Dalits Media Watch – News Updates 16.10.11

Dalits Media Watch

News Updates 16.10.11

Dalit candidates threaten to withdraw from contest – The Hindu


NREGS beneficiaries stage dharna – The Hindu


Dalits plan boycott of election – The Hindu


Congress launches Dalit Chetna Rally The Pioneer


‘Where do we takeour dead and go?’ – Danik Bhaskar


The Hindu

Dalit candidates threaten to withdraw from contest


D. Karthikeyan

Four candidates who are contesting for the post of panchayat president in Keeripatti coming under Usilampatti taluk have threatened to withdraw from the contest alleging undemocratic practices followed by caste Hindus in the village.

Keeripatti is one among the four reserved panchayats, the others being Pappapatti and Nattarmangalam in Madurai district and Kottakachiendal in Virudhunagar district, which saw severe opposition from the dominant castes to conduct elections, and when held the Dalits were asked to resign, thus making a mockery of democracy.

However, concerted efforts during the previous DMK government saw the restoration of a democratic setup in these panchayats.

The Hindu carried a news item on September 29 stating that the situation is dicey in Keeripatti after dominant caste members called for an ‘oor (village) panchayat’ (an assembly of elders, wealthy and influential persons, mostly belonging to the predominant caste group) and chose A. Mokkakaalai (33), a conservancy worker, as candidate.

For lineage god

This being the situation, on Friday, they again called for an ‘oor panchayat’ meeting for which Mokkakaalai, the candidate chosen by the Piramalai Kallars, was seen beating the ‘thamukku’ (traditional drum) to announce the meeting.

The villagers said that the meeting which took place from 6.30 a.m. till 7.00 a.m. saw the Piramalai Kallars make promises and take vows on flames of camphor to their lineage god Vangaru Thevar Samy that they will not vote for others but only Mokkakaalai.

It was also said that people who voted for others would be ostracised from the village. The Dalit candidate Mokkakalai fielded by the Kallars have been assured of three sovereigns of gold and Rs.1 lakh in cash if he wins the election.

The Dalit candidates, B. Chinnasamy (35), N. Subban (50), P. Palani (41) and A. Subban (55), told The Hindu that the administration was biased towards caste Hindus. Higher officials, including the Collector and Revenue Divisional Officer, did not visit the Dalit areas in the village to hear their grievances but only met the caste Hindus.

They also alleged that the policemen who accompanied the candidate, M. Baluchamy, during the campaign were the kinsmen of villagers and it was nothing but mere tokenism on the part of the administration. The other Dalit candidates have not been able to campaign at the caste Hindu areas.

“Once the election is over, we all could be under threat as there is a precedence of the entire village ostracising Dalits who disobey the prevailing practices,” said A. Subban. They urged the State Election Commission (SEC) to either postpone the elections or ensure proper security and allow them to campaign and conduct the elections in a democratic manner.

Kathir, Executive Director, Evidence, said that there was no doubt that there existed a kind of uncertainty in Keeripatti over the realisation of empowerment of Dalits, which was one of the declared objectives of decentralisation of power. The SEC should take stringent measures to restore democracy in its fullest form.

The Hindu

NREGS beneficiaries stage dharna


Special Correspondent

The Mahatma Gandhi NREGS beneficiaries, an overwhelming majority of them belonging to SC, ST and BC categories, were not given the promised benefits while the officials were accorded perks, alleged the beneficiaries at a dharna organised in front of the Collectorate here on Saturday.

The NREGS Mates and Shrama Shakti Saghala Samakhya, the AP Vyasaya Vrithidarula Union and the Dalita Bahujana Front jontly organised the protest programme.

The NREGS beneficiaries demanded that the Government concede their 10 demands which it had agreed to implement by September-end in response to a memorandum submitted to the Principal Secretary and Director of NREGS at Hyderabad on August 25. The demands were regarding payment of allowance to the mates; payment of wages without delay and payment of compensation when the wages were not paid on time; provision of quality tools to each group along with measuring instruments; continuous work on improving the land of SCs and STs; involving the groups in policy decisions of the NREGS; issue of fresh work orders till March 31, 2012; etc.

General secretary of APVVU P.S. Ajay Kumar and president of DBF Korivi Vinay Kumar said a mate, who heads a group, should be given a first aid box and tarpaulin (to provide shade during break time) and an allowance of Rs. 13. But only a few first aid boxes were provided and allowance was not paid.

On the other hand, each MDO who is in charge of the programme in a mandal was being given Rs. 17,000 towards vehicle rent every month and even MDOs of the mandals in which the NREGS works were in a poor state were drawing the allowance.

The beneficiaries came from different mandals. Later a memorandum was submitted to the Office Superintendent of District Water Management Society.

The Hindu

Dalits plan boycott of election


P. V. Srividya

They protest poor quality of shelters for tsunami-affected

Dalit families of North Poigainallur have proposed a poll boycott seeking reconstruction of poor quality permanent shelters allotted to them under tsunami relief and rehabilitation. The families have called for boycott of local body polls protesting non-reconstruction of their shelters that were alleged to be of poor quality and unfit.

Speaking to The Hindu, Uthaman, one of the protesters, pointed out that the construction of over 42 tsunami permanent shelters in North Poigainallur were handed over to Salvation Army, an NGO, in 2006. However, a few houses had collapsed within months, and the beneficiaries had moved the High Court. According to Mr. Uthaman, the High Court had ruled that the shelters constructed by the NGO were of poor quality and therefore not fit for residing. The High Court had directed the NGO to have all the houses demolished and reconstruct, Mr. Uthaman said.

The Pioneer

Congress launches Dalit Chetna Rally


Saturday, 15 October 2011 22:56

Staff Reporter | Bhopal

Bottom of Form

Alleging ignorance of Dalits and atrocities on them in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule in Madhya Pradesh, State unit of the Congress launched a ‘Dalit Chetna Rally’ on Saturday from the Scheduled Castes reserve Assembly constituency Alot.

All India Congress Committee general secretary and State in-charge BK Hariprasad while addressing the rally said, “Conditions in the State are fast becoming favourable for the Congress and it is for sure that the party would return to power in Madhya Pradesh in the 2013 Assembly election.”

Making a scathing attack on the BJP veteran LK Advani, Hariprasad said, “Advani is a shameless leader of the country who does not have any interest in visiting the mausoleum of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi but feels pride in bowing down on Jinnah’s mausoleum.”

The AICC general secretary further said that nowadays Advani in his greed to become prime minister was once again out on a Yatra just to mislead the people of the country but he would not succeed in his intent as the people of the country know him very well and have already rejected him once.

Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president and MP Kantilal Bhuria said, “The farmers of the State are facing acute shortage of seeds, fertilisers and electricity in the Rabbi season due to wrong and weak policies of the BJP Government of the State.”

Bhuria further said that the blackmarketeers were selling standard level fertilisers at prices of their will, while the urea supplied was being supplied to the liquor factories even as farmers are craving for it.

Bhuria, also a former Union Minister said that the Congress would agitate on the bad condition of roads and on the serious issue of electricity not being supplied to the farmers.

He said that the BJP Ministers of the State have become so unruly and proud that they are openly saying ‘thief’, ‘sinner’ and ‘goofy’ to the respected communities of the State. He said that drive of similar rallies would be carried out by the Congress in the constituencies of all the Schedule Caste Ministers of the State Government.

Danik Bhaskar

‘Where do we takeour dead and go?’


Source: Yogesh Pawar, DNA | Last Updated 05:10(16/10/11)

Mumbai: If pain had a face, it could be Narayan Sonawane’s. The 45-year-old Dalit farmer keeps scratching a shaving wound on his face till it bleeds, and makes him flinch. The pain, perhaps, momentarily takes his mind off the gruesome reality outside his hut, a seven acre plot that used to be a Dalit cremation ground until a year ago.

In June 2010, it was usurped by upper caste Maratha farmer Mahadeo Khandu. And on this day, as Sonawane stands watching mutely, Khandu supervises the tilling of the land. The land where the bodies of Sonawane’s parents were laid to rest.

"I buried my father here two years ago. And my mother a year before that with my own hands," says Sonawane, fighting back tears. "Would upper castes let this happen to their own dead?"

As a crowd gathers around, a nonplussed Khandu shouts, "Don’t listen to him, he’s lying." But he quickly changes tack. "Come now… We are all from the same village. Why take such petty differences to the media?" Seeing that his words have had no effect, he adds, "I’ll build a shed for you to cremate your dead. I don’t even want money for building it."

We soon discover the reason for Khandu’s generosity: the appropriated land is worth Rs 30 lakh at market rates, while the steel shed with asbestos sheet roofs will cost a mere Rs 30,000!

Khandu and Sonawane belong to Mhalsapur-Zavla village in Beed district, which falls in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Such casual take-over of Dalit lands by upper castes is fairly common, not just in this district, but all over Maharashtra. According to figures compiled by the Maharashtra ministry for social justice, Dalit burial grounds have been usurped by upper castes in with 72.13% of the state’s 43,722 villages.

About 150 km from Mhalsapur-Zavla, in Parbhani district’s Devalgaon village, the tension is palpable. Less than four months ago violence erupted over a Dalit’s attempt to bury a deceased family member in the demarcated cremation ground. Upper caste men stopped the funeral procession, brutally attacked the pall-bearers, and flung the body of 39-year-old Shevanta Pawar to the ground. The pall-bearers, including Pawar’s husband, Mahesh Pawar, 42, barely escaped with their lives.

Recalls a bitter Mahesh, "Upper caste men attacked us and threw my wife’s body into the bushes nearby. After we lodged a complaint with the tehsildar, the police arrived, and only then could we recover the body from the bushes and do the last rites."

Despite the violence, and the tension in the village on account of it, the upper castes are unrepentant. "This is our way of life. Those who don’t like it here are free to leave," says Dhanajirao Kale, an obviously well-to-do upper caste farmer. Kale even has a word of advice for us, "It is better that you city folks stick to what you know and understand."

Adding insult to injury

Nearly 60 km away, the Dalits of Malegaon still can’t forget November 22, 2008. On that fateful day, upper caste men led by priests of the local Khandoba temple, Sanjay and Ganptrao Naik, attacked a funeral procession with sticks and swords because they were taking a dead body to the designated crematorium. "They beat up everyone and forced them to flee with my father’s body, which then lay in our house for two days," remembers Urmila Waghmare, daughter of the deceased, Ramchandra Waghmare. "When the body began to decompose and smell, we had to cremate it on the roadside," she adds, tears welling up in her eyes.

When Dalit rights organisations like Samajik Nyay Andolan forced a reluctant police to lodge an FIR, reprisal from the upper castes was swift, the Waghmares’ home was burnt down. Urmila’s distraught mother Mandubai suffered severe burn injuries but survived. While the culprits, thanks to their political patrons, move around freely, Urmila and her mother live without a roof over their heads. Promises from the then collector, Radheshyam Mopalwar, that they will get a house under Indira Awaas Yojana have remained promises. "Every time I go to the social welfare officer, he asks me to come later," says Urmila.

There are, of course, instances where official apathy has reduced even death to a farce. Like in Madalmoi village of Georai tehsil in Beed, where the 0.275 acre crematorium (Survey No 357) was first given to the Dalits by the Nizam in 1354. It was encroached upon by a wealthy Maratha, Sonaji Bhopale, in 1965, and subsequently sold to a local money lender, Sitaram Govind Harkut.

Complaints from the Dalits led to a law suit, which is still pending in court. So after every death, the Dalits take the dead body and lay it in the middle of the busy highway for a rasta roko. "Once we create a traffic jam, the cops and the tehsildar scurry to the spot, and only then are we allowed to perform the last rites on the allocated land," says Sarjerao Shinde, a resident of the village.

‘Marathwada is worst’

These are by no means isolated incidents. In fact, since there have been several such incidents in the constituency of BJP general secretary and deputy opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, Gopinath Munde, and in Dehu village in NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s constituency.

Munde admitted that the problem existed in his constituency, but was quick to add that it was prevalent across the state. When asked why the NDA government did nothing about the issue during the Sena-BJP reign in the state, he said, "Undoing what the Congress had allowed to fester for 45 years is not an easy task," adding, "If the Dalits unite, mobilise and take to the streets on this issue, I will gladly join them in their fight."

Article 17 of the Constitution abolishes all forms of untouchability. But in villages across Mahahrashtra, Dalits are not only denied access to the common burial/cremation ground but prevented from using even the burial grounds specifically demarcated for them. "The level of friction over the issue is the highest in Marathwada, where over one-fifth of the population is Dalit," explains Eknath Avhad of the Manavi Hakk Abhiyan, which has been fighting for Dalit rights in the region.

Will justice ever be done?

Dalits have traditionally had separate tracts of land to dispose of their dead as a part of the caste system. "In Maharashtra, these are on the eastern side of the village, so that the whole village is not ‘polluted’ by the winds blowing from the direction of the Dalit cremation ground," points out Ganpat Bhise of the Samajik Nyay Andolan, a Parbhani-based organisation fighting for the restoration of these cremation tracts to Dalits.

"The upper castes want to usurp Dalit cremation grounds, and they also do not want us to cremate our dead anywhere else. Where do they want us to take our dead and go?" asks Bhise. "Why then don’t they allow us to use the same crematoria that they do?" He says claims of progress on integration and mainstreaming of Dalits ring hollow on the ground, and remembers how the then Nanded collector had mocked him during a protest against the Malegaon incident, asking, "Do you expect the Collector to go to every Dalit’s house and help him fight for justice?"

Access to cremation/burial grounds has become an increasingly sensitive issue over the last decade as population has grown. "It is ironic that in the birthplace of BR Ambedkar, Dalits continue to be denied dignity even in death," observes Eknath Avhad. "The government’s inability to resolve this issue even six decades after Independence has only created another reason to keep the caste cauldron on the boil."

Post Box # 46,Mavelikara-690101
Mob- +91 99 46 75 71 78 / +91 8907704079

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