Dalits Media Watch – News Updates 09.04.16


Private school prevents Dalit students from writing exam in Jalandhar – F .politics




Bikaner Dalit ‘rape-murder’: Father demands CBI investigation – The Indian express


Of caste fanaticism and industry: The make or break behind Tamil Nadu’s Kongu parties – The news minut


Parties go all out to woo Dalits in state – The tribune


Grants for Gujarat tribals, dalits slashed by Modi govt – The times of india


Photo essay | Picturing Ambedkar – Live mint


Human rights challenges The nation



F .politics

Private school prevents Dalit students from writing exam in Jalandhar


Jalandhar:  Three Dalit siblings were allegedly barred from appearing in the final examinations by a private school as their father failed to deposit their fees in Punjab.

Balwinder Singh, a driver, said he had requested the St Soldier School authorities to give him time till 20 March to pay the pending fees of last two months but they agreed to wait till 10 March and as he was unable to deposit it, his children were not allowed to appear in exams.

Singh said when he went to submit fees after 10 March, the school management refused to accept it and told him that he will have to get his children enrolled again.

Meanwhile, school Principal Pratibha, refuting the allegation, said, “The students were not barred from appearing in the exam. They had appeared in the examinations conducted before 10 March but later they stopped coming to school on their own.”

District Magistrate K K Yadav said preventing students from appearing in exam is wrong and he will inquire about the incident. Efforts would be made to save the academic year of the three students.

Anil Chopra, Chairman of St Soldier group, said, “I am not aware of the incident. However, I will ask the school principal to organise special exams for the students.

The pioneer



A 35-year-old married Dalit woman was sexually assaulted and her husband was beaten brutally by the upper caste people at Kodapura Jaamli village of Dewas district, alleged State Organiser of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch Gaytri Sonkar, while interacting with the mediapersons on Friday.

Sonkar alleged that the complainant’s daughter-in-law was sexually assaulted by the accused AK Singh and when they opposed and lodged a complaint against the accused her house was set ablaze.

Complainant pleaded to stop the atrocity with her daughter-in-law but the AK Singh and his father were not ready to agree.

When her son found that AK Singh was involved in the atrocity, he was beaten brutally by Singh and afraid of Singh, he escaped.

Later, with the help of Santosh Malviya she lodged a complaint with the police and angered over the complaint they were locked from outside at their home and house was set ablaze after which AK Singh and her daughter in law were arrested and when they were released after two months Santosh was fabricated in two cases.

The complainant has also raised allegations of gang rape and killing of her earlier daughter-in-law by the upper caste people and fabricated her son in the killing and later in the name of bail those involved in the killing took money and kept her son a bonded labour.

The issue was raised by National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). State convener of NCHDR Rama Panchal was present during the interaction.

The Indian express

Bikaner Dalit ‘rape-murder’: Father demands CBI investigation


Days after a minor Dalit girl was found dead after allegedly being raped in her college in Nokha town of Bikaner district, her father has demanded a CBI probe in the matter, even as the police continues to call the death a suicide. The girl, originally a resident of Trimohi village near Gadra Road of Barmer district, was enrolled in a Senior Teaching Certificate (STC) course at the Jain Adarsh Teacher Training College in Nokha town.

A physical training instructor, hostel warden and the college principal have been arrested in connection with the case. All three have been booked under Section 306 of the IPC (abetting suicide), besides relevant Sections of the SC/ST (prevention of atrocities) Act, and the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act. The minor’s body was found on March 30 from a water bank in the premises of her college. On the intervening night of March 28-29, she was found in the room of the college’s physical trainer Vijendra Singh by the hostel warden. The physical training instructor has been charged with rape under Section 376 of the IPC. The minor’s father addressed a press conference here Friday along with People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and other rights organisations, and released a fact-finding report raising questions over the police investigation. “The local police is not investigating the case properly. They have not included the section for murder,” he said here. “I only want justice for my daughter and I won’t rest till it happens. It is painful that a section of the media is indulging in character assassination. I am a para teacher, yet I sent all my children to study further… my two sons to Kota for coaching and my daughter to be a teacher…but I am shocked by what has happened and my faith in education of the girl child has shaken… if things like these are in store for girls outside their homes, I don’t think they should be sent away for higher education,” he said, almost breaking down. The police, which had earlier hinted that the death could have been a suicide, asserted the same while citing reports by the medical board and forensic science laboratory (FSL). “The report of the medical board as well as the FSL establish that the death was caused by drowning… there were no other injury marks on the girl’s body,” Bikaner ASP Satnam Singh told The Indian Express. However, PUCL and other rights organisations demanded that the death be investigated as a case of murder. They also demanded a compensation of Rs 25 lakh for the minor’s family and that the primary school in her village be named after her.

The tribune

Parties go all out to woo Dalits in state


Political parties are leaving no stone unturned to woo Dalits in Punjab, with the BJP’s decision to appoint Doaba-based Dalit leader Vijay Sampla as the state party chief being the latest move aimed at this key vote bank.

Dalits have a 32 per cent share in the state’s population, while 34 of Punjab’s 117 Assembly constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Castes.

A few weeks ago, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal visited Dera Sachkhand Ballan, a revered religious place for Dalits, near Jalandhar. During his visit, Kejriwal had also met close relatives of the late Kanshi Ram, founder of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Punjab Congress president Capt Amarinder Singh has also visited Dera Ballan. Recently, he addressed a gathering of representatives of the Valmiki community in Jalandhar. The induction of Sufi singer-turned politician Hans Raj Hans, who belongs to this community, into the party is also part of the woo-Dailt strategy.

Early this week, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal laid the foundation stone of Guru Ravidass Memorial at Khuralgarh in Hoshiarpur district. In the 2012 Assembly elections, Dalits had played a crucial role in enabling the SAD-BJP combine to retain power. The Atta-Dal scheme launched for Dalits had worked in the alliance’s favour.

The news minut

Of caste fanaticism and industry: The make or break behind Tamil Nadu’s Kongu parties


The western swathe in Tamil Nadu slices through an intriguing poll scape of two caste belts — the intermediate Vanniyar and the Gounder communities. And the Kongu region in particular, has as much an expansive array of caste identities as it does flourishing industries.

The struggle for a stronghold in the Kongu belt has seen many political parties in the region splintering multiple times while entering the electoral fray.

These parties old and new, in theory, have their brief ready at the door – 40% of Tamil Nadu’s GDP, they say, is thanks to the work of Kongu industrialists across the region, whose representation in Tamil Nadu politics has seen an improvement – AIADMK is fielding two Kongu party candidates – Thaniarasu and Easwaran –  of which the former is already an MLA. And these small parties say they carry on their shoulders the responsibility of representation.

The parties include Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam,  Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi, Kongunadu Jananayaga Katchi, Kongu Nadu Makkal Katchi, Kongu Vellala Goundergal Peravai – and this is after multiple breakaways over decades due to elementary differences in ideology and principles. Party leaders are seemingly conflicted over making a mark in the legislature by winning votes without compromising strong community support in the belt.

Among mainstream parties, the DMK has earned the ire of many Kongu parties after sidelining their allies during their rule in 2006. The AIADMK however, often pitches its anchor for a smooth sail in the Kongu belt. The AIADMK contested 78% of the seats in 2011, clearly indicating the western tilt in AIADMK’s poll calculations.

Around May 2014, in a bid to unite Kongu parties as a common goal, in Perumanallur in Tirupur district, Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK), conducted a “Political Renaissance Conference”. Aside from a seeming unity, this conference also sprung many breakaways from alliance partners and a common disdain for Dravidian parties. For parties that are united by caste ideologies, the camaraderie didn’t last very long.

 “You know, they keep drifting, today it’s the AIADMK, tomorrow it will be the DMK again – but Dravidian parties do not care for our demands,” says K Nagaraj. Now the leader of the 20-year-old Kongunadu Jananayaga Katchi, Nagaraj was previously with the Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi, which briefly had an alliance with the BJP. “But, as usual, we were nudged aside – the rest of the party members were there purely for power.” Nagaraj strongly asserts that parties in the region that are entering the mainstream political scene in Tamil Nadu are giving up on their essential tenet of uplifting the Kongu region for purely electoral reasons. The Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam, which was formed during the 2009 Lok Sabha election had split in 2011, when the then general secretary ER Easwaran quit the party to form the Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi.

He expresses an affinity towards the Pattali Makkal Katchi’s leader Anbumani Ramadoss’ ideals – particularly in the much heated situation of inter-caste marriages. “Love drama, where affluent Gounder and Thevar families suffer when their daughters are lured by Dalit men and stripped of their money – and prestige – this is a real threat in our region and for the Vanniyars as well. I would completely sympathise with a father killing off his daughter’s lower caste husband,” he says. On April 2, Nagaraj joined hands with the Pattali Makkal Katchi.

The air is still heavy from the residual tensions of Sankar’s killing. While it haunts the Dalit community in the region, it’s the elephant in the room with Kongu leaders. Perumal Murugan, Gokulraj, Sankar – Gounder honour and pride, seemingly speaks here louder than anywhere else in the state.  “There are Gounder-Dalit tensions, let’s be honest here, and we have a strong following because of which we provide counselling to 500 families who have been affected by inter-caste marriages like Sankar’s. We consider it a moral duty,” says Suryamurthy, secretary of the Kongunadu Desiya Makkal Katchi.

The 7-year-old party helmed by President ER Easwaran holds a strong caste ideology, sharing one similar to Nagaraj’s concerns.  It has also had substantial success in the political arena. Polling over a hundred thousand votes while standing independently for the Coimbatore constituency back in 2009, the party is currently in the NDA alliance since 2014. Easwaran was previously with the Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam, now under AM Raja, and had allied with the DMK on many occasions during his stint with KMK. But multiple tensions on seat sharing and constituencies with the DMK, and the nudging out of pro-Kongu policies had led to a major rift within.

Suryamurthy assures that the counselling is simply done in the interest of economic inequalities that arise in inter-caste marriages when an affluent caste-Hindu woman marries a Dalit man. “See, we are not against love. But love without seeing how much money he can bring home? It’s impractical. The Vanniyars have this problem too.” At the mention of the Gokulraj murder, he quickly switches to policy matters. “We want to focus on both improving business in the land, and addressing real social problems like fraud in inter-caste marriages.”

For Kongu leaders who have climbed the political ladder, it’s a steep way ahead and a tough call to comment on caste, however they may be party to the issues that surround it. Thaniarasu, the MLA in power representing AIADMK, is from the Kongunadu Ilaignar Peravai which struck an alliance with the party in the 2011 elections.  The party formed to gain votes in Kongu Vellalar, which holds more than 15% of the Tamil Nadu electorate.

The diplomacy on caste issues is striking, most likely owing to his close association with the Gokulraj case. Yuvaraj, Gokulraj’s killer and a former party member, had openly challenged him.

He says the splintering is only normal considering the struggle to go independent or stay in alliances that make cadres unhappy. He is largely evasive and does openly does not declare an inclination towards strong caste ideologies. “I don’t think caste should be important, I simply don’t.”

 It’s the same narrative in the case of ‘Best’ Ramasamy, where political mainstreaming equals a veiled approach to caste.

For him, development, he says has been his focus. His political career spans decades since his foray into politics in 1988 as one of the founders of Kongu Vellala Goundergal Peravai. Later he became president of the party in the year 2007. After the party breaking up in 2009, he was declared the president of “Kongunadu Munnetra Kazhagam”. Ramasamy under KMK contested in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in Pollachi Constituency and came third securing over one lakh votes. “We are community development focused, I don’t want to bring caste into this, I would never consider caste to be as important. I feel people who don’t know how to uplift the communities in the Kongu region will bring in caste.”

Ramasamy is also an entrepreneur – the chairman of well known “Best Group” – a group of apparel and textile related companies in the city of Tirupur. “Of course, parties would split, the kind of priorities we have all had over the years expose whether we care about the people or not,” he feels, “and economic growth is what we need more than focusing on caste.”

The strength of these parties on a community based level is largely secure thanks to their ideology but that isn’t going to get them far. “It’s all symbolic, we obviously don’t see them trying to create a real impact on ground. It’s an assertion of their caste identity and less to do with welfare.They probably make it to about 1 or 2 seats on allying, major Dravidian parties will not compromise because they also have a significant stronghold in these areas. I see them eyeing the PMK votebank, because they are the only mainstream party with a very s caste affiliation that is putting a food forward,” analyst Ramu Manivannan notes.

Kongu people largely feel left out, Manivannan feels, but trying to consolidate the community power as well as mainstream themselves with their beliefs is an uphill task. “The compromise is hard. There’s a growing inclination among Gounders and Thevars to side with the PMK which is geared towards the Vanniyar community because they share a common intensity on caste issues.”

Systematic nudging by major parties in alliances can be discouraging, he says, but keeping at their community base at the risk of rousing caste tensions isn’t doing them any favours either.

The times of india

Grants for Gujarat tribals, dalits slashed by Modi govt


Ahmedabad: During the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, the then prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi said Gujarat would no longer face any ‘injustice’ if he were to be anointed to power. Two years down the line, dalits and tribals, the two most deprived communities, face grave injustice, as grants for their welfare scheme have been reduced.

According to figures from the housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry, grants for the Scheduled Caste sub plan and Tribal sub plan under two schemes – Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rojgar Yojna (SJSRY) and National Urban Livelihood (NULM) – have been drastically downsized.

According to data presented in the Lok Sabha last month by the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministry, grants for welfare of scheduled tribes (ST) and scheduled castes (SC) have been reduced for the last two years. The figures indicated that the central government had between 2012 and 2014 March released around Rs 27 crore, which was reduced to Rs 2.53 crore in 2014-15. While, no grants have been released for SCs and STs in 2015-16 for the Prime Minister’s home state. Another statement, which gave details of grants for setting up of individual and group micro enterprises, said that no assistance was given by the Union government in 2014-15 to people from the SC and ST communities. However, the Union government had provided skill training for 48 people from the SC and ST communities by November 2015, the statement added. Analysis of the figures indicated that the earlier government had spent a sizeable amount on these communities, which was reduced to less than 10% by the present administration. These figures show apathy towards dalits and tribal communities, which make up 7% and 14 % of the population of the state.

Live mint

Photo essay | Picturing Ambedkar


“On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality…. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment…,” said B.R. Ambedkar while presenting the Constitution before the constituent assembly. His words remain as pertinent today as they were almost seven decades ago.

“Incidents as recent as the Rohith Vemula case (a Hyderabad university Dalit student who committed suicide) and college students’ protests highlight how social inequality has affected our country. The caste system, as he (Ambedkar) always said, is indeed pernicious,” says Arindam Thokder, a software engineer and an amateur photographer.

Four years ago, Thokder’s knowledge of the Dalit leader was limited to the information in his school textbooks—of him being the “principal architect of the Constitution”, and independent India’s first law minister. It was during a conversation with his housekeeper in 2012 that Thokder learnt how luminous a guide Ambedkar still is for the Dalit and other marginalized communities. “She asked me if I would like to click pictures of the Ambedkar statue that had been mounted recently in their society. When I went there, I was surprised to see the way they revered the gold-coloured statue. He was god for them,” says the Bengaluru-based photographer.

From that day on, Thokder started noticing the paintings and statues of Ambedkar that he came across. And that’s how the idea of creating a project that captures the significance of Ambedkar and his beliefs in people’s lives came into being.

“I started hunting for his pictures in Bengaluru, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai and Kolkata. On street walls, house walls, shops; Ambedkar was a symbol of identity for the Dalit people. They said it gave them more strength to fight inequality,” says Thokder.

Thokder didn’t want just any image. “I wanted to capture different subjects as well as different moods. Sometimes, I had to wait for an hour to get the right shot. That’s why I could manage just 100 pictures in four years.”

Take, for instance, the 2014 image of a cobbler’s shop in Mumbai. “I was photographing people working there and, a few minutes later, I had this frame in which one of the men had put his hands on Ambedkar’s painting in such a way that it looked like his hands,” says Thokder.

He started the informal project with the idea of marking Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary, coming up on 14 April. “But now I want to expand it to include other cities as well,” he says. Thokder has also started reading up on Ambedkar. “He was so frustrated about the caste system in Hinduism that he later embraced Buddhism,” says Thokder. “Dr Ambedkar always wanted Dalits and other suppressed castes to strive against bias. He even fought for the rights of women and children.”

  1. Anand, co-founder of Navayana, a publishing house whose books focus on the issue of caste, believes it is tragic that non-Dalits “have taken such a long time to see Ambedkar as someone who battled for their rights as well”.

“Well before independence, working as a labour member of the viceroy’s executive council (1942-46), he was instrumental in overseeing laws such as the Women Labour Welfare Fund, Women and Child Labour Protection Act…. It was Ambedkar who argued for the right to divorce and right to property for all women,” he says. Anand hopes that one day the country will realize Ambedkar’s vision of an egalitarian India.

Thokder agrees. “He was never in favour of reservations, as many think; he had reluctantly agreed to the idea of reservation with a notion that the system would be scrapped within 10 years from the adoption of the Constitution. But that day is yet to come,” he says.

The nation

Human rights challenges


Stocktaking and reporting to the people of the country about progressions  or regressions in different sectors has not become a norm despite our tall claims about strengthening of democratic system in Pakistan. It is particularly so in the area of Human Rights where unfortunately the state itself remains the main violator of citizen’s rights. Luckily Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has been publishing an annual report on the state of human rights in Pakistan for the last so many years despite its limited resources and the difficult conditions under which the Commission is working. HRCP doesn’t claim to record or report every improvement or every violation in the country with a big population but the annual report of the Commission does provide a broad picture of the human rights situation.
The Commission’s report about 2015 that was released a few days ago in Islamabad is a useful and informative statement of the main trends of deteriorating situation of human rights as well as improvement in certain areas based on a quite comprehensive catalogue of the developments over the last one year.

HRCP’s annual report covers vast area from rule of law, fundamental freedoms, democratic development to rights of disadvantaged and social and economic rights. It obviously opens with taking cognizance of the state’s efforts to restore its writ in areas where it was eroded by large scale activities of the well organised and well equipped terrorist networks. It particularly refers to the somewhat meaningful actions taken in the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Karachi that has led to reduction in the overall number of incidents of terror in the country. But the report also notes the miseries of the about two millions Internally Displaced Persons from FATA and the serious violations at the hands of security forces during their operation in Karachi. Military courts that were brought as a quick fix solution in the face of an overburdened and over backlogged judicial system started working during 2015. Out of 131 cases of terrorism that were filed with the military courts the accused persons were found guilty in 40 cases. A total of 36 people were sentenced to death. The report opines, “But surely instant Justice was not enough to improve things. Frustration and concern welled up across the country each time the extremists attacked religious minorities, journalists and human rights defenders”. The report also notes the need for political solutions  to problems faced by areas such as  FATA and Balochistan, something that is talked about a lot but without meaningful practical steps. Enforced disappearances continue to take place but the perpetrators continued to enjoy impunity which according to the report, “emboldened others to indulge in such brutal acts”.

The situation remained dismal when it comes to achieving the goals of gender equality particularly in the area of economic development and access to justice. The report substantiates this assessment by quoting the annual report of the Geneva based World Economic Forum; “In the gender Gap Index 2015 ranked Pakistan second from the last among 145 countries in terms of the prevalence of gender based disparities.” Violence against women remained rampant including the so-called honor killing and acid attacks. From January to June 2015, 60 cases of acid violence were reported. But the HRCP report also flags positives where they are available. For example, taking note of positive things happening to Pakistani women it notes: “However, 2015 also turned out to be a year of many firsts for women in Pakistan: the first fire fighter; the first truck driver; the first female rickshaw driver; the first speakers of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies; and the first UN Goodwill ambassador from Pakistan, among many others.”

Child protection system in the country remained in shambles during the last year. Pakistan did not succeed in implementing two out of the eight of the United Nations Millennium Development goals related to children. First of them is MDG 2, to achieve universal primary education and the second one is MDG 4, to reduce child mortality. The number of new polio cases has dropped but the menace of polio is far from over. Religious minorities continued to face exclusion, discrimination and violence due to widespread intolerance and lack of forums to address problems faced by them. The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) continued to oppose legislation for empowering religious minorities and women. Discussing Blasphemy Law the report observes; “Accusations under Pakistan’s blasphemy law can prove life threatening for the accused even before they are arrested or tried in court, or even if the accusations against them are utterly unfounded”. According to the report number of sectarian attacks has dropped compared to previous year but the scourge of sectarian violence continued to wreak havoc. The 398 pages HRCP annual report presents a detailed overview of the situation and also comes out with recommendations for overcoming the challenges faced by the people in the area of human rights.

It is strange that generally the state system fails to take notice of such an important report, which can be of great help in taking steps for improvement of the situation. Unfortunately the institutional structures created within the state system for protecting human rights remain toothless and ineffective. The Division of Human Rights, that has been restored sometimes ago as a separate ministry after remaining part of the law ministry, remains a decoration piece rather than an effective instrument for implementing human rights. Same is the case with the National Commission on the Status of Women. The treatment meted out the recently formed National Commission on Human Rights in terms of total lack of intellectual and physical infrastructure speaks volumes about the state’s attitude towards human rights. Civil society in general and political parties in particular, along with international community will have to put in a lot of hard work for bringing human rights high on the agenda. The aforementioned level of priority will also define the quality of the democratic system in Pakistan.

The writer is a retired Senator and an analyst of regional affairs.

News monitored by AMRESH & AJEET


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