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Saturday, 26 January 2013

Untouched by justice

"... A dalit who converts to Christianity can become a pastor or be an equal in the mosque or can touch the Guru Granth Sahib. But he can do none of this in Hinduism. He cannot become anything." ...

                            Untouched by justice

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/untouched-by-justice/article4340725.ece

Mahim Pratap Singh

Rate of atrocities against Dalits and adivasis is frighteningly high even 65 years after independence “Every day, four Dalit and adivasi women are raped while eleven Dalits and adivasis are beaten up in the country. Further, every week, 13 Dalits and adivasis are murdered, five Dalits and adivasi homes are set on fire and six Dalits and adivasis are kidnapped.”

These statistics came up during a national meeting convened by the Centre for Dalit Rights (CDR), a Jaipur-based think tank along with the National Coalition for strengthening the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Held just before the AICC chintan shivir, the meeting demanded a national action plan to end untouchability and manual scavenging.

The participants also proposed amendments to the SC&ST (Prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989. In the meeting, it was observed that in 2010, Rajasthan stood second in the list of top ten “Dalit atrocities prone states”.

“We are anguished that even after 63 years of Constitution and 23 years of the SC&ST (PoA) Act 1989, untouchability is rampant and manifests into various newly emerging forms of atrocities against SCs and STs,” says Satish Kumar, Director, CDR.

According to data available with the CDR, during the last 15 years (1995-2011), a total of only 5,58,103 cases of atrocities (4,71,717 against SCs and 86,386 against STs) were registered in police stations across the country.

During 2007 to 2009, there was a sharp increase in the crime rates against SCs and STs by 10.6 per cent.

In 2009, against the national average of 2.9 per cent, Rajasthan reported a 7.5 per cent rise in rate of crimes against Dalits and tribals. In 2010, this figure stood at 7.4 per cent for Rajasthan as against the national average of 2.8 per cent.

On the other hand, according to National Crime Records Bureau data (all India) for 2007 to 2010, 67 per cent of crimes against SCs and 81 per cent of crimes against STs were not registered under the SC&ST (PoA) Act.

In 2010, only 11,682 out of 34,127 atrocity cases were registered under the Act. In Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, over 95 per cent of the cases were not registered under the Act, but instead were registered under IPC and other legal provisions, according to CDR.

In 2001, the trial pendency rate of atrocity cases against SC/STs was 82.5 per cent. By 2010-end, Rajasthan had 86.6 per cent pending cases while many other states had more than 80 per cent pending cases.

Further, the CDR claims the conviction rate for SC/ST atrocity cases was abysmally low in many states, ranging from 0.5 per cent to 8 per cent, with Rajasthan recording a conviction rate of 4.8 per cent.

“While Rajasthan has the second highest number of registered atrocity cases against SC/STs (1995-2009), and has identified 17 districts as atrocity prone, it has not publicly declared even a single district/area as such,” says Kumar.

“Even after 65 years of independence, several concerns regarding the safety and equitability of Dalits and tribals linger on, including non-registration of cases, inordinate delay in investigation and trial leading to high rate of pendency, low conviction rate among others,” says SDJM Prasad of the National Coalition.

Over the past three years, the national coalition for strengthening the SC&ST (PoA) Act, comprising more than 500 Dalit and human rights organisations, activists and experts from various states, has critically reviewed the performance of the states and the realization of the objectives of the Act and has come out with measures and amendments required to further strengthen the Act.

“The coalition has submitted these proposed amendments to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and other bodies concerned,” says Dr Prasad.

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Of religions, castes and men: Kancha Ilaiahm Ajay Navaria, Nirupama Dutt debate at Jaipur Literature Festival

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130125/news-current-affairs/article/religions-castes-and-men-kancha-ilaiahm-ajay-navaria-nirupama

Jaipur: Coming down heavily on the caste structure in Hindu religion, author Kancha Ilaiah today advocated adopting the Buddha’s ideology as a way to achieve secularism in the country, generating a lively debate among the fellow panelists at the Jaipur Literature Festival here.

Religious conversion, caste structure within religions and position of dalits after conversion were the main talking points of the session titled “God as a Political Philospoher: Dalit Perspectives on Buddhism,” where Ilaiah engaged with author Ajay Navaria and poet Nirupama Dutt.

“A dalit who converts to Christianity can become a pastor or be an equal in the mosque or can touch the Guru Granth Sahib. But he can do none of this in Hinduism. He cannot become anything,” Ilaiah said.

“No dalit can become a priest in a Hindu temple,” said the author of “Why I am not a Hindu” who also pointed out that Buddhism has always advocated the ideas of equality, abolition of caste structure, notion of justice and women’s rights.

However, fellow author and panelist Ajay Navaria, whose collection of stories “Unclaimed Terrain” translated into English has recently been published, disagreed over the issue of the benefits accruing to dalits from conversion and the adoption of Buddhism as the main religion.

“Conversion does not solve any problem. In fact, there is a category in administration of a ‘New Buddhist’ where a person’s original caste is mentioned in brackets even after adopting another religion,” he argued, questioning then the purpose of going through conversion.

“I am not here to advocate Hinduism. But the dalits can go into any religion but their identity is that of an untouchable. They are not liberated even there,” Navaria said, adding, “Religion cannot solve the problem.”

Furthering his argument, poet Nirupama Dutt highlighted the problem of caste structures within religions.

Dutt, who hails from Punjab, drew attention to the phenomenon of Gurudwaras being based on caste. “Today one can find separate Gurudwaras for Sikh Jats, Kabir panthis and the tanners,” she said.

“While Sikhism does not recognize caste, just like in the case of Islam, the situation of the ground is very different from the one visualised in scriptures,” added Dutt.

Drawing attention to the ground realities in countries where religion forms the basis of law, Navaria said the country would not become secular and discrimination-free just by adopting Buddhism.

“I don’t like religion based systems because they end liberty...no religion is detached from caste,” he added.

Even as the panelists disagreed on various issues, they did agree on one thing – that the aim should be that of a caste-free society.

“I don’t agree that caste cannot be abolished or that equality cannot come to India,” Ilaiah said.

And while Navaria disagreed with him on how to achieve this goal, he did outline his vision for India. “What I want is neither a Ram Rajya or a Buddha Rajya, but in fact a Lok Rajya.”