Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 22.04.12
Dalit youth assaulted in Jagatsinghpur - The Pioneer
Plight of SC-ST communities ignored - IBN Live
Work on bus shelter begins - The Hindu
The politics of parks - The Hindu
She's an untouchable, but has a Midas touch - Sacramento Bee
Sunday, 22 April 2012 00:13
PNS | JAGATSINGHPUR
One Punananda Bhoi, a Dalit youth from Raghunathpur village under Baisi Mouza area in Biridi block, on Friday, was hospitalised after being assaulted by an upper class man.
Reports said that Bhoi was plucking flower from a road side garden in the wee hours when Biswajit Dash, who was passing by, saw it and objected to it. He scolded him for plucking flower citing his caste. When Bhoi objected to the unruly behaviour of Dash, the latter attacked him. Locals rescued Bhoi from Dash's wrath but by that time Bhoi had received severe bruises. Soon, he was admitted into Biridi PHC for treatment.
Meanwhile, the victim lodged an FIR in Biridi PS and police have started an investigation, informed Biridi police station IIC Manorama Mallick.
Plight of SC-ST communities ignored
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The oppressed communities should come forward in protest against the neglect towards them by successive governments, said Kerala Pulaya Maha Sabha state president T V Babu.
Speaking after inaugurating the delegates' meet as part of the 41st state meeting of the organisation, Babu said contemporary politics was ignoring the plight of the poor and SC/ST communities. The joint forum of various SC/ST organisations will gain strength in a year which will have an effect on the next Parliament elections, he said.
The KPMS will launch an intense agitation demanding a second land reform, reservation in aided schools, colleges and private sector, he said. The KPMS, SNDP and like-minded organisations will unite for a second renaissance in the state, he said. KPMS working president T K Purushan presided.
Work on bus shelter begins
A major step in bringing peace in Uthapuram
Work to construct a bus shelter at Uthapuram, a village near Madurai where a portion of the wall dividing the Dalits and caste Hindus was demolished in 2008, commenced on Saturday.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which was instrumental in the demolition, has welcomed the beginning of construction work. "Constructing the bus shelter, a long-pending demand of the Dalits, will help create a harmonious situation and unite the villagers of Uthapuram," party MLA R. Annadurai said.
The MLA said that his party had been impressing upon the State Government and the district administration to comply with the High Court directive on the issue.
"Only on Thursday, we submitted a memorandum to the Chief Secretary in Chennai on the issue. Even our party Rajya Sabha Member T. K. Rengarajan, gave his consent to provide Rs. 5 lakh from the MP's Local Area Development Fund for the purpose last week," Mr. Annadurai said.
A Chartered Accountant and a village elder, S. P. Murugesan, said that the work was likely to be completed in three weeks.
The bus shelter work is the second major step forward in bringing back peace in the village, which witnessed bouts of caste clashes over several decades, after the entry of Dalits in the local Muthalamman temple on November 11, 2011.
Land donated by Caste Hindus
Interestingly, the bus shelter would come up on a piece of land donated by the caste Hindus.
The transfer of land took place on Tuesday.
The caste Hindus and the Dalits of the village entered into a peace agreement, facilitated by the District Superintendent of Police, Asra Garg, on October 20, 2011.
While the caste Hindus agreed to give the Dalits the right to worship at the Muthalamman temple, the Dalits agreed to leave the temple management with the caste Hindus. They also wanted the police to drop criminal cases filed against people of both sides.
Mr. Murugesan wanted the Government to relax the norms to give pattas for vacant land so that the poor villagers of both sides could avail themselves of the benefits of housing schemes.
Similarly, he sought special funds to take care of sanitation, drinking water and to provide employment-oriented training for youth.
Mr. Annadurai wanted the Government to give special attention for the socio-economic development of the village like providing loans, financial assistance and taking up various development works to ensure everlasting peace in the village, besides putting into use the common pathway.
The politics of parks
Every evening hundreds of Lucknowites, with their guests from outside Lucknow, proudly throng the Ambedkar park built by the former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati. Many might not express it in words but their gleaming eyes and fallen jaws say it all! That the scenes at the parks are breathtaking! 'It is like walking in a foreign country,' somebody remarked. In a city with narrow lanes and congested and crumbling old structures, Dr. Ambedkar Park is a breath of fresh air. To an ordinary man walking on those shining expensive stones is more like a treat; for a moment one feels as if one was walking in 'Heaven.' For a proud Dalit, it is like treading the path to dignity and power.
Colourful fountains are awesome and in the evenings they cool the whole surrounding and accentuate the beauty of the place. Crowds register their appreciation in silence, in keeping with the proverb, 'actions speak louder than words.'
Having a park in his vicinity is nothing new for a common Lucknowite; a park is just an addition to the numerous parks built by the previous rulers. It is there in the history and culture of the city. It is a reflection of their keen sense of beauty and aesthetics. After all, the Taj Mahal, one of the 'seven wonders of the world,' is U.P.'s gift to the world.
The Ambedkar park and other parks act as lungs to the city and are well qualified to be a tourist destination. Envious States and Opposition parties are loud in opposing the parks, which have only added to the beauty of the city of Nawabs. They directly or indirectly are urging the present Chief Minister to open hospitals and schools in the parks. It is more like opening a hospital at Qutub Minar. Aesthetics and utility seldom go hand in hand.
This is not the first time that an attempt to beautify any place has taken place. From time immemorial structures were built by rulers. Then why now, when a woman is behind the building of those structures and that too the 'thrice discriminated' Dalit woman, the hue and cry over it? Mayawati has only followed the tradition set by her predecessors but unfortunately even with her riches she is unable to wash away the stigma of being born an 'untouchable'.
In some parts of India, huge temples of film stars are built; these certainly would not have been made free of cost! But everyone refrains from questioning their source or utility. In Madam Tussauds Museum, 'living' Bollywood stars have their wax models. No Dalit could find a place there, not even the maker of the Indian Constitution Dr. Ambedkar.
It is easy to understand the mind of a Dalit woman getting her own statue built because, leave alone statues, if there were no constraints of law, no upper caste people would like to see the face of a Dalit from morning till evening. Then how is it expected that Dalits will be given space or their statues are going to be built? 'Dalits are neither to be heard nor seen but are expected to perform their duties silently and ungrudgingly'.
For the first time in Indian history, amid the winds of regionalism blowing threateningly strong, a Dalit woman has dared to raise the statues of Dalit icons hailing from different parts of India. Earlier, many parties ruled over Uttar Pradesh but no one really cared to give those icons space. Mayawati has broken the tradition and showed that elites need not monopolise the spaces and that the marginalised and those who have worked for the uplift of Dalits too deserve equal respect. She has made a significant statement about democratisation and national integration and it has to be 'sensitively' grasped by her opponents.
Statues and stones have had a special significance in Indian culture and tradition. Every stone under the sun gets its due share of respect provided there is a convincing story revolving around it! And it takes only a few days to have concrete structures built around it to house it. No eyebrows are raised, even if it becomes a major cause of traffic dislocation or law and order problem. There seems to be no end to such expansion, nor the spaces the statues cover, government or non-government, or the 'question campaign' on how much money goes into making them or where from the money 'pours in' to complete them!
Now is the time to focus on the core issue of systemising the administration, an uncomfortable position from which every 'good politician' chooses to run away. They politicise trivial issues, blowing them to unimaginable enormity for everyone to take notice. Thus they are spared the trouble of addressing age-old problems of unemployment, poverty, corruption etc. It is high time politicians learnt to become good administrators. And as good administrators they ought to first strengthen the basic structures and learn from the mistakes committed in the past, with a clear objective of actually working for the welfare of the people and without playing one section of society against another. India has had enough of the 'Divide and Rule' policy. It is time to act with a difference and show the world that ours is a 'Living Democracy' and 'Best Administered Country'!
(The writer is Head, Department of History, BBAU, Lucknow.firstname.lastname@example.org)
She's an untouchable, but has a Midas touch
By MARK MAGNIER
Los Angeles Times
Published: Sunday, Apr. 22, 2012 - 5:04 am
NEW DELHI -- She was called dirty, ugly, a "little packet of poison," the offspring of donkeys. These days, Kalpana Saroj is called something else: a millionaire.
Saroj, a dalit, or "untouchable," epitomizes what was once unthinkable in India: upward mobility for someone whose caste long meant she would die as she was born: uneducated, dirt-poor, doomed to a life of dangerous and filthy work.
The manufacturing tycoon - one admirer called her "a real slumdog millionaire" - is among a legion of dalits embracing new opportunities in business, politics, the arts and academia as prejudices ease and economic reforms open new doors in a culture that traditionally emphasized fate and reincarnation.
"Before, Indians thought the only way up was life after death, assuming they avoided hell," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a dalit researcher and activist. "Now, not having a mobile phone is hell. Dalits can't become Brahmins, but they can become capitalists. Once you become rich, you become free."
Others counter that a few Horatio Alger bootstrap stories can't sugarcoat the continued suffering of the 17 percent of India's 1.2 billion people facing discrimination under an ancient, complex system that traditionally determined one's occupation and social status at birth, with Brahmins at the top and "unclean" dalits at the bottom shoveling human waste.
Saroj, 51, once hissed at by Brahmins, has built a business empire that employs thousands of upper-caste workers, she said. As she sipped tea in a luxury New Delhi mall, she was wearing gold bracelets, diamond earrings and a traditional salwar kameez worth thousands of dollars. (After her daughter settled on studying hotel management a few years ago, Saroj bought her a hotel. With her son now in possession of a pilot's license, she's shopping for a plane.)
Emerging from extreme poverty and pariah status to a position of strength and wealth has certainly been satisfying, she said. That fact that she is a woman - in a country ranked by the United Nations as among the world's most dangerous places to be born a girl, given high female infanticide, inferior health care and nutrition - made her rise more extraordinary.
And although her ascent hasn't been without its share of speed bumps or caste-related jibes, she said, she has tried to channel anger and frustration into getting things done.
"I'm aware people may still look down on me because I'm a dalit," she said. "But even when I was very agitated, I never lost my cool, always trying instead to find my way out of difficult situations."
Saroj was born in Repatkhedha, a tiny village in the western state of Maharashtra, the eldest daughter of a homemaker and a policeman. Dalits were barred from drinking from Brahmin wells, and school for Saroj was an eight-mile walk on dirt paths, interrupted by occasional beatings by upper-caste children.
When she was 8, she asked her mother why, and was told to accept her fate.
"This was my world," she said. "I didn't really think about it."
She was married off at 12 to a laborer from Mumbai at the insistence of an uncle who considered girls "little packets of poison."
"Your daughter's an ugly, dark-skinned kid," he told her father. "If someone from Mumbai is willing, you'd darned well better marry her off."
Her husband, his alcoholic brother and wife all beat her. Sometimes her brother-in-law would yell: Whom did her mom sleep with to produce this donkey?
"All my dreams were shattered," she said. "It was hell."
After six months, her father rescued her. But the village ostracized her and she ended up drinking rat poison and fell into a coma, barely surviving. Afterward, villagers concluded that she must have a guilty conscience.
"I realized, whether I live or die, I'll get blamed," she said. "So I might as well go for it."
Saroj lobbied to return to Mumbai, threatening to try suicide again when her family balked. Once there, she got a job removing lint from finished garments at a hosiery company for 15 cents a day. During lunch breaks she practiced on the sewing machines and became a tailor for $5 a day.
"It was the first happiness in 15 years," she said. "I've earned millions. But that initial $5 was the most satisfying."
When Saroj was in her early 20s, her sister became ill and died because they couldn't afford a hospital. "I realized, if it's all about money, I need to control it," she said.
She borrowed $1,000 under a lower-caste government program, opening a furniture and blouse-making business that prospered. She learned about some property ensnared in liens and acquired it for $5,000 in savings and an IOU for a fraction of its worth. Eventually she secured the necessary clearances and found a partner to build a shopping complex.
"She is a struggler," said Madhusudan Anand Batkar, 38, a social worker from Keriveri, a village near Saroj's hometown, "a real slumdog millionaire."
Her reputation as a fixer led to another disputed property. When goons threatened her, she stared them down. "I wasn't afraid," she said. "I'd already faced death."
That too did well, leading to a stake in a sugar company and then to industrial equipment maker Kamani Tubes. The troubled firm was saddled with a $24 million debt and 140 court cases after its workers took over the factory for unpaid wages. The union asked her to run it and within a few years, she'd also turned that around.
These days, Saroj acknowledges being a bit of a workaholic. She starts her day with yoga, often works 12-to-14-hour days and spends several more hours commuting. In her meager free time, she likes listening to music and cooking. Her other passion is gardening at her rambling terrace apartment, which she designed to her taste because she owns the building.
Periodically, Saroj returns to her village to distribute food and clothing, set up schools, offer jobs to abused women. "She's very confident," said Chaggan Khandare, 36, a dalit social worker in the district. "She tells us to fight for what you want, never give up."
Although clearly extraordinary, she's not alone in her success. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry now has several dozen millionaires among its 1,000 members.
"We want dalit capitalism," said millionaire contractor Milind Kamble, the chamber's founder and chairman. "We've been very inspired by black capitalism in the U.S."
But even as millions of lower-caste Indians climb into the middle class with the help of affirmative action policies, progress for the vast majority of dalits is incremental, at best.
"There are success stories," said Damodar Manohar, a 68-year-old villager in Repatkhedha."But the overall situation hasn't changed much."
There are still thousands of attacks on dalits annually and hundreds die. A dalit was stabbed to death recently for hitting a bull, considered holy by Hindus; a dalit was beaten to death for filing a lawsuit against an upper-caste member; and a dalit widow was beaten and reportedly paraded naked after her son eloped with his upper-caste girlfriend.
Dalits, caste activist Kancha Ilaiah says, should take a cue from the social upheaval that helped African-Americans battle racism.
"A sprinkling of millionaires, some top politicians won't change people's thinking," he said. "We need a civil war."
But for Saroj, owner of "five or six" cars, including a $200,000 Mercedes S-Class, it's been quite a ride.
"I was treated as something lower than a person," she said. "But I'll die a human being."
(Tanvi Sharma of the Los Angeles Times' New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.)
On behalf of
Dalits Media Watch Team
(An initiative of "Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre-PMARC")
Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre- PMARC has been initiated with the support from group of senior journalists, social activists, academics and intellectuals from Dalit and civil society to advocate and facilitate Dalits issues in the mainstream media. To create proper & adequate space with the Dalit perspective in the mainstream media national/ International on Dalit issues is primary objective of the PMARC.