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Mainpuri cop held for raping 13-yr-old Dalit girl- The Times Of India
SC panel seeks report from Bathinda SSP– The Tribune
Dalits of Nallampatti fear retaliation – The Hindu
Punjab’s Dalits are fighting for land rights, and they are winning – The Catch News
UoH Students, Faculty Released From Jail- The Nyooz
Kausalya seeks severe punishment for husband’s killers – The Hindu
Dalit intellectuals regroup on delimitation – The Times Of India
NarendraModi to launch ‘Stand Up India’ scheme on April 5 – The Financial Express
Govt. plans big for welfare of SCs, STs – The Hindu
125-foot Statue of Ambedkar to Adorn Amaravati; AP Plans Year-long Events – The New Indian Express
Caste constituencies – Frontline
India’s forgotten people – Frontline
Justice ForRohithVemula- Ongoing Protest in University of Hyderabad by P SainathPt-32
The Times Of India
Mainpuri cop held for raping 13-yr-old Dalit girl
Arvind Chauhan | TNN | Mar 29, 2016, 10.20 PM IST
Agra: A policeman attached with police lines in Mainpuri for nearly five years allegedly raped a minor Dalit girl on the day of Holi. Constable Rajesh Yadav, in his late 40s, committed the assault on the 13-year-old girl on the evening of March 24 by luring her to a secluded place near police lines. After committing the assault, he allegedly threatened the girl’s family with dire consequences when they tried to register a complaint. A case has been filed and the constable suspended and arrested.
Hailing from Bakhtiyarpur of Chaubiya area in Etawah district, the constable used to visit the survivor’s home often. The matter came to light when the girl complained of severe abdominal pain and revealed her ordeal to her mother.
Later when her parents visited the police station to file a complaint, the constable allegedly threatened them with dire consequences. After the parents complained to police officials, a case was filed and Yadav arrested and sent to jail. The department also moved swiftly to suspend him.
Taking cognizance of the matter, senior superintendent of police for MainpuriHimanshu Kumar said, “Considering the gravity of the allegations by the girl’s family, we have suspended the constable and arrested him on charges of rape. He was also booked under sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and SC/ST Act. Meanwhile, the girl has been sent for medical examination.”
SC panel seeks report from Bathinda SSP
Tribune News Service, Chandigarh, March 29
The Punjab State Scheduled Castes Commission has directed the Bathinda SSP to submit a report within 15 days on the alleged molestation of a 14-year-old girl. The commission has sought a strong action in the case.
Rajesh Bagha, chairman of the commission, said the victim’s neighbour in Hans Nagar locality of Bathinda reportedly molested her. He said the FIR in the case was registered two days after the incident. Besides, some persons with political connections pressured the girl’s father to withdraw the case, he said.
When the family refused to withdraw the case, the victim’s mother was attacked brutally. He said the girl had complained to the commission that some high-profile people were trying to shield the accused and threatening to kill her father.
Dalits of Nallampatti fear retaliation
Dalits in Rice Mill Pudur colony in Nallampatti Town Panchayat say that they live in constant fear of retaliation after the issue of the death of a community member, allegedly at the hands of caste Hindus, came to limelight 10 days ago.
The dominant caste Hindus in the area are learnt to be enraged over the members of Arundathiyar community, who are mostly agricultural labourers under their employment, approaching the High Court and securing an order for a second autopsy on the body of Chinnasamy who was found dead in a well.
The Dalits in the village had refused to accept the body with a demand for second autopsy alleging that Chinnasamy, who was vehement in questioning acts of subjugation, was done to death by the caste Hindus before being thrown into a well.
After a case preferred under PCR Act was registered in the Thingalur Police Station, Chinnasamy was among those who had questioned the investigators for what they considered as tardy handling of the case. Instead of providing protection to the affected people, the police were siding with the caste Hindus ,Chinnasamy had complained.
Relatives of Chinnasamy assert that he was drowned in the well. “There is certainly something fishy about the death since Chinnasamy knew to swim. Moreover, the well had water only to the hip level. How then could Chinnasamy have fallen into the deep well without sustaining any external injury,” a relative said. The body of Chinnasamy is expected to be handed over to family members after second autopsy at the Government Hospital, Coimbatore, on Wednesday or Thursday.
Dalits in Rice Mill Pudur locality fear that they would be subjected to harassment by the caste Hindus in future. According to Senthamilan, a resident of Rice Mill Pudur colony, the Arundathiyar community also feel intimidated by the police.
There are about 125 families dependent on employment in fields owned by the dominant caste Hindus .
Organisations working for Dalit welfare complain that the district administration has not responded appropriately to the incident, as per the provisions of The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules 1995.
“The rules mandate the police to provide security to the people and the district magistrate or sub-divisional magistrate to arrange for providing immediate relief in cash or in kind or both to the victims of atrocity, their family members and dependents. The relief includes food, water, clothing, shelter, medical aid, transport facilities and other essential items,” Abirami, National Programme Coordinator of New Delhi-based National Dalit Movement for Justice, said.
According to official sources, the situation at Nallampatti was well under control and there was no ground for responding with such measures.
There are 125 families dependent on employment in fields owned by caste Hindus
The Catch News
Punjab’s Dalits are fighting for land rights, and they are winning
A social movement is brewing in Punjab’s Malwa region: the Dalits are asserting their right to cultivate common lands. Citing the law, they are asking the panchayats to hand over a third of village common lands to Scheduled Castes for tilling.
Although the Punjab Village Common Land Act, 1961 provides for renting 33% of the village farmland to Dalits, this has rarely been practiced. But in the last few years, the Dalits have gained access to their share of the land in Sangrur-Patiala-Bathinda area of Malwa. In about a dozen villages, they are even experimenting with cooperative farming. Now they want to expand the movement to other areas.
For now though, their focus is on Malwa as the common lands of Doaba and Majha regions are comparatively less, undulating and riverine.
A few days ago, the Dalits held a convention in Karakon village of Sangrur, where nearly 4,000 members of the community from 102 villages reiterated the demand for cultivation rights to common lands.
“Punjab’s Dalits must be given one-third of the 1.57 acres of cultivable common lands. This is their legal right, this is what they are fighting for,” said MukeshMaloudh of ZaminPraptiSangharshSamiti, which had organised the convention
Maloudh said the Dalits have received farmland in some villages of Sangrur, but only after “a long fight”. “They have had to deal with violence as well as social boycott for asking for what is rightfully theirs. This has happened in villages such as Baupar and GhamandSinghala in Sangrur and Gosal in Ludhiana,” he said.
As Punjab readies for the assembly election early next year, Maloudh hopes their movement would “assume political significance given the high number of Dalit voters”.
Dalits must get a third of 1.57 acres of common lands. This is what we’re fighting for: MukeshMaloudh.
Apart from cultivation rights, Maloudh said the Dalits are also demanding that the lands be leased at nominal rates. “The government should not treat this as a profit-making venture”.
“We also want that the land ceiling be brought down to 10 acres in Punjab. This would lead to more labourers getting land for cultivation. Then there is the issue of the rights of Dalit women who are facing sexual harassment from upper caste men. They are often denied fodder for animals in villages where the Dalits have been asserting their rights. They have to walk several miles to get fodder. It is a big struggle,” Maloudh added.
Getting their due
PS Verma, a retired Panjab University professor who had done a landmark study on village common lands in Punjab and Haryana some years ago told Catch “this is a good movement that has emerged from progressive thought”. “And the good thing is that at least something has happened.”
Verma explained that although the law has been in force since 1961, it was “always the landed class that availed of cultivation rights when auctions for lands reserved for Dalits were held”. The bidding was “done in the name of the Dalits who were always available as dummies”. Once the cultivation right was obtained, “the Dalit continued to work as a farm labourer while the land owners made money”.
The land owning class, Verma pointed out, has “always believed” that the common land actually belongs to them, that it was taken away through the Land Ceilings Act.
Punjab’s land owning class believes common lands were forcibly taken from their ancestors: Prof PS Verma
Verma explained that until the turn of the century, Malwa’sDalits were not keen to ask for cultivation rights as they neither had implements for farming, nor could they afford irrigation. The panchayats, too, did not have the funds to help then until the 73rd Panchayati Raj Act was enacted.
“But things began to change as reservation enabled the Dalits to get educated, which made them aware of their rights, got them jobs, and they began getting elected as sarpanchs,” he said. They started a movement “for transparency in the entire process” as well which is helping “genuine Dalits” get these lands.
Still, they have overcome only the first challenge, Verma pointed out. “Even if Dalits get cultivation rights, they still have to depend on their neighbouring land owner for water. Now they are trying cooperative farming. But how they will distribute the produce remains to be seen.”
Ronki Ram of Panjab University sees the cultivation rights movement as politically significant. He pointed out that the Dalits own less than 5% of Punjab’s land despite being 32% of the population. This is largely because they are a divided lot, split into 39 sub-castes across five religions. “What is interesting is that despite their huge number, Punjab’s Dalits have never been politically dominant.”
That may be changing. “This movement is a conflict between the landed people and the SCs,” said Ram, and it has turned the Malwa region into a “whirlpool of Dalit movement, in which Ambedkarites, the followers of SacchaSauda and Ravidass are participating along with others”.
But this would help organise the Dalits into a political force in Punjab remains to be seen.
UoH Students, Faculty Released From Jail
Summary: Meanwhile, a massive welcome was planned in the campus for the students and the two faculty members who spent six days in jail. Many students and two faculty members have been arrested and there is the threat of more arrests. Following this, each of the released students took to the microphone to narrate the ordeal they went through and their commitment to struggle for justice to RohithVemula. APSHRC Issues Notice to CyberabadCommissionerThe Andhra Pradesh State Human Rights Commission issued a notice to Cyberabad Police Commissioner to start an inquiry into complaints pertaining to violation of human rights at the UoH. Students pointed out that the judge’s signature could not be taken on Monday evening after the bail was granted.
HYDERABAD: After what seemed like an inordinate delay, the 27 students and faculty members of the University of Hyderabad who were granted bail by Miyapur court were released from Cherlapally central prison, nearly 30 hours after the bail was granted. The delay was apparently caused due to the paper work and verification of each bail order. Students pointed out that the judge’s signature could not be taken on Monday evening after the bail was granted. After the Judge returned on Tuesday afternoon, the paper work was initiated after procuring the signature on the order.
Though the signed and verified orders started reaching Cherlapally central prison by evening 6 o’clock, they could be released only after 9.30 pm. Meanwhile, a massive welcome was planned in the campus for the students and the two faculty members who spent six days in jail. Once they returned to campus by midnight, the students took out a rally along the campus shouting slogans. Following this, each of the released students took to the microphone to narrate the ordeal they went through and their commitment to struggle for justice to RohithVemula. The 25 students and two professors were arrested on March 22, under charges of vandalism and stone pelting.While addressing the gathering, they lamented that some of them were picked up randomly, though they were not involved in any form of violence. Though classes would resume and function as usual, bringing normalcy to campus merely two weeks before start of end-semester exams, the JAC for Social Justice stated their struggle would continue till all charges on students and faculty are dropped unconditionally. SC/ST Faculty Forum on Mass Leave Earlier in the day, members of the SC/ST Faculty Forum and teachers concerned went on a mass leave against human rights violation in the campus following protests by students on March 22.
Kausalya seeks severe punishment for husband’s killers
Kausalya (19), wife of Dalit youth Shankar, who was murdered by a gang at Udumalpet on March 13, wants to see all the accused involved in the brutal killing of her spouse get ‘maximum punishment’. “It includes my parents, other relatives and the gang members deployed for the execution of the crime,” she said.
Ms. Kausalya, though discharged from Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital after the treatment for injuries sustained in the attack, is yet to recover fully from the shock. Shankar’s family received a message that the National Commission for Scheduled Caste had made a recommendation to the government to give Ms. Kausalya a job. She had asked for a job that would match her current qualifications.
Ms. Kausalya wants to continue her engineering course, which she had discontinued after her marriage. “I hope to get a job first, and then will continue with my studies through a part-time course. I even need to take care of his two brothers,” she said.
The Udumalpet police on Tuesday arrested K. Dhanraj (25) from Dindigul for his alleged involvement in the murder of Shankar.
He was produced before Judicial Magistrate Srividhya in Udumalpet and remanded to judicial custody. Meanwhile, a judicial magistrate court at Udumalpet granted three-day police custody to four other accused – M. Manikandan, P. Selvakumar, M. Madan and P. Jegadeesan, who were arrested on March 15. The police had recovered weapons reportedly used for the attack and two motorbikes from them.
Meanwhile, the mother-in-law of Dalit youth Shankar, C.Anna Lakshmi, a native of Palani, surrendered before the judicial magistrate court in Theni on Tuesday, in connection with his murder.
Her husband had already surrendered in court.
Judicial Magistrate A. Sundari remanded her to judicial custody till March 31 and directed the police to produce her before the Udumalpet Court. Later, she was lodged in Madurai central prison.
The Times Of India
Dalit intellectuals regroup on delimitation
M N Samdani | TNN | Mar 30, 2016, 11.22 AM IST
AMARAVATI: In a bid to end the decades long domination of a few caste groups and sections on the political spectrum, dalit intellectuals and social scientists are regrouping all the weaker sections in the state and planning to make use of the proposed delimitation of constituencies to get proper representation. The dalit intellectuals are of the view that the process in the past was completely tweaked to help certain groups and individuals but not the society at large. The dalit intellectuals are rearing to take advantage from the formation of the new state and changed political and caste calculations to achieve their goals. A select intellectuals are working behind the scene to prepare a blue-print on the issue of delimitation of constituencies before going to town to mobilize the support from all the sections of the people.
Former minister and coordinator of dalit intellectuals forum, DokkaManikyaVaraprasad felt that all the socials groups like SC-Madiga, muslims, weavers, fishermen and other unrepresented sections from among BCs should get voice to represent in assembly and parliament. “It just can’t happen by giving tickets in 1-2 elections. The reorganization of constituencies itself should be advantageous to these weaker sections of the society,” said Varaprasad.
The dalit groups have already carried out a sample study on the anomalies in the existing constituencies and laying focus to chance the pattern. For example, Santhanuthalapadu, an SC reserved assembly constituency was merged with Bapatla constituency, only to make Bapatlaloksabha-a reserved constituency at the behest of a top congress leader. Santhanuthalapadu is in fact on the outskirts of Ongole town and should have been automatically merged in Ongoleloksabha. “Merger of SN Padu would have helped Ongole becoming SC constituency and also dominated by Madiga group,” said a retired IAS working on the issue. He pointed out that all the four SC reserved seats in the state, Amalapuram, Bapatla, Tirupati and Chittoor were designed to favour SC-Mala. “Why should both the constituencies in Chittoor should go to SCs? Why not one of these be shifted to another Rayalaseema district?” he asked.
Similarly, muslims losing representation in parliament from the state might not augur the state well in the future, said social activist Habib-ur-Rehman. He demanded that at least one constituency be carved out to give proper representation to the muslims who are close to 10 percent of the AP’s population.
Dalit social scientists are planning to meet the chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and PM NarendraModi after preparing the detailed report and seek their help in prevailing upon the delimitation committee to be set up once parliament gives green signal to delimitation. Since the present segments are prepared to at the behest of congress old-timers, the dalit intellectuals are hopeful of PM taking initiative to put an end to the continued domination of particular groups and help other groups rise on the political stage at least for growth of his own party. “Boundaries of parliament constituencies can also be changed by amending the second schedule of the reorganisation Act,2014 without changing the total seats 25,” said DokkaManikyaVaraprasad. He opined that entire capital region can be made a new loksabha constituency with Amaravati head quarter.
The Financial Express
NarendraModi to launch ‘Stand Up India’ scheme on April 5
Prime Minister NarendraModi will on April 5 inaugurate Stand Up India initiative which is aimed at creating jobs and promoting entrepreneurs among SC, ST and women
by extending loans at cheaper rates.
Prime Minister NarendraModi will on April 5 inaugurate Stand Up India initiative which is aimed at creating jobs and promoting entrepreneurs among SC, ST and women
by extending loans at cheaper rates.
The ‘Stand Up India’ scheme will be launched by NarendraModi at a function to be held at Noida.
The Cabinet, headed by NarendraModi, had in January approved ‘Stand up India’ scheme for providing credit to SC, ST and women entrepreneurs at lower rates.
Under the ‘Stand Up India’ scheme, to be implemented through 1.25 lakh bank branches, banks will give loans at the “least applicable rate” of interest
Also every bank branch, including private sector, will give loans between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 1 crore to at least one SC/ST and one woman entrepreneur under the scheme.
Govt. plans big for welfare of SCs, STs
Chief Minister announces a slew of measures in the Legislative Assembly
The Andhra Pradesh government is planning to implement a slew of measures including construction of over six lakh houses for dalits and oppressed under the weaker sections housing programme in connection with the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
The State government has decided to construct Dr. B.R. Ambedkar memorial on a sprawling 15-acre site in the new capital Amaravati. The memorial will consist of a park, convention centre, Buddhist meditation hall and a library besides a gallery encompassing the important events in the life of the architect of the Constitution. In addition, it was proposed to erect a 125-foot statue of Dr. Ambedkar as part of the memorial.
Announcing this in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu said the government decided to convert all the ST hostels into residential educational institutions during the current year and upgrade all social welfare hostels into residential schools in the next three years to enable the deprived sections get quality education. It was proposed to bring the management of tribal institutions under one umbrella for better quality management.
He said the government’s focus would be on improving the education and health standards of tribal people and dalits by upgrading the institutions run by the respective departments. In addition, it was proposed to focus on economic development activities of the tribal people with emphasis on products like organic coffee, geographical indication tag for turmeric and promotion of potato cultivation, organic cashew, vegetable cultivation and better marketing with value addition.
Better branding and marketing of organic products through engagement of professional business consultants and skill development activities for at least one lakh members a year for ensuring gainful employment were among the measures. The government also relaxed the five-acre norm as eligibility criterion for economic support schemes like horticulture, NTR Jalasri, and other schemes.
On the infrastructure development front, it was proposed to cover all the SC/ST habitations with CC internal roads, provision of safe drinking water under NTR sujalapathakam, construction of tribal museum at Visakhapatnam, electrification of all non-electrified habitations, provision of more LED lamps as well as waiver of power supply charges of up to 50 units a month and according priority to infrastructure development in all schools and educational institutions.
Jagan picks holes
The main Opposition YSR Congress, however, dismissed the government’s claims stating that the huge difference in the allocations made and actual amounts spent for the welfare of the SC/ST communities was an indicator to the hollowness of the assurances. Quoting from the statistics, Opposition leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy alleged that the government was unable to spend the funds earmarked for the SC/ST communities while it was diverting the funds granted by the Central government under the NREGA to other works.
He alleged that the NREGA, which had 100 per cent wage component was, however, diluted subsequently as a result of which the material component was steadily rising.
According to the government’s own figures, over 1.7 crore people registered themselves under the NREGA, while the government had provided employment to little over 59 lakh people.
The New Indian Express
125-foot Statue of Ambedkar to Adorn Amaravati; AP Plans Year-long Events
By Express News ServicePublished: 30th March 2016 05:41 AMLast Updated: 30th March 2016 09:56 AM
HYDERABAD: A 125-foot statue of BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, will stand in the heart of Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.
Chief Minister Naidu, who wants to develop Amaravati as a tourist attraction given its ancient connection with Buddhism, has now decided to develop a memorial garden for Ambedkar, who had practiced Buddhism, in the new capital city in order to mark the 125th birth anniversary of the great leader and thinker.
The State Assembly on Tuesday took up a short discussion on how to organise the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar. While announcing his government’s plans to organise year-long celebrations to mark the occasion, Naidu said his government had decided to install the huge statute in a 15-acre site.
“We are planning to develop the memorial as garden which will have a convention centre and a Buddhist meditation hall. We are also planning to set up a museum and a library to make people know about the great leader’s teachings,” Naidu said. The proposed museum will depict the life and teachings of Ambedkar.
“We want to develop Amaravati as a tourist attraction for Buddhists from across the globe. BR Ambedkar’s proposed statue and memorial park would further add glory to the capital city,” Naidu added. As part of the celebrations, the chief minister said that various programmes will be organised to keep alive the memories of Ambedkar. “We are planning to organiseAmbedkar Ideology Run, Ambedkar Sports Meet and other programmes for the entire year. We will translate all the works of Ambedkar into Telugu language,” Naidu said. According to Naidu, the state will also hold anti-discrimination week, besides holding an international Buddhist convention.
6 Lakh Houses for the Poor
Chief Minister Naidu said TDP founder NT Rama Rao had introduced several welfare schemes for the benefit of the downtrodden classes, after getting inspired by the teachings of BR Ambedkar. In order to further take forward NTR’s efforts to uplift the poor in the society, the State government will inaugurate as well as lay foundation stone for 6 lakh houses for poor people on April 14.
Leader of the House Naidu and Leader of the Opposition YS Jagan Mohan Reddy crossed swords with each other in the Assembly, when the House was debating on how to organise celebrations to mark the 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar. Jagan alleged that the TDP government in the State has utter disrespect for Dalits in Andhra Pradesh.
WHEN the Dalit youth V. Shankar was brutally murdered right in front of his hapless wife in Udumalpet town in Tiruppur district, the civil society was outraged. The ruthlessness of the killers benumbed those who viewed the footage of the CCTV that had captured the crime.
What shocked people equally was the muted and half-hearted response of the political parties in the State, including the ruling All India Anna DravidaMunnetraKazhagam (AIADMK) and the DravidaMunnetraKazhagam (DMK), to the heinous crime. Barring the Dalit outfits, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the MarumalarchiDravidaMunnetraKazhagam (MDMK) and the Congress, all political parties chose to tread cautiously since Assembly elections are going to be held in the State on May 16. Their statements on the murder were guarded and circumspect.
While the AIADMK is yet to condemn the crime, the DMK chose to reduce it to a mere law and order issue. It was reluctant to call it a casteist murder. In fact, the party’s treasurer M.K. Stalin merely issued a statement a day after the incident took place saying all murders should be condemned. Two days later, his father, DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, condemned the incident in his question-and-answer mode of press release. In their carefully worded statements, the political leaderships avoided using the term “inter-caste” but condemned the murder. Dalit and Left parties had no hesitation in registering their strong protest against the casteist murder. While State Congress president E.V.K.S. Elangovan condemned the killing in no uncertain terms, a few BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) leaders downplayed the incident by saying that girls should show respect to their families. The BJP’s discomfort arises from the fact that such murders go against its larger goal of Hindu unity. As the AIADMK has kept mum, a few small Dalit outfits that have aligned themselves with the ruling party have also chosen to remain silent. The State government even registered cases against a Tuticorin-based lawyer and a functionary of the People’s Rights Protection Centre for urging the government to withdraw the reservation benefits granted to people belonging to the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) and the Backward Classes (B.Cs) who resort to honour killings, under Section 153A of Indian Penal Code and Section 3 of Tamil Nadu Open Place Disfigurement Act.
When reporters tried to seek the views of PattaliMakkalKatchi (PMK) leader Dr S. Ramadoss, he brushed aside the issue by saying that he had expressed his opinions on many important State and national issues, which needed to be highlighted by the media. Faced with strong a criticism for his rude reaction, he issued a statement subsequently condemning the Udumalpet murder.
Dr K. Krishnasamy, president of the Pallar-dominated PuthiyaThamizhagam (P.K.) party, criticisedRamadoss for trying to consolidate all intermediate caste groups under one banner, the All Castes People Federation, with the sole objective of creating a caste-Hindu vote bank for the PMK, which he said was the main reason for such gruesome incidents. The Dalit leader said: “He must be held responsible for such caste-based atrocities that take place even in the western region [of the State].”
The leaders who condemned the incident demanded a special law to prevent such inhuman crimes being committed in the name of caste and family honour. Krishnasamy visited Komaralingam village to share the grief of Shankar’s family. The ViduthalaiChiruthaigalKatchi (VCK) sent its senior leader, VanniArasu, to hand over a cheque of Rs.1 lakh to the victim’s family. The VCK and the All India Insurance Employees Association have expressed their willingness to meet the educational expenses of Kausalya, who discontinued her studies when she got married to Shankar.
Social scientists and academics cite the emergence of identity politics as the primary reason for such mute political responses to horrific crimes. Caste identity and caste-based voting, coupled with caste purity, they said, had become an important facet of Tamil Nadu politics. “Love across caste lines has been a taboo,” Dalit ideologue and the VCK’s senior leader D. Ravikumar said.
The Dravidian movement, for all its claim of being the fountainhead of socially progressive ideals, contributed to the consolidation of a strong Other Backward Classes (OBC) group with a patriarchal and feudalistic mindset. This group made a smooth transition to electoral politics. The main beneficiaries of this consolidation are intermediate caste groups such as Mukkulathors in the south and central districts, Vanniyars in the northern districts and VellalaGounders in the western districts. Politics and political power in Tamil Nadu revolve around these three powerful blocks today. The landed class, which enjoys social, economic and cultural dominance, has also acquired considerable political power.
Social and political activist A. Marx is, however, of the view that the OBC consolidation cannot be attributed to the failure of the Dravidian movement. “First, a clear demarcation is essential between today’s Dravidian political parties and the Dravidian movement of the past. The failure of Marxian politics and the emergence of identity politics in the 1980s have helped caste-based politics to flourish in Tamil Nadu. Both the AIADMK and the DMK had to reorient their electoral politics with the OBCs. They cannot afford to oppose them,” he said.
Marx pointed out that while the Dravidian parties were reluctant to antagonise caste-Hindu forces, the Congress boldly opposed them. “The Congress has a Gandhian tradition, which is essential for an egalitarian society. The failure of Dravidian political parties to take forward the socially progressive ideas of Gandhi and Periyar led to the OBC domination,” he said.
“Today we have a caste-based democracy in which caste has become indispensable for political parties,” the Tamil scholar V. Arasu said. A restless caste-Hindu psyche, he said, was facing uneasy but confident subaltern groups. Education, political and economic empowerment and the committed work of the functionally literate among Dalits, Arasu said, had heightened the awareness of the oppressed about their rights. Hence, the OBC consolidation against Dalits, which manifests itself in the political sphere, he said.
“The political parties in Tamil Nadu do not treat Dalits as vote banks. They think their votes can be purchased with freebies. At the same time, the parties have to pamper the casteist ego of intermediate groups. The three major OBC groups enjoy political power and the resultant economic advantages. The parties’ top leaders also belong to these caste groups. So, it is a vicious circle, which cannot be broken,” Ravikumar said.
The cocktail of love, caste and politics will remain a lethal brew as long as caste-based politics is practised.
To borrow B.R. Ambedkar’s words, it is a “conspiracy of silence” that the major political parties maintain even when dastardly acts are committed on the polity.
India’s forgotten people
Economic policies and processes continue to operate in ways that both rely upon and increase inequality and lack of voice of major groups and social categories.
THERE has been a lot of talk among policymakers in India about ensuring inclusion. The United Progressive Alliance government talked about “inclusive growth” and made it the headline for its Five Year Plan documents. The National Democratic Alliance government has dispensed with planning but still wants to jump on the inclusion bandwagon, so its various policies and schemes, from “smart cities” to “Make in India”, generally come with the tag of being “inclusive”. Despite all this talk, however, the evidence generally points to intensification of inequalities and lack of inclusion in terms of most important social and economic outcomes.
This is not only because of lack of genuine political will (although that is certainly a factor), but also because the nature of inclusion—or, more importantly, exclusion—has not been studied and understood adequately, and as a result even policies that are superficially well-intentioned can miss the mark completely. There is, of course, the basic problem that economic policies and processes continue to operate in ways that both rely upon and increase inequality and lack of voice of major groups and social categories. But there is also a genuine lack of understanding of the complex yet intertwined nature of exclusion in its various manifestations.
This gap is sought to be filled by the India Exclusion Report. For the past two years, this report has sought to highlight various aspects of exclusion and the plight of those who continue to face multiple forms of exclusion, which are often even reinforced rather than mitigated by public policies. The recently released India Exclusion Report for 2015 specifically takes up the nature of exclusion from essential public services and amenities.
The report defines the term “public goods” differently from how economists perceive it, which is in terms of whether the consumption of the good or service reduces aggregate availability or consumption by others. The report’s focus is on what can more accurately be called those goods and services that must be accessible to the public at large because they are essential for living a life with dignity. This is clearly a looser definition, and also one that is socially and temporally specific, so different societies at different moments in time have their own notions of what constitutes such “public goods”.
The report focuses on three essential “public goods” so defined: urban health; urban water and sanitation; and access to equal and dignified work for women. Even with this limited focus, it brings out the comprehensive and overlapping character of exclusion. The report finds that those who are excluded according to the relevant indicators are generally those who are recognised as disadvantaged in other areas as well: women, Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, persons with disabilities, and persons with age-related vulnerabilities (children and the elderly).
The association with class-based indicators is also strong. Most critically, the report finds important areas of overlap in the exclusion in these areas and in the household indicators of occupation and housing. So, while urban areas in general have more extensive health services than rural areas, access to adequate health care is significantly lower for the urban poor, while those in certain occupations with very poor conditions of work and those in particularly poor housing conditions (and particularly the homeless) may have hardly any access at all. They are also much more likely to have lower or no access to basic drinking water and sanitation.
The significant role of the housing, in terms of nature and location, is highlighted across the various indicators of exclusion from “public goods”. Thus, there are strongly negative health consequences of the denial of decent housing and the associated exposure to atmospheric and other pollution. Those who live in slums that have poor infrastructure, lack space and amenities and have problematic or limited access to drinking water and sanitation, and especially those who are forced to occupy places such as open drains and the banks of effluent tanks, are more exposed to health hazards.
The homeless, obviously, are not only the most destitute but also the most deprived of access to minimum “public goods” because of the residence-based nature of all public service delivery. They, and among them especially street children, are often excluded completely from any kind of health care. They are more likely to be trapped in low-end jobs with unsafe, unhealthy and debilitating working conditions. Their access to water and sanitation services is hugely inadequate to ensure good health, and they are typically forced to drink non-potable water, often fetched over long distances, and defecate in the open or use poorly maintained public toilets without running water and with little privacy or security.
The report highlights how working women face particularly adverse forms of exclusion, and they are mostly those who face some of the multiple deprivations already outlined. Within the broad category, some specific forms of work that are particularly oppressive are highlighted, such as manual scavenging (the dominant part of which is performed by women) and hazardous occupations such as construction or mining, where they are also paid significantly less than men.
Some attention is paid to especially vulnerable groups that are often ignored in the wider discourse. The first is single women above the age of 35 years, a porous and heterogenous category that is nonetheless profoundly unsettling for society and that often faces dramatic expressions of patriarchy through neglect or open oppression. State action, including both the design and the implementation of government policies, often reinforces and intensifies the social and economic exclusions that single women have to deal with.
A really pathetic and stressing story emerges from the account of the Devadasis still found in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and the Travancore region of Kerala. Despite being legally banned, clandestine practice was found even in early 2015, and the practice has mutated in different ways, but still remains as oppressive and akin to a form of sexual slavery with little agency or autonomy for the children and women who are victims of the practice. There is intersection with caste oppression, as such victims typically come from certain Scheduled Castes, and there are massive exclusions in terms of lack of fundamental rights at work; risk to lives, health and security; and denial of freedom and human dignity. In addition to extreme poverty, such women face extreme exclusion from the “public goods” described in the India Exclusion Report.
The report also examines some other specific cases of exclusion defined in the larger sense, such as victims of communal violence (with focus on survivors of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Uttar Pradesh and of the recurring incidents of mass violence in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District region of Assam). The case of the tiny group of Jarawa (or Ang) tribal people in the Andaman Islands raises more complex issues of how their very survival is threatened by active contact with the wider world, which is generally insensitive to their needs and conditions.
So, there is a clear, if devastating, picture of various forms of exclusion that prevail in India, some of which are barely noticed, while others appear in the public gaze without generating active intent to remedy the situation. Yet, diagnosis of the problem is only the first step, so it is a positive feature that the report also examines cases of how state policies can be, and in some cases have been, designed to ensure greater inclusion of vulnerable populations. There are various recommendations, including fiscal and economic policies and more aware and sensitive modes of implementation, that point to pathways in which some of the pervasive exclusions that characterise so much public intervention can be reduced or reversed.
Achieving such change at any scale, however, will require a different political economy as well as much altered sensibilities not just of policymakers and implementers but of society at large.
If this report can make even a small change in the attitudes and awareness that allow so much exclusion to persist, it will be more than worth the effort that has gone into producing it.
News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET