided to do research on how autobiographies of Dalits have flourished since the 1950s. He is now comparing autobiographies of four Dalit authors: Urmila Pawar, Prakash Valmiki, Vasant Moon and Baby Kamble, the first Dalit woman writer.

Balaram Gaikwad, another guide from the department, a Fulbright scholar, said 50% of the students under him are currently doing research on Dalit literature. “Earlier, there were not enough guides for the subject. Now they are more open about the subject and encourage students to pursue research,” said Gaikwad, adding that slave narratives and women’s autobiographies are more popular as research subjects

Sakshi post




Ghaziabad: The defiling of a statue of the chief architect of the Indian Constitution and Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar here has led to tension and heavy police presence. The police said that it received information late on Friday night that the statue at Ambedkar Park in Navyug Market here had been damaged.

After this a heavy police force was deployed around Ambedkar Park which is situated in an area inhabited largely by Dalit families. The situation became more tense when some members of the Dalit community took out a procession and staged a dharna.

The civil administration was apprised of the situation and a new statue of Ambedkar was brought from nearby Sahibabad. The construction of the platform is now in progress and the new statue is expected to be erected on Sunday.

A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against unidentified criminals, said Superintendent of Police Salman Taj Patil.

“This is the second defilement of the same statue in two years. The same district magistrate had then assured us that proper security would be provided to the statue,” said Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Pyare Lal Jatav.

“We warn the district administration that the Dalit community would not tolerate further insult to our mentor,” he added.

Two circles net

The need to implement Dalit Bahujan ideas of social justice


The tragic death of Rohith Vemula at Hyderabad Central University (HCU) has created a strong public outrage, followed by a wide-range of academic discourse among scholars belonging to different social groups. A section of the progressive scholars have argued that the ‘social paradox’ has now become sharp between radical Ambedkarites and hard core Hindutva forces. And it is interesting to note that for the first time, all progressive sections of society, liberal-Left, radical Dalit student movement, and religious minorities, especially Indian Muslims, have unequivocally opposed Rohith’s untimely death. To put differently, one could rightly argue that Rohith’s episode in fact created ‘Pan-India reaction’ and one cannot deny the fact that this movement have enough ‘potential’ to fight against the threat of Hindutva juggernaut.

As the news about Rohith Vemula Suicide came out in the public domain, BJP leaders and Ministers started making casteist and communal statements rather than expressing genuine concern. However, in contrast to BJP-RSS-ABVP combine views, for the Ambedkarites and the progressive section, Rohith’s ‘social death’ must be considered as an ‘institutional murder’. He was compelled to commit an act like suicide, simply because, being an active member of a radical Dalit student wing like ASAs that time and again strongly condemned and registered protests on several human rights issues such as Yakub Memon’s hanging, Muzaffarnagar riots, AFSPA, death penalty, beef ban etc. which was strongly reacted by communal outfits like ABVP and right wing forces.

Having made these points, in what follows, the arguments will be confined mainly on how Dalits as a group, experience caste-based discriminations in the institutions of higher learning. While doing so, it is important to first provide a strong critique of Hindutva views on ‘Dalit questions’.

Here an attempt has been made to critique RSS-VHP-BJP combine views from the perspective of ‘social justice’ and in light of academic insights provided by the Dalit-Bahujan intellectual’s particularly on lived experiences of Dalits in Public universities. Moreover, here an attempt has been also made to prolematise the ‘liberal intuitionalists’ views vis-a vis Dalit’s lived experiences in realm of higher education. To put it briefly, a prominent section of liberal and secular public intellectuals like Andre Beteille and others have consistently argued that the ‘merits’ and ‘academic excellence’ must be ensured in the public institutions like universities. However, here it is seen that on the pretext of the so-called ‘Merits and Academic performance’, they indirectly end up reinforcing upper caste domination, in the institutions of higher learning.

Finally we argue that in contrast to some scholar’s views, it is empirically wrong to say that Hindutva politics’ has became more accommodative and provides democratic space to articulate ‘Dalit question’ in the public domain. To substantiate the arguments further, Rohith Vemula’s ‘social death’ could be a case in point here. To put briefly, on the basis of earlier studies, here it could be argued that unlike the so-called liberals views, ‘Radical Ambedkarites’ understanding on ‘Dalit questions’ and ‘Social Justice’ must be taken seriously for ‘social emancipation’ of untouchables.

Public institutions and Social Justice

Generally speaking, it is considered the fact that university as Public institution has often been understood as liberal and secular space. However, on the basis of some empirical and scholarly studies conducted by Dalit- Bahujan intellectuals and others, it would not be wrong to say that majority of these public institutions in India generally maintain and more often reinforce upper caste brahmanical values, which often generate tension and sometime result in an uneasy relation with lived experiences of lower castes and Dalits.

Historically speaking, noted social historians have rightly shown that India’s Dalits are one of the most oppressed groups and victims of social injustice since ancient times. And the fact cannot be denied that, the outcastes and the untouchables lived an ‘inhuman life’ and experienced ‘social stigma’ and caste based discriminations in all walks of life. Due to their low status in Hindu ‘social order’, Dalits, as a group deliberately kept outside from the domain of modern and secular education.

However, surprisingly, liberal intellectuals like Andre Beteille and others have observed that although Indian society is deeply hierarchical and divided on the basis of caste and communities; but unlike past universities, Indian universities have accommodated these different castes and communities in post-independent democratic India.

In addition to this, Béteille further observed that ‘academic excellence’ and the so-called ‘merits’ must be insured in the Public universities.

To put differently, most of liberals including Béteille seem to argue that in universities ‘politics of identity’ must not be allowed and ‘merits’ and ‘academic excellence’ need to be underlined seriously.

Institutional Discriminations

To highlight the institutional discrimination, a number of studies have been done by scholars, that have clearly exposed the questions of caste based discriminations and practices of untouchability widely noticed in Indian society.

In this context, a noted scholar, Professor Sukhdev Thorat and others in their recent study have clearly demonstrated that caste discrimination and social prejudice against Dalits are widely seen in the elite institution like AIIMS. As Thorat committee observed that more than 80% of SC/ST student’s face various form of social discrimination either directly or indirectly in AIIMS.

In a more systematic manner, a prominent scholar, Samson K. Ovichega in his book ‘Faces of Discrimination in Higher Education in India’ has rightly shown that caste based discrimination is generally practiced by upper castes in academic sphere. As Ovichega observes, “caste-based discrimination is prevalent within the academic sphere of the university. It considers the hegemonic dominance of high-caste non-Dalit faculty members within the university’s administration, management and classrooms, and the role this might play in ‘othering’ Dalit members of staff.”

Besides eminent scholar views, there are several government reports that clearly indicate growing caste atrocities against Dalits.

According to a survey conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and University of Maryland, US, which was subsequently published in outlook magazine in May 2015, found that ‘one in every four Indian, admits of Practicing Untouchability. For instance, in Haryana alone, 21 Dalits were murdered in 2014. And crimes against SCs rose to 47,064 in 2014 from 39,408 in 2013.The rate of crime is the number of crimes reported against SCs per one lakh of their population. In 2014, the rate of crime against Dalits was 23.4 and in 2013 it was 19.57. NCRB statistics show that 2,233 Dalit women were raped in 2014. In a similar vein, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), in their new statistics show those crimes against Dalits, or Scheduled Castes (SCs), rose 19% last year, on top of a 17% increase in 2013.

To sum up the main arguments so far, it could be clearly argued that the claims made by some prominent sociologists like M.N Srinivas and Andre Beteille is far from the truth that caste and practices of untochability are dying. As he elsewhere observed that, caste has been dying in all walks of life barring political sphere.

The relevance of Ambedkar’s words

To conclude here, on the basis of empirical studies done by Dalit-Bahujan intellectuals and Academics, it is not wrong to say that Modi’s tall claims of “Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas”, on which plank Modi was voted to power, now stand clearly exposed. And after going through the painful lived experiences and including looking at institutional plight of India’s Dalits, one could argue that ‘Caste-based discrimination’ have increased and even reflected in the domains of higher education.

It is to be noted that even more emphatically Ambedkar had predicted the menace of Hindutva ideology, long before the independence. In this regards, he writes, “How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril’’

After 68 years of India’s independence, it must be underlined that what Ambedkar had said during those formative years of nation- building, is still relevant and need be to taken seriously, while conceptualising the goals of social justice for oppressed groups like Dalits.

To understand different tradition of social justice, in the Indian context, another noted Social scientist, Professor Gopal Guru has demonstrated his views in the book ‘Social Justice, the Oxford Companion to Politics in India’, “In the Indian context there are basically two deferent traditions, orthodox and heterodox which offer definite philosophical cues about social justice. The heterodox tradition tried to define social justice thorough radical interrogation of caste system and caste related social hierarchies that sustain the brahminical notion of justice. The heterodox tradition involving theory and practice of social justice from the part of India’s intellectual heritage represented by Phule and Ambedkar.

Finally, the arguments given by Hindutva ideologues and others need to be strongly critiqued from the perspective of ordinary Dalits ‘lived experiences’. Moreover, the arguments of Indian liberals are also unpersuasive with regards to Indian universities and its role in promoting the culture of ‘democratic citizenship’ and social justice vis-a-vis oppressed groups. Therefore, it is high time to search for more radical and egalitarian ‘conception of social justice’ which is widely found in the writings of Dalit-Bahujan intellectuals like Phule, Periyar and Ambedkar. While doing so, here it is suggested that it will help us to democratise the institutions of higher learning and achieve the goals of ‘Social Justice’ for oppressed social groups and therefore prevent further, Social death’ like Rohith in future.

The new Indian express

The angry Jat: Why the community wants reservation


On the Jhajjar-Kosli road, about 20 km from Haryana’s Jhajjar town, a narrow road cuts left from Matanhail village. On February 20, at around 10.30 am, there was a traffic jam on this road that leads to Akheri Madanpur village. That day, Jat youths from across the area had gathered there. The plan was to go to Jhajjar town to stage a protest seeking quota in central government jobs for the community. Several tractor-trailers had lined up along the road to take these men to the town.

Fifty men from Akheri boarded two of these tractors. That evening, only 48 returned. Arjun Singh, 19, and Sandeep Kumar, 27, died in police firing after their agitation turned violent.

Down a lane inside Akheri village, past shops and ageing houses lined by open drains, is Arjun’s house. There are at least 50 pairs of slippers and shoes at the doorstep. Inside, people, young and old, sit in a roofless courtyard that has a cloth strung across to keep out the elements. These people are from as many as 36 villages near Akheri village and are here to pay their condolences to Arjun’s family and express solidarity with the “cause” he died for.

Amid a constant supply of tea and two hookahs that get passed around, the gathering vents its anger, accusing the government of “conspiracy” by “pitching one caste against another” and saying the Jats have a right to seek — and get — reservation in central government jobs. Fundamental to this chatter, however, is the subtext of the time warp that the Jats feel their community is stuck in.

“We are at a crossroads,” says Arjun’s tau (uncle) Sukhbir Singh. “Land holdings are reducing by the day. Farming is no longer profitable. And our children have no jobs. What’s wrong if we agitate for quota? People are calling us upadravi (trouble makers). But we are only fighting to uplift a community that’s been left behind. And quota is the only way.”

Sukhbir retired as a bank manager. Money from his pension and a small farm that he tills now keep him going “comfortably”. His is a rare story in a village where most people are either entirely dependent on agriculture or engaged in services in the state police and central security forces.

Akheri is a village of 1,600 families with Jats making up over 60 per cent of its population. Dalits, OBCs such as Nais, Kumhars, Khatis and Lohars, and the 5 per cent Brahmins form the rest. Much of the land in the village is concentrated in the hands of the Jats; most other castes either have very small land holdings or work in government or private jobs.

One of the reasons why the Jat demand for quota has been called ‘unjustified’ is because they are a numerically and socially dominant community. Jats in Haryana make up over a quarter of the state’s population, giving them considerable political heft. They also have good representation in state politics and state government jobs, but with these jobs saturated, the Jats are hoping to find Central government jobs.

They also continue to be the property holders in the village economy, owning at least 75 per cent of land. In central Haryana, which includes districts such as Rohtak and Jhajjar, the epicentre of the agitation, this figure is even higher. But land holdings in these parts are small, usually restricted to less than 5 acres per family.

In Akheri, this loss of land is part of every wistful conversation on their past. Though the Jats here still command respect because of their traditional supremacy in the social hierarchy, things have changed, they say. “We were zamindars some 50 years ago. The population has exploded since then and land has got divided. No Jat in the village has more than 2-3 acres of land. We are no better than peasants,” says Karn Singh, 62.

Farming itself isn’t lucrative anymore, they say. Increasing input cost, poor irrigation, the unpredictable weather and a slow growth in food prices have hemmed in the community.

“A DAP (fertiliser) sack comes for Rs 1,600. A sack of wheat today is sold for Rs 1,200. Earlier, the water in the canal used to run for 15 days in a season; now it’s reduced to seven days. The groundwater level has plummeted and borewells give out salty water that’s destroying our agriculture. The government gave me Rs 57 as compensation when my crops got damaged during the recent hailstorm. The bus fare from here to Rohtak is Rs 60,” says Ramprakash Singh, another farmer in the village.

“When we had large land holdings, it was okay to be dependent on agriculture. There was a saying: ‘Uttam kheti, madhyam vyapar, neech naukri kare chamar (farming is the finest profession, business the second rung and service is for untouchables). Now that has been reversed. The Dalits are doing well because of quota,” says Karn Singh, adding that only one person in his extended family has ever got a government job, that too of a patwari.

For far too long, the Jats have been tied to the soil, both owning and tilling their land. Nonica Datta, a professor of history at Miranda House college in Delhi who has authored the book Forming an Identity: A Social History of Jats, says, “Culturally, it is difficult to separate a Jat from his land. He is not a zamindar in the traditional sense. He is kind of a self-proprietor who tills his own land. So if you take away his land, you put the Jat in a sort of a cultural crisis.”

Meanwhile, communities around him, mostly less privileged than him and with little or no land, invested in education and found a way out of farming.

Jats in Akheri have slowly begun to realise the merits of education, but for now, they are convinced that quota is the easier way to get there.

Surajbhan Jakhar is 74 and not very optimistic about the future of his grandchildren as he sees his two sons struggling to make ends meet on the 2 acres the family owns. His brother has done much better. He is a veterinary doctor and lives in Rohtak in a “big kothi”. His two sons have become sub-divisional officers. “My parents could send only one of us to school. He studied, I didn’t,” says Surajbhan.

Both the schools in the village, one for boys and the other for girls, came up in the late 90s. Thus, a majority of the Jat population in the village has not even passed Class X. When the Haryana government made it mandatory for those contesting sarpanch and panch elections to have cleared at least Class X, Akheri Madanpur didn’t find a single person from among the older generation who was willing to fight and fit the bill. The average age of the panchayat, which has 16 members, is now 25. The sarpanch, Harish Jakhar, is 22 himself. The eldest panchayat member is 40 while a seat in a ward reserved for women lies vacant since they could find no candidate.

There is, however, greater awareness now about education being a liberating force. Many young men in the village are graduates from MD University (MDU) in Rohtak while some others hold technical diplomas from colleges in Jhajjar, Rohtak and other districts.

Harish, the sarpanch, is an MDU graduate. His election pamphlet had him urging people to vote for him as he is a “shikshit” and “yogya ummeedwar (an educated and able candidate)”. “The word shikshit is a recent addition to electioneering in our village. It didn’t matter earlier,” he says.

Praveen Ahlawat, 35, whose wife Geeta is a member of the panchayat, says it was only after 2000 that the village began talking about education and jobs. That was 10 years into economic liberalisation. “Those with education had surged ahead,” he says.

The girls’ school at the end of the village bears testimony to Ahlawat’s remark. Down a lane lined with dung cakes, the school that’s spread over 3 acres and with classes till XII, has about 300 students who come from various villages around Akheri Madanpur. The teachers too come from neighbouring villages. Only two of the 11 teachers on the rolls are from Akheri and they are both non-Jats — from the reserved category. Though the former principal is a Jat, he is from the nearby Matanhail village.

That’s another grouse — that “they” (read: the Dalits and other communities) get the jobs while “we Jats pay the price” for “securing the nation” (a reference to the high number of Jat recruits in the Army) and “feeding the country”.

“We were stuck with agriculture for too long. Today if growth in food prices is 10 per cent, that in earnings from services is 120 per cent. Jobs are the only way out for us and that will happen only when we have quota,” says Om Veer, 30, who holds a diploma in electrical engineering from a polytechnic college in Jhajjar.

He had applied for the job of a junior engineer in the electricity department but couldn’t get the job. “There were just seven vacancies in the general category. There too you had to use some political influence,” says Om Veer, who now tills the 5-acre farm that he shares with his brother.

Why isn’t he trying for a private job? “I never tried. The salary is not good and there is no stability. You can be fired any time,” he says.

Subhash Jakhar, 28, who lives a few houses away from Om Veer’s, was in one of the trucks that left Akheri village on February 20 to protest in Jhajjar town. “Look, we have to accept that our education levels are poor. Without good English, you can’t get jobs in the private sector. Here in our village, very few people can afford to send their children to English-medium private schools,” he says.

Subhash says he understands the problem more than anyone else in the village. Having graduated from MDU, he has been preparing for the civil services exams for the past three years. He often travels to Delhi and rents a room in Mukherjee Nagar for a few months to collect notes and connect with fellow aspirants.

He then comes back to the village and prepares for the exams in a small room on the ground floor of his two-storeyed house that has a car parked in front. Subhash is among the better-placed Jats in the village, which, he says, is thanks to his brother being in the armed forces.

“We need jobs. But the only jobs we get easily are in the police or Army. Of the 30-odd people from this village who are in security forces, more than 20 are Jats. We are physically strong. But when it comes to matters of the mind, we are found struggling,” he says sheepishly. In his room are two photographs, of him in vests and showing off his muscles.

“I have studied in the village school. We can’t compete with city boys. We work hard, but there is no output. So without reservation, we get left behind both in government jobs and private jobs,” he says.

But don’t students from Hindi-medium schools in states such as Bihar go on to clear the civil services? “I know. I am friends with many such aspirants. They just work too hard,” says Subhash.

Historian Datta says there’s a historical context to why Jats stayed away from education and, more specifically, English. “Historically, they have been Arya Samajis. So they have stayed away from English education. When the British recruited the Jats in the Army, literacy was not a requirement. In the 19th and 20th Century, they did acquire education through community institutions, but such communitarian education had its limits.”

Poor education and the resultant lack of jobs has had another social fallout — of men struggling to get married. Jakhar says the community has paid the price for focusing on boys for far too long. “We needed more farm hands so the focus was on boys. Now as farm earnings have plummeted, the same boys have become a liability for the community.

“With the sex ratio being so bad (at 774, Jhajjar has the worst child sex ratio in the country, according to the 2011 Census), there aren’t enough girls. Anyway, who would want to get his daughter married to a jobless man tilling less than an acre? Naukri nahi to chhokri nahi (no brides without jobs),” says Jagmesh Kumar, 31.

Jagmesh has cleared his Class X and is a member of the panchayat. His two brothers, who are more than 10 years older to him, are both married. “Those days, people didn’t bother about jobs while getting their daughters married. Now it’s not possible. I have reconciled to my fate. In any case, I can’t sustain a family with my current earnings. I wish I had studied further.”

There are other social orders that are being challenged. While earlier, political posts in the village and block administration went to Jats almost by default, now the community has to contend with tough competition from the backward classes. “In the last block elections, the Jat candidate secured a narrow victory, by just 23 votes, against his Khati (OBC) opponent. In several villages in these parts, people from other castes are becoming sarpanches,” says Satbir Singh.

The 63-year-old farmer, among the 20 in the village to own a tractor and a harvester, tills farms belonging to those from other castes. “My land holding has fallen. My children did not study beyond Class V despite my best attempts. The OBCs have jobs, so they don’t till land anymore. I take their land on rent and work on them to increase my earnings,” he says.

Villagers say the OBCs and Dalits are increasingly asserting themselves. “I have overheard remarks from Dalits in the village that Jats are killing themselves for the fistful of rice that the government gives them as subsidies,” says Ahlawat, whose wife is a panchayat member.

Although in Akheri, the Dalits and other communities still remain landless, have no better homes than the Jats or better access to education, they have improved their lot.

Naresh Kumar, a Khati (OBC) who has an MCom degree from MDU and plans to become a professor, says he is grateful to his father for insisting on their education. “My father was a draftsman with DLF in Gurgaon. He made sure my brother and I worked hard. My brother Sunil is a junior engineer in the irrigation department in Jhajjar. It’s his income that’s running our family after my father’s sudden death,” says Naresh.

A kilometre and a half away from Akheri Madanpur, across a canal that cuts the road, is the village of Birar. Dominated by the OBC Yadavs, Birar stands in contrast to Akheri. Fresh paint can be seen on the walls of most houses, the lanes appear far cleaner than those in Akheri and cars zip past with greater frequency.

Sitting at the entrance of the village smoking hookah with community members, Dariyav Singh, a retired teacher and owner of 6 acres, is angry about the Jat protests.

“What are the Jats fighting for? They have all the land. More than 70 per cent jobs in the state are with them. Now they want more and for that, they are killing people,” he says angrily.

The village has 250 acres for 570 families. One family, of Vijay and Bhom Singh, alone holds 70 acres since their grandfather had only one child.

“Most villagers here are either landless or own less than 1 acre,” says Ashok Kumar, 42. A pharma degree holder, Kumar works as a salesman with BioMax.

“The Jats populate the police, the administration, the village panchayat, the block posts and even the political class. Now they want a share in the 27 per cent quota that OBCs have. I have no land, no government job. I am not crying.”

Birar’s record on education and jobs is better than Akheri’s. Dariyav Singh, the retired teacher, says 90 per cent of residents in the village are matriculates while more than 50 per cent are graduates. He also says that 65 per cent of people work in the service sector, both government and private jobs.
Manoj Kumar, 41, works as an agent for a multinational insurance company. “The village has produced many high-ranking officials, including a brigadier and a major, teachers and professors, apart from a sub-divisional officer. Those who do not get government jobs work in the private sector. Quite a few villagers work in the Jhadli Power Plant nearby,” says Manoj.

The village sarpanch, Rajbala, a Dalit woman in her 40s who won on a reserved seat, has studied up to Class XII. So did her predecessor Ramesh Kumar. “The level of education in our village has been good for long. Even those with land opt for jobs, government or private,” says Ramesh, adding that the recent Jat stir has divided communities sharply.

Birar has no government school. The two government schools in the area fall in Jat villages that flank Birar. Somewhere between Birar and Akheri stands Cambridge International School, an English-medium private school that charges Rs 950 per month as tuition fees. This is where Karn Singh, a farmer who owns less than an acre and who works on other farms, sends his son to study. As do some 30-odd parents from the village. From Akheri, the school gets only 15 students.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET


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