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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Dalit of  India ,

Remembering the Greate,

Messiah of the oppressed,

The exploited and neglected,

And the architect of the Indian constitution.

Bharath Rrathna

Babasheb Dr B.R.Ambedkar
on his 123rd Birth day 14.04.2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Top religious leaders vow to end modern slavery in India

Three of the world’s top religious leaders – Pope Francis of the Vatican, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr Mahmoud Azab have joined hands in the biggest ever push to eradicate modern day slavery and human trafficking in India by 2020. 
    This is the first time in history that the global Christian and Islamic leadership –with a reach of over 3 billion people have joined hands for a common cause. A significant part of the campaign by this new Global Freedom Network launched on Monday will be to rid India of both these modern ills.
    According to the recent Global Slavery Index released in 2013, India was ranked 4th worst country indulging in modern day slavery and human trafficking. India, the report states, exhibits the full spectrum of different forms of modern slavery, from severe forms of inter-generational bonded labour across various industries to the worst forms of child labour, commercial sexual exploitation and forced and servile marriage.
    The formidable challenge, it said, is the enormity of the problem, both in number of trafficked persons and increasing number of locations. An estimated 20 to 65 million Indian citizens are believed to be in forced labour within India as a result of debt bondage.
    The World Bank estimated in 2012 that 32.7% of Indians lived below the international poverty line of less than $1.25/day (PPP). Poverty and India’s caste system are significant contributing factors to its modern slavery problem. The index found that between 13,300,000 and 14,700,000 are enslaved in India. This means India is home to nearly half of the world’s entire number of 30 million slaves worldwide.
    India stands fourth as per proportion but right on top of this shameful list when it comes to absolute numbers. The Network launched on Monday has been initiated by Walk Free Foundation’s founder — Australian billionaire philanthropist Andrew Forrest. The religious leaders will use their clout to make their supply chains and investments modern slaveryproof besides mobilising their youth sections to support programmes.
source: The Times of India dt 18.3.14

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ambedkar vs Gandhi: the risks of village empowerment

           The death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, drove home the growing irrelevance of the father of the nation. In West Bengal, not a single state cabinet minister attended the formal ceremony held by the Governor. In Mumbai, mayor Sunil Prabhu clean forgot about the usual ceremony, and blamed the lapse on the bureaucrat who had failed to remind him. This should surprise nobody in a country where, according to a newspaper poll some years ago, two-thirds of all voters thought that Sonia Gandhi was related to Mahatma Gandhi. 
    Of course, the Mahatma’s teachings continue to inspire many. Arvind Kejriwal and other Aam Aadmi Party leaders wear Gandhi caps, calling themselves the true philosophical heirs of the Mahatma. They emphasise decentralization and empowerment of mohalla committees, drawing on Gandhiji’s vision of self-ruling villages. 
    But they need to deal with the philosophy of another person who lived in Gandhi’s shadow in their lifetime, but has posthumously beaten the Mahatma hollow. This is Bhimrao Ambedkar, the icon of all dalits. 
    Gandhi wanted the central government to have very limited powers. He wanted villages to rule themselves the traditional way, through sarpanches and panchas (village chiefs and councillors). But Ambedkar declared that villages were cesspools of cruelty, caste prejudice and communalism. No human rights would be safe if left to dominant groups that had oppressed minorities for centuries in the most inhuman fashion. 
    When the Bombay Legislative Council debated enhanced powers for panchas through a Village Panchayats Bill, Ambedkar lashed out. “A population which is hidebound by caste; a population which is infected by ancient prejudices; a population which flouts equality of status and is dominated by notions 
of gradations in life; a population which thinks that some are high and some are low — can it be expected to have the right notions even to discharge bare justice? Sir, I deny that proposition, and I submit that it is not proper to expect us to submit our life, and our liberty, and our property to the hands of these panchas.” 
    Ambedkar’s analysis continues to ring true eight decades later, despite innumerable constitutional safeguards, laws and political speeches. Village empowerment seriously endangers minorities. Last year’s mass killing of Muslims in Muzaffarnagar district, UP, started with a Muslim boy stalking a Jat Hindu girl. The killings were formally sanctioned by hate speeches at a Jat Mahasabha meeting. 
    In Punjab and Haryana, village councils called khap panchayats act as de facto courts settling rural disputes on everything from land and cattle to matrimony and murder. They break every rule and law on human rights. Their decisions range from banning women from wearing western clothing and using mobile phones to supporting child marriage and 
sanctioning the lynching of young couples in so-called “honour killings”. These killings typically happen when the young girl and boy are from different communities, but also when the youngsters belong to the same Hindu gotra. 
    Let nobody think this occurs only in the barbaric north. A fortnight ago, a 20-year-old woman in West Bengal was gang-raped by 13 men on the orders of a village court, as punishment for having a relationship with a man from a different community. 
    Tamil Nadu is supposedly much more civilized than Haryana. But in 2012, Vanniyars (members of an intermediate caste) burned the houses of 268 dalits after a dalit boy eloped with a Vanniyar girl. This was just one of many such elopements. Vanniyar leader Ramdoss sneered at “stage-managed” love marriages, saying dalit men were trapping Vanniyar women by claiming to be in love and later duping them. He appealed for an alliance of caste Hindu organizations against dalit assertion, a ban on intercaste marriages, and amendments to the law on preventing atrocities against dalits and tribals. This is 
not an isolated incident in Tamil Nadu. In several panchayat elections where the post of sarpanch is reserved for dalits, no dalit has dared come forward as a candidate for fear of reprisals from upper castes. 
    World Bank research confirms that, the world over, central governments tend to be far more egalitarian and secular in outlook than villages. What Ambedkar said of hidebound Indian villages is a global truth. 
    There still remains a strong case for devolving powers and budgets to panchayats for various rural projects. But this must be accompanied by safeguards against sectarian misuse. Merely reserving some panchayat seats for women and dalits is no guarantee whatsoever of justice or fair treatment. 
    Arvind Kejriwal thinks that enlightened brahmins will prevent sectarian misuse at the mohalla or panchayat level. This is laughable. It’s okay to wear a Gandhi cap, but please listen to Ambedkar too.

Source: The times of India dt 9-2-14

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Against caste in Europe

Anti-caste campaigners in the United Kingdom score a major victory with the E.U. passing a resolution to put caste within a global rights framework. 

THE ringing indictment of caste-based discrimination and prejudice contained in a strongly worded resolution that the European Parliament passed last month has put this particular form of human rights abuse firmly on the international agenda. Equally importantly, the resolution has served to drag this pernicious institution out of the shadows of the South Asian migrant experience in Europe where it has long remained hidden and into the public domain of legal and institutional scrutiny.
Passed by an overwhelming majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), the resolution received cross-party support. Its passage was preceded by a discussion in which members from all parties condemned the practice and made specific suggestions on how it could be eradicated.
Caste, according to the resolution, is a “distinct form of discrimination rooted in the social and/or religious context, which must be tackled together with other grounds of discrimination, i.e., ethnicity, race, descent, religion, gender and sexuality, in E.U. [European Union] efforts to fight all forms of discrimination”. It also called for the E.U. to include the issue in legislation and human rights policies while raising it “at the highest level” with the governments of caste-affected countries.
The resolution has had a positive impact for anti-caste campaigners in the United Kingdom, where caste practices and caste-based discrimination are widely prevalent among Asian populations. This is hardly surprising. British Asians now comprise 7.5 per cent of the population of the U.K. Those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent—among whom the practice of caste is most prevalent —accounted for 3.07 million out of a total population of 63.23 million in the 2011 Census.
In the U.K., caste functions with impunity within a larger socio-political environment in which the rule of law and equality before the law are rights that are institutionalised. It operates in below-the-surface cultural spaces where institutional oversight does not usually reach. In the multicultural society that the U.K. has become, the growth of identity politics has consolidated the hold of traditional ties and practices among immigrant groups. These so-called personal spheres—the home, the joint family, places of worship—are fiercely protected by community bosses from “interference” of any kind. And it is here that the most discriminatory of traditional practices—caste among them—flourish.
Source: Front line 

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Dalits of India

Remembering the great

Messiah of the oppressed,

The exploited and the neglected, and

The Architect of the Indian Constitution.

Bharat Ratna

Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar

On his

“57th Mahaparinirwan Diwas”'

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Atrocities that no longer shock

While the Delhi rape incident saw mass protests for justice, crimes against Dalits hardly evoke such outrage, which is why the killers in the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacre have got away

The response by the state to the 2012 Delhi gang rape case was immediate and effective — a commission to review legislative protections and recommend amendments, and a new enactment. The judiciary responded similarly — death penalty for the accused and although there was indignation about the “leniency” towards the juvenile involved in the crime, there was overall a sense of satisfaction that the ends of justice had indeed been met. But all through this saga, a persistent voice from Dalit intellectuals and activists kept asking whyKhairlanji did not provoke this kind of national outrage and why India is unmoved by the most gruesome massacres of Dalits.
The October 9 verdict of the Patna High Court in the Laxmanpur-Bathe massacrebrings this question up yet again: a painful reminder of the continuing legitimacy of the caste system and aggravated assault, making a mockery of the rule of law.
On a plain reading of this judgment, it is not disputed that 58 persons — men, women and children, all Dalits — were killed after being shot by a mob of over a hundred men armed with guns, in a concerted attack on the intervening night of December 1-2, 1997. It is also not disputed that survivors in this village were eyewitnesses who had lost entire families in the massacre, and had narrowly escaped murder themselves. There was a delay by the police in recording the statements; persons identified by the eyewitnesses were not named in the statements in the first instance; there was a delay of three days in reaching the FIRs to the Chief Judicial Magistrate; there was blood in the homes of the victims and survivors; “copious blood” on the banks of the river Sone; and blood smeared on a boat on the riverbank; the murderous mob shouted slogans in praise of Ranvir baba and dispersed on the sound of a whistle; footprints of 100-150 persons on both banks of the river suggested to the investigating officer that the mob had crossed the river towards Sahar but he did not cross the river in his investigation. The investigating officers recorded statements by the survivors that several of the men named as perpetrators were members of the Ranvir Sena who had criminal antecedents.


The case was committed to the court of sessions in 1999, but typically as with many atrocity cases, the trial did not begin for 11 years till the High Court issued fresh instructions in November and December 2008. By this time, of 91 witnesses, 38 had turned hostile. Of the 50 accused sent up for trial in 1999, 44 finally faced trial, some having died in the interim. The Sessions Court sentenced 26 persons to death in 2010 after convicting them of murder, criminal conspiracy and atrocity — 13 years after the massacre.
The witnesses cited dispute over wages and standing crop as the reason for the attack — a demand for an increase in wages from one-and-a-half kilos of food grain to three kilos. The perpetrators were not an unknown mob from a strange and distant land. They were landlords in the same and neighbouring villages, who the victims and their families knew well and worked for. They were all from the dominant, landowning castes.
They attacked in the dead of night, flashing torches to search for the victims, and the witness-survivors were hiding from attack — yet they recognised the men and named them. But they had also witnessed unimaginable violence and had lost several members of their families in the attack. Their testimonies through the investigation speak of their hurtling from one house to another discovering more bodies than survivors, and the sound of wailing that rent through the night.


The High Court of Patna speaks of loopholes in the evidence on record: the delay in reaching the FIRs to the Chief Judicial Magistrate; the fact that names were not recorded on the first visit the day after the massacre by witnesses who had lost all their family members in the attack; the impossibility of recognising perpetrators from places of hiding; the impossibility of risking lives to go onto the terrace to identify people from the mob; the impossibility of fixing the identity of individuals in a mob from a distance; inaccuracies in recording the exact location of hiding during the massacre; absence of evidence on any dispute between the dominant landowners and the Dalit wage workers.
Where do these refutations leave us?
Fifty-eight people in a small Dalit hamlet were massacred. There is no denying that. The attackers, says the High Court, were unknown men from Sahar across the river Sone in Bhojpur district, who have not been apprehended. Instead the wrong people who bear no responsibility for the crime have been convicted, says the court. How can we be sure?
This is the trouble with caste atrocity. The fact that perpetrators are in an immediate relation of dominance with victims and survivors and are easily recognised counts for nothing. Can we even begin to understand the courage and determination of poor and traumatised Dalits? The outcome of this case demonstrates yet again how difficult it is to keep a case alive, to keep memories raw and open in the face of an almost certain betrayal by the state, and how tough it is to keep fighting against the conspiracy — between upper caste perpetrators, their collaborators in the establishment and their apologists in a caste-ridden society.
Why not Khairlanji? Why not Karamchedu? Why not Laxmanpur-Bathe? Why does this country not come to a grinding halt in the face of atrocity of the worst kind? Justice can only be said to be done when those that are most vulnerable are able to access it without difficulty. It is our collective failure and a national shame that we allow the space for this travesty again and yet again.
Source: The Hindu dt 15.10.2013
(Kalpana Kannabiran is professor and director, Council for Social Development.)

Caste discrimination a global evil, says European Parliament

 Resolution points out various forms of violence against Dalits,    especially women.

 An estimated 260 million people affected worldwide.
 In India, lack of protective non-discrimination measures in  labour market and private sector adds to inequalities.

The European Parliament (EP) has recognised caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation and adopted a resolution condemning it and urging European Union institutions to address it. The EP consists of 28 member-countries of the EU.
Acknowledging that caste-affected communities are still subjected to ‘untouchability practices’ in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the October 10 resolution stressed the need to combat discrimination based on work and descent, which occurs also in Yemen, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Somalia.
In December last, the EP passed a similar resolution, expressing alarm at the persistence of human rights violations against Dalits in India. Last week’s resolution recognised the presence of caste-based discrimination globally and pointed out various forms of caste-related violence against Dalits, especially women.
The EP reiterated serious concern over violence against Dalit women and other women from similarly affected communities in societies with caste systems, who often do not report it for fear of threat to their personal safety or of social exclusion. It pointed out the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on caste, gender and religion, affecting Dalit women and women from minority communities, leading to forced conversions, abductions, forced prostitution, and sexual abuse by dominant castes.
Caste discrimination continues to be widespread and persistent, affecting an estimated 260 million people worldwide, despite the governments of some affected countries taking steps to provide constitutional and legislative protection, the EP said.
It noted that caste-based discrimination occurred in diaspora communities, untouchability practices took on modern forms and the affected communities faced restricted political participation and serious discrimination in the labour market.
“In a few countries, such as India, mandatory affirmative action has to some extent contributed to the inclusion of Dalits in the public sector, but the lack of protective non-discrimination measures in the labour market and the private sector adds to exclusion and growing inequalities,” it said.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that an overwhelming majority of bonded labour victims in South Asia are from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and that forced and bonded labour is particularly widespread in the agriculture, mining and garment production sectors, which supply products to a number of multinational and European companies.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights welcomed the EP resolution.

Source: The Hindu Dt 15.10.2013