Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 05.02.13
15 people in Bihar charged for boycotting Dalits - Zee News
Liberated scavengers to take part in Kumbh Mela rituals - Zee News
They have been relocated on a road to nowhere - The Hindu
Rural women find themselves empowered - The Hindu
Tamil Nadu: Dalits assert their rights - Frontline
The question of casteism still remains - The Hindu
15 people in Bihar charged for boycotting Dalits
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 05, 2013, 16:52
Patna: A case has been lodged against 15 people in Bihar on charges of socially boycotting dozens of Dalit families and causing them mental torture, police said Tuesday.
The 15 include a panchayat head in Kishanganj district, Anwar Alam.
According to police, the Dalits alleged that Alam and the others decided last week to boycott them after they complained that money meant for welfare schemes had been diverted.
The Dalits said they were denied the use of water from handpumps and food from shops. Their children were threatened not to attend school.
Alam and the others denied the charges. IANS
Liberated scavengers to take part in Kumbh Mela rituals
Last Updated: Sunday, February 03, 2013, 12:26
Allahabad: In a break from tradition, liberated manual scavenger women, earlier regarded as untouchables, would join top priests in performing rituals at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythological Saraswati at the Kumbh Mela.
Around 100 former scavenger women from Rajasthan's Alwar and Tonk districts would get an opportunity of taking holy dip at the Sangam and perform puja at the ongoing Kumbh Mela on February 7.
It is an effort towards social upliftment, said Bindeshwar Pathak, who has initiated this model of social engineering.
He said the former scavengers would join hands with top Hindu priests in performing the rituals.
"Not only this, they will dine with some of the top Hindu religious leaders, including followers of various sects like the Naga sadhus, at the venue later this week. We are trying to interact them with some of the top most religious leaders at the Akharas of Hindu religious sects during their stay in the Kumbh grounds," Pathak said.
The founder of Sulabh International said his organisation has played a significant role in liberating untouchable scavengers from the sub-human occupation of cleaning night soil ? a practice nearly 5,000 years old.
He said that so far Sulabh has converted 1.3 million bucket toilets into flush toilets and lakhs of scavengers have been freed from manual cleaning of human faeces and shackles of untouchability.
Pathak said after the human scavengers were relieved from this sub-human occupation, it was then a question of their livelihood, to rehabilitate and to bring them in the mainstream of the society. PTI
Pathak said after the human scavengers were relieved from this sub-human occupation, it was then a question of their livelihood, to rehabilitate and to bring them in the mainstream of the society. PTI
They have been relocated on a road to nowhere
Spatial re-ordering has turned Sakkimangalam Ambedkar Colony into
a case study of poverty
A detour on the Sivaganga Road near Karuppayoorani leads to Sakkimangalam. A rusting metal sign board reads 'Relocation Site' of the Tamil Nadu Slum Clearance Board. It also carries Dravidian icon C.N. Anna Durai's famous quote, "In the Smile of the Poor I See God."
Sakkimangalam assumes significance for the shifting of a huge population of Dalits from the Vaigai river bed. Named after the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, the colony was meant to be an abode for the community of rag pickers and conservancy workers. But it has become a case study of concentrated poverty.
The Dalits who are part of the unorganised urban economy, are now forced to travel long distance to earn a livelihood or even avail of medical facilities, which were earlier available to them more easily when they lived in squatter settlements within the city. Says D.Malin, founder, Puthiya Kalam (New Ground), Madurai, "The Government Rajaji Hospital's services have become inaccessible because of the distance given the State's policy to relocate them. Their resettlement not only has curbed spatial mobility but also restricted the access to health services."
Women and men wake up at 3.a.m daily and lumber off from Ambedkar Colony to Goripalayam from where they spread out to clean the city, sweeping and picking rags. They unclog sewers by plunging their arms up to their elbows in human waste without protective gears, says Pappammal (65).
Most of the Dalit women engage in rummaging through waste from 3 a.m. to 10 a.m., sorting and separating bottles, cans, glass and plastic items. They look through trash that includes medical waste from used or discarded needles and blood bags. Day after day.
The creation of Dr.Ambedkar Colony is a by product of inequality and marginalisation based on caste and class. These trends are reinforced when communities and sections of the population are segregated into colonies. The inhabitants there are also stigmatised.
The relocation of these Dalits happened in 1993, following a flood. To ensure a safe passage for these "illegal occupants" living on the fringes of the Vaigai riverbed, the State relocated them to Sakkimangalam.
However, a prominent Dalit party in Madurai, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) (Dalit Panthers) says the resident neighbourhoods forced this action. It was perceived that the Dalit settlements had become breeding grounds for crime and other anti-social activities and, therefore, as part of a cleansing process they were shifted to the outskirts of the city.
VCK member Chithiraivel believes such an action was initiated to divide the Dalit vote bank, which, however, remained intact. It was also to get rid of the "visual pollution" in the heart of the city. But this relocation did not wipe out the stigma attached to the residents. Three caste clashes have occurred between Other Backward Castes and Dalits since the relocation.
The social stigma impacts on their employability. It hampers the search for jobs as inhabitants of the area encounter additional distrust and reticence among employers as soon as they mention their place of residence. A few Dalit women from the colony work as domestic help, but must conceal their identity or address to get hired.
Arul Raj (31) laments that basic amenities are still a dream for the colony people. The colony houses more than 500 families without any bathroom facilities, which is particularly stressful for women. Factional feuds break out among the Dalit youth which stands in the way of becoming organised around a common platform. The relocation of the population has actually ended up excluding them from the urban economy. The living conditions have worsened over the years. The State has failed to provide safety, health, education, housing and justice, Arul Raj says.
Rural women find themselves empowered
MGNREGS has brought about financial independence to a certain extent for them
Women, particularly Dalits, in rural areas of Madurai district find the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to be empowering, resulting in financial independence to a certain extent.
The percentage of workers among the Scheduled Castes seeking MGNREGS jobs has remained constant in the district, only with a few changes over three years from 2009-10 to 2011-2012. Participation of households in each panchayat remains higher among the SCs in the district.
A visit to some of the villages in Tirumangalam, T. Kallupatti, Sedapatti and Kalligudi blocks and interviews with workers provide an idea of how the scheme has brought about changes in the lives of rural people, especially the Dalits.
K. Mariammal, a Dalit from Muniyandi Street in T.Pudupatti, whose husband Kalimuthu works as a mason in Madurai, says that the economic contribution has helped her solve domestic problems. Her experience at work is cordial and there is no caste bias. Mariammal feels that women in her village are empowered because they do not have to depend on their husbands' earnings for running the house. Harassment at the hands of moneylenders has also reduced, thanks to the scheme.
The scheme also has the income effect, where an increase in the paid income of a woman worker consequently increases her ability to choose her consumption. For example, K. Poongodi of Mela Theru, a mother of two, says, "We normally never go out for work. But MGNREGS has helped us come out of our domestic space and made us participate and also save some money. Moreover, being part of a self-help group's saving scheme, I am able to buy a piece of gold after a long time without getting money from my husband."
The scheme's provisions — priority for women in the ratio of one-third of total workforce, equal wages and crèches for children — have increased the participation of women. The MGNREGS here has helped them meet everyday needs of household in the short run and strategic needs in the long run. It has reduced the dependence on male family members for their basic needs and also had freed them from subordination and subjugation on the basis of caste.
Though the scheme has its positive effects in the case of SCs, it is also mired in problems. Discrimination on the basis of caste has led to a situation where access to the job and provision of lower wages compared to others are also reported in a few cases.
In Ulaganathapuram Adi Dravidar Colony at Aatukulam village under Melur taluk, there are complaints of discrimination in provision of wages.
Beneficiaries say the fixed amount of Rs.130 is never given to them. Even if they complete the work, they are given only Rs.60- Rs.80.
A Dalit panchayat president P. Janagar of L. Kottanipatti village under T. Kallupatti panchayat union complains that due to discrimination, he is not allowed to look into the records of MGNREGS work. He has lodged complaints against his subordinates who usurped his powers.
G. K. Arun Sundar Dayalan, Additional Collector and Project Officer, DRDA, says that most of the villages in the district are heavily reliant on MGNREGS as livelihood support programme. SCs, who are traditionally agricultural labourers, have benefited a lot from the job scheme.
The Project Officer claims that whenever discrepancies are reported action is taken immediately. Different clusters in each panchayat have prevented caste-based discrimination.
He says that pit-wise measurement for wages has resulted in lessening the work burden and an increase in participation.
There is now a competition among workers to perform better to earn better.
Tamil Nadu: Dalits assert their rights
The 64th Republic Day was a special occasion for the Dalits of Kokkampatti in Karur district. It was poetic justice that on this historic day, the caste Hindu residents of the village signed an accord with them to end the centuries-old practices of un-touchability and dis-crimination against Dalits, in the presence of the local authorities. Through the agreement the caste Hindus have promised to live in harmony with members of the Arunthathiyar com-munity, without dis-criminatory practices such as the ban on walking with footwear or riding two-wheelers. No discrimination would be shown at the Anganwadi centre and at the fair price shop, too.
Shortly before the agreement was inked, activists of various Dalit organisations and the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), along with the local Arunthathiyar residents, marched to Kokkampatti under the leadership of K. Varadarajan, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), to register their protest against untouchability.
Though the Constitution guarantees equal rights to all, persons belonging to the Most Backward Thottiya Naicker community, who are in a majority, continued to discriminate against the socially and economically oppressed Arunthathiyars in the village, according to Dalit organisations.
The Arunthathiyars, who are mostly landless farm labourers or manual workers, have been treated as second-class citizens in and around Kokkampatti. Residents of the Dalit colony, including M. Eswari, a young Arunthathiyar woman, allege that they had not been allowed to walk wearing footwear on the streets where caste Hindus resided. They were also prohibited from using umbrellas in caste Hindu areas. Separate plates and tumblers were used for Dalit children at the Anganwadi centre. Arunthathiyars had to form a separate queue at the local fair price shop where priority was given to caste Hindus in the distribution of essential articles. Dalits were not permitted to cross caste Hindu areas on bicycles or two-wheelers. A separate tap was fitted to the water tank for Dalits. They were discriminated against in buses too. V. Subramanian, a construction worker, said Dalits were asked to perform menial jobs such as drum-beating at funeral ceremonies, grave-digging, and cremating the dead. Though their services were utilised during the Bagavatiamman temple festival, they were barred from worshipping there.
Things came to a head last December 25 when a group of Thottiya Naickers attacked G. Krishnamurthy, a Dalit youth, while he was watching the temple rituals from a distance. The "crime" committed by him was that he was standing there without removing his footwear, local people said.
As if they were not satisfied with the punishment meted out to him, the caste Hindus entered the Arunthathiyar colony late in the evening and assaulted some of the residents. The injured Dalits were admitted to the government hospital in Karur.
The local police booked a case on December 29 under Sections 341 and 323 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3(1)(X) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
After the accord was signed, Varadarajan declared that the struggle would be extended to other areas where untouchability prevailed.
The question of casteism still remains
Contrary to what Nandy's defenders would have us believe, his corruption remark reinforces negative stereotypes about Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
The controversy around Ashis Nandy's casual remarks at the Jaipur Literature Festival did not address a number of important questions of public concern. The frenzied 'Save Nandy' campaign that followed has actually foreclosed any productive discussion. His supporters have been trying to explain and contextualise Professor Nandy's flippant remarks through references to his scholarship and eminent status.
Sankaran Krishna seeks to locate Mr. Nandy's words in the wake of his earlier scholarship and criticisms (The Hindu, January 31). Such an approach is irrelevant to what Mr. Nandy said at the JLF. Harsh Sethi (The Hindu, January 28), Yogendra Yadav (Indian Express, January 28), Lawrence Liang (Economic Times, January 30) and several others have argued that Mr. Nandy's statements should not be read as casteist. What is pertinent is that both Mr. Nandy and his defenders invoke 'SC, ST and OBCs' in a manner that reinforces a stereotypical image of these communities as "intolerant" and "undemocratic." Shiv Visvanathan writes, "Dalits and OBCs are treated as sacred cows" (Firspost, Jan. 28).
The other standard mode of response has been to combine the banning of Kamal Haasan's film Vishwaroopam, the Rushdie affair and other state censorship issues with Mr. Nandy's "freedom of speech" to conclude that Indian society is becoming intolerant and undemocratic. Manu Joseph writes in the New York Times ( Jan. 30) that India is "a paradise for those who take offence." That Mr. Nandy named the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes, a large population of the marginalised protected by special laws, as the most corrupt, is totally ignored.
There has been absolutely no attempt to seriously examine the significance of the SC/ST Act and its provisions given that we live in a society with rampant caste discrimination. Madhu Kishwar tweeted on January 28: "Wonder why no one discussing the draconian provisions in SC/ST Act under which Ashis Nandy being booked. Only focusing on Nandy, not the law." It was no less than a call for the scrapping of this important 1989 Act, which was a result of decades of lobbying by the Dalit movement. Its repeal has been, for long, the demand of the Shiv Sena, the Pattali Makkal Katchi, the Samajawadi Party and such like. Swapan Dasgupta echoes this view saying the Act is "absurd, inflexible, draconian" (The Pioneer, Feb. 3). Antara Dev Sen says that "the more socially disadvantaged you are as an identity group, the more laws you may have at your disposal to attack" (Asian Age, Feb. 2). Liang argues that filing a case is "a lumpen strategy of the right" that all minorities have adopted.
Even if it is not the only option, is it so wrong for Dalits to file a case? No one thought it necessary to examine the validity of Mr. Nandy's "provocative" claims. The irony is that in the name of freedom of expression, liberal and rightwing intellectuals have come together in actually suppressing all debate on Mr. Nandy's objectionable comment that the OBC, SC and ST people are "the most corrupt."
The effect has been to deflect all attention from his bizarre statements (dubbed as "nuanced utterances"). The question of whether Mr. Nandy's remarks in fact constitute casteist speech was never given serious attention. Mr. Nandy himself clarified his position many times but never unconditionally withdrew his comments. He reiterated the view that the SC, ST and OBCs are indeed most corrupt (in the sense of they forming a majority of the population) in very clear terms on an NDTV show ( Jan. 28 interview to Barkha Dutt).
In the case of the socially stigmatised and marginalised people, references of any broad-brush kind only reinforce stereotypes of these people. Imagine a white intellectual in the United States, irrespective of the nature and stature of his previous body of work, saying that Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. are the most corrupt. What would be the repercussions?
What is more, by a clever displacement it was argued that Mr. Nandy actually was the victim of an intolerant culture and authoritarian politics. He is seen as 'hounded' and 'harassed'. It has been argued that the response to Mr. Nandy is 'intolerant outrage' and 'competitive outrage'.
From whom? Clearly, the Dalit-Bahujans. When Shuddhabrata Sengupta (Kafila.org, January 30) wickedly refers to "the foot soldiers of identity politics" and "brokers of victimhood," he is referring not just to one or two individuals, but tarnishing entire communities. These are sweeping statements that depict the SCs, STs, OBCs as people who have no 'commitment' to careful listening, who, unlike the 'upper castes,' are easily offended, crave for false publicity and organise stage-managed protests.
An editorial in The Hindu ("From Footnote to FIR," Jan. 30) notes that "in a country where there is a flourishing outrage industry — helped by a slew of laws that takes the feelings of easily offended individuals very seriously — there is a great deal of publicity and even political capital to be acquired in claiming that sentiments are hurt." The rhetorical strategy is to refer to Indians in general but the specific context is the protest by certain SC, ST and OBC groups. The running theme of the Nandy defence team is that the public (especially the marginalised) has neither skills of reasoning nor a sense of humour to appreciate Mr. Nandy's words in context. In fact, the campaign to produce Mr. Nandy as a victim as well as a great man constructs SC, ST and OBCs as fools and criminals.
Mr. Nandy's defenders may have the right to be delusional and believe that his comments are pro-Dalit, pro-Adivasi and pro-OBC, and that such comments should not therefore attract the SC/ST Act. But to call taking recourse to a legal remedy 'a lumpen strategy' and to term the SC/ST Act 'draconian' — as some have done — is to casually undermine what is in fact an extremely important legislation. This is a special law designed to protect the dignity, life and property of the SC/ST people.
The dispute between the SC/STs and Ashis Nandy is one about dignity and respect. The state is not directly in the picture. A section of the marginalised, and the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes, invoked the SC/ST Act. Many others have objected to Mr. Nandy's views on other grounds. But how does asking for the application of a special law amount to censorship and violation of freedom of expression? True, this Act imposes limits on speech that humiliates and discriminates against the Dalits and Adivasis. The new scholarship on humiliation and caste, by the likes of Gopal Guru, elaborates on and illustrates this point.
Mr. Nandy first clarified that the view that the SC, ST and OBCs are the most corrupt is a normative view, and not an empirical one. Despite this, he later claimed on NDTV that ticketless travellers in trains and black-ticket sellers in cinema halls would inevitably be SC, ST, and OBC, and they are in a majority.
This theory of false agency and emulation of the upper castes (in matters of corruption) is highly objectionable and offensive and it cannot be passed off as a 'pro-Dalit' statement. Madhu Koda, for all his skills at corruption, is not the role model of the marginalised. The corruption of some of the elite among the disadvantaged is as dangerous and oppressive as that of the upper caste elites. In fact, Mr. Nandy's theory reinforces the commonsensical view of the oppressed castes as corrupt. The assumption that only physical violence and atrocities attract the SC/ST Act is wrong. Any generalisation that produces a stereotype could be objected to both on moral and legal grounds. There are divergent views among SC, ST, and OBC commentators on how to deal with Mr. Nandy's remarks and theory of corruption (such loose talk is turned into a theory). But no one claimed that Mr. Nandy's speech is excellent and ironic. No Dalits have come out to support him.
The public intellectual, Chandra Bhan Prasad, asked Dalits to forgive Mr. Nandy hoping he would unconditionally withdraw his statements. Some activists and politicians filed cases under the SC/ST Act. What is wrong with this? How can anyone take objection to one's right to seek legal remedy under an Act that provides minimum protection to the deprived in this country? How can anyone prescribe only 'a verbal or intellectual redress' for these offensive and derogatory remarks?
In this vitiated context, one can only take some solace in the words of the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, which said on February 1: "He [Nandy] can't continue making statements like this. Whatever may be your intent, you can't go on making statements." When staying his arrest, the bench noted, "We are not at all happy". Nor are SCs, STs and OBCs.
(The author teaches at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, and is the author of No Alphabet in Sight: New Dalit Writing from South India)
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.