: Peeping Live Through The Fake Realities On Screen

: Peeping Live Through The Fake Realities On Screen

By Nishant Upadhyay

Over 200,000 farmers have committed suicide across India since 1997. According to some reports, since 2002 a farmer commits suicide every 32 minutes in India. This is the harsh reality of shinning India that is always kept under the rugs. The state which is trying very hard to industrialize at all costs has declared an open war against agriculture and agrarian society. It is seeking to become a superpower by making cities its economic and political hub and making farmers leave agriculture (so that they can work as surplus cheap labor in the cities). It is this dismal state of agriculture and farmer suicides, that Aamir Khan Productions’ Peepli [Live] is set against. In my opinion, the film fails miserably in talking about the issues insightfully and critically. I see agrarian crises as complex and mutli-layered web of relationships and processes of financial indebtedness, corporatization of agriculture, massive industrialization, trade liberalization and deprivation in farming communities, which often leads to mass migrations and displacements and suicides in many instances. The Indian state is deeply imbricated in these capitalist processes, often as the violent initiator. Struggles and resistances around land and agriculture become intrinsic parts of these processes. In the quest for realism and political satire, the film ends up mocking the harsh realities of the state of Indian agriculture and farmers.

In brief, the story is about 2 brothers Natha and Budhiya. Unable to repay a bank loan they took for farming they are on the verge of loosing their ancestral land, unless they pay interest on the loan. With nowhere to go and full family to look after, Budhiya persuades Natha to commit suicide when they learn that the government is willing to compensate families of dead farmers with Rs. 1 lakh. This “sensational” news of a farmer suicide is soon picked by national news channels. The story is less about Natha but more about how he becomes the focal point for media and politician circus. His plight becomes a tool in the hands of those with power (media, politicians and police) for personal gains. The film offers an excellent critique of media and politicians. But that is not something very novel now. What the film could have done was to give insights to the politics of suicides and agriculture. With less surprise, the film fails to do so.

Aamir Khan is touted as the new liberal, politically conscious and aware of his moral responsibilities. His previous films have to be acknowledged for raising issues like anti-colonial politics (Lagaan), “radical” student politics (Rang De Basanti), competitive pressures faced by middle class children (Taare Zameen Par) and Indian society’s obsession with career oriented education aka engineering (3 Idiots). A lot could be said about these films, but I just want to say one line. Despite my strange liking for Aamir Khan and his work, these movies dealt with the issues in a very superficial ways and barely touched the surface.

True to his approach of mainstreaming serious cinema, Peepli [Live] is a big disappointment on many fronts. It is true that this is a popular multiplex film, then why should I spend so much time and energy critiquing it? For a political cynic like me, such attempts are of no worth. But I think it’s important to critique it since the film and its reception collectively presents a pseudo liberal aura of political consciousness, intellectuality and morality. So a film that prides itself on being politically and intellectually driven (along with the audiences), and yet fails to go even a nanometer beneath the surface needs to be critiqued.

It would be unfair to say that the media has not covered the issue of farmer suicides. It has, but not enough to understand the issues clearly. Apart from the reports by P. Sainath and Vandana Shiva, there has not been much information available on agrarian crises. Experts and intellectuals blame these suicides on the polices of trade liberalization, corporate globalization and large scale industrialization of agriculture. The beginning of present agrarian crisis needs to be located to the 1980s when the terms of trade were going against agriculture , urban-biased policies were dominating the capitalist state policies, and farming was becoming a loosing proposition. The crises are ecological, economic, and social, each inter-linked with the other. So right from Green Revolution and its terrible aftermath in Punjab and production of Bt-Cotton, to large scale land acquisition of agricultural lands for not-so-public projects (like SEZs, malls, sanctuaries, townships etc.), introduction of GM food crops, contract farming, land displacements and many others, have led to the present dismal state of agriculture in India. Things are so bad, that the farmer can no longer sustain her family and opt for suicide as a final solution. It’s not that the state is not aware of this. In fact, it is the neoliberal state that is actively working to undermine agriculture and “move” the country towards “modernity” and capitalism by adopting industries and disowning agriculture. The government’s urban-centric policies are forcing farmers and agricultural laborers to quit agriculture and move to cities. This is supposed to somehow narrow the disparities gaps between rural and urban India and lead towards a “modern and prosperous” India. There seems to be very little understanding to realize how important agriculture is to Indian economy and society. How different are these issues from those that the Maoists and adivasis are fighting for in Central India. Perhaps not a whole lot different? These are also not very different from the issues in Lalgarh and Nandigram. Nor are they different from struggles against dams in Uttarakhand, or against SEZs in Haryana and Maharashtra, or against sanctuaries in Rajasthan, or many other such land and agriculture related struggles across India.

Against this backdrop, Peepli [Live] hardly talks about the factors that may have led to Natha and Budhiya to talk about suicide. Somehow the film ends up trivializing and mocking such a grave issue. I wonder how hard it would have been to throw a line or two about this context in the middle of the whole mocking of individual media persons and politicians? How hard is it to critique the state policies, corporate houses, class/caste relations and capitalism? I guess…very! Which class and corporate interests is the film catering to?

In the quest of neo-realism and authenticity, the cast of the film is mostly unknown and new. The village was also quite “authentic” looking village. The village characters are made realistic by making them swear a few times in each line and speaking aggressively. So I guess a person is more of a real villager if s/he swears a lot. That’s authentic! The film at moments is no better than some orientalist images of poor India. The circulation, operation and reception of the film is a testimony to that. Is poverty a ‘show’ in the show-obsessed fraternity of middle class? I acknowledge that there’s a thin line between being realistic and romanticizing, but how hard is it to be a little less superficial? The film attempts to attain a self-reflexive mode through the critique of the power of the camera, and fabricated reality, which, paradoxically the film itself turns out to resort to. The film tries to critique the media portrayals of the issues and village life by shooting through the media’s lens. But what is interesting is that the film itself captures the lives through the same frames and lenses. The trivializing and exotifying happens in both frames.

Caste is always downplayed in Bollywood. There’s a small reference to a dalit leader hijacking Natha’s suicide as a caste issue, but caste relations are not questioned or challenged in the film. What role do caste relations play in the village and farmer suicides? Many reports have shown how indebtedness and agrarian failures have affected people from lower castes and class backgrounds more than those from the upper castes/classes. There is an expected silence on the caste question.

The portrayal of the female characters in the film is also very disappointing. The English news channel reporter appears to be unconsciously chasing leads for her personal gains and pride. Natha’s mother, although bedridden, is always swearing and complaining. And Natha’s wife is shown to badger and assault her husband, brother-in-law and mother-in-law. She is always shouting and abusive. There is not a single positive female portrayal in the film. In the hit song Mahangai, about rising prices, inflation is the husband’s other woman who is eating away all the money from the farmer’s pockets, wreaking havoc and ruining lives. The song is also performed in an all-male gathering. From a feminist perspective, there is a gendered dimension to the farmer suicides and indebtedness. These dimensions are much deeper than just shouting, complaining and swearing. How women positions and interests are compromised in times of financial crises? How do these suicides affect the “left-behind” women? Many reports, like by P. Sainath, have shown that women farmers have also committed suicides in large numbers, but the official (and unofficial) records deny these claims since women are hardly the owner of the land. Thus just because women are not the legal owners or workers on land they are denied the label of a “farmer” and hence their sacrifices and suicides are not worthy enough to be accounted for. The feminist movement(s) since their beginning have always stressed on price rises and agricultural problems, and made these issues their central issues. This gender discrimination and imbalance is a major issue in rural India and agrarian crises, on the which the film is conveniently silent.

In the closing scene we see that Natha is working as a construction worker in Delhi. He is shown with all the sorrow and sadness in the world. Though it’s a strong moment in the narrative, it again fails to provide critical insights to why Natha is there. It seemed to me that Natha is in Delhi, because he is escaping the media and politician circus in his house and constant threat to his life arising from his alleged desire to suicide. This ends up trivializing the massive inflow of migrant workers to urban centers fleeing the the complex problems of indebtedness, drought and deprivation. Is he in the city to escape or to survive? Why do we see so many migrant workers in the cities from rural agricultural areas? Escaping is not the real issue, people leave because they need to survive. The changed Natha with his beard gone and shorter hair is not in the city to take ‘sanyas’ but find ways to survive. The real-estate and industrial boom in urban India is fueled by the regular induction of poor migrant workers from the villages only. The grand ‘development’ narratives of the country are only through the exploitation of these workers. Behind the glamor and lights of these ‘development’ are the exploitation and sufferings of these urban and rural poor and marginalized people. This is missed from the narrative of the film.

I must also confess that I saw this film in a posh multiplex and along with the expensive tickets also bought the the giant combo deal of popcorn and drinks. I did initially feel guilty of buying this and watching Peepli [Live] and the apparent contradictions of my social positioning and politics. But that guilt soon withered away, when the popcorn and the drink became the only way I could sit through 96 minutes of torture. Along with the disappointment of the film, I was also annoyed by the way people around me reacted to it. Somehow for most people in the multiplex the film was a laugh riot. They laughed every time any of the village character swore, they laughed anytime the two brothers spoke. In the opening scene, traveling in a tempo, Natha asks his brother what will happen if the land is sold. It is a powerful scene. Yet people around me found it super amusing. I really failed to understand that why such a film generated so much laughter. Given the superficiality of the script, it was still not a funny film.

There seemed to be a strange tribute to the protagonist of Munshi Premchand’s Godaan, Hori Mahato in the film. In the novel, Hori is a poor peasant who is desperately longing for a cow, since cow is a symbol for wealth and pride. He does get the cow but ends up paying for the cow by his life. Similarly in the film, Hori, a landless peasant, makes a living by digging earth. He dies while digging earth, which was his only way for survival. Thus Hori’s plight hasn’t changed in more than 60 years. While making this tribute to one of Hindi literature’s biggest protagonist, the film still failed to question the continuance of farmers’ plight and agrarian crises. Primarily because the film cunningly takes up from the moment the real event has already taken place. In a sensitive narrative, like the works of Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal and Govind Nilhani, the film probably would have ended with the farmer succumbing to the pressure of the financial crisis, minimal profit (or usually loss), government extortion and feudal oppression and consequently deciding to commit suicide. But what this film chooses to portray instead is an epilogue filled with media clowns and political ring masters.

The directors Anusha Rizvi and Mahmood Farooqui worked within the theatrical traditions of Habib Tanvir’s Naya Theatre for the film. Naya Theatre traditions bear a great degree of respect for the poor and the oppressed. In this theatrical space, satire and humor is used extensively to make critiques of the state policies and the capitalist system. In his plays, Habib Tanvir always reserved the space for swear and aggressive language for the most downtrodden, the most oppressed. It’s meant to give them the power to make the sharpest critiques and show their anger(s) and frustration(s). His most popular protagonist under this tradition is Charandas Chor. Even in the Sanskrit Natya-Shastra (Theatre), Vidhushak played this role. He would comment on contemporary situations and thus transcend the spatial and temporal dimensions of the narrative, and speak in languages other than Sanskrit to underline his class differences and political positioning. This feature is shared by different performance traditions and characters like Shakespearean character Falstaff. Perhaps due to this reason, we hear foul language mostly from Natha and his family. But this tradition becomes humorous and comical. The language looses its anger and critique and for the audiences it becomes comical (more so when the female characters use foul language). This transition from theatre to film thus is very fractured and weak. Instead of showing respect and solidarity with the oppressed and their problems, it ends up making them humorous. The film would have been much better as a theatrical performance, but as a film it is a dismal rendition of the theatrical traditions and styles.

A farmers advocacy group in Vidarbha, the area with the highest suicide rates, Vidarbha Janadolan Samiti (Vidarbha People’s Movement Committee) has asked for a ban on the film. The group has urged the Maharashtra government to ban the film on the ground that the movie trivializes the issue of farmer suicides and is far from reality. They have argued that the film is an insult to the poor farmers who have been the victims of globalization and wrong policies of the state. However banning the film can actually be counter productive, since the film will get more attention than it deserves. And within democratic spaces, banning is not the solution.

The storytelling style is different, but the film refrains from making a strong statement. It failed to highlight the real issues and concerns of farmers. The real questions and problems are camouflaged behind the media and politician circus. The attempts for a satire turns out to be a sad caricature of the rural life. The village life has much more depth and layers than what this film set out to sketch. The agrarian crises is not a myth but a harsh reality that sooner or later the country will have to face. The film didn’t seem to leave people questioning and disappointed with the status quo. It lacks the anger and creativity and leaves the audience unaffected. I am quiet confident that the filmmakers and the multiplex audiences would pat on their backs for making and appreciating such a political and moral film. This is the only way for the liberal middle class mind to free itself from its guilt and apathy. But how long can these minds run away from their guilt and apathy and not ask the questions and realities that haunt India?

Nishant Upadhyay is aPh.D. Candidate, Department of Social and Political Thought
York University, Toronto

Wish you a Happy Onam

Dear Brothers
All of you wish you a Happy ONAM


The caste system contains both social oppression and

exploitation. The dalits suffer from both types of exploitation in the worst form. 86.25 per cent of the scheduled caste households are landless and 49 per cent of the scheduled castes in the rural areas are agricultural workers. The dalits are subject to untouchability and other forms of discrimination despite these being declared unlawful. According to the 2001 census, scheduled castes comprise 16.2 per cent of the total population of India, that is, they number over 17 crore.

The dalits are subject to untouchability and other forms of discrimination despite these being declared unlawful. The growing consciousness among the dalits for emancipation is sought to be met with brutal oppression and atrocities. The assertion by the dalits has a democratic content reflecting the aspirations of the most oppressed sections of society.

Along with the curse of untouchability, the dalits had no right to have any property. They had to eat the foulest food, including leftovers thrown away by the higher classes; they were not allowed to draw water from the common well; they were prohibited from entering temples; they were barred from the right to education and knowledge; they had to perform menial jobs for the higher castes; they were not allowed to use the common burial ground; they were not allowed to live in the main village inhabited by the upper classes; and they were deprived of ownership rights to land and property, leading to the lack of access to all sources of economic mobility. Thus, dalits were subjected to both social exclusion and economic discrimination over the centuries. In one form or the other, this continues even today in most parts of the country.

The caste system contains both social oppression and class exploitation. The dalits suffer from both types of exploitation in the worst form. 86.25 per cent of the scheduled caste households are landless and 49 per cent of the scheduled castes in the rural areas are agricultural workers.

According to the 2001 census, scheduled castes comprise 16.2 per cent of the total population of India, that is, they number over 17 crore. Scheduled tribes comprise 8.2 per cent of the population, that is, they number over 8 crore. Both together constitute 24.4 per cent of the Indian population, that is, they together number over 25 crore.

The six states that have the highest percentage of scheduled caste population are Punjab (28.9), Himachal Pradesh (24.7), West Bengal (23.0), Uttar Pradesh (21.1), Haryana (19.3) and Tamil Nadu (19.0). The twelve states that have the largest number of scheduled castes are Uttar Pradesh (351.5 lakhs), West Bengal (184.5 lakhs), Bihar (130.5 lakhs), Andhra Pradesh (123.4 lakhs), Tamil Nadu (118.6 lakhs), Maharashtra (98.8 lakhs), Rajasthan (96.9 lakhs), Madhya Pradesh (91.6 lakhs), Karnataka (85.6 lakhs), Punjab (70.3 lakhs), Orissa (60.8 lakhs) and Haryana (40.9 lakhs).

Almost every socio-economic indicator shows that the position of scheduled caste families is awful. In many cases their plight is getting worse. Let us have a look at some of the major indicators.

LAND: In 1991 70% of the total SC households were landless or near landless (owning less than one acre). This increased to 75% in 2000. In 1991, 13% of the rural SC households were landless. However, in 2000 this saw a decline and was 10%. As per the Agricultural Census of 1995-96, the bottom 61.6% of operational holdings accounted for only 17.2% of the total operated land area. As against this, the top 7.3% of operational holdings accounted for 40.1% of the total operated area. This gives an indication of land concentration in the hands of a few.

FIXED CAPITAL ASSETS: In 2000, about 28 % of SC households in rural areas had acquired some access to fixed capital assets (agricultural land and non-land assets). This was only half compared to 56 % for other non-SC/ST households who had some access to fixed capital assets. In the urban areas, the proportion was 27 % for SCs and 35.5 % for others.
AGRICULTURAL LABOUR: In 2000, 49.06 % of the working SC population were agricultural labourers, as compared to 32.69 % for the STs and only 19.66 % for the others. This shows the preponderance of dalits in agricultural labour. Between 1991 and 2001, the number of agricultural labourers in India increased from 7.46 crore to 10.74 crore, and a large proportion of them were dalits. On the other hand, the average number of workdays available to an agricultural labourer slumped from 123 in 1981 to 70 in 2005.

CHILD LABOUR: It is reported that out of the 60 million child labour in India, 40 % come from SC families. Moreover, it is estimated that 80 % of child labour engaged in carpet, matchstick and firecracker industries come from scheduled caste backgrounds. The tanning, colouring and leather processing, lifting dead animals, clearing human excreta, cleaning soiled clothes, collection of waste in slaughter houses and sale of toddy are some of the hereditary jobs generally pursued by Dalit children.

PER CAPITA INCOME: In 2000, as against the national average of Rs. 4485, the per capita income of SCs was Rs. 3,237. The average weekly wage earning of an SC worker was Rs. 174.50 compared to Rs. 197.05 for other non- SC/ST workers.

POVERTY: In 2000, 35.4 % of the SC population was below the poverty line in rural areas as against 21 % among others (‘Others’ everywhere means non-SC/ST); in urban areas the gap was larger – 39 % of SC as against only 15 % among others. The largest incidence of poverty in rural areas was among agricultural labour followed by non-agricultural labour, whereas in urban areas the largest incidence of poverty was among casual labour followed by self-employed households. The monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE) for all household types was lower for SCs than others.

EMPLOYMENT: In 2000, the unemployment rate based on current daily status was 5 % for SCs as compared to 3.5 % for others in rural and urban areas. The wage labour households accounted for 61.4 % of all SC households in rural areas and 26 % in urban areas, as compared to 25.5 % and 7.45 % for other households.

RESERVATIONS: 15 % and 7.5 % of central government posts are reserved for SCs and STs respectively. For SCs, in Group A, only 10.15 % posts were filled, in Group B it was 12.67 %, in Group C it was 16.15 % and in Group D it was 21.26 %. The figures for STs were even lower, at 2.89 %, 2.68 %, 5.69 % and 6.48 % for the four groups respectively. Of the 544 judges in the High Courts, only 13 were SC and 4 were ST. Among school teachers all over the country, only 6.7 % were SC/STs, while among college and university teachers, only 2.6 % were SC/STs.

EDUCATION: In 2001, the literacy rate among SCs was 54.7 % and among STs it was 47.1 %, as against 68.8 % for others. Among women, the literacy rate for SCs was 41.9 %, for STs it was 34.8 % and for others it was 58.2 %. School attendance was about 10 % less among SC boys than other boys, and about 5 % less among SC girls than other girls. Several studies have observed discrimination against SCs in schools in various forms.

HEALTH: In 2000, the Infant Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 1) in SCs was 83 per 1000 live births as against 61.8 for the others, and the Child Mortality Rate (child death before the age of 5) was 119.3 for 1000 live births as against 82.6 for the others. These high rates among the SCs are closely linked with poverty, low educational status and discrimination in access to health services. In 1999, at least 75 % of SC women suffered from anaemia and more than 70 % SC womens’ deliveries took place at home. More than 75 % of SC children were anaemic and more than 50 % suffered from various degrees of malnutrition.

WOMEN: While dalit women share common problems of gender discrimination with their high caste counterparts, they also suffer from problems specific to them. Dalit women are the worst affected and suffer the three forms oppression — caste, class and gender. As some of the above figures show, these relate to extremely low literacy and education levels, heavy dependence on wage labour, discrimination in employment and wages, heavy concentration in unskilled, low-paid and hazardous manual jobs, violence and sexual exploitation, being the victims of various forms of superstitions (like the devadasi system) etc.

SANITATION: Only 11 % of SC households and 7 % of ST households had access to sanitary facilities as against the national average of 29 %.

ELECTRICITY: Only 28 % of the SC population and 22 % of the ST population were users of electricity as against the national average of 48 %.

ATROCITIES, UNTOUCHABILITY AND DISCRIMINATION: During 16 years between 1981 to 2000 for which records are available, a total of 3,57,945 cases of crime and atrocities were committed against the SCs. This comes to an annual average of about 22,371 crimes and atrocities per year. The break-up of the atrocities and violence for the year 2000 is as follows: 486 cases of murder, 3298 grievous hurt, 260 of arson, 1034 cases of rape and 18,664 cases of other offences. The practice of untouchability and social discrimination in the matter of use of public water bodies, water taps, temples, tea stalls, restaurants, community bath, roads and other social services continues to be of high magnitude.

With the onset of the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation by our country during the last decade and a half, the problems of dalits, adivasis, other backward castes and the working people as a whole have greatly aggravated. The drive to privatise the public sector has directly hit reservations for the SC/STs. The closure of thousands of mills and factories have rendered lakhs jobless and this has also hit dalits and other backward castes. The ban on recruitment to government and semi-government jobs that has been imposed in several states has also had an adverse effect. The growing commercialisation of education and health has kept innumerable people from both socially and economically backward sections out of these vital sectors.

The most disastrous effects of these policies can be seen in the deep agrarian crisis that has afflicted the rural sector. Rural employment has sharply fallen and this has hit dalits, adivasis and women the most. Mechanisation of agriculture has further compounded the problem. The real wages of agricultural workers, of whom a large proportion are dalits, have fallen in many states. No efforts are made to implement minimum wage legislation even where it exists, and periodic revision of minimum wage is also conspicuous by its absence. The dismantling of the public distribution system has increased hunger to alarming proportions. An overwhelming proportion of the malnutrition-related deaths of thousands of children in several states is from dalit and adivasi families.

To ensure a better life for the crores of dalits in our country following measures are to be taken immediately:

LAND REFORMS: The central and state governments must immediately set in motion a process of land reforms whereby land will be redistributed to the landless agricultural labourers and poor peasants gratis. All loopholes in the present laws must be plugged. All schemes to reverse land reform legislation and give away land to multinational corporations and big business houses should be scrapped forthwith.

RESERVATIONS: All the backlogs in reserved seats and posts and in promotions for SCs, STs and OBCs must be filled forthwith with special recruitment drives. The three Constitutional amendments made to correct the three OMs issued in 1997 diluting reservations for SCs and STs should be implemented. The pre-1997 vacancies based roster should be restored. A comprehensive legislation covering all aspects of reservation for SCs/STs in employment and education both public and private institutions should be enacted.

SPECIAL COMPONENT PLAN: Special Component Plan should be properly implemented in all the states with proper allotment of funds according to the population of dalits. A National Commission should be set up to assess the real position of dalits including reservation. The state level commissions should be set up to oversee the implementation of all schemes connected with the SCs including reservation.

INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT: Infrastructure development in the scheduled caste areas like road, water, health, culture and other needs has to be given proper importance. When allotting fund for infrastructure development, a separate allotment for scheduled caste areas should be provided.

A comprehensive National Programme of Minor Irrigation for all irrigable but unirrigated lands of SCs and STs through wells, community wells, bore-wells, community bore-wells and tube-wells, bandheras, check-dams, lift, etc., should be immediately undertaken and implemented.

ROOTING OUT UNTOUCHABILITY: All forms of untouchability must be rooted out of the country by strengthening the relevant laws, ensuring their strict implementation and most importantly, by launching a mass movement of the people.

PROTECTION FROM ATROCITIES: The Central Government should amend and strengthen the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, providing for special courts with judges, investigating officers and public prosecutors unburdened by any other work. Social and economic boycott and blackmail should be included as substantive crimes. Full economic rehabilitation of victims and their survivors must be ensured.

EMPLOYMENT: The privatisation drive should be stopped as it leads to loot of national assets, greater unemployment, a curtailment of reservations and also a spurt in corruption. The Central Government should enact a bill to provide reservations in the private sector, which has been a long-standing demand of SCs and STs. Special schemes to provide self-employment to SC youth should be started. The Right to Work should be incorporated as a fundamental right in the Constitution.

EDUCATION: The commercialisation of education should be stopped since the massive fee and donation structure of private educational managements is something that socially and economically backward students cannot afford. For this, the central government must increase its own outlay on education to 6 % of the GDP. SC/ST students should be given special scholarships to pursue their studies. The stipends in Social Welfare hostels should be raised and the quality of these hostels improved. Steps should be taken to universalise primary education and expand secondary education. Special measures to curb the drop-out rate among SCs should be undertaken.

AGRICULTURAL WORKERS: The Minimum Wages Act for agricultural workers must be stringently implemented throughout the country. A comprehensive bill for agricultural workers is another long-standing demand and it must be enacted without delay. Homestead land must be provided for SCs, STs and agricultural workers.

RURAL EMPLOYMENT GUARANTEE SCHEME: The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act must be strictly implemented all over the country by involving the people, their mass organisations and the panchayati raj institutions. It should be extended to all districts and also to urban areas of the country.

PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM: The public distribution system must be universalised to ensure food to all. Until this is done, BPL ration cards must be issued to all poor families, many of whom are from SCs and STs. The grain under the BPL scheme should be made available at Antyodaya prices.

CREDIT: Agricultural credit to peasants and agricultural workers must be made available at 4 % rate of interest. For SCs and STs in both rural and urban areas, credit facilities should be expanded and the credit given at concessional interest rates.

BONDED LABOUR AND CHILD LABOUR: The total liberation and full rehabilitation of bonded labourers must be ensured. The pernicious practice of child labour must be abolished and children properly rehabilitated and educated. Similarly, total liberation and full rehabilitation must be ensured for Safaqi Karmacharis who are engaged in scavenging.

SCAVENGERS: Ensure total liberation and full rehabilitation for scavengers (safai karamcharis), ban engagement of contract labour in safai services and other services where SC and ST numerically predominate and instead introduce necessary improvements by involving such Karamcharis; and reactivate the Central Monitoring Committee for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Safai Karamcharis and State, Municipal and District Level communities.


Dalits Watch Updates 26.08.10

Dalits Media watch

News Updates 26.08.10

Rape, torture by landlords forces Karnataka villagers to flee – The Times Of India


Alleged casteist remarks by minister spark row in Orissa – IBN Live


Communal tension prevailed in Punjab village over holding Akahnd Path near Samadhs – Punjab News Line


Former J&K Minister Resigns as Chairman of SC/ST Cell – Out Look India


Kandhamal victims still face intimidation: People’s tribunal – Zee News


The Times Of India

Rape, torture by landlords forces Karnataka villagers to flee


Senthalir S, TNN, Aug 26, 2010, 03.42am IST

BUDIHALLI (KARNATAKA): It’s the untold tale of a village in the grip of the feudal system, and a quiet revolt brewing. Budihalli village of Karnataka’s Chitradurga district is a glaring example of caste discrimination and bondage, with a yawning gap between communities.

Here, landlords hold sway. They allegedly rape and torture women of lower castes while the men work as bonded labourers, paying off debts accumulated over generations.

Breaking the stranglehold, 25 families of Madiga (scheduled caste) community left the village to look for self-respect and a new life. They reached Venkateshwaranagar in Chellakere taluk, 30 km from Budihalli, and set up tent.

The exodus took place a fortnight ago. Women, men, children and the elderly took their possessions and began walking until they reached a settlement abandoned by nomads. For now, they are living in thatched huts.

For them, this migration is symbolic: a breaking away from sexual harassment, rape and torture by the Gollas and Nayaks. The penniless families had no money to even buy bus tickets to their destination.

Sitting cramped in the huts — two families in each — they recounted the horrors of their life in Budihalli. "We didn’t know where to go. We left our village without taking our belongings. We don’t have jobs or money to send our children to school. We are struggling for two meals a day. The government has not helped us in any way. We have lost hope, and have no place to go," cries Kollamma T, a Madiga woman.

Savithramma (name changed), fighting back her tears, said, "Every day, drunk landlords would barge into our houses. They harassed and raped us. All these years, we were scared to talk because of social stigma."

"They abused us. Our men went to work in the fields of the landlords as bonded labourers to repay the loans taken by our grandparents. We were unable to bear the harassment, and wanted to work independently. So we began to sell firewood and cultivate government land," she said. When the Madigas began earning independently, the Golla and Nayak landlords socially boycotted them.

H N Shivamurthy, state organizing convener of the Human Rights Forum for Dalit Liberation in Karnataka, said, "The families of the dalit community had protested several times. One woman, Palakka Durgappa, lost her life while protesting. She sat in the rain for three days, protesting. But it hasn’t helped them."

IBN Live

Alleged casteist remarks by minister spark row in Orissa



Bhubaneswar, Aug 25 (PTI) Alleged "objectionable and casteist" remark made by Orissa Agriculture Minister Damodar Rout triggered a row today with Congress as well as Scheduled Caste and Dalit leaders demanding his immediate resignation.Chairman of State Congress Scheduled Caste (SC) cell, Ripunath Seth told reporters here that Rout should resign forthwith for making derogatory remarks about Jagatsinghpur MP Bibhu Prasad Tarai, local MLA Bishnu Das and Additional District Magistrate Upendranath Mallick.Rout, a senior leader of the ruling BJD, was accused of making objectionable remarks at a public meeting in Kujang in Jagatsinghpur district last week about these three and referring to them as "Harijans." "If Rout fails to step down, he should be dismissed as he has used derogatory remarks about leaders and a government official by making casteist remarks despite holding a constitutional post as Minister," Seth said.When contacted, Rout said he has already expressed regrets for his remarks. "What else can I do now. I am sorry for the remarks made by me inadvertently," he said.A case has also been registered against the minister in Kujang police station under provisions of SC and ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act and investigation launched into the matter, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) G D Pradhani said adding three separate complaints had been lodged against Rout in this regard.Orissa State Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Youth and Students’ Council has also demanded dismissal of Rout for his remarks, while Dalits staged a dharna in Jagatsinghpur seeking his resignation.

Punjab News Line

Communal tension prevailed in Punjab village over holding Akahnd Path near Samadhs


Sameer Kaura

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

PHAGWARA: Tension prevailed in a nearby Village Bhabhiana, after alleged objection raised by some villagers including Nihangs on the organizing an Akhandh Path of Shri Sukhmani Sahib near few “Samadhs” close to Dera of Sant Nirmal Dass on Sunday.

The dalits opposed the objections raised by Sikhs. The dalits with the active assistance of Ambedekar Sena Punjab headed by Surinder Dhandey blocked vehicular road traffic on Phagwara—Hoshiarpur road for more than two hours near Rawalpindi Police Station on Wednesday.

Blockade was lifted only after the assurances of justice given by the civil and police administration to the protesters.

When contacted Phagwara SDM Amarjeet Paul and SP Kamaljeet Singh Dhillon told here this evening, that police has registered a case under section 295A/511/506 IPC against three Village Bhabhiana residents Buta Singh, Balbir Singh, Rana and their half dozen unidentified accompliances on the charges of hurting religious sentiments.

SHO City Amrik Singh Chahal and SHO Sadar Ravinder singh told tonight that a Dalit villager Rajinder Ghera organized a path of Shri Sukhmani Sahib to commemorate the death anniversary of his mother, but few villagers attempted to stop the installation of Guru Granth Sahib near Samadhs”, but the organizers remained adamant to continue the path.

It was learnt that they also informed local civil and police administration, but nothing could be initiated even after third day of the incident and hundreds of dalits activists forced to block road traffic. Long Queues of vehicles were seen on Phagwara-Hoshiarpur road during panicky atmosphere while later the traffic was diverted by some villages. No arrest was made till filing the reports.

Out Look India

Former J&K Minister Resigns as Chairman of SC/ST Cell


A senior leader of Jammu and Kashmir’s ruling National Conference (NC) today resigned as Chairman of Scheduled Caste and Backward Classes Cell of the party in the wake of alleged involvement of his son in a case of impersonation at MBBS entrance test here on Saturday.

The resignation of Ram Paul, a former minister, came in the wake of his name finding a mention in Acharya Shri Chander College of Medical Science (ASCOMS) entrance examination impersonation case which has been referred by the state government to CBI for inquiry, a NC spokesman said here today.

In his resignation letter, Ram Paul has claimed he was innocent and will cooperate with CBI probe.

He said that keeping in view the high moral standards laid down by National Conference and its leadership, he is resigning from the party post.

A party spokesman said Ram Paul’s resignation has been accepted.

Seven persons, including two girls, were arrested from examination hall of the medical entrance test on the charge of impersonating for seven local boys and girls, including Paul’s son Lovesh Bharat and J&K Roads and Buildings Minister G M Saroori’s daughter Huma.

Cases have been registered against the daughter and son of Saroori and Ram Paul along with other beneficiaries under sections 419 and 420 Ranbir Panel Code (RPC)

Zee News

Kandhamal victims still face intimidation: People’s tribunal


Updated on Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 20:31

New Delhi: A ‘people’s tribunal’ today said the victims of 2008 Kandhamal communal violence in Orissa continue to be intimidated, "systematically" denied protection and access to justice, recommending that state government must protect those affected and the witnesses of the cases.

A 12-member jury of the public tribunal on Kandhamal violence, headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A P Shah, recommended setting up of a special investigation team to re-examine the registered FIRs and examine the registration of fresh FIRs, noting that cases of sexual assault remained "grossly" unreported due to "fear and intimidation".

"What happened in Kandhamal was a national shame, a complete defacement of humanity. Most of victims are dalits and tribals. Survivors continue to be intimidated and systematically denied protection and access to justice. They can not return to their villages unless they re-convert," Justice Shah said at a press conference here.

The tribunal recorded testimony of 43 victims, survivors and their representatives and heard fact-finding reports prepared by various voluntary organisations and experts.

"From the testimonies heard and the detailed reports received, the jury is convinced that the carnage in Kandhamal was an act of communalism mainly directed against the Christian community," Justice Shah said.

"It is clear to us that there was deliberate strategy of targeting of the community, fed by groups of Hindutva ideology such as RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and active members of BJP."

The jury is convinced that communal violence in Kandhamal was the consequence of a "subversion of constitutional governance in which state agents were complicit," he said.

The jury observed that delay in obtaining forensic evidence, failure in obtaining corroborative evidence and the "rampant" intimidation to victim, survivors and witnesses have led to many acquittals in the cases of Kandhamal violence.

Claiming "grave dereliction" on the part of police and administrative officials, the tribunal recommended a probe into such matters. It favoured appointment of a special public prosecutor "who enjoy confidence of affected community." "State must provide protection to victims and witnesses, during and after the trial process, according to guidelines provided in recent judgement of Delhi High Court," it said.

The tribunal said state government should recognise the rights of those displaced in the violence and create all "possible enabling conditions" to facilitate their return.

"Designate the affected areas as communally sensitive, appoint officers with professional integrity…develop appropriate response mechanism to halt the brewing of hate mobilisation and religious and caste-based discriminative activities," it added.

The tribunal felt that the compensation given to victims were "extremely arbitrary and inadequate," and recommended that both Centre and state adopt "at the very minimum" the Gujarat compensation package to enhance the amount.

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