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Wednesday 5 October 2011

‘Mahatma betrayed Dalits often’

                            ‘Mahatma betrayed Dalits often’
It was Gandhi Jayanti. But young Dalit poet Meena Kandasamy was not ready to spare the Mahatma.“Like many other Dalit writers, I have reservations about Gandhi,” she said at the DC Kovalam Literary Festival here. “He betrayed Dalits several times.”Ms Meena added the Poona Pact imposed on the nation by Mahatma Gandhi had effectively blocked the political rise of Dalits.“Dr Ambedkar agreed to it since he knew that upper castes would slaughter Dalits otherwise,” she said.The young poet literally flung her raw verses on caste, oppression of women and sexuality at the audience.“In poetry I can be upfront about what angers me,” she said. “In prose one has to be subtle. So I prefer poetry.”Many of her poems were subversive re-readings of the tales of women characters in the Puranas including Ahalya, Sita and Surpanakha. Ms Meena, who read out from her latest collection, ‘Ms Militancy,’ admitted that she was an angry poet.
“But there are enough reasons for us to be angry,” she said. “The system is so oppressive. Dalits and women are oppressed everywhere.”Answering questions, she said that parliamentary democracy can only throw up Dalit leaders such as Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan who were convenient for the system.When asked whether her role model was Mayawati or Arundhati Roy, she quipped: “Neither; I identify more with the Naxalite leader Anuradha Gandhi.”
Deecan Chronicle
Conviction low under SC/ST Act
October 3, 2011 By G. JAGANNATH DC chennai
Rights activist have expressed anguish over the low conviction rate in Tamil Nadu in cases booked under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and hope that the Vachathi case, where the judgment was delivered after 19 long years, does not shadow the huge backlog of rights violation cases against dalits and tribals.
According to state government statistics, 1,280 cases were registered under the SC/ST Act in 2010. However, only 23 per cent of the cases ended in conviction, against the average conviction rate of 55.6 per cent in cases booked under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front convenor P. Sampath blamed the government and the police for the declining conviction rate for cases of atrocities against dalits and tribals.
“Though SC/STs (POA) Act, 1989 is one of the most powerful pieces of legislation, it implementation remains largely unsatisfactory as the government and police do not show keen interest in it,” Mr Sampath said, adding that if it was implemented properly, untouchability could have been brought down.
“In most cases, the police take advantage of the victims’ ignorance and file cases under the milder Indian Penal Code. Only if they insist, they file cases under the SC/ST Act. Even in such cases, they accept counter-complaints and use it to threaten the petitioner to withdraw the complaints,” said Mr A. Kathir of NGO Evidence.
Under the Act, a police or government official who wilfully neglects to perform his/her duties can be punished for negligence. However, no action has been taken against any official since 1995.
The Act calls for state and district-level monitoring committees, but they do not exist, he said.
Zee News
Dalit shot dead by unidentified persons
Last Updated: Sunday, October 02, 2011, 16:26

Bhadoi: A 30-year-old Dalit man was shot dead by unidentified persons in Koirauna area, a senior police officer said here on Sunday. Phool Chand was shot dead with country-madefirearms near his house by four unidentified youths in Kalinjara village late last night, Additional Superintendent of Police Ramesh said. The motive behind the murder was not clear and the case was being investigated, he said.

Deccan Herald
Gandhi today
In my childhood, way back in the early Sixties, there was a Gandhi statue in my village. His clean shaved head and semi-naked body with a tucked-in dhoti, in a walking posture, resembled my illiterate shepherd father in every respect except for the classic stick in the right hand, a book in the left hand and round spectacle frames. The village norm was that everyone could touch the Gandhi statue, except the Madigas (dalits). We used to call him Gandhi 'thaathaa' (grandpa).

One hundred and forty two years after his birth and 63 years after his death, has the relationship between Mahatma Gandhi the historical figure, the India that he represented, and the poor masses who earn just Rs 32 per day in urban India and Rs 26 in rural India, in other words, the dalits, changed? The majority of educated dalits do not accept the epithet 'the father of the nation' for Gandhi. Instead, they address Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar as the “father of the nation”. Is that because we live in two different nations: India and Bharat? Quite interestingly, Anna Hazare describes himself as a Gandhian and hung Gandhi’s portrait behind his anti-corruption fasting 'public bed'. At the other extreme was Narendra Modi who too hung Gandhi’s portrait behind his 'sadbhavna seat' of power.
Vande Mataram was the rousing chant at the gatherings of both Mr Hazare and Mr Modi. Obviously, both of them seem to be promising 'Young India' (incidentally, also the name of Gandhi’s journal in which he formulated his core philosophy) that they would bring about
Gandhi’s Ram Rajya. For many nationalists, the Gandhian Ram Rajya is yet to come (like the
Kingdom of God of Jews). This is a society where there is no corruption and where the classical Varnadharma, without reservations, would operate, of course with the right to compete with one another,just as Gandhi had visualised after 'Hind Swaraj' was realised. Thus, for the upper castes and the rich, swaraj has come, but the Ram Rajya of Gandhi is yet to come.
Ambedkar located the roots of untouchability, oppression and horrendous poverty in that same Ram Rajya and according to many dalit writers the poor and oppressed are still living in Ram Rajya, which has been in existence for centuries. They are waiting for Buddha Rajya, as Ambedkar had visualised it. For the majority at the bottom there is no raj, leave alone swaraj.
They still live in a Hobbesian 'state of nature' where restrictions are imposed upon individuals that curtail their natural rights, or, to use Kautilya’s phrase, in Matsyanyaya, where, in periods of chaos the trong devour the weak, just as in periods of drought big fish eat small fish.

For the liberal, globalised intellectual of India, Gandhi is the solution to all problems. However, in village India he is a faint memory, with dilapidated statues here and there, and a customary
lesson in some school textbooks. Like Nehru, Gandhi was a Congress man, but he transcended party lines and became a globally respectable moral force. For world leaders, from Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama, Gandhi is the moral force of non-violence.

Among the elite group of global moral forces he has outgrown his own heroes — Leo Tolstoy and Henry David Thoreau among others. In informed circles around the world, he is the most known and revered Indian after Buddha. They do not see him as a politician, nor do they see him as a spiritual guru. To some he is a self-suffering sexual experimentalist, to others he is a complicated character of David Attenborough’s cinema.

At home, anyone, from Mr Hazare to Mr Modi, can use his portrait to empower the middle class or to embolden the Hindutva brigade. Nehru cannot escape his party’s boundaries, though the historical Ambedkar competes with the historical Gandhi of the Hindu ethos when it comes
to being a force of moral philosophy and social justice.
In fact, within India in many realms Ambedkar is outshining Gandhi. Don’t be surprised if Mr Modi’s prime ministerial rath carries portraits of both Gandhi and Ambedkar, or just of Ambedkar. The RSS, remember, doesn’t recognise Gandhi as a nationalist, but it calls
Ambedkar a nationalist.
Ambedkar saw Gandhi as an enemy of the dalits. When Gandhi represented India in the Second Round Table Conference, Ambedkar said, “Unfortunately, the Congress chose Mr Gandhi as its representative. A worse person could not have been chosen to guide India’s destiny.”

Gandhi did not prove him wrong when he said, “The Congress has from its very commencement taken up the cause of the so-called ‘untouchables’”. He saw untouchability in 1931 as “so-called”, not real, and the untouchables as people who deserve to be referred to in
quotes. Ambedkar understood the diabolism of Gandhian linguistic engagement with dalits.
Gandhi called them Harijans but did not ask for their right to engage with Hari as priests. He was willing to grant them the right to touch others and the right to be touched, but he was not willing to go beyond that. He claimed that he represented entire India, with the occasional exception of Muslims and Sikhs. He treated Indians as Hindus and saw himself as the incontestable representative of all Hindus — including dalits. Ambedkar, on the other hand, saw Hindus as collective suppressors of dalits, hence wanted protection for them from 'the tyranny and oppression of the Hindus', even from the oppression of present-day OBCs.

In this land of Buddha, Gandhi and Ambedkar, the 21st century has created a moral and ethical crisis with huge economic and social disparities, though most of them are inherited from the past. The Ambanis, the Gujarati baniyas at that, do not have an iota of respect for Gandhi’s austerity — frugal food and ashram housing. The costliest family house in the world is built by a baniya from Gandhi’s state and caste. The global poorest of the poor, mostly
dalits, live in this land of Gandhi on less than Rs 26 per day. Gandhi undertook the longest hunger strike against the principle of separate electorate for dalits, resulting in the Poona Pact. Ambedkar, on the other hand, characterises all such hunger strikes as instruments of blackmail to derail democratic negotiations and institutionalisation of pro-poor laws.
As the Hindu God promises in the Gita, 'Sambhavami yuge yuge' (I will come back millennium after millennium), Gandhian hunger protests are coming to the fore again and again in the nation. Gandhi’s method of protest as used by today’s protesters is proving difficult for
present-day rulers. But rural India doesn’t know how to make sense of Gandhi. For many illiterate villagers he is the thaathaa of tamashas. The writer is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.
The Hindu
Grassroot democracy still eludes Dalits
D. Karthikeyan
The 73rd Amendment to the Constitution instituted a policy of political reservation in local government for historically disadvantaged social groups, including Dalits and women. The move was hailed as a breakthrough in bringing about a vibrant system of participatory democracy at the grassroots and a paradigm shift in the process of development.
Almost three decades into the enactment of the amendment and elections around the corner, an analytical perspective on the functioning of grassroots democracy in and around Madurai reveals effects of such democratic governance have failed in most cases to serve the purpose.
The governance environment here could be termed as a space where elements of inequality, local power relations and factors like gender, caste and patriarchy come together. Indeed, it is the sum of these factors that tell the stories of both women and Dalit representatives who have faced difficulties in villages dominated by the local political and social elite.
Pranab Bardhan, political economist based in California, says, “While democracy tends to empower local people, and thus increases the accountability of the local government, the decentralised nature of grassroots democracy may make it easier for local elites to capture the local politics. Democracy does not necessarily lead to a fairer provision of public goods.”
As a case study, C. Ayyankoilpatti, in A. Pudupatti panchayat of Chellampatti panchayat union, is a village with a predominant Dalit population most of whom are highly literate and in better government jobs.
Despite such upward mobility in terms of education, they felt that they were being discriminated against just because they happened to be Dalits. Demanding basic amenities, the Dalits in the village observed a fast on September 25 and 26 and also threatened to boycott the elections.
Madurai Veeran (38) said that all welfare schemes meant for Dalits were usurped by the dominant caste, so they had to protest and go on fast. After the intervention of Revenue officials and promises to look into the issue immediately, they decided to give up their protest.
R. Pandian said that their demands include retrieval of 45 cents of land meant for a drama stage and restoration of the Kaliamman Temple, balwadi and a community hall. However, within the same panchayat, discrimination is tangible. The caste Hindu dominated C. Nattapatti has all the facilities — a village square a drama stage with granite floor built at a cost of Rs.2.25 lakh. A fact-finding report by the Tamil Nadu Federation of Women Presidents of Panchayat Government, Dalit Panchayat Presidents Federation of Tamil Nadu and Panchayat Presidents Coordinated Federation- Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, found that the meaning of grassroot democracy and local governance was still elusive for the elected Dalit representatives.
Allegations include compulsion to sign blank cheques without giving details of their utilisation; non-cooperation of dominant caste members in panchayat councils; prevention of Dalit presidents from passing resolutions and denial of access to panchayat records, account books and registers. Panchayats like Keeripatti, Pappapatti and Nachikulam in Madurai, which have Dalit representatives, had faced discrimination many times.
A large number of elected Dalit and woman panchayat presidents suffered humiliation at the hands of the vice-presidents and co-members and even government officials. In many cases, it was found that the Dalit presidents had to take orders from caste-Hindu leaders and that a substantial number of woman presidents were acting de-facto for their husbands or other men of their families. For rural women and Dalits, most of whom were elected to these posts for the first time, it was an uphill task. Fear of facing hostile people prevented them from even convening the mandatory gram sabha meetings. R. Thilagam, State Coordinator, Dalit Women's Right to Political Participation in Rural Panchayat Raj Programme, Madurai, said that decentralisation of political governance was indeed a boon for the marginalised, especially Dalits and women. It ensured the participation of people who were hitherto not part of the political process. However, if there was no reservation system in place they would not have had the space as local governance largely dealt with gender, caste and patriarchy.
The programme did empirical research and found that not many women who were holding posts were aware of their rights. Statistics revealed that women were mostly victims of gender and patriarchy and their democratically elected posts were being usurped.
There can be no second thoughts on the fact that the 73rd Amendment had provided the much needed space for women and Dalit women in particular to come out of their domestic confines and be part of the public sphere and these changes were possible because of this local governance.
Ms. Thilagam was of the view that the problems lie in the non-implementation of programmes and lack of proper monitoring system. Moreover, there was lack of will on the part of the bureaucracy to support the panchayats. She also opined that the reserved panchayats, for both women and Dalits, be allotted more funds for deep democratisation.
Manmohan Singh favours mill land for memorial
Published: Monday, Oct 3, 2011, 9:00 IST
By Shubhangi Khapre | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
The state Congress has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the allotment of 12 acres of NTPC Indu Mill land at Dadar for building Dr BR Ambedkar's memorial.
PM Singh has assured both Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) Chief Manikrao Thakre that he would pursue the matter to its logical end.
The Congress wants to expedite the project before Mumbai's civic elections in February 2012 to ensure its Dalit vote bank remains intact.The decision of Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athawale to enter into an alliance with Shiv Sena-BJP has upset the Congress. The Congress fears that Athawale loyalists will switch allegiance to Sena-BJP. The voting population of Dalits in Mumbai is a considerable 10.5 per cent.
What makes matter worse for the Congress is the decision of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to contest the elections without an alliance.
The Dalits, along with other minorities, have always remained loyal to the Congress and the NCP. However, in the ensuing elections, the Congress and the NCP are talking of contesting alone, thus making it more challenging. Interestingly, the Congress and the NCP are competing with each other to take credit for the proposed Ambedkar memorial. Both the sides are making all attempts to outsmart the other by announcing new projects in Ambedkar's name.
The ruling Congress and NCP were recently caught in a war over renaming Dadar Central Station after Ambedkar. The NCP's attempt to woo back Athawale appears to have failed. Athawale said, "Dalits feel betrayed by the Congress and the NCP. The ruling parties have taken us for granted for last 15 years, which is unfortunate." He reiterated that his alliance with the Sena was here to stay and was not confined to electoral politics.
The state government which has given its commitment to finance the project, has been unable to move forward because of its inability to acquire the Indu Mill land. Thakre maintained, “The decision to set up a grand Ambedkar memorial was first mooted by the Congress. Ambedkar is the amongst the most respected leader. It is not related to politics.” The Congress started a year-long campaign, ‘Samajik Samata Varsh’ shortly after Athawale decided to forge the alliance this year.

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