Dalits Media Watch – News Updates 28.03.16

 

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‘Tortured by cops’, Dalit boy kills self in Guj – The times of india

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Tortured-by-cops-Dalit-boy-kills-self-in-Guj/articleshow/51578149.cms

Dalits thrashed, abused on Holi for asking upper caste men to play drums outside their homes – Nyoooz

http://www.nyoooz.com/bareilly/405024/dalits-thrashed-abused-on-holi-for-asking-upper-caste-men-to-play-drums-outside-their-homes

TN police begin probe into murder of youth who ‘married’ a woman belonging to another caste – Nyoooz

http://www.nyoooz.com/chennai/404678/tn-police-begin-probe-into-murder-of-youth-who-married-a-woman-belonging-to-another-caste

Those perpetrating manual scavenging under scanner – Nyoooz

http://www.nyoooz.com/mangalore/405973/those-perpetrating-manual-scavenging-under-scanner

Why University Of Hyderabad VC should go and why he will not go – The times of india

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/masala-noodles/why-university-of-hyderabad-vc-should-go-and-why-he-will-not-go/

‘Dalit Vachanakaras tried to uphold social justice’ – The hindu

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/dalit-vachanakaras-tried-to-uphold-social-justice/article8403926.ece

CAG says Tribal Sub Plan funds underutilised, diverted – Web india 123

http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20160327/2824721.html

Training on Vanaraja birds – The arunanchal times

http://www.arunachaltimes.in/training-on-vanaraja-birds/

Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort? – Scroll.in

http://scroll.in/article/804145/why-is-punjab-increasingly-turning-towards-new-gurus-for-comfort

Please Watch:

Prof.Nitin gangurde raised “Rohit Vemula” issue in 31st session of Human Rights council at UNO
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GojFqHUjHUE

 

The times of india

‘Tortured by cops’, Dalit boy kills self in Guj

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Tortured-by-cops-Dalit-boy-kills-self-in-Guj/articleshow/51578149.cms

Ahmedabad: Wilting under public pressure, police filed an FIR against ‘unknown’ cops for allegedly torturing a 14-year-old Dalit boy who ended life at home on Saturday.

Dhruv Parmar, a Class IX student, is the son of a home guard jawan, Bharat Parmar. Police have refused to apply the Atrocity Act. JCP (crime branch) J K Bhatt said the FIR has been filed for abetment to suicide and under subsection 15 of the Juvenile Act. Locals, many of whom reported witnessing the cops severely beating up Dhruv in public over no known offence before he committed suicide, gathered around the police station on Sunday after police refused to register an FIR. Locals then pelted stones at the police station. Meanwhile, people thronged the post-mortem room at Civil Hospital and threatened not to cremate the boy’s body until the guilty were brought to book.

Nyoooz

Dalits thrashed, abused on Holi for asking upper caste men to play drums outside their homes

http://www.nyoooz.com/bareilly/405024/dalits-thrashed-abused-on-holi-for-asking-upper-caste-men-to-play-drums-outside-their-homes

Summary: We have filed a case under the SC and SC (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against the four accused.” Bareilly: Bringing to the fore the caste bias still prevalent in the rural areas, four persons refused to play drums outside the house of people belonging to Dalit community during Holi despite several requests, and also passed casteist remarks against them in Bithri Chainpur town of the district. No arrest has been made so far. Seeing them, Lal and his friends requested them to take some time off and play drums outside their house also and take their fee.However, instead of obliging them, the four, who belonged to upper caste, became furious and came to the house of complainant and attacked them besides passing casteist remarks, Lal alleged in his complaint. On Saturday, Lal and some other people of his community, approached police and got an FIR registered against the accused at Bithri Chainpur police station.Talking to TOI, inspector of Bithri Chainpur police station, Rajvir Singh said, “Prima facie it appears that the victim has been humiliated and beaten up by the upper caste for daring to seek such a favour from them.

Bareilly: Bringing to the fore the caste bias still prevalent in the rural areas, four persons refused to play drums outside the house of people belonging to Dalit community during Holi despite several requests, and also passed casteist remarks against them in Bithri Chainpur town of the district. Police have registered a case against the four persons under the SC/ST Act on a complaint.In his complaint to the police, Manohar Lal, a Dalit and a resident of Maheshpura village, alleged that he was celebrating Holi with some members of his community outside his house on March 24, when he saw some local drummers including Omkar, Yogendra, Rajiv and Triloki near his house. Seeing them, Lal and his friends requested them to take some time off and play drums outside their house also and take their fee.However, instead of obliging them, the four, who belonged to upper caste, became furious and came to the house of complainant and attacked them besides passing casteist remarks, Lal alleged in his complaint.

On Saturday, Lal and some other people of his community, approached police and got an FIR registered against the accused at Bithri Chainpur police station.Talking to TOI, inspector of Bithri Chainpur police station, Rajvir Singh said, “Prima facie it appears that the victim has been humiliated and beaten up by the upper caste for daring to seek such a favour from them. We have filed a case under the SC and SC (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 against the four accused.” No arrest has been made so far.

Nyoooz

TN police begin probe into murder of youth who ‘married’ a woman belonging to another caste

http://www.nyoooz.com/chennai/404678/tn-police-begin-probe-into-murder-of-youth-who-married-a-woman-belonging-to-another-caste

Summary: However, she left him after living with him for two weeks and went back to her parents. TRICHY: Police have launched a hunt for a four-member gang that murdered a 28-year-old dalit youth, Suresh Arockiasamy, at Aathur Pirivu in Karur district of Tamil Nadu on Saturday night.Suresh was consuming liquor at a TASMAC outlet when the gang members, who came on two two-wheelers, attacked him with a sickle. Ever since she left him, Suresh had been trying to bring her back to him.He had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Madurai bench of the Madras high court claiming that his wife had been kidnapped by her family members. The gang members escaped from the spot after killing him.Later, one of the gang members, identified himself as Sivanesan, telephoned police claiming that he and his friends killed Suresh as the latter had brought disrepute to his family by marrying his (Sivanesan’s) sister, Gajapriya, 26, who belongs to a non-dalit community.Suresh married Gajapriya in December last year. However, he could not furnish any documents to prove that she was his wife.Karur superintendent of police Vandita Pandey said the woman agreed to go with her parents when she was produced in the high court in December last.Asked whether Suresh had married the woman or whether they had been living together, the SP said details would be known only after questioning Gajapriya who is in Bengaluru with her parents.The Karur town police have registered a case against Sivanesan and three others under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

TRICHY: Police have launched a hunt for a four-member gang that murdered a 28-year-old dalit youth, Suresh Arockiasamy, at Aathur Pirivu in Karur district of Tamil Nadu on Saturday night.Suresh was consuming liquor at a TASMAC outlet when the gang members, who came on two two-wheelers, attacked him with a sickle. The gang members escaped from the spot after killing him.Later, one of the gang members, identified himself as Sivanesan, telephoned police claiming that he and his friends killed Suresh as the latter had brought disrepute to his family by marrying his (Sivanesan’s) sister, Gajapriya, 26, who belongs to a non-dalit community.Suresh married Gajapriya in December last year. However, she left him after living with him for two weeks and went back to her parents.

Ever since she left him, Suresh had been trying to bring her back to him.He had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Madurai bench of the Madras high court claiming that his wife had been kidnapped by her family members. However, he could not furnish any documents to prove that she was his wife.Karur superintendent of police Vandita Pandey said the woman agreed to go with her parents when she was produced in the high court in December last.Asked whether Suresh had married the woman or whether they had been living together, the SP said details would be known only after questioning Gajapriya who is in Bengaluru with her parents.The Karur town police have registered a case against Sivanesan and three others under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

Nyoooz

Those perpetrating manual scavenging under scanner

http://www.nyoooz.com/mangalore/405973/those-perpetrating-manual-scavenging-under-scanner

Summary: A dalit activist said bus drivers do not respect other road users at all.When another dalit activist complained about some bus conductors not issuing tickets to passengers, Shantharaju assured that police would flag this issue with the regional transport authority (RTA). Asserting that the city traffic police continue to book drivers for the above offence, the DCP said a report on the action taken against such drivers will be tabled during the next meeting. Anand said the Mangaluru City Corporation should employ jet sucking machines to deal with such problems.Shantharaju also directed Uday Nayak, assistant commissioner of police (traffic), to book cases against city bus drivers found driving in a rash and negligent manner. “We will write to the RTA,” he said. He directed the PI, Mulki Police Station to ensure that the PCR van does its rounds properly and effectively, especially given that holiday and local festival season will see a larger number of vehicles hitting the road in the region.

Mangaluru: Taking note of complaints from dalit activists about manual scavenging in the city, the police brass has directed inspectors of jurisdictional police stations to check the inhuman practice and take action against anyone perpetrating it.Chairing the monthly meeting with members and leaders of SC/ST communities and organizations on Sunday, deputy commissioner of police (law and order) KM Shantharaju took note of the complaint from dalit leader SP Anand of the banned practice going on near the Sulabh Souchalaya at the old service bus stand and directed officials to book cases. Anand said the Mangaluru City Corporation should employ jet sucking machines to deal with such problems.Shantharaju also directed Uday Nayak, assistant commissioner of police (traffic), to book cases against city bus drivers found driving in a rash and negligent manner. Asserting that the city traffic police continue to book drivers for the above offence, the DCP said a report on the action taken against such drivers will be tabled during the next meeting.

A dalit activist said bus drivers do not respect other road users at all.When another dalit activist complained about some bus conductors not issuing tickets to passengers, Shantharaju assured that police would flag this issue with the regional transport authority (RTA). “We will write to the RTA,” he said. Activist said it becomes difficult for passengers to move the competent authority to seek compensation in case the bus in which they are travelling meets with an accident.When another activist complained that there is no PCR van doing rounds in Mulki police station limits, DCP (crime and traffic) Sanjeev Patil said the van allotted to the sub-inspector is not being used for the purpose right now since the post is vacant.

The times of india

Why University Of Hyderabad VC should go and why he will not go

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/masala-noodles/why-university-of-hyderabad-vc-should-go-and-why-he-will-not-go/

On 21 March- last Monday – when vice chancellor Appa Rao Podile returned to the University Of Hyderabad there was much consternation all around. Most surprised was acting vice chancellor M Periasamy who for the best part of the last two months had been trying to soothe frayed nerves in the university, wracked by violence in the aftermath of the suicide of PhD scholar Rohit Vemula. As news of his return spread –and was officially confirmed by an email from the VC’s office- tension began to build up. A   section of the students and teachers were very angry. A case had been filed against the VC and an inquiry was on, so why should Podile return as if he had been let off? they argued.

The police was also worried because they realized that they would soon have a law and order problem at hand. The police was also caught unawares because Podile hadn’t told them that he was coming back. Quietly senior cops talked to Podile and asked him to leave. The cops promised to escort him out safely. But Podile wouldn’t hear anything. He insisted he would stick on right on the campus come what may. “It seemed to us that he was spoiling for a fight and had come fully prepard,” a senior cop confided to this writer.

Not surprisingly a large crowd of students soon collected outside the VC lodge shouting slogans and asking him to leave. Tension began to build and soon began stone pelting. A little later some unruly students were inside the bungalow and began ransacking the drawing room. What ensued was a lathi- charge and the police chased the students outside the bungalow. The story did not end here. Soon the police were beating up students and rounding them up. This process continued till late in the afternoon and many students who were not even part of the mob at the VC lodge were also rounded up at random. The rounded up students were packed into buses that were driven to different police stations. On the way, some cops decided to beat up students to teach them a lesson.” You fellows, you trouble makers, you organize beef festivals and complain against Yakub Menon’s hanging you should be punished,” some cops shouted as they thrashed the students.

For those who came in late, cops are especially violent in this part of the world a hangover from the feudal culture prevalent here. Plagued with Maoist problem the police have been clothed with extraordinary powers and the way they treated UoH students was ‘mild’ by their own standards. In an interesting aside, a kindly constable who lent his cell to some hapless students (who wanted to inform their parents about their plight) was accosted by his inspector and thrashed for his humane act.

Twenty four hours later the students (and two faculty members) were produced before a magistrate whom remanded them to judicial custody. In the interim period everybody was kept in the dark about how many students had been rounded up and where they were kept.

Back in the university, the mess had been shut up and the gates closed so that the media, human rights groups and political leaders could not ‘see’ things for themselves. “We don’t want the Rahul Gandhis, Sitaram Yechurys and Asaduddin Owaisis here,” said a senior professor obviously batting for Podile. “The VC has been appointed as per procedure by the government and what is locus standi of anybody to question him. He is the vice chancellor and has every right to come back,” the professor said as two other dons nodded in agreement. But the matter is not that simple.

The UoH came into being in the mid 1970s and was the result of the first Telangana movement of 1969-70. Government of India envisaged that a centrally run university as a centre of higher education and learning would contribute to the development of the backward Telangana region. The UoH (previously called Hyderabad Central University) has done wonderfully on the academic front but has not been immune to caste politics that afflicts many parts of India. Like many other campuses in south India it has also seen a high degree of Dalit assertion.

“All these universities were earlier very Brahminical. Dalits and OBCs used to feel out of place. But due to policies of reservations, there are significant numbers of Dalits and OBCs in the university. They are now asserting their rights and this is also a contributor to the tension on the campuses,” says a professor of UoH. What has added to the tension is the lack of an institutional mechanism to ‘bring up’ and impart education to Dalit students who may have got admission on the basis of reservation even after getting less marks. Often times, Dalit students doing research are unable to get guides, leading to a lot of angst. In recent years many Dalit students have committed suicide unable to cope up with pressure in a hostile environment. Rohith Vemula whose suicide in January sparked the present round of troubles is a good example of the hostile environment that backward caste students have to encounter.

A new state like Telangana (that has nothing much other than Hyderabad) requires close cooperation between the central and state government to develop. Realizing this, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) kept quiet as UoH burnt in the aftermath of Rohith Vemula’s suicide. Even as Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and also a leader of Trinamool Congress ( Derek OBrien) came calling, the bosses of the party that leads the government in the state were conspicuous by their absence.

But now KCR realizes that the fire in UoH may singe him with the matter no longer a local or national affair what with growing international condemnation. A large section of students of the university have vowed that classes in the university will not be allowed till the VC is asked to leave. KCR also now thinks that this is a sane option and the withdrawal of the VC will remove the cause of the trouble and will go a long way in assuaging the upset students. In line with this KCR announced in the state legislative assembly over the weekend that he will talk to the Prime Minister about the VC and ask him whether the don can be withdrawn.

This is a sound idea although it is unlikely that that HRD ministry will agree to this. Reason: It is election season and although the polls are in other states – some quite far away- things that some sections don’t want to chant Bharat mata ki jai, that some sections did talk about Afzal Memon’s hanging and that some sections are not nationalistic- can all be used to polarize voters in favour of the ruling party. But all this can happen only if tension continues on the campus. If there is peace and the matter is settled and there cant be any polarization.

The hindu

‘Dalit Vachanakaras tried to uphold social justice’

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/dalit-vachanakaras-tried-to-uphold-social-justice/article8403926.ece

The Dalit Vachanakaras of the 12th century tried to eradicate social evils through their vachanas and uphold social justice, Srinivasreddy Kandkur, Chairman of CADA, Kalaburagi, has said.

He was addressing a Dalit Vachanakaras Jayantyotsav jointly organised by the district administration and the Department of Kannada and Culture in Yadgir on Sunday.

Dalit Vachanakaras such as Madara Chennaiah, Madara Dhulaiah, Dohara Kakkaiah, Samagar Haralaiah and Urilingi Peddi were inspired by social reformer Basaveshwara and written many vachanas condemning social imbalance and evils of society. They had participated in the struggle against caste system, social imbalance and superstition to construct a healthy society, he said.

Mr. Reddy, who appreciated the government for celebrating Dalit Vachanakaras Jayantyotsav, appealed to the youth to adopt ethics and values of the Vachanas written by Sharanas to build a nation on the principles of equality.

Bhimaraya Lingeri, lecturer, gave a special lecture on Vachanas written by Dalit Vachanakaras. Yadgir City Municipal Council president Shashidhar Reddy and Deputy Commissioner Manoj Jain were present.

Web india 123

CAG says Tribal Sub Plan funds underutilised, diverted

http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20160327/2824721.html

The Comptroller and Auditor General has blamed lack of release of states’ share to the district/implementing agencies and their financial management for the underutilisation and diversion of funds under the Tribal Sub-Plan. In addition, delays were observed in release of funds at all various levels from state governments to nodal agency/implementing agency.The Tribal Sub Plan, initiated by the Centre in the 5th FiveYear Plan (1974-79), aims to channelise the flow of outlay and benefits from the general sectors in the Central ministries and departments for the development of STs both in physical and financial terms.The idea behind the TSP was to ensure that the share of resources spent for the benefit of Scheduled Tribes was proportionate to their share in the population of the country.However, audit noted that up to 2010 there was no linkage between earmarking of funds under TSP and benefits flowing to the tribal people.

Efforts were made by the Planning Commission to earmark part of funds for TSP in all sectors and schemes. Despite this, audit found that the mechanism put in place was ”still inadequate”.About non-maintenance of separate account, CAG said that even though the funds from the Central level were released in trifurcated head — General/SC/ST –to the states and further to district implementing agencies, the account of expenditure was not maintained component-wise at each level. The states or districts furnished consolidated utilisation certificates without indicating component wise details of expenditure resulting in the exact expenditure remaining ”unascertainable”.

The arunanchal times

Training on Vanaraja birds

http://www.arunachaltimes.in/training-on-vanaraja-birds/

ITANAGAR, Mar 27: Training cum distribution of Vanaraja birds for livelihood improvement of tribal farmers of Metengliang area under Tribal Sub Plan in Animal Science was conducted by KVK Anjaw recently.

A refresher course on scientific poultry production was imparted to the farmers. A total of 205 Vanaraja chicks of 15 days old, after three dose of vaccination against Marak, Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD) and Ranikhet disease were distributed to 41 farmers of Metengliang area. Demonstration on dose and method of medicine and vitamins supplements, how to dilute in water was demonstrated. Along with chicks, a set of feeder and drinker was distributed to each beneficiary.

Scroll.in

Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort?

http://scroll.in/article/804145/why-is-punjab-increasingly-turning-towards-new-gurus-for-comfort

In the last 15 years, novelist and writer Desraj Kali has seen Punjab undergo some striking changes. But none is as striking as its gradual religious revolution.

A growing number of people in the predominantly Sikh state, he says, are now visiting Hindu temples. Not those of principal deities like Vishnu, Shiva and Rama, but of Shani, the elder brother of the god of death Yama, who is notorious for his malefic influence on life.

Why is Punjab increasingly turning to new gurus for comfort?

More than ever before, Kali says, people are visiting the gurudwara of Baba Deep Singh in Amritsar. According to legend, Deep Singh, a Sikh warrior, was decapitated while battling the forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan. In a niche in the perimeter of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, there is a painting depicting the storied aftermath: Deep Singh, holding his severed head with his left hand and swinging a massive sword with his right, continued to fight, and died only after reaching the Golden Temple.

There are more, says Kali. People in increasing numbers are placingchadars at Pirs’ mazaars. There is a “thousand-fold” increase in the number of tantrik ads in the local media. Eeven orthodox Sikhs – Amritdhaaris, who carry the sacred dagger called kirpan – have begun visiting “non-traditional deras”, religious centres with living gurus, though Sikhism expressly forbids worship of individuals.

The rise of uncertainty

What explains these sweeping changes in Punjab’s religious milieu? It is the rising uncertainty in people’s lives.

For decades now, the economic engines that pushed Punjab’s growth have been slowing. Farm growth, which peaked at around 5%-6% annually in the early 1980s, has slowed to around 1%-2% now.

Agriculture in Punjab, says Abhijit Sen, a former member of the erstwhile Planning Commission, depended on two factors: “A state committed to running agriculture (like funding agricultural research and providing water), and a tradition of bequeathing all land to the firstborn, so that landholdings did not get smaller and smaller.”

Over the years, this architecture has corroded. The state ran out of new land to bring under farming; between sustained mono-cropping and high use of chemical inputs, its agricultural soil weakened; the state withdrew from extension work and farm research; monsoon patterns began to change; and legal norms (finally) allowing daughters to inherit property contributed to the fragmentation of landholdings.

Industry, similarly, went into a tail-spin. At the time of Independence, Punjab was industrialised and local demand for its products was thriving. Thanks to migration, the state tapped into markets beyond its boundaries. “Industry in the state was relatively small-scale, but was able to sell outside Punjab,” said Sen.

In recent years, however, as Scroll.in reported earlier in this series, industry has tanked, with predictable impacts on businesspeople in the state. “Only about 40% of the companies here are surviving,” said Amarjit Singh, proprietor of the Ludhiana-based real estate company Bhumi Solutions. “Another 30% have sublet their premises to other businesses. And about 30% have shut down.” Much of this decay happened, he says, in the last four years.

As you travel through Punjab, you see first-hand just how fragile most household budgets are. Take a farmer with two acres. In a good year, he will make about Rs 90,000. If he spends Rs 3,000 a month on running the house (Rs 36,000 annually) and another Rs 15,000 each on preparing for his kharif and rabi crops (Rs 30,000), he is left with just Rs 24,000. Of that, if Rs 12,000 goes into the school or college fees of his two children (assuming a minimal Rs 500 per month per child), he is left with just Rs 12,000 to meet all other expenses.

Even conservative arithmetic leaves no margin for acts of man or god. If there is an illness in the family, if the crop sells at lower rates than expected, if the rains are less than ideal – in the last decade, Punjab has seen six weak monsoons, resulting in only one of the two crops doing well – households go into debt.

“In Punjab, people who earn Rs 10,000 but have their own home live at subsistence levels,” said Sucha Singh Gill, director-general of Chandigarh’s Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development. “Those making Rs 10,000 but living in a rented house live at semi-starvation levels.”

A loss of control

Synchronous with the decline of agriculture and industry is the unravelling of the social milieu. “Before militancy, there was a certain Nehruvian idealism in the state – a desire to make Punjab something,” said Sumail Singh Sidhu, former professor at Delhi University’s Khalsa College and former state convenor for the Aam Aadmi Party. There was also the ethos absorbed from progressive left movements. The Sikh movements themselves had left, centrist and right wing schools.

All that was crushed, partly by the sectarian Sikhs as the Khalistan movement took shape, and partly by the state government. One visible outcome of it today is the loss of local leadership. “The traditional activist is gone,” said human rights activist and advocate RS Bains. “In terms of human character, they were the best of people. They were truth-speakers. They wanted to change society.”

In this vacuum, a new set of actors have emerged – like the extra-constitutional halka in-charge and other local elite, who have compensated for the power they lost due to, say, the Dalits’ economic independence by drawing close to the ruling political party. And alongside the rise of rapacious extra-constitutional power centres, gun culture has taken root in the state.

In the process, says Jagrup Singh Sekhon, a professor at Amritsar’s Guru Nanak Dev University, the nature of Punjab’s villages has changed considerably. “Villages today are faction-ridden. You are either with the Akali Dal or you are not.”

Village life, as a result, is one of oppression and uncertainty. As theprevious story in this series reported, justice can be elusive. “We cannot go to the police,” said Kishan Chand, a ghoda-gaadi wallah who lives in the poor quarters of Nurmahal town in Jalandhar. “I can complain, but the police might get tapped by the other side and register a case against me instead.”

How the state responded

The people of the state have responded in a number of ways. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is high. Migration is on the rise. The state, judging by its pop culture, is awash in nostalgia. Punjabi pop videos jive around memes of machismo and imperilled romance before the hero brandishes a gun, launches into fights, and sets things right.

“The songs have guns, big houses, open jeeps, Royal Enfields,” said novelist Kali. “Even as people struggle, caste ka ghamand liye ghoom rahein hain.” They are drawing arrogance from their caste.

Another response, says Ronki Ram, dean (faculty of arts) at Chandigarh’s Panjab University, is the increasing escape into religiosity. “In their understanding of causes, however, people are guided more by religion than rationality,” Ram said. “That is because the central logic running through the people is religion. Development is to be received through religion – not through technical means.”

The interesting development here, Kali notes, is that people are turning towards the new gurus and away from orthodox religion. This is similar to what Scroll.in noticed in Odisha as well, where there is a sharp rise in the number of religious gurus. “In the last ten years, more than 50 matthshave opened in Bhubaneswar alone,” said Rama Ballav Pant, a former BJD leader. “They are all self-appointed babas.”

The rise of new religious complexes

For an observer from outside, the changing religious landscape of Punjab is bewildering. The state has old, historic gurudwaras run by the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the apex body of the Sikhs. Then there are the new Gurudwaras which, while not under the SGPC, follow its norms and preach from the Guru Granth Sahib. And then there are the offshoots, and the breakaways from Sikhism.

Some, like the Ad Dharmis, are caste-specific breakaways. Some are sects like the Radhasaomis, which has a sprawling complex near Beas, a town between Jalandhar and Amritsar, and smaller campuses across Punjab’s hinterland. Then there are the growing number of living sants like Dera Sacha Sauda’s Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan (and, till he was declared clinically dead, Baba Ashutosh of Divya Jyoti Sansthan at Nurmahal).

These sants, says a former member of the SGPC, are different from the preachers who set up new gurudwaras. While the preachers preach from the Guru Granth Sahib, the new sants have their own holy books, their own accounts of how the world came into being.

A matter of demand and supply

The first reason people flock to these new sants is tactical. As Sekhon says, life in Punjab’s villages has become faction-ridden and hard. “In such a construct, who can save people from the police, the patwari, the village leaders? That is what takes people to the sants.”

These sants, with their mass following, form a protective buffer between the state and the individual, since local leaders listen to the sants.

Why? Because, as Laxmi Kanta Chawla, a former health minister and BJP member, says, the nature of political leaders in the state is changing. “These [leaders] are people who have not done anything to build a following of their own. So they have to pander to communities, leaders who can make them win.”

This influence over politicians is one reason why the number of sants is rising fast. “Someone might be working in another dera, but cannot become its leader or make a name of his own,” a businessman in Moga said, explaining the amoeba-like multiplication of sants and deras. “So he either splits the dera, or starts one of his own. The new leader usually gets someone – perhaps a follower of the original dera – to back him financially. They do a few functions to which local leaders are invited, and thus the forging of bonds begins.”

When people see local leaders visiting the new dera, they recognise it as a power centre and begin going there as well. “In a nearby village called Barauli, three or four new deras have come up,” said the businessman. “People are going there because they feel kaam ho jayega .” The work will get done.

Much of this, says Bains, is inevitable. “When formal institutions fail, informal ones come up,” he said. “Even in a dictatorship, informal channels will work. Society mein networking to hota hain.” And these informal institutions have always been put to instrumental use. As Sekhon says, “Every system has patronised the deras – be it the Centre, the militants or the state.”

What is relatively new is the open, symbiotic relationship with politicians and the capitalisation of the sants. The big ones are very well-funded. They market themselves aggressively. They run schools and health camps, and offer subsidised food. And at the new deras, canteens offer subsidised colas and chow mein, drawing in more people with the novelty.

Turning away from Sikhism

Novelty apart, many people feel, the main reason for the popularity of the new sants is the perception that orthodox Sikhism is failing them.

“When you are frustrated, you seek external help, advice,” said Sarabjit Singh Verka, an investigator with Punjab Human Rights Organisation. “And that is something the gurudwaras are not very good at – they refer you back to the Guru Granth Sahib. In contrast, in a derakoi aapka kaam kara dega .” Someone will get your work done.

Kali agreed and drew a link between uncertainty and insecurity. “There is a hopelessness. And then a process to save yourself starts.”

The evening I met him in Jalandhar, Kali explained the move towards the deras with an example. “Ab main bimaar hoon. Ab main toot chuka hoon. Ab mera shabd se kuch nahin hoga. Ab mujhe deh ki zaroorat hain(I am ailing. I am broken. The book doesn’t give me solace. Is that book listening to me? Is it hearing me? I want a remedy for the specific things ailing me. I want a human to hear me and respond to me).”

This, he says, is pushing people towards the supernatural. Baba Deep Singh’s Gurudwara is a case in point. People go there because, he said, “Wahan ek shakti hain. Shaheed ki shakti (There is a force there. The force of a martyr).”

Alternately, they go to the sants who prescribe remedies. “In these deras, the baba makes promises and prophecies,” said the Moga businessman. “The people for whom the predictions come true tell others. And the following grows.”

This is similar to what Scroll.in had heard in Odisha. “Physical poverty and distress has a psychological and social effect on people,” a person there had explained. “This belief in babas springs from there – be it Radhe Maa or Sarathi Baba. People live in the hope that the guru will change the condition of their lives – an illness they cannot cure on their own, lack of money, whatever.”

As Panjab University’s Ronki Ram said, “People go to the new derasbecause they find them offering a vital space for recognition and identity.”

The inevitable fallout

The flow of people towards deras and sants – at first a trickle, now a trend – is in turn giving rise to questions about the future direction of Sikhism.

In a sense, it is the continuation of an age-old process. Sikhism was an offshoot of Hinduism; the Jatt Sikhs and others had broken off from mainstream Hinduism over caste discrimination, and created for themselves a rational religion that was more of a manifesto for social transformation, one that spoke about gender and caste equality.

However, over time, little of those ideals converted into practice. Caste discrimination continued, resulting in Dalit groups like the Ad Dharmissplintering out of Sikhism, and eventually leaving it entirely.

Today, as a new set of marginalised people – the small farmers amongst Jatt Sikhs – foray beyond Sikhism, the perception that Sikhism could be under threat is again gaining ground among some.

Ronki Ram does not agree with this assessment. “People go to the newderas because they are rational. There is more to gain by going there. It is a strategic choice. But when the Sikh gurudwaras see this, they get desperate, thinking people are leaving us.”

According to him, what we are witnessing is not the decline of orthodox Sikhism but an increased, escalating religiosity across the state. The number of agencies propagating religion is going up. Some people are turning to Sikhism, others to the deras. Some read the Guru Granth Sahib, others pin their faith on books written by Valmiki. “Between them,dharam aagey badh raha hain (The state is getting more religious).” And all this, he says, is playing out in the absence of development.

Where is this trend leading the state? The answer is anyone’s guess, says Ram. “A rise in religiosity can give rise to new confrontations. People will get angry not because their survival is in danger, but because they think they are discriminated against due to their religion. Therefore, they reason, if they save their religion, they will save themselves.”

All this, in turn, can lead to a rise in militant defence of emerging religions, and a consequent escalation of social tensions.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET

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