Two Day National Colloquium to deliberate On “Transcending Identities and Ideologies to Assert Human And Constitutional Rights” Of the DAMNed Communities.
Dates: 27th – 28th April’2015
Venue: Sarvodaya Ashram,
Dharampet Chowk, Near Bhole Petrol Pump
Amravati Road, Nagpur– 440 010, Maharashtra State
National Alliance of Dalit Organisations (NADO), 202, Prithvi Complex, Street No. 8
Habsiguda- 500 007, Telangana State
Background and Context:
During the 10 years of UPA, we saw a number of enactments; like NREGA, RTI, RTE, MS, LAA, NSSA, FRA, NFSA and DVA to name a few. Some of them certainly focussed on the interests of the Dalit, Adivasi Minority (MBCs), Nomads (DAMNed) communities. However, there was also the SEZ Act, which infringes not only on the livelihood and habitation rights of the people but also on their self-image and identity. In spite of the several pro-people legislations enacted by the INC, the people voted it out as they believed that the Government was in fact working to safeguard the corporate interests at the cost of the abovementioned groups, no matter the protestation to the contrary by legislations.
The present NDA government which came to power promising ‘Good Days’ to the people, seems to be undermining even the formation of those legislations in toto. Ever since the present Govt was seated in power, we have seen what it tried to do with the NREGA, the labour laws and what it is doing with the revised Land Acquisition Act of 2013, which was enacted on the demand of the people, represented by several people’s organisations across the nation. Looking at these ways one gets an anxiety that they might also tinker with the Indian Constitution in its basics (we may recall that the NDA1 tried to review the IC but had to rollback due to public, particularly Dalit community, pressures). If the present Govt succeeds in their present attempts, Swaraj will be in peril. and people’s livelihoods and security will be at stake.
As we are aware, we are nearing the 125th birth centenary of Dr. B R Ambedkar. It is a good time to come together to deliberate what the DAMNed communities have got or not so far in Independent India, and what could be done to ameliorate the sufferings of millions of the poor who are still anxiously waiting for some one to knock at their doors, and lead them on the road to Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, provide Justice and assure them that they could live in Peace.
Understanding the DAMNed:
The Dalits Adivasis Minority (MBCs) and Nomads are placed in the lowest rungs of the social ladder and are subjected to all forms of denial, rejection, hatred, discrimination, marginalization coupled with untouchability practices even among their communities. In this context, some of us were trying to find out how do we take a path towards annihilation of caste, so as to work in collaboration, if not in unison. Hence, it is imperative at this juncture to revisit the identities and come together to understand each other and forge a larger alliance of the people and the groups to demand and fulfil the aspirations of the vulnerable in the society.
According to some, people in India might have 3 identities, such as: 1. Historical, 2. Social / religious and 3. Legal: these are subject to debate. For, example, A person who came from an erstwhile untouchable background (Historical), but born into a Christian faith (Social / religious), who will be supposedly be in the BC’C’ category (Legal), which is quite confusing and leading to indifference all round. If we consider that the status of present day:
Dalits, erstwhile untouchables ( in comparison to the above example), were to be in the Scheduled Caste (SC) list, the person above will not have a place SC list as he or she practices Christian faith. This position will also rightly apply to any person who may be practising Islamic faith, whose ancestors were from the erstwhile untouchables. We can postulate that all the erstwhile untouchables were not allowed into the list of the scheduled castes and all those who are listed in it are not necessarily from the untouchable background. However there are also complaints that the fruits of the governmental programs available to the SCs are being cornered only by some communities.
Adivasis, the primitive tribal groups who were living and protecting the forests and the environment since centuries, were to be in the Scheduled Tribes (ST) list, but we are aware that some communities, who were not the PTGs, were included in the ST list in some states, for political reasons. Opposing this trend, organisations like Adivasi Yuva Shakti (AYS), are trying to resist inclusion of non PTGs in the ST list.
Minorities, those practicing Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Buddhism are given the minority status in the country. We are aware that people who embraced these faiths have done so (some believe that they once were Hindus) to escape the tyranny of inequality, oppression, exploitation, injustice and enslavement due to the sanctified caste system. However it is a fact that these religious groups have not totally rid themselves of their caste identities and as a result are meted with unequal and unfair treatment by the state.
MBCs, those communities who are otherwise known as fisher people, Barbers, Dhobis etc, who involved in production as well as providing services to the people.
Nomads, a vast group of servile masses moving around all through the year from place to place with their families from generation to generations. Society takes a romantic view of their wandering life style. As the most recent knockers on the doors of the advanced civilized society, carrying with them their nomad identity, all forms of livelihood and survival options are shut for them and they are losing out to the hierarchical caste and class system in India, thus getting the worst of both the worlds.
In this peculiar, but challenging juncture, it should be the call of conscience of the humanity to explore whether these most vulnerable, neglected and forgotten human beings can be blended into a single social identity, and help them seek a viable and sustainable economic livelihood, and live a secure and dignified human life.
Government of India and the state governments do not seem to have a clear picture about them, and so have done more harm and injustice to these people by dividing them and including them in different categories i.e. Some into upper caste OC and BC categories, some into SC and the rest into ST categories while many of these groups are practioners of Islamic faith: it is ridiculous to note that an OC/OBC categorized nomad (who should therefore be regarded upper Caste) is ostracized by being put in a new category and counted as inferior and untouchable. Interestingly and amazingly, it is not established clearly as to who a nomad is, what is his/her caste or clan to identify with, what is his/her anthropological genesis, and therefore where and how the nomad has to survive.
However much we want to stay away from the debates of identities of caste, class and religion, we are often dragged into and are told that one belongs to so and so. People have an overt or covert craving for the caste identity and would not allow themselves to even try to find out if there are other ways of opting for alternative identities.
While the above being the situation of the social groups, the status of women in every category is very much deplorable and pathetic as they are faced with multiple problems because of their caste, class and gender, because of the patriarchy — no matter the identity opted or attributed.
Even after 68 years of Independence, the infirmities persist though abolished by law such as, practice of Untouchability, Bonded Labour, Child Labour, Child Marriages, Jogini / Devadasi, and Manual Scavenging, Human trafficking etc. There are also the concerns of issues thrown up by the Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG) like, Open cast mining, SEZs, construction of major irrigation dams, corridors, Outer Ring Roads and the Development Induced Displacement(DID), leading to eviction of people from their livelihoods and habitats, forcing them to migrate to other places to eke out a living.
The other challenge is the, protection of the secular fabric of the society, respecting the sentiments of the religious minorities: Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and others — and guaranteeing their safety and security covering their life and property by providing full protection. Besides we have the issues of Global warming and Climate change, of which the socially deprived are the first victims: this also needs to be addressed on a war footing as our duty for the future generations.
Forced labour and Migration:
People in large numbers from rural areas migrate to cities, in search of livelihoods during off season. Further, there is also high incidence of non-payment of minimum wages even though there is a law in the country, for payment under the Minimum Wages Act since 1948; violation also attracts the provisions of the Bonded Labour Act’1976 in the Farm Sector. We all are aware that the MNREGA workers are not paid as per the MW Act.
Besides, due to the increase in construction and Real estate industry poor people (Children, Women and Men) go to urban areas and are being engaged in Brick kilns, burning trees for coal, and also for captive fishing in the river belts.
Who go out from one state and all those who are migrating to states other than theirs, must be ensured a dignified life, and for this, stringent implementation, of the Bonded Labour Act’1976 and Child Labour Act is essential: stress should be on implementation of Inter State Migration Act and Minimum Wages Act to provide proper working conditions and security. All the laws and legislations should be strictly adhered to, and the perpetrators of banned practices should be brought to book, and justice delivered to the victims.
Provisions for redressal of the issues:
Apart from already mentioned laws and acts in the legal system as also several policies and programs, which are supposed to work in favour of these communities, there are international covenants brought in by United Nations (UN). Programs are there galore that have been designed on the basis of reports and recommendations of commissions and committees appointed from time to time, such as Ranganath Mishra Commission, Sachar Committee and Balkrishna Renke Commission etc. There are special provisions under the law for the SCs/STs which work towards protection of their rights and also to better their economic status. But the question we too look at is : are the rights of these communities being really protected and justice delivered? are the programs reaching the doors of the communities who deserve them ?
Who can participate and How?
Activists, social workers, movement leaders, government officials (working and retired), NGOs/ CBOs, INGOs, Donors and all those concerned citizens who aspire and work for lasting change which leads our society towards, Liberation, Equality and Fraternity, thus leading to a Just and Harmonious & Peaceful co-existence, with in and among Dalit Adivasi Minority (MBCs) Nomads (DAMNed) and the others.
Each participant is expected to contribute Rs 1000-00 (Rupees One Thousand Only) for the Expenses towards accommodation, venue, hospitality and others involved.
In the Meet, we intend following a different methodology:
- No keynote speeches as the issues are already flagged as above.
- We try to build fraternity in a novel way by ensuring that those who have no means of meeting each other are grouped together in small numbers. In each group would consist of asocial group of Dalits, Adivasis, Minorities, MBCs and Nomads (say 5-10) all the issues and their protagonists would be represented.
- The groups would be reshuffled once keeping intact the composition of issues and protagonists.
- The deliberations would be around the same issues in different sessions by groups of 5- 10.
- There would be reports from the groups at the end of each session: but these would be presented only in the plenary and consolidated as a common report.
The idea is that not only a programme of action will result but new compositions of solidarity groups would result so that we do not remain stunted where we were before the workshop, thus laying a path for the future different from what has been monotonously resulting in workshops in which our country abounds.
Various possible working Groups:
– Forced Labour
– Manual Scavenging
– Jogini and Devadasis
1). Mr. Vilas Bhongade, Maharashtra, Mob: 0 989 033 6873
2). Mr. Vinoth, Tamilnadu
3). Mr. Ambujakshan, Kerala
4). Mr. Sukhdev Vishwapremi, Himachal Pradesh
5). Mr. Dinesh Parmar, Gujarat
6). Mr. Ashif Sheik / Sundar Singh