As a token gesture, officials take Dalits to temple, but not inside – The hindu
Dalit youth murder: man surrenders in court – News today
Kerala artist makes use of her greased body to shed light on colour prejudice in India – The news minut
Hyderabad University: ‘Locked’ inside campus for days, students cry for help – One india news
Muslim participation lowest among women in workforce: Report – Nyoooz
Liquor ban draconian, say Nawada villagers – Nyoooz
Smart strategy or plain desperation? – News 7
Six held for assaulting Dalit – Nyoooz
Poor planning & non-spending of funds reasons for non-implementation of TSP – Web duniya 123
Gogoi will face the music in polls: Indigenous tribal sahitya sabhas – The sentinel
THE STATE OF A PARCHED LAND – Bangalore mirror
Andamans and its tribals: Meet the first Indians while they are still around – Economic times
As a token gesture, officials take Dalits to temple, but not inside
In yet another ongoing battle for entry of Dalits into a temple at Sigaranahalli village in Holenarsipur taluk of Hassan district, the district administration seems to have failed to ensure that the rights of the Dalits are upheld.
In what was described by Dalit leaders as “adding insult to injury”, on Saturday, officials took some people from the Dalit colony to Basaveshwara temple and made them offer puja by standing in front of the locked doors of the temple, and later said the matter was resolved.
“The matter has been peacefully settled,” claimed Umesh H. Kusugal, Deputy Commissioner of Hassan, when contacted by The Hindu . He even added that ‘upper caste’ people did not oppose his move of taking Dalits to the temple. However, there was no response to why Dalits were not taken inside the temple.
On Friday, violence erupted in the village when a district official, journalists and policemen were injured by a mob of ‘upper caste’ people who opposed the entry of Dalits into the temple to participate in the Durga Parameshwari Jatra Mahotsava, an annual event that began on Friday. Ironically, Saturday’s event happened in the presence of Holenarsipur MLA H.D. Revanna.
“In the guise of taking Dalits into the temple, the district administration has practised untouchability. Our people were not taken inside the temple, but were made to stand in front of the locked doors. The DC and MLA should be held responsible,” said Vijay Kumar, a resident of the Dalit colony in the village.
Observers and human rights activists point out that Dalits seeking entry into temples has often met with opposition from ‘upper caste’ people, prompting the State machinery to somehow put an end to the issue in a hurry, leaving the core issue of upholding the Dalits’ rights untouched.
Bureaucrats represent the ‘upper caste’ and feudal mindset and end up suggesting the Dalits ‘tolerate’ and continue with past systems, Dalit activists said.
Mavalli Shankar, president of Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (Ambedkar Wada), alleged that bureaucrats and people’s representatives, in many instances, have acted as representatives of the feudal system. “They do not look for a change in the system or bring awareness among those practising untouchability. They are interested only in putting an end to the case as soon as possible,” he said.
In this case, the administration was under pressure from the people’s representatives as offering puja at Basaveshwara temple was necessary to go ahead with the car festival of Durga Parameshwari.
The temple was closed after Dalits entered the temple with the help of the district administration in September 2015. The temple was reopened on March 25 only after conducting ‘purification’ rituals to ‘clean’ the temple as part of the preparations for the ongoing festival.
In most cases, Dalits give up their right to enter a temple, knowing that those in power will support ‘upper castes’
Samata Sainik Dal
Even if heads of district are Dalits, they won’t antagonise ‘upper castes’; it will vitiate the atmosphere
State president, Dalit Sangarsh Samiti (Ambedkar Wada)
We have taken Dalits to the temple. ‘Upper caste’ people did not oppose it today. We have settled the matter peacefully
Umesh H. Kusugal,
Dalit youth murder: man surrenders in court
Dindigul (TN): A man today surrendered before a court in the district in connection with the brutal murder of a Dalit youth in a suspected honour killing last month in Tirupur district.
Kalai Tamilvanan, a native of the district, surrendered before Nilakottai Judicial Magistrate Regina Bervin who sent him to police custody for seven days.
Three persons had attacked 22-year old Shankar and his wife Kausalya with sickles in full public view near a bus stand in Udumalpet on March 13 allegedly at the behest of her father, a caste Hindu who was opposed to their inter-caste marriage.
Shankar died while being rushed to the hospital while Kausalya, who hails from Dindigul district, survived with head injuries.
As the video footage of the chilling attack went viral triggering an outrage, police arrested five persons, including the girl’s mother while her father, Chinnasamy, surrendered in a court.
The news minut
Kerala artist makes use of her greased body to shed light on colour prejudice in India
“The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” – George Orwell
Outside the Durbar Hall Grounds in Kochi, artist P S Jaya draws curious looks from passersby. A group of amused drivers at a nearby autorickshaw stand silently gawking at her as she boards a three-wheeler to the Ernakulam railway station.
“I have been getting used to these stares since January 27, when I started stepping out of my house with my whole body painted black,” she smiles.
Tarring someone’s face in India is a public form of humiliation indulged in India. Enraged by 26-year-old Dalit activist and PhD scholar Rohit Vemula’s suicide at the Hyderabad Central University, Jaya -a non-Dalit incidentally- decided to take on a prejudice of another kind, but one which often conflates with casteist prejudice. She seeks to literally experience the same throes of humiliation that our society harbours against dark skin.
“He (Vemula) was my age.The prevalent mindset is that anyone endowed with dark or ‘black’ skin hails from the lower strata of society,” she says.
Though India has sauntered into the new millennium with confidence, she is disturbed that Indians are still stuck in a casteist mould and continue to view dark-skinned people with suspicion. A brief pause later, she asks: “Why can’t the focus be on the individual who exists underneath the skin colour, caste, religion, race or gender?”
Wanting to make use of art to highlight such caste and colour prejudices, Jaya came up with this unique form of protest which seeks to draw people’s attention to the deep-seated biases inherent in their sub-conscious attitude to others.
She plans to launch a calendar showcasing her 100-day protest along with an exhibition focusing on the same. A dance recital too is in the offing.
“In classical dance, the performer dons paint to look fair. I would like to perform onstage donning grease…hopefully I’m able to break away from the cliché that beauty lies in fairness,” she grins.
Jaya had even adorned her darkened body with LED lights on March 8 –celebrated as Women’s Day all over the world- and performed in various public spaces to drive home the point that women need to shine on their own.
Will her protest alter society’s biased attitude?
Perhaps not. But that should not deter people from questioning such wrongs, she believes.
At a dance school in the up-market Panampilly Nagar, where Jaya works as a part-time teacher, her overnight ‘dark skin’ evoked mixed responses from her young students.
Some of her students mistook her for someone else while others told her that she was more beautiful to look at earlier. Associating beauty with fair skin starts right from childhood in India, she asserts.
Though apprehensive about going out on the first day of her live performance, she wanted to use her body as the medium to highlight an age-old prejudice in literal bold black strokes.
“People discuss Dalit issues only when someone gets killed. This should change. All such ‘minority’ issues like those of the transgenders too should be up for continuous debate,” she adds.
Youngest of four children, Jaya derives her sense of individuality from her father -a carpenter- whom she lost eight years ago. A post-graduate in Fine Arts from RLV College in Kochi, she works with Kalakakshi -a collective of artistes and writers. A recipient of the 2013 Lalit Kala Academy award for painting, it was her sister -also an artist- who initiated her into the art world.
One india news
Hyderabad University: ‘Locked’ inside campus for days, students cry for help
Hyderabad, April 3: Perhaps for the first time in the history of independent India, students of a university are “locked” inside their campus, being denied contact with the outside world. As the administration of the University of Hyderabad (UoH) continues to impose a blockade on the campus, students have invited members of the civil society to join their struggle on the university premises on April 6.
Since the students have very little access with the outside world, with the main gate of the university being locked and guarded by police personnel, students are interacting with the rest of society with the help of various social media platforms. The press release posted on the Facebook account of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) for Social Justice, (UoH), stated the students are hosting a protest rally–Chalo Hyderabad Central University (HCU)–against the blockade imposed on the campus on April 6. The members of JAC are spearheading the movement for justice for Rohith Vemula, after the 26-year-old Dalit research scholar committed suicide on the campus on January 17.
“This is an appeal to all the students, political organisations and people to come to UoH on April 6 to register your protest against the ongoing injustice meted out to Rohith and students of the university. Since the university administration has imposed a blockade on the campus preventing the students from having any contact with the outside world, Chalo HCU call is also against the imposed blockade on the university,”
stated the press release. The normal functioning of the university came to a halt on March 22, when the vice-chancellor Appa Rao Podile, an accused in the suicide of Rohith, resumed charge on the campus. The students protested against Podile’s return to the campus. As a part of the protest, students were also accused of restoring to vandalism. However, students alleged that police brutally attacked them, who were registering their protest in a non-violent manner. The matter became worse after police arrested a group of 25 students and two faculty members and kept them locked in a police station, denying them bail for several days. At the same time, the university administration imposed a blockade by deploying police inside the campus and denying free movement of the students. “Since the return of Podile, the campus is in a state of emergency. Students have been assaulted, deprived of food, water, legal aid, medical aid, cut-off from the outside world and also put in jail and slapped with false cases. In this state of emergency, students feel extremely threatened and have been demanding the removal of vice-chancellor from the university premises and his immediate arrest,” stated the press release. “Podile has resumed his charge without getting any bail or legal relief. He had applied for bail six times and every time it was cancelled. His presence on the campus can be questioned legally. The police should arrest him as he is booked under SC/ST prevention of atrocities act. He is also one of the main accused in Rohith’s suicide case,” added the press release. The press release says the students are seeking response from the administration on three main accounts-the filing and withdrawal of cases against students and faculty members, the blockade imposed on the campus by closing of the main gate and plans to deploy CISF personnel on the campus. “The recent meeting with the registrar only reaffirms our doubt that the administration is in collusion with Podile, police and BJP. Together they’re going to take anti-student decisions. The students do not recognise Podile as their VC and will continue their protest demanding his removal and arrest,” added the press release.
Muslim participation lowest among women in workforce: Report
Summary: While Adivasi and Dalit women have a relatively large workforce share, Muslim women have the lowest participation rates. Among all communities studied, Muslim women are the lowest on labour force participation rate. Within this, the share of Muslim women in the workforce is less than 10 per cent, Patel said. Muslim women lag behind in almost all key socio-economic indicators of development. Appoint Commission on Muslim womenWe have strongly recommended the appointment of a Commission on Muslim Women that will map and suggest actions on issues related to them, Patel said.
Dr Razia Patel Dr Razia Patel Pune-based Dr Razia Patel, who was part of a high-level committee that recommended a complete ban on oral, unilateral and triple talaq (divorce), said that a bleak picture persists on the overall status of Muslim women in the country. Among all communities studied, Muslim women are the lowest on labour force participation rate. Dr Patel was part of the 14-member committee chaired by Dr Pam Rajput, which was appointed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013 to assess the status of women in the country since 1989 and to evolve policy interventions. The committee, which completed its surveys in 2015, paid special attention to women in marginalised communities.
Razia Patel, who is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Education in Pune, told The Indian Express that the central committee had strongly recommended a complete ban on oral, unilateral and triple talaq. “We have also recommended that justice through courts should be accessible and fast so that women are not required to go to unconstitutional arbitration courts,” she said. “It makes wives extremely vulnerable and insecure regarding their marital status,” said Patel. These women experience high levels of violence at home and outside, she said.
Liquor ban draconian, say Nawada villagers
Summary: They offer ‘desi’ (country) liquor to the deity on all festivals and birth, death and marriage anniversaries. “We also offer liquor along with a live chicken to invoke Masan Baba’s benediction to overcome serious sickness and for fulfilment of wishes. For musahars, offering liquor to Masan Baba is an age-old tradition. With the lawmakers depriving our deity of liquor, the Masan Baba would be forced to migrate to some other place,” said Manjhi.Incidentally, the Masan Baba does not have a grand structure or a temple erected in his honour.A makeshift brick structure suffices as a place of worship. Nawada: Devotees of ‘Masan or Dak Baba’ and ‘Goraiya Baba’, the two deities revered by the dalit and mahadalit communities, have been left high and dry with the ban on manufacture, sale and consumption of country liquor in the state from April 1.The devotees say the policy makers who formulated this ‘Draconian Law’ will have to pay a heavy price for it.Karia Manjhi, a 55-year-old musahar from Warisaliganj, said the lawmakers should be prepared to face the consequences.
Nawada: Devotees of ‘Masan or Dak Baba’ and ‘Goraiya Baba’, the two deities revered by the dalit and mahadalit communities, have been left high and dry with the ban on manufacture, sale and consumption of country liquor in the state from April 1.The devotees say the policy makers who formulated this ‘Draconian Law’ will have to pay a heavy price for it.Karia Manjhi, a 55-year-old musahar from Warisaliganj, said the lawmakers should be prepared to face the consequences. For musahars, offering liquor to Masan Baba is an age-old tradition. They offer ‘desi’ (country) liquor to the deity on all festivals and birth, death and marriage anniversaries.”We also offer liquor along with a live chicken to invoke Masan Baba’s benediction to overcome serious sickness and for fulfilment of wishes.
With the lawmakers depriving our deity of liquor, the Masan Baba would be forced to migrate to some other place,” said Manjhi.Incidentally, the Masan Baba does not have a grand structure or a temple erected in his honour.A makeshift brick structure suffices as a place of worship. These structures can be found along roads or near the village having some population of dalits.Brothers Baleshwar Paswan and Pramod Paswan from Neya village in Nawada shuddered at the evil that would befall the state in the coming days.Paswans, on the other hand, offer ‘tapawan’ (country liquor) to Goraiya Baba in ‘Chait’ and ‘Shrawan’ months in order to either fulfil a ‘mannat’ or in gratitude for fulfilment of their ‘manauti’.Asked about the ban, the brothers retorted that it was an affront to Goraiya Baba and bodes ill for the state.They expressed optimism that the ‘will of god’ would reign supreme and the ‘conspirators’ (lawmakers) would ultimately withdraw the law.
Smart strategy or plain desperation?
You don’t have to be a particularly keen observer of Punjab politics to notice that the race for the 2017 Assembly polls is already on, and in that race all political parties are making all-out efforts to woo a particular segment of the electorate: the youth. This is both unprecedented and striking, yet it remains to be explained why this is so. Some explanations appear obvious but seem to be shallow, if not altogether false.
Take, for example, the explanation that revolves around the demographics of age: Those who are below 40 are more than one half of the eligible electorate, and those who are below 30 are more than half of those below 40. It is argued that these numbers are not only significant; they are crucial and decisive in the electoral arithmetic.
This explanation is shallow because the demographics of age haven’t changed significantly since the Assembly polls of 2012. If number is all that matters, how come the young half of the voters did not then get the precedence that it gets now? The second explanation spins around the problems of unemployment and drug abuse. Both of these undoubtedly hit the young more. But, then, again, neither of these problems was any less severe around 2012.
Agrarian crisis goes back to the 90s, and industrial decline started in early 2000. Surveys had already reported widespread drug abuse before the 2012 elections. We must remember, therefore, that the number of the young is not new, nor are their problems. What is new is the political focus on them.
Why?The answer, I would hazard, is a negative one. My explanation is that the significance of the youth has increased only to the extent that the significance of the older half of the electorate has declined in electoral arithmetic. The older electorate has not declined in numbers, but its relative significance has declined because of its fragmentation and the breakdown of reliable traditional vote banks among its ranks.
The most striking example of this phenomenon is the erosion of Sikh vote banks of the Akali Dal. Allegiance to the ‘Panth’ does not appear as unwavering today, nor does the Jat Sikh peasant appear inclined to vote again for the Akalis. Most analysts agree that the Akali votes from these sections will reduce this time, possibly in a drastic manner.
As for the Congress, its traditional vote bank among the Dalits has fragmented. How the Dalit votes will be divided this time is anybody’s guess. It is perhaps because of the simultaneous breakdown of traditional vote banks of Akalis and Congress that the BJP felt encouraged enough for a while to entertain ideas of emerging as an independent force.
I am not denying that a significant factor for the unprecedented focus on the youth is the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party. It proved to be a force to reckon with in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in Punjab. The AAP is a young party. Its appeal among the youth relies on its relatively young leadership and particularly young cadre.
But I wonder if the panic and desperation among other parties would have been so severe if their traditional vote banks were still intact. The young are not a homogenous category, and how its various segments would vote cannot be gauged. But it is little surprise that everyone is trying to clutch at the straws flying around in the wind.
Six held for assaulting Dalit
Summary: On Friday afternoon, some of the villagers suspected that family members of P. Selvi (40), a noon meal scheme worker, could be throwing stones at the houses. A case of stones falling on the houses of a few villagers at Appanaickenpatti Pudur, near Sulur, for the last 25 days took a violent turn with a group of eight persons assaulting a 40-year-old Dalit woman, suspecting that those from her family could be behind the incident. The police, however, said that they were yet to identify those behind the stone throwing. Concrete roofs of some of the houses were damaged when stones fell on them. Even the police stationed there could not identify the persons behind it.
A case of stones falling on the houses of a few villagers at Appanaickenpatti Pudur, near Sulur, for the last 25 days took a violent turn with a group of eight persons assaulting a 40-year-old Dalit woman, suspecting that those from her family could be behind the incident. Concrete roofs of some of the houses were damaged when stones fell on them. Villagers spend sleepless nights in vain to solve the mystery. Even the police stationed there could not identify the persons behind it. On Friday afternoon, some of the villagers suspected that family members of P.
Selvi (40), a noon meal scheme worker, could be throwing stones at the houses. They attacked her, and damaged her house and valuables there. Based on a complaint lodged by Selvi, the police arrested S. Sathish Kumar (22), R.
Web duniya 123
Poor planning & non-spending of funds reasons for non-implementation of TSP
Defective planning, poor utilisation of funds, non-maintenance of separate account and weak monitoring and evaluation mechanism were found to be some of the reasons for the unsuccessful implementation of the Tribal Sub-plan which was initiated in the fifth five year plan (1974-79) for the development of STs in the country.The tribal Sub-plan was initiated to ensure that the share of resources spent for the benefit of STs was at least in proportion to their share in the population of the country. The main aim of the Tribal Sub-plan was to divert the flow of outlay and benefits from the general sectors in the central ministries and departments for the welfare of STs both in physical and financial terms.But defective planning proved to be a roadblock in its successful implementation.
Audit noted that the Tribal ministry did not have any say in formulating and finalizing the annual plan of ministries and departments which was the groundwork required for successful implementation of TSP. There was no planning for the schemes which were formed without specific consideration of tribal beneficiaries as required under the Tribal Sub-plan. No study was conducted to assess the gap in development of STs as envisaged. The nodal departments did not have any control over formulation, implementation and monitoring of TSP.Poor utilisation of funds is another factor as to why the benefits of the schemes did not percolate to the tribes. Underutilisation and diversion of TSP funds were noticed in many instances. Some states had not even released funds to the implementing or nodal agencies. Separate account was not maintained for the expenditure of funds. Even though the funds from the Central level were released in trifurcated head ie General/SC/ST(TSP) to the states to district implementing agencies , the account of expenditure was not maintained component-wise at each level due to which exact expenditure under TSP remained unascertainable.The funds released under TSP were counted as final expenditure pointing to inappropriate practice and systematic inefficiencies.Monitoring and evaluation of the scheme both at the Central and State level needs enhancement. The HRD ministry failed to monitor TSP funds as planned by it under the framework such as SEMIS which have not been established till date. Also, tribal ministry has not been involved in the formulation process of Annual plan of the Central ministry/departments. Tribal ministry has been set up to bring the tribal community of the country at par with the general public but non-imoplemation of schemes at various levels and non-expenditure of funds have proved to be the bottlenecks.UNI SY CJ PR1014
Gogoi will face the music in polls: Indigenous tribal sahitya sabhas
GUWAHATI, April 2: The convening committee of the Indigenous Tribal Sahitya Sabhas, Assam (ITSSA) has said that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi will have to face the music in the coming Assembly elections for his government depriving various indigenous tribal sahitya sabhas of their funds and delaying release of funds under non-Plan head to them.
In a statement issued to the press, ITSSA office-bearers said: “Under Plan head the Department of Higher Education used to provide Rs 30 lakh to the Axam Xahitya Xabha (AXX), Rs 10 lakh to the Bodo Sahtya Sabha (BSS), Rs 5 lakh each to the Mising Sahitya Sabha (MSS), Tiwa Sahitya Sabha (TSS) and the Rabha Sahitya Sabha (RSS). The Department of Higher Education used to release funds meant for the tribal sahitya sabhas through the tribal sub-plan of WPT & BC Department. However, on May 13, 2015 WPT & DC Minister Sumitra Patir took a decision to divert it by providing Rs 10 lakh to Dhemaji College and Rs 15 lakh to Dhakuakhana College. However, the this decision had to be rolled back following pressure from the sahitya sabhas concerned. However, due to failure on the part of the Department of Higher Education and the Finance Department, the funds for indigenous tribal sahitya sabhas have not been released as yet.”
The office-bearers further said that in the non-Plan head, the AXX used to get Rs 12 lakh, BSS Rs 1.05 lakh, Dimasa Sahitya Sabha (DSS) Rs 4 lakh from the Department of Higher Education. “This year, the BSS was supposed to get Rs 5 lakh and the Finance Department has also approved it. However, the government is yet to release the funds. Nor has there been any arrangement made for the payment of funds to the sahitya sabhas of Deoris, Garos and Karbis. This makes it crystal clear that the Congress Government in the State led by Tarun Gogoi has no intention to develop literatures and cultures of the indigenous tribes in the State,” the ITSSA office-bearers said.
THE STATE OF A PARCHED LAND
Ire against the management of the drought in Maharashtra has catalysed the demand for statehood for Marathwada. Are the authorities in thirsty Karnataka listening?
“Look at Latur – Sec 144 has to be imposed so that people can quench their thirst! That’s the city that gave the State two chief ministers, and one of them ruled for eight years.”Latur – Sec 144 has to be imposed so that people can quench their thirst! That’s the city that gave the State two chief ministers, and one of them ruled for eight years.”
You hear this a lot these days in Aurangabad. It’s an argument that could work for a separate Marathwada state – “Look, even powerful leaders could get nothing for their own constituencies, because of the domination of leaders from western Maharashtra.” But it’s mostly made by those against a separate state, as a comment on the spinelessness of the region’s leadership, a factor seen to be responsible for its backwardness.
Marathwada has had at least six prominent leaders: S B Chavan, Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan as CMs; a deputy CM – Gopinath Munde, and a union home minister in Shivraj Patil. If they could do nothing to get their share of the state’s resources, would the powerful western Maharashtra leaders let a small state dependent on their resources survive?
Can the idea of a separate state be thrown like a pebble in a lake, hoping that ripples would be created?
That’s exactly what’s happened over the fortnight since former state advocate general Shrihari Aney approved of the idea of a separate Marathwada at a function in Jalna. Aney had to resign given the ferocious reactions from all parties, but the ripples created by his statement are still disturbing the seemingly calm waters of Marathwada.
They haven’t become waves though, and may not for a long time.
Aney’s statement is being discussed only in intellectual and political circles. Among the people, the idea of a separate state is not just incomprehensible, it’s condemnable. “Maharashtra must be one, it can’t be broken into parts,” said a worker in Aurangabad. “Remember the story we learnt in school – a twig can be easily broken, but a bundle can’t? United we stand, divided we fall,” said Babbanbhai Kakde, a farmer on the outskirts of Aurangabad.
“Would we be able to go for jobs to Mumbai?” asks Digambar Avti, a farmer, who points to the migration of jobless landless labour. “Or would Raj Thackeray ask for domicile certificates?”
Has the BJP underestimated the feeling ordinary people in Marathwada have for their state? For there’s no question that Aney’s statement had the backing of the BJP. For one, Aney is known to be Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ close associate. Then, as soon as Aney had made this statement, in Latur, BJP MP Sunil Gaekwad’s followers led by Shivaji Narhare went all the way to Delhi to convince Narendra Modi about it.
Significantly, Aney also has the support of the BJP’s mentor. A day after his statement, senior RSS ideologue M G Vaidya stated that the RSS had always conceived of Maharashtra as four states, and had divided its units in Maharashtra accordingly.
The RSS has no base in Marathwada; and though the BJP won 15 seats here in the Assembly polls, it’s the Shiv Sena, which won 11, that has popular support. Chandrakant Khaire, fourth-time MP from Aurangabad, dared Aney to enter Marathwada. “Our leader Balasaheb gave us the slogan `Jai Maharashtra’,” he told Mumbai Mirror. “In Parliament too, everyone greets me with those two words. This is Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Maharashtra. I want to ask the RSS: you talk of Akhand Bharat, but want to divide Maharashtra?”
The Congress was practically wiped out in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but both the seats it managed to retain were from Marathwada. “We will never allow this,” said former CM Ashok Chavan, Nanded MP, whose father S B Chavan is universally respected as having been the only leader to have done something for the region. “Our struggle was never for a separate state; it was always to join Maharashtra.”
The “struggle” that everyone talks about refers to the Hyderabad Mukti Sangram, the movement against the rule of the Nizam, a struggle that’s unique to this part of Maharashtra. Marathwada was part of the Nizam’s domain, and when he resisted joining India after Independence, the majority of his subjects revolted. It wasn’t just his feudal, autocratic rule that people were fed up of. A major reason for anger, says Prof Jaidev Dole, columnist and professor of Media studies, was the ban on Marathi.
The Nizam let loose the armed communal force called the Razakars on those opposing him. Khaire is 63, and he remembers his mother telling him how the Razakars burnt down houses in her village. Such stories are the stuff of legend in Marathwada, the way stories about going to jail during the Quit India movement are the stuff of legend in the rest of India.
Aurangabad didn’t play a big role in the freedom movement; it had its own. And when liberation came in 1948, after the Indian Army defeated the Razakars, the freedom to speak and write in their mother tongue was one of its most cherished fruits for the people of the region.
It was but natural then for the majority Marathi-speaking people in Marathwada to join the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, and become part of the new Maharashtra state in 1960. The Vidarbha region joined Maharashtra with some conditions, given that Nagpur was already the capital of a separate province. But Marathwada put no conditions. Its leaders, the tallest of whom was the Gandhian Govindbhai Shroff, felt they were joining their own people, recalled Suryaprakash Dhoot, general secretary of the Latur unit of the Marathwada Janata Vikas Parishad, founded by Shroff. “We were like a bride who returns to her parents’ home, full of affection and secure she’d be welcomed,” is how Prof Sharad Adwant, general secretary of the Parishad puts it.
Given this very recent history, what was the BJP thinking by floating the idea of a separate Marathwada for which, Aney suggested, the people ought to struggle? It’s likely the BJP had forgotten all about the region’s own freedom struggle, because the RSS had played no part in it.
Different reasons are being assigned to Aney’s remarks. Aney himself, like his father and grandfather, is known to be a supporter of a separate Vidarbha. The moment he resigned, he plunged himself into the cause. His remark is seen as a bid to provide a stronger base for the creation of a separate Vidarbha. “When two regions are seeking to break away, it’s always easier to allow one to do so,” says CPI district secretary Ram Baheti. “It’s easier to get your demand by tagging someone else with you; it’s a classic bargaining tactic.”
A separate Vidarbha was part of the BJP’s election manifesto, and given the way the BJP has taken away to Nagpur key institutions allotted to Aurangabad, most people in Marathwada see a separate Vidarbha with a fully equipped capital – Nagpur – being created just before the next assembly elections.
Vidarbha’s CM would of course be Devendra Fadnavis. What about the BJP’s key ally’s opposition to the idea? “The BJP knows the Shiv Sena is dead set against any division of Maharashtra. Yet, the fact that it let Aney float the idea shows that it wants to cut Shiv Sena to size,” says Subhash Lomte of the Maharashtra Labour Union. Aam Aadmi Party’s Aurangabad candidate, Lomte is now with Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj Abhiyan. With other parties ambivalent about a separate Vidarbha, the Sena will end up as the only party opposing it, and will be routed from there during the next assembly election, says Lomte. “The BJP has killed many birds with one stone.”
While Ashok Chavan ascribed the statement to a “realization by the BJP that it can’t handle Maharashtra, and its eagerness to dominate one section of it, ie Vidarbha”, Khaire foresaw this as a precursor to the creation of a separate Mumbai. “Danga fasaad karana chahtey hain,” he warned.
There is yet another possible reason for Aney’s statement. Right now, the region’s drought-hit are clamouring for “pani, kaam, pagaar (salaries) aur ration”, four things mentioned as a priority by villagers in Turkabad near Aurangabad. Here, Baheti has been leading morchas of villagers, and has managed to get the authorities to issue MNREGA job forms. In Ambejogai, Manav Lok, an NGO working in the field of watershed development, has also helped villagers organise themselves around MNREGA. And across the region, the press is exposing the lapses of the government in handling the drought.
What better way to divert the attention of the angry masses than by letting forth a red herring of a separate state, asks Baheti. While the masses have certainly not been diverted, the intelligentsia are discussing the idea seriously. Ironically, the drought has given the discussion a sharper edge. Both those in favour of and against the idea use the same arguments – the discrimination faced by the region ever since it joined Maharashtra.