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Wednesday 18 January 2012

Maya terms EC order to drape statues ‘anti-Dalit’

Main accused in Dalit girl’s rape case held

The Orissa police on Sunday arrested one of the alleged rapists of a Dalit girl from Puri district. Prasanta Pradhan alias Pasei of Paparanga village in Pipili, the main accused in the case, would be produced before a court in Puri on Monday.

The police are still searching for the three other accused, who along with Pradhan, allegedly raped — and then tried to strangulate — the 18-year-old girl in her Arjunagoda village in Pipili on November 28. The girl is in coma in the ICU of a Bhubaneshwar hospital. She is likely to be taken to All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi soon. Doctors said she needs prolonged treatment as her cerebral cortex has stopped functioning due to the strangulation.

The case, meanwhile, has become a political issue —ahead of next month’s panchayat elections — with the Opposition Congress and the BJP demanding a CBI probe “in view of allegations” that Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathi was sheltering the accused.



Dalit votes to decide ruling party of Punjab

The top leadership of the three main political parties in Punjab - the Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the People's Party of Punjab (PPP) - comprises of Jat Sikhs. But their electoral fortunes in the upcoming assembly polls are dependent on the engineering of the Dalit votes.

Till a few years ago, both the Congress and the SAD had strong pockets of influence among Dalit voters. However, the clear division of Dalits over political lines would sharpen this time and the community would play a vital role in shaping the contours of the legislative assembly after the January 30 polls in the state.

Several political leaders conceded that as a sizeable section of Dalits has started to assert its identity, a relatively new phenomenon in Punjab, the community holds the key to the election results. For the record, Punjab has the highest percentage of Dalit population in the country.

"The political parties can't ignore Dalits who behave in a different manner during polls in Punjab than in Uttar Pradesh," said Dr Pramod Kumar - head, Institute of Development Communication (IDC) in Chandigarh. Pramod said Dalits in Punjab are not a monolithic class. Their vote share is divided between the Congress, SAD and BSP in the state.

"The division will sharpen this time," asserted Pramod, adding that the community was looking for identity and recognition. "They are looking for new identity at least in Doaba region," he said. The Jats in Punjab comprise only 21 per cent population of the total 60 per cent Sikhs, yet they have been ruling and dominating politics in Punjab for decades.
Confirming his assertion, a claimed protagonist of the scheduled castes, their rights and pride, Chamar Mahan Sabha stated that the community would vote "cautiously". "We will go through the election manifesto of all the political parties. We have also asked the political parties to clarify their stand on our genuine demands," said Paramjit Singh Kainth, president of the sabha. Chamar Mahan Sabha started asserting identity in Doaba - the region with the state's largest Dalit population.

Sources added that the politics of various 'deras' would also play a major role in the elections. Sources in the Dera Sacha Sauda - whose controversial chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh is facing a CBI probe for rape and murder - said they had been gauging the political situation to come up with an appropriate mandate for voters under their group.
The violence in Punjab, following the murder of Sant Ramanand in Austrian capital Vienna in May 2009, would also influence the voting pattern of a community among the Dalits. Ramanand headed Dera Sach Khand Ballan in Jalandhar district. The SAD-BJP government did not act against the people involved in the violence to avert any confrontation with them.

Traditionally, the Dalits in Malwa, comprising 69 seats, followed their "feudal" lords and majority of them identified them with SAD. The Dalits in Majha region, which has 25 assembly constituencies, usually supported any one of the SAD or the Congress while the community in Doaba was considered the Congress vote bank. But, the situation changed during the last elections.

The SAD lost its bastion Malwa to Congress while it dented its vote bank in Doaba region. "Dera Sacha Sauda had played a major role in the role reversal," sources said. The Akalis have a substantial base in the rural areas and have succeeded in winning over the Dalits, particularly Mazhabis and Ravidasis through the Dera.

He pointed out that though Dalits form nearly 33 per cent of the rural population in Punjab, only 2.3 per cent of them have land.


Maya terms EC order to drape statues ‘anti-Dalit’

In an apparent bid to portray herself as a victim in the eyes of her core vote bank of Dalits and gain their sympathy in the forthcoming Assembly polls, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati on Sunday slammed the Election Commission (EC) for ordering the draping of her statues during the polls. 

She termed the poll panel ‘anti-dalit’ and ‘casteist’ even as she maintained, rather sarcastically, that the order would benefit her party as it had brought her huge publicity free of cost.

Addressing a press conference on the occasion of her 56th birthday on Sunday, a visibly upset Mayawati also accused the EC of succumbing to the pressure of the Congress led UPA government, which was also ‘anti-dalit’, and taking a ‘one sided decision’.

She urged the poll panel not to succumb to the pressure of the congress and ensure free and fair polls.

“Unless the EC also orders the covering of the Congress’ poll symbol – hand and the RLD's poll symbol – hand pump, our party will take the EC decision as the one reflective of its anti-dalit mindset,” she said as she specifically mentioned a 45 feet high statue of a ‘hand’ at a park in Chandigarh in this regard.

Mayawati criticised shifting of State Police Chief Brijlal and Home Principal Secretary Fateh Bahadur, both dalits, by the EC and said their transfer smacked of ‘casteist mindset’.

The BSP supremo said that her birthday celebrations were low key this time, owing to the model code of conduct and told her party workers that an absolute majority for her party in the polls would be the ‘most valuable birthday gift for her’.

Unlike previous occasions, Mayawati was not flanked by bureaucrats nor was there any grand celebration or decoration in the city. The BSP supremo, however, released a book of her memoirs on the occasion.

Mayawati released list of BSP candidates for all the 403 assembly seats in the state and claimed that the nominees of her party had, to a great extent, a clean image.

“Many tainted elements had managed to secure BSP tickets last time by keeping our innocent party men in the dark,” she said.

She said that the ‘wrong elements’ had also ‘corrupted’ her own party workers and leader for which she had to expel many old cadres also.

“This time, we have denied nominations to many ministers and sitting legislators who did not have a clean image,” she said apparently referring to the sacking of a large number of ministers and expulsion of a number of legislators.

The BSP supremo said that she had given tickets to the members of all the communities in accordance with their contribution to the ‘BSP mission.’

The list contains 88 candidates from the Scheduled Castes, 113 from Other Backward Classes, 85 from minorities (including Muslims) and 117 from upper castes including 74 Brahmins.

There are also 34 ‘thakur’ nominees among the upper caste candidates.


Dalit diaries

It takes a powerful flashlight to collate and catalogue narratives of the marginalised —for voices long subdued have a tendency to fall silent at approaching footsteps.

The Oxford India Anthology of Malayalam Dalit Writing articulates what was until now wrapped in twilight by zooming in on a region, on certain crucial aspects of expression and issues.

Popular Malayalam output has found global readership via translations, awards and other platforms, and yet there remains a section of regional writing that goes frequently overlooked or is underplayed — the Dalit writings in this language.

In Group Photo, S Joseph speaks in verse of “a cursed life that some Malayalis lead all by themselves”.

Tracing back the beginnings of Dalit writing in Kerala and going forward to the present-day output in the state, the book translates poetry, short fiction, novel excerpts, drama, autobiography, biography and critical interventions into English, and opens up a dark Pandora’s Box.

As Sunny Kavikkad says in his poem An Unchartered Map, “For darkness to write history, I offer my eyes.” The able translators, in turn, offer their ears.

The word ‘Dalit’ itself had a late look-in in Kerala towards the end of the seventies, following its use elsewhere in India from the 1920s onwards, after Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s hectic efforts. It was only in the eighties that the Dalits in ‘God’s own country’ began to stir.

They were privy by then to the hypocrisy of the upper-caste reformers and at the turn of the 20th century, “Dalits remained fragmented as castes and sub-castes”. Attempts at wipe-off set off lyrical ripples, provoking poet Poikayil Appachan to lament:
I see no alphabet
About my race
I see histories
Of many races.

G Sasi Madhuraveli echoed this almost pre-lingual pain in his poem With Love: “Black is the seed of self-rage.” Poets in this collection include KKS Das, KK Govindan, Kaviyoor Murali, Raghavan Atholi, M R Renukumar, M B Manoj, Binu M Pallippad and S Kailesh.  There is a brief history of short fiction in Kerala, as with other genres.

The specific stories in this book showcase the anger, helplessness, rebellion and devaluing of their lives. Written by TKC Vaduthala, Paul Chirakkarode, C Ayyappan, P A Uthaman, P K Prakash and M K Madhukumar, all narratives resonate with ringing native truths. As the story titled Luminous White, translated by Shirley M Joseph, concludesk, “Man — what a limited word!”

In this book one meets Kunjappan who fishes for “that feeling of freedom”, Ramachandran who opposes his preacher dad because “to dream sky-high was foolish”, widowed Kochukarumbi whose Chankranty offering goes awry, Kurumba Muthukki, an elderly woman with a sickle to whom “the red of the flag is not as red as it used to be in the olden days”.

Novelists like TKC Vaduthala, D Rajan, Raghavan Atholi, etc, voice suppressed emotions in aptly chosen excerpts. While referring to C Ayyappan’s Uchayarukkathile Swapnangal (Dreams in a Siesta) Sunny M Kopikkad says the characters in it were Nairs or Namboddiris or Pulayas or Christians.

He says, “The Pulaya woman in Pretabhashanam (Ghost Talk) asks god a question: ‘How can a Pulaya woman be sister to a Christian, old man?’ At this question, it was as though someone had stuffed a plantain in god’s mouth. The Pulaya woman who stuffed a plantain into god’s mouth is a powerful symbol that haunts the Malayali’s pretensions of progressiveness and values.

It is only with a shudder that we realise that the question would render the average Malayali also speechless.”

No such translation project can triumph without its translators — K Satchidanandan, Shreekumar Varma, Lekshmy Rajeev, A J Thomas, Abhirami Shriram, Catherine Thankamma, Sushila Thomas, Saji Mathew, Ravi Shanker, K M Sherrif, E V Ramakrishnan, Ajay Sekher, Valson Thampu, T C Narayan.

The editors of this collection — M Dasan, V Pratibha, Pradeepan Pampirikunnu and C S Chandrika — engage in constant dialogue via the introductions to each segment, decoding the indecipherable, especially to outsiders.

When it comes to going on record, inattention has a lot to answer for. A host of experiences, cries and concerns of a whole people can so easily go unheard. Collections such as these point to a primal lacunae in not just our attention span but our rearrangement of memories, our sense of history and deliberate misreading of it.

Collective amnesia is up against a perfunctory nod for the sheer need to occupy comfort zones. Once the blindfold comes off there is the need to listen, however shaming that may be.

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