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UNTOUCHABILITY AND THE UNTOUCHABLES-Testimony given by Bhagwan Das


 UNTOUCHABILITY AND THE UNTOUCHABLES

Testimony given by Bhagwan Das, Chairman, All India Samata Sainik Dal, and Ambedkar Mission society. In the 36th Session of Commission on Human rights Sub-Commission on Prevention Of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, held at Geneva in August 1983 

I am grateful to the chairman of the sub-committee for granting me an opportunity to present the case of the Untouchables living in India and the neighbouring countries who came under the influence of Hindu religion and culture. I am giving this testimony on behalf of Secretary General (Dr. Homer A. Jack) World Conference on religion and Peace (WCRP). I also speak on behalf of various Untouchables and Buddhist organisations of India namely All India Samata Sainik Dal (Volunteers for equality) an organisation founded by Dr. Bheem Rao Ambedkar, Indian Buddhist council, Ambedkar Mission Society. Ambedkar Mission Incorporated (Canada) and Dr. Ambedkar Mission Society, Bedford, UK.

I take this opportunity to mention here that WCRP in its first conference held at Kyoto, Japan in 1970 discussed the problem of discrimination including the practice of untouchability. In its third conference held at Princeton (USA) the problem of the Untouchables in India and Burakumin of Japan was discussed and mentioned in the declaration. In the Asian Conference of Religion and Peace (II) held at New Delhi the problem of Untouchability and discrimination against the Buddhist converts was taken up and recommendations made in the declaration issued at the end of conference. Human rights Commission of ACRP decided to set up an office at New Delhi and an office is now functioning at New Delhi with the help of the Japanese Committee of WCRP under the title Asian Centre for Human Rights.

Untouchability is a phenomenon peculiar to Hinduism and it is an integral part of their religion. It took birth in India and it’s from India that this abominable practice spread to other religions and countries. No religion in India is free from this contamination; not even those who loudly preach from house tops the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of man.

Hindu society is divided vertically and horizontally on the basis of caste. Christianity and Islam have allowed caste to exist in their society. Lower caste Christians especially in Southern states of India are meted out discriminatory treatment in the matter of burial in the cemeteries, appointment of parishnors, priests etc., and matrimony. Upper caste Christians seldom marry a girl from the lower caste Christians. Islamic society is also modelled on the pattern of Hindu society. It is divide into three or four groups namely ‘Ashraf’ upper caste, Moghuls, Turks Afghans etc., ‘Ajalaf’ converts from upper castes of Hindus and at the lowest rung of ladders sit the lowly ‘Arzal’, butchers, tanners, shoemakers, sweepers. scavengers etc.

Sikhs who claim to be more progressive and egalitarian but unfortunately even they have not been able to keep their society free from caste system and untouchability. Even in a country like Britain they rigidly follow caste system and practise untouchability and discrimination against the Untouchables (Ramdaasia and Mazhbis) living in England. A ‘jat’ Sikh shuns the company of the Untouchables and avoids going to the pubs patronised by the Balmikis and Ravidasis-two untouchable castes of Punjab. An upper caste Sikh (Jat, Khatri, Arora,-trading communities of Punjab never misses an opportunity if he can offend an Untouchable by referring to his caste.

Untouchables in various countries

 Nepal

 Nepal is predominantly Hindu state and 89% people either return their religion as Hinduism or are registered as Hindus in the census. Barely 7% of the Nepalese are Buddhists. Proselytization is prohibited. Hindu society is divided into as many as 59 castes and several artisan and other castes such as Paura (sweepers and scavengers), Damais (smiths), Sarakis (leather workers) goldsmiths in hilly regions are treated as Untouchables. Even though there is free education, very few among those castes can take the benefit owing to the practice of untouchability. In the Nepalese Panjyat (Panchyat) not more than one or two members of this community can get elected owing to the deep rooted prejudices against these people whose only fault is that perform useful duties. Their exact number is not known because unlike India Nepal census reports don not register caste. Owing to the fear of dominating upper castes Hindus, even Buddhists avoid contact with the Untouchables in Nepal. These communities suffer from numerous disabilities arising from untouchability. So far as I have been able to ascertain they have not been able to organise themselves for struggling against discrimination. Those who can in contact with these people were mulcted by the authorities and only paying the fine and performing some ceremonies they could be readmitted in the society.

 Pakistan

Pakistan with 97% of its population owning Islam as their religion is divided into numerous castes, tribes etc., Hindus constitute about 2% of the population and are listed as caste Hindus (296,837) and Scheduled Castes (603,369). Scheduled Castes is the statutory title given under the government of India Act 1935 to the Untouchables. Most of them earn their livelihood as sweepers, scavengers, cobblers, weavers, etc.. Muslims also treat them as Untouchables like Hindus throughout the World. Pakistan also has a Christian population numbering about 908,000. Christians are divided into three groups, Europeans and Anglo-Pakistanis, Eurasians like Goanese, converts from upper castes of Hindus and Muslims and people belonging to upper stratum of society. At the bottom sit the most despised sweepers and scavengers who are known as ‘Christian Punjabis Sweepers’ (CPS). They are the descendents of the members of Chuhra community, traditional sweepers, who embraced Christianity to escape the tyranny of Hinduism and the stigma of untouchability but the partitioning of the country compelled them to revert to the traditional occupation of sweeping and scavenging. Although they are economically better than the rural workers so far as the wages are concerned but they are compelled to live in segregated localities and are treated as untouchables. Like their counterparts in India, CPS are the most despised people in Pakistan. They suffer from numerous disabilities arising from untouchability.

 Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist (population 8,537,000, 67.3%) with Hindu constituting the second largest religious group (2,239,000) divided into clean and unclean castes. Among the Sinhalese, Goyigama is the highest caste and those engaged in occupations like butchers, drum-beaters. Toddy tappers, sweeping, etc. are considered ‘hina jati hina sippi’ people. Discrimination in the matter of marriage is practised among the Sinhalese. Siame Nikaya, a Buddhist sect does not admit the members of the lower castes as Bhikkhus but the other two Nikayas admit men belonging to the lower castes if they desire to join the order. But among the Tamilians, caste system is rigidly followed and untouchability practised in the Jaffana area which is predominantly Hindu (Tamalian). Society is divided into two major groups, namely clean castes and unclean castes. Among the unclean castes are included Palla (potter), Seneer (weaver), Parriyar, Kadaiyan (lime burner), Chikkalyan (leather worker and sweeper), Vunnan (washer man) and Thurumba etc. Upper castes (Vellala, Brahmin, Chetty etc.) treat them as Untouchables. Present conflict has temporarily obliterated the differences but after the trouble has subsided caste feelings revive.

Bangla Desh

 Bangla Desh is predominantly Muslim (80%) with 4,926,448 (20%0 Hindus divided into two groups namely caste Hindus (Brahmin, Kayasthas, Baidyas etc.) and Namoshudras, Kaibartas, Hadis, Moschis, etc.). Many of the Muslims are converts from among the Untouchables and Buddhists. Yet discriminatory treatment is meted out to the untouchables in Bangla Desh. Our informants have stated that the Hindus of upper castes are treated as equals but the lower castes are discriminated in the matter of housing, employment etc.

All these countries were part of greater India until 1947 and were influenced by Hindu religion in the matter of rituals and customs.

Untouchability in India

Untouchability has not been defined by the sociologist or the legislators. At the time of discussion on ‘Untouchability Offences Act’ in Parliament when a question was raised about definition, the law minister said, ‘There is no need to define untouchability. Everybody knows it’. He was trying to avoid definition but he was telling the truth that everybody knows whom to avoid, whom to persecute. Untouchability is deeply embedded in the minds of Hindus and regulates their behaviour with other people. Stratification of society and restrictions on inter-marriage between different classes or groups are not unknown in other societies or cultures but to use the words of Dr. G.S. Ghurye, a renowned sociologist, “Hindu system is unique only in this that it alone classified some groups as untouchable and unapproachable.” Other religious groups only copied them. Since Hindus treated the scavengers, sweepers, cobblers, basket makers, weavers etc. as untouchables, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs also treated them as lowly, despised, degraded people. Since untouchability had religious sanction behind it, all efforts made by social reformers failed. Hindus avoided the discussion and foreigners did not want to take up the cause of the untouchables for fear of antagonising the Hindus. They were also taken in by the propaganda carried out by the followers of Gandhiji. Dr. Ambedkar had rightly observed, “The old orthodox Hindu doesn’t think that there is anything wrong in the observance of untouchability. To him it is normal, natural thing. As such it neither calls for expiation nor explanation. The new modern Hindu realises the wrong but he is ashamed to discuss it in public for fear of letting the foreigner know that Hindu civilisation can be guilty of such a vicious and infamous system or social code as evidenced by untouchability.”

Mass conversion of Untouchables to Christianity and Islam and growing importance of number in the politics of India coupled with criticism of Hindu society by Western writers, sociologists, travellers etc.,  led Hindus to introduce certain changes in their social system. While they wanted to remove untouchability, they did not want Hinduism and caste system to suffer in any way because Hinduism is sustained by caste system. If caste system goes, Hinduism cannot survive for long. On the other hand Hindus have developed a vested interest in Untouchability and caste system. More than 75% population of India is illiterate and people sincerely believe that caste is god-made and there is no hope or scope for change. Any laws made by man are interference in the God’s work. Hindu law makers had made elaborate laws and rules to keep Untouchables in degraded condition perpetually. Economic measures were adopted to perpetuate degradation, segregation and poverty. Laws were framed and strictly enforced to keep them divided, dispirited, poor, ignorant, illiterate and physically weak. They were not allowed to acquire wealth; higher interest was charged on loans; good, wholesome, nutritious food proscribed so that they may not grow strong. Right to bear arms was denied so they may never revolt. Low wages and excessive work was prescribed so they may have no leisure. Identity marks and symbols were prescribed so that even by mistake pure Hindus may not eat ot drink with them. This system was rigidly followed by the Hindus for centuries. Even Muslims did not disturb it. British especially after the sepoy mutiny of 1857 for fear of antagonising the Hindus tried to maintain those laws and enforce them through courts of law.

Progressive Western educated Hindus however felt uneasy and promised to bring about changes after attaining independence. Accordingly provisions were incorporated in the constitution abolishing untouchability and certain ameliorative provisions such as reservation in legislature, services of Union Government and states, educational institutions etc. Untouchables were subjected to some inhuman laws like forced labour in rural area. A provision to abolish slavery of this kind was made in the constitution but the law was enacted in 1976. Millions of Rupees were provided for the economic upliftment of the Untouchables in the Five Year Plans.

In spite of these laws the Untouchables suffer from numerous disabilities especially in smaller towns and villages of India. Untouchables don not have well in thousands of villages and upper caste people do not allow them to dig wells. Untouchables have to beg for water from a distance lest their shadow should pollute the upper caste Hindus. Sometime the water pipes are laid and stopped a few yards short of the Untouchable locality. The present writer struggled for seven years to get a public hydrant installed in a village of Himachal Pradesh while every Minister or even the Chief Minister announced that water had been provided.

If the Untouchables demand higher wages in villages, the caste Hindus pour filth or kerosene in the wells so as to starve them of water. Untouchability is widely practised. A mild and harmless law which was neither educative nor awarded deterrent punishment was enacted in 1955 under the title ‘Untouchable Offences Act, 1955’. This proved to be ineffective. This law was amended and passed as Protection of Civil Liberties Act 1976 containing a provision of minimum punishment. Owing to illiteracy of Untouchables majority of whom live in the rural areas, very few cases are reported and a very small number reaches the courts of law. Untouchability in worst form is practised in the Hindi region but the largest number of cases is registered in the state where the Scheduled castes people are awakened and better organised.

Of all the countries where untouchability is practised India has the best of laws and the most generous provisions in her constitution. British had introduced quota system with a view to giving share in administration to all religious groups and other minorities. Untouchables were however denied a share on the plea that there were no educated men available. Through the efforts of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar undisputed leader of the Untouchables ‘reservation in services’ was introduced in respect of the Untouchables also in 1943 during the vicerolty of Lord Linlithgow. Later o provision was made in respect of the Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes but reservation in favour of other minorities was abolished. During the early years there was little resistance because very few qualified people were available to fill up the reserved seats. Resistance was offered by non-implementation of government orders, or by declaring that suitable candidate was not available or if available ‘not found suitable’ and also through courts of law by filing writ petition. Since 1974 organise resistance is being offered by the upper caste employees who have enjoying monopoly of all government jobs. Private sector does not employ the Scheduled Caste people, excepting in the lowly, low paid and degrading situations. Table below gives some idea of the success in the part of the opponents of the reservation:

Quota Reserved

15%

Reservation given in

Class 1 = 4.95%                        Class 11 = 8.54%

Class 111=13.44%                     Class 1V = 19.46%

Discriminatory treatment is being meted out to the Scheduled Caste people in the matter of recognition of their unions on the plea that it is the policy of the government that ‘communal’ organisations of employees will not be recognised. On the other hand organisations of the Hindu employees who are opposed to the reservation have the support and blessing of administration as well as the political parties, especially of those who have their base among the middle classes of Hindus.

Scheduled Castes (statutory title of the Untouchables) is an artificially created minority under the constitution.  Names of castes can be deleted or added by the president. Pressure is mounting now through press to delete the names of more awakened and better organised castes. Majority of the Untouchables (about 76%) live in 568,000 villages of India. In some places they are allotted land by the government. Dr. Ambedkar demanded nationalisation of land with collectivisation of allotment on cooperative basis. The government favoured the creation of small holdings and peasant proprietors. Fragmentation of land is non-productive but the untouchable farmers who never owned land because of the laws prohibiting possession of land in some states desire to own land. The landholding dominating upper castes do everything possible in their means to obstruct distribution of land.  Even if land is allotted, the upper caste landlords do not allow the Untouchables to take the fruit of their labour. If Untouchables demand higher wages or even the minimum wages prescribed by the Government, the upper caste landlords indulge in murders, torture, arson. Rape etc. to terrorise the poor ignorant untouchables. Thousands of men are employed as bonded labourers and kept away from the cities, police etc. Hundreds of women are forced into superstition by exploiting their ignorance, poverty and superstitious beliefs and sold into the brothels of Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Kanpur and Delhi.

Untouchables are becoming increasingly convinced that the Hindus hate them not because they perform unpleasant duties but because their religion teaches them to hate certain castes. Many embraced Christianity and Islam. Dr. Ambedkar who saw no hope of Hinduism reforming itself exhorted his people to renounce Hinduism and embrace Buddhism which he had revived in 1956. Millions of people responded to his call and embraced Buddhism. Government of India immediately issued order that if an Untouchable renounce Hinduism and embrace any religion other than Sikhism he will become disentitled to concessions and grants allowed to the Scheduled Castes. When a few hundred Untouchables in Madras embraced Islam because the Hindus harassed and humiliated them and did not allow them even to wear shoes or loin cloth which went below the knee cap, Hindu militant organisations turned riotous and burnt the huts of Untouchables and molested their women. Even Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi forgetting that she was the head of a secular government showed concern and delivered speeches discouraging the conversion of Untouchables. Some states have enacted laws making conversion difficult. Those renouncing Hinduism have to obtain a certificate from the Magistrate that the person desiring conversion to Islam or Christianity is doing it voluntarily. Police is dominated by the upper landholding castes of Hindus and is generally hostile towards the Untouchables. Indian Penal code contains certain provisions under which police have power to arrest and detain a person if he has no ostentatious means of livelihood. This in a country where majority of the people have no employment, house or shelter of any kind. Police abuses its powers especially against the Untouchables and many people are killed or incapacitated through torture in police custody.

Hinduism have closed the doors of armed forces to the Untouchables for ever. Untouchables were admitted to the armed forces of Islam after embracing Islam which many did. During early decades of their rule, British recruited Untouchables in their armies but after sometime they began to close the doors especially in central India and Bengal under pressure from the high castes of Hindus. They introduced the pernicious theory of ‘martial races and non-martial races’. Later on they disbanded the Untouchable armies and raise class regiments recruiting men belonging to upper castes. Indian government has not completely abolished the class regiments and has officially removed the ban on recruitment. But Government have not taken any measure to change the mode of recruitment. Recruiting officers, mostly belonging to peasant castes owing to to deep rooted prejudices based on caste and their medical; officers invariably ask a man’s caste and reject him on medical grounds. Untouchables have little share in army (0.44% in officers cadre and 10.62% in other ranks), 7.63% in other ranks of navy and 0.156% in officers cadre and 2.568% in other ranks.

Untouchables have the equal right to vote and contest elections. 79 seats are reserved in the House of the People (Lok Sabha) out of the total number of 542. Out of a total strength of 3997 members in the state legislatures and Union Territories 540 belong to the Scheduled Castes.   On paper the number appears to be very impressive but owing to the election system of the country it is the majority community which elects the representatives of the candidates. In the rural areas the Untouchables can not exercise their right to vote freely and independently. Very often police protection has to be provided. After the election heavy price has to be paid tb the Untouchables if the members of higher castes owning land feel that they did not get the support of the support of the Untouchables.

 Violation in Villages

Scheduled castes in the rural areas demand land, better wages, right to wear dress according to their liking, assert the rights granted under the constitution. Hindus on the hand want to maintain status quo in all fields. Tensions arise and often result in confrontation. Landlords have raised armies of trained men released from army and police to terrorise the Untouchables landless labourers. Police protects the strong against the poor. Government through its machinery and religious policies strengthens casteism and superstition because it helps the ruling classes. Leaders of struggle are picked up and either involved in false criminal cases or murdered by the police in encounters. Men, women and children have been massacred and burnt alive whenever they put up resistance against oppression. Men have been killed for offering Ganges water in a shrine. A man was killed in Aligarh (UP) for affixing the word Chauhan to his name. Women’s toes were crushed for wearing rings. Man was killed for twirling moustaches. In Meenakshipuram where mass conversion to Islam took place, men were not allowed to sit beside the upper caste men in the state buses, nor allowed to walk through the streets; women were punished for wearing sandals. In Kafalta 11 persons were done to death for crime of riding a horse in marriage procession and for using palanquin. The incidents of violence in the villages have been showing an upward trend for the last five years:

Year                 No. of incidents of atrocities

  • 6197
  • 10,879
  • 15,055
  • 15,070
  • 13,341

Recent figures are not available but the Home Minister Mr. N.R. Laskar during the last session stated that the number was showing an increase but during the Monsoon session of last week, he said that number of incidents has fallen considerably. Figures furnished by the Government do not represent the fact. These represent only a tip of the iceberg because many of the cases remain unreported. Untouchables feel very insecure owing to the growing resentment against the declared policies and programmes of the government which are very rarely accompanied by implementation. Bureaucracy is being blamed for non-implementation but is the government which lacks the political will to take action against those who flout the government authority.

This weakness is evident from the fact that even a simple and harmless demand by the Scheduled caste legislators in the Parliament to have a portrait installed in the Central Hall of Parliament where Dr. Ambedkar played a very important and historical role both as a member of the Executive Councillor in the Viceroys Executive Council (1942-46) and as first Law Minister and Chairman of the Constitution Drafting committee (1947-51). Government have been resisting this demand on some pretext or the other. Similarly in recognition of the great services rendered by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the field of education a unanimous decision was taken in the Maharashtra Assembly to change the name of Marathawada University to Ambedkar University. This university came into existence chiefly owing to the establishment of three colleges by Dr. Ambedkar in the most backward region of Marathawada of Maharashtra. Orthodox Hindus in the region felt offended and instigated the illiterate and ignorant villagers that now ‘Ambedkar’ an Untouchable will enter your houses in the form of degrees and diploma certificates and you will have to repeat his name. As a result many houses of Buddhist converts were looted. Women molested, old men insulted, buildings demolished or set on fire and some people killed. Hundreds of men were forced to leave their villages and seek shelter in the towns, railway platforms, footpaths etc. Government could not implement its decision and the oppressor won the field. Untouchables and Buddhists continue the agitation with unshaken determination.

In spite of the that Indian Constitution has the most liberal provision, Government have failed to implement its own declared programmes and policies for the removal of untouchability and upliftment of the deprived and disadvantaged section of society. Prejudices can not be removed merely through legislation. Religious policy of the government is discriminatory and is based in favour of Hinduism and Sikhism and prejudicial to the religions like Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. Government in accord with the wishes of the orthodox Hindus has used coercive measures to check the conversion of Untouchables to Buddhism lest they should unite and organise themselves for struggle. Present policy of the government appears to be based on the tenets of Hinduism. Methods may have changed but the aim of the Hindu law makers and religious leaders have not changed. Anything which the untouchables consider good for then is vehemently resisted and opposed. Whatever goes to make them week, dispirited, disunited and dependent is encouraged.

Proposals

  1. A commission should be set up to investigate and submit a report on the practice of Untouchability in the countries wherever it is practised.
  2. Action should be taken against countries and institutions who encourage this practice an the name of religion and custom.
  3. Government should be asked to eliminate discrimination against the despised and segregated groups in the matter of freedom of religion.
  4. To set up a commission to monitor the activities of government and religious groups in the countries where untouchability is practised.
  5. Governments of the countries where the Hindus and Sikhs have migrated and practise untouchability and discrimination against the Untouchables should be approached to enact laws to discourage this practice.
  6. A separate office should be set up to receive cases of untouchability and disability and the states concerned should be asked to report what measures they have taken to eliminate discrimination in their respective countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RISING ATROCITIES AGAINST DALITS IN INDIA PRESS RELEASE 18 August 2016


We, the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, Asian Rationalists, AWAAZ South Asia Network, Bhagwan Valmik Mandirs (Bedford, Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Southall, Wolverhampton), Dr Ambedkar Buddhist organisation Birmingham UK, Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK, IndiaMattersUK, India Workers Association GB, Indian Scheduled Caste Welfare Association UK, Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha (Bedford, Derby), Shri Guru Ravidass Cultural Association Darlaston, The Monitoring Group, strongly condemn the increasing violence against Dalits and minorities in India.

We also condemn the rise in the so-called ‘cow vigilantism’ in a country paradoxically the top exporter of beef in the world1, the rise in ‘Hindu nationalism’ and the failure of the authorities to provide legal justice and redress to victims and to eradicate Caste-based discrimination. We stand in solidarity with protests in Una, Gujarat and around the world including the UK and the USA against these rising atrocities.

Today we have submitted a Joint Statement to the UK Government asking them to call on the Government of India to take stern action against the perpetrators and prosecute government and police officials responsible for aiding and abetting these criminals, and to implement the laws that outlaw Untouchablity and the laws aimed at helping uplift Dalits and Scheduled Tribes.

We have also submitted a Joint Statement to the United Nations High Commissioner (UN HC) for Human Rights and UN Secretary General, asking them to intervene and send a team immediately to investigate the situation on the ground in Una, Gujarat and look into Caste-based discrimination in India. Both Navi Pillay2 the previous UN HC, and the current HC, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein have both highlighted the need to tackle Caste-based inequality3.

Our specific calls to the Government of India are that they must:

  1. Take swift and robust action against the dominant caste perpetrators violating the human rights of Dalits and minorities
  2. Conduct an open and transparent investigation under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 and prosecute those Government and police officials who are found to have aided and abetted criminals

iii. Robustly implement the Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts mandated in the SC ST Act, 2015 for speedy trials

  1. Take swift action to deal with the unacceptable shortage of judges that is impacting negatively on access to justice 4
  2. Fully implement the Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) and discharge the allocation of funds due to Dalits for their upliftment. Ensure there is full transparency and accountability in the expenditure of the funds that is not only focused on ‘survival’ schemes like food, hostels etc, but also allocated for skill development for modern jobs that will help the social and economic mobility of Dalits and Scheduled Tribes.

Notes to Editors: More background information on next page.

Contact Santosh Dass, 00447902806342 infoacda@googlemail.com fabo@ambedkar.org.uk

Background

On 11 July, four Dalit men were partly stripped, tied to a car and subjected to what was nothing short of a public flogging captured on film by cow vigilantes for skinning a dead cow in Una, Gujarat. This raised memories of historical accounts of public floggings of Black slaves in America. In Gujarat and other states in India, the Dalit community involved in traditional jobs are now being targeted by the dominant caste groups under the guise of cow protection and Hindu nationalism. Caste apartheid and economic factors already force Dalits into descent-based occupations that include cleaning of the dead animal carcasses, tanning of leather, bonded labour and manual scavenging. When Dalits assert their human rights to an education or to better jobs, the dominant caste groups are finding new ways to terrorize them including public floggings, harassing families, rape and punishment rape, stripping Dalit women and parading them naked in the streets, and social exclusion in villages5. PhD student Rohit Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad this January is but one of most prominent of many examples.

The Government promises of uplifting the Dalits and Scheduled Castes by way of a legally mandated Scheduled Castes Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) funds are failing. According to the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), only a third of the already truncated funds are allocated to Dalits and SCs – ‘Two thirds are non-targeted and notional allocations ‘retro-budgeting’ i.e. funds spent on some scheme that covers the whole population and then claims are made that that it must have benefited dalits and adivasis too.’6 The RSS and Hindutva extremists have free reign under successive Governments but visibly more so under the current Indian Government, threatening secularism in India and promoting an unhealthy form of nationalism. The fundamental right to choose one’s faith, what one eats or wears, who one marries and the freedom of speech are rapidly being eroded. The Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen at this June’s Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations UK’s Conference summed up the political environment in India. He said “one issue that keeps coming up in India is people being branded as anti-national for not toeing a particular line” “I would say Caste is anti-national because it ‘divides the nation.”7 There is clear evidence that atrocities against Dalits continue to increase. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have reported the highest rates against Scheduled Castes show an almost 40% increase of crime against Dalits all over India between 2011 and 2014.8 In 2015, Gujarat reported the highest crime rate against Dalits up a staggering 163.3% (6,655 cases) followed by Chhattisgarh at 91.9% (3,008 cases). UP reported the most number of cases of crime against Dalits at 8,946. Sexual assaults against women and rape are top crimes against scheduled castes. It’s a form of control society that is honour-based. These crime figures are just the tip of the iceberg. Many crimes are not reported. Many that are reported to the authorities are not processed by officials and the police. As a result they do not feature in the official records. We will continue to monitor such atrocities and demand justice for the victims of Caste oppression.

1 http://beef2live.com/story-world-beef-exports-ranking-countries-0-106903

2 http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13973&LangID=E

3 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/OHCHRreport2015/allegati/1_Foreword_HC_2015.pdf

4 http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/judges-shortage-pending-cases-inefficient-management-2967172/

5 http://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/dalit-violence-gujarat-gau-rakshaks-2930876/

6 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/budget-2015/union-budget-2015/Union-Budget-2015-Govt-doesnt-allocate-mandated-plan-outlays-for-dalits-adivasis/articleshow/46376059.cms?from=mdr

7 http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/amartya-sen-indian-caste-system-anti-national-london-school-of-economics-2857296/

8 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/crime-against-scheduled-castes-steep-spike-in-gujarat-most-number-of-cases-in-up/articleshow/53329482.cms

 

Forest and Police departments together destroying the crops of Adivasi families in Yellandu division of Khammam district in Telangana, alleging that Adivasis encroached forest lands. – Photos and information provided by Nalamasa Krishna


HRF demands investigation into the encounter of gangster Nayeemuddin


Press Release 9-8-2016 Hyderabad    The Human Rights Forum (HRF) demands that those police personnel who participated in the alleged encounter killing of Mohd. Nayeemuddin near Shadnagar in Mahbubnagar district on August 8, 2016 be booked under relevant provisions of the IPC including murder. The investigation into the case must be conducted by an agency as independent as possible of the Telangana and AP police. The version of the police that Nayeemuddin died in an exchange of fire with the police and that the police only retaliated and fired in self-defence leading to his death, cannot be the last word in the matter. While we hold absolutely no brief for Mohd. Nayeemuddin, we wish to make the point that whether his death is the result of a genuine exchange of fire or an extra-judicial killing by the police has to be determined in a court of law. The court is the proper authority to decide upon the veracity or otherwise of the police version. It will not do for the police to simply put out an ‘encounter’ story and wash their hands of the matter.    Mohd. Nayeemuddin was possibly the most notorious and vicious of the criminal counter-insurgent gangs that operated and terrorised society with total impunity since over two decades. It is an open secret that these gangs, and Nayeemuddin in particular, enjoyed State patronage. His is the most glaring case of the State managing to co-opt militants who had earlier worked in Naxalite parties and then encouraged to form paramilitary gangs. He was allowed to operate as a virtual don, settling private land and business disputes with the undisguised use of violence, making a fortune for himself and his associates with the police benignly looking on and perhaps even taking a share of the gains. These armed gangs would also regularly issue threatening and abusive statements in the Press demanding of activists of various democratic organisations that they forthwith give up their activity.     There is very little doubt that it was Nayeemuddin’s gang that killed T. Purushotham of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee (APCLC) on 23-11-2000 in Hyderabad, and Md. Azam Ali of the same organisation at Nalgonda on 18-2-2001. Nayeemuddin personally participated in the kidnapping of Dr G. Lakshman, then President of APCLC, on 6-11-2003 in the aftermath of the near-fatal attack on the then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu near Tirupati on 1-10-2003 by the Peoples War. Dr. Lakshman was tortured and forced to deny the kidnapping and the torture. Nayeemuddin’s outfit would also regularly issue threatening and abusive statements in the Press demanding of activists of various democratic organisations that they forthwith give up their activity.   We believe that successive governments’ had ample chance all these years to arrest this gangster but chose not to do so. This is because he was doing the State’s bidding and there was close nexus between several high ranking policemen and Nayeemuddin. We recall that complete disarming of these killer gangs was one of the demands raised during the six month period in the later half of the year 2004 when there was a cease-fire between the police and the Maoists and some attempt at a dialogue was made. However, nothing happened.   The HRF, in particular late K Balagopal, has time and again pointed out that such criminal gangs, actively abetted by the State, should have no place in a civilised society. We have consistently campaigned against the phenomenon of private gangs operating in the name of ‘Tigers’ and ‘Cobras’ and killing people with impunity in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. We have, along with other rights organisations across the country, pointed to the dangers of the State deliberately encouraging private militias and standing silently by as they committed murders and forced activists of democratic organisations by public threats to resign and become inactive.   HRF also demands that a comprehensive enquiry be held to unearth facts of the nexus between such criminal gangs and the police.   VS Krishna                                                                           S Jeevan Kumar (HRF general secretary, TS&AP)                              (HRF president, TS&AP)       

FIR filed against BJP MLA Raja Singh for abusing and threatening Dalits in context of Una incident. 


Mallanna Sagar protest turns bloody


Telangana Utsav Committee

Police cane villagers, lob tear gas shells as Mallanna Sagar protest turns bloody

Express News Service, 25 July 2016

SANGAREDDY: The Mallanna Sagar project oustees agitation took a ‘bloody’ turn on Sunday with police caning the villagers, resulting in injuries to dozens of people. Police opened fire in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.

All Opposition parties called for Medak district bandh on Monday protesting against the police action against the villagers. It is alleged that the police caned the villagers, including women and children indiscriminately, and even dragged people out of their houses and beat them up.

lathicharge against mallanna sagar ousteesWomen fell unconscious after being lathicharged during a protest | Express photo

Two of the submergence villages, Erravelli and Vemulaghat, resembled war zone with the locals fighting a pitched battle with police throughout most part of the day. Trouble began when some villagers of Vemulaghat…

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HRF Demands criminal prosecution of police involved in Gumudumaha killings


Press Release                                                 20-7-2016

Bhubaneswar    We demand that personnel of the Special Operations Group (SOG) who participated in the macabre firing that resulted in the death of five civilians of Gumudumaha village in Paranpanga panchayat of Tumdibandha block in Kandhamal district of Odisha on July 8, 2016 be duly charged under relevant provisions of the IPC as well as those of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and criminally prosecuted. A four-member team of the Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan (GASS, Odisha) and the Human Rights Forum (HRF, AP and Telangana) visited Gumudumaha village on July 17 and spoke with local residents including eyewitnesses to the killings. Over 15 residents of the village had hired an auto-rickshaw at Balliguda on the evening of July 8 to take them to their village. Most of them were returning home after having collected their MGNREGS wages at the sub-divisional headquarters (Balliguda). At about 8.20 pm the auto was close to the village but had to get over a steep incline. The passengers got down and while the women, two of them carrying infant sons, walked ahead, the men pushed the auto up the kutcha road. Upon reaching the top, the women first began to get into the auto when SOG personnel lying in wait amidst bushes not more than 10 to 15 metres away to the left of the road opened fire with no warning whatsoever. Five people, including three women, and a two-year old boy were killed instantly while seven others were wounded, five of them seriously. The dead and wounded belong to the adivasi Kondh and the Scheduled Caste Pano communities. Every single person that our team spoke to (those who were at the spot that night) stated emphatically that the firing only emanated from the left and that there was no firing from the other side of the road. This clearly rules out the possibility of any exchange of fire. Soon after the firing began, those who were not hit ran to the village which was not more than 200 metres. Within a few minutes they rushed back with other residents to the spot only to find the dead. They carried the injured back to their homes in the village where five of the seriously hurt spent the entire night in pain, terror and delirium. Those who died in this gruesome firing are two-year old Jehad Digal who was hit by a bullet that went through his stomach, three women Kimuri Mallick (35), Bimbuli Mallick (45) and Midiali Mallick (40) and Kukala Digal (42) who was the former sarpanch of Paranpanga. Though it was a cloudy night and there was no moonlight, the two head-lights of the auto were switched on and from where the SOG personnel lay in wait, they could easily see that it was civilians who were by the auto. That the SOG still resorted to firing upon a group of unarmed villagers reflects a mind-set that can only be described as morbid. When the villagers went to the spot the next morning, the SOG personnel disallowed them from moving the bodies. They even disallowed them from taking the injured in the village for treatment. On the other hand, no effort was made by the administration to shift those who were hurt to hospital. It was only after several adivasi and dalit organisations in Tumdibandha block raised an outcry and held protests that the injured were allowed to be taken to hospital. While two of the injured remained in the village since their wounds were very minor, the other five were carried by the villagers on foot and they reached the road point at Kurtamgarh, a good 15 km away, by the afternoon of July 9. Four of the injured are now being treated at MKCG Hospital in Berhampur. They are Luka Digal and his wife Sunita who are parents of the two-year deceased boy Jehad, Tempu Mallick (50) and Gottisi Digal (35). Bannomali Mallick (35), who is in a serious condition, is in the SCB Medical College, Cuttack. In what can only be described as extreme luck, Kajanti Mallick (22), who was holding her 17-month son Krishna in her arms, got away with a bullet only scraping her left calf. Sahalu Mallick also escaped with a splinter on his back. As is their habit, the police put out the customary concoction of an exchange of fire with the Maoists. The official version is that a 15-member joint drive by the police and SOG based on intelligence inputs about Maoists presence in the area was fired upon by the latter who had positioned themselves atop a hillock. The SOG, who were approaching the hillock, retaliated in self-defence. While the exchange was going on, an auto-rickshaw that was passing by got stuck in the mud forcing the passengers to alight and therefore the helpless villagers got trapped in the crossfire! This is pure nonsense. To describe these killings, like some in the security establishment are doing, as “an engagement with the Maoists gone horribly wrong” is to miss the point. This is by no means an isolated case. During our joint fact-findings over the past few years (the list is given below) we have found that special forces, whether the CRPF, SOG or BSF have killed 17 persons, most of them adivasis and all unarmed civilians, in the South Odisha districts of Kalahandi, Rayagada, Koraput , Kandhamal and Gajapati. Almost a year ago, on July 26, 2015, CRPF personnel shot dead Dhubeswar Nayak (50) and his wife Bubhudi Nayak (45) near their village Pangalapadar in Madaguda panchayat of Kotagarh block, also in Kandhamal district. The couple were on a hill-top about half a km from their village speaking over the mobile with their sons who were in Kerala when they were murdered by the SOG. They were atop the hill since that is the only place where mobiles phones can pick up BSNL signals and like many of Pangalapadar residents they make the climb occasionally to avail of the facility. Till date, no official has visited the village nor has any meaningful investigation taken place. On that occasion too public protests forced the government to hand over meagre compensation to the family but there has been no initiation of criminal proceedings against the killer SOG personnel. If those responsible for such deliberate and wanton killings been brought to book, would the Gumudumaha killings have happened? We have conducted fact-findings into each one of these incidents and found them to be cases of unilateral firing by the security forces. These deaths of civilians can only be described as murders. The sad reality, however, is that in not a single one of these cases have those who perpetrated the crime been criminally prosecuted though it is a basic requirement of law. Mere quibbling over standard operating procedures will not be of much use. What is required is accountability. The government of Odisha persists with the undemocratic policy of continuing to treat the Maoist movement as an outbreak of criminality which can be sorted out with the deployment of more and more security forces armed to the teeth. This was once again echoed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik during the recent Inter-State Council meet in Delhi where he described “left wing extremism is the biggest threat” and sought deployment of even more troops to meet it. While the impunity given to these special police is a matter of serious concern to society at large, to those residing in the 5th Scheduled districts of South Odisha it is a matter of life and death. Small wonder that we heard the uniform plea by local residents that they wanted an immediate withdrawal of para military forces from the region.  We have consistently made the point that the Maoist movement is a political movement that has to be met politically. Any response by the police to the violence by Maoists has to be within the ambit of the law without trampling upon people’s rights. A day after the full horror and inhumanity of the Gumudumaha killings had sunk in, the Odisha Chief Minister made the customary noises of “deep regret and unfortunate deaths” and proceeded to announce compensation and employment of sorts to a family member of those killed. This, however, does not meet the ends of justice. For that to happen a diligent criminal investigation is a requisite. This must be done by an agency as independent as possible of the local police. We consider the SIT constituted by the State DGP to investigate the deaths as a mere eyewash. We cannot accept policemen sitting in enquiry on the homicidal deeds of their fellow policemen. A judicial enquiry into the killings is no substitute for a proper criminal investigation by an independent authority. We recall the slaughter of 17 adivasi civilians at Sarkeguda village in Bijapur district of South Chattisgarh on June 28, 2012 by security forces. The political dispensation in power then and now in that State is the BJP. Four years down the line, the judicial probe ordered in that case is yet to be completed. We demand that: SOG personnel who participated in the killing on five civilians near Gumudumaha village on July 8 be booked under provisions of the IPC including murder as well as relevant sections of the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and criminally prosecuted. The investigation into this case must be handed over to the CBI. Compensation amounts must be enhanced considerably than what have been being announced. The same procedure is to be followed in all the other five cases cited below. The government must desist from viewing the Maoist movement through a purely law and order prism. It must acknowledge that it is primarily a political movement and deal with it politically.   VS Krishna (HRF, AP-TS)                                       Deba Ranjan (GASS, Odisha)   GASS-HRF fact-finding team members: Deba Ranjan and Debi Prasanna (Members, Ganatantrik Adhikar Surakhya Sangathan, GASS), VS Krishna (general secretary, Human Rights Forum, HRF) and K Sudha (HRF executive committee member).   List of killings of civilians by security forces in South Odisha: July 8, 2016. Jehad Digal, Kimuri Mallick, Bimbuli Mallick, Midiali Mallick and Kukala Digal of Gumudumaha village of Paranpanga panchayat in Tumdibandha block of Kandhamal district. Shot dead by SOG.  February 27, 2016, Manda Kadraka of Rangamati village in Parsali panchayat, Kalyansingpur block, Rayagada district, shot dead by SOG. November 16, 2015, Harishankar Nayak, Sukru Majhi and Jaya Majhi of Nisanguda area in Jugsaipatna panchayat of Kalahandi district. Shot dead by CRPF. July 26, 2015, Dhubeswar Nayak and his wife Bubhudi Nayak of Pangalapadar village of Madaguda panchayat in Kotagarh block of Kandhamal district. Shot dead by SOG. October 29, 2013, Gangadhar Kirsani of Litiput village in Gunnepada panchayat of Lamtaput block, Koraput district. Shot dead by BSF. November 14, 2012, Aiba Padra of Bujuli village in Gadhapur panchayat, Shyamson Majhi of Bhingiriguda in Saramuli panchayat, Ghasiram Bagsingh of Mardhipanka village, Saramuli panchayat, Sanathan Mallick of Gaheju village in Hatimunda panchayat, all in Daringabadi block of Kandhamal district and Laxmi Kanta Nayak of Lujuramunda village in Bahadasahi panchayat of Tikabali block in Kandhamal district. All five were shot dead by SOG.   (This is by no means an exhaustive list. We have mentioned only those cases that we have elicited facts about.)

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