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Friday 20 January 2012

Minister denies link with alleged rapist of dalit teenager

The Times Of India

Minister denies link with alleged rapist of dalit teenager

BHUBANESWAR: Amidst a statewide outcry demanding his resignation from the council of ministers over the alleged rape of a dalit girl at Pipili in Puri district, Odisha's agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy on Tuesday denied charges against him.

"I have no link with the accused persons though the incident took place in my assembly segment of Pipili," Maharathy said rejecting the allegations of harbouring the criminals at his farm house.

Terming allegations against him as "false" and "baseless", the agriculture minister said that he came to know about the alleged rape incident only from the media. "As I came to know about the incident from media, how can I provide them (criminals) shelter," the minister said.

Claiming that he was busy in election campaigning for the ruling BJD candidateat Umarkote in Nabarangpur district on the date of the alleged rape incident, the minister said "I have not put any pressure on the police in this matter."

"Not in this case, I have never put pressure on the police in any matter," he claimed adding that he had absolute faith on the judiciary.

"I hope the Judicial Commission will unearth the truth behind the incident. I also hope that the state's criminal investigation department, crime branch will catch the culprits involved in the alleged rape incident," he added.

Prasanta Pradhan the prime accused and two other accused Purna Chandra Swain and Premananda Nayak had so far been arrested while one Abu Pradhan, was still at large.

The Wall Street Journal

Politics Journal: Mayawati Banks on Dalits and Muslims


As UP prepares to go to the polls again over seven phases through February and early March, Ms. Mayawati is gearing up for the most important political battle of her life. At stake is a state often considered the wind vane of Indian politics, with 80 seats in the federal parliament. How the ballot boxes come in when counting is held on March 6 will heavily influence the remaining life of the Congress-led government until general elections are held in 2014.
All eyes are on UP, not only because of its huge population of 170 million people. All the key players are expected to make or break their larger political reputations in this state, whether Rahul Gandhi of the Congress, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party or Ms. Mayawati of the BSP.
Even Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and Sonia Gandhi’s daughter but otherwise a determined stay-at-home mother, has descended upon the poll map, although she has decided to limit herself to the territory covered by her mother and brother’s federal constituencies in Rae Bareli and Amethi, respectively.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is such a distant fourth in UP that its irrelevance is compounded by the fact that it is unlikely to stitch up alliances with any of the state’s more powerful parties.
In UP these days, much is being made of the so-called “Muslim vote,” with every party scheming on how to get the state’s 20% Muslim population on board. But in the permutation and combination that drives the political math, the other big voting chunk falls under the label of “Dalit” or “Most Backward Caste” votes.
As India’s main Dalit leader, it is obvious Ms. Mayawati has more than an edge in this department. But in a repeat of 2007, Ms. Mayawati is once again planning a rainbow coalition of candidates for 2012, with the Dalits again at its nerve center.
That is why Dalits top her list of candidates with 88 seats, with Muslims a close second with 85 seats. The upper castes have together got 117 seats, of which Brahmins have got 74 seats (down from 86 in 2007), while the backward and most backward castes have got 113 seats between them (in 2007, they had 120 seats).
Interestingly, the Congress is taking a leaf out of Ms. Mayawati’s copy-book, even though it could probably teach the rest of India a thing or two about caste stratagem, considering it was the first to target (as long ago as the 1960s) both Muslims and “Harijans” – as Dalits were known for decades, or “people of God,” a term employed by Mahatma Gandhi.
That is why in this UP election, old caste formulae are being revived – albeit with a difference. The Congress seems to have come to the painful conclusion that Rahul Gandhi’s charm is not about to win it more than 40-50 seats. Moreover, party officials admit they may have left it a little too late to plunge deeply into the bewildering ocean of backward, most backward and other backward castes.
Still, you could give the Congress a few marks for trying. For over a year, young Rahul has veered off the beaten track in UP and stayed overnight in Dalit homes and shared their food, often to the accompaniment of Ms. Mayawati’s taunts.
Rahul and the rest of the Congress have ignored the opposition jibes about his rediscovery of India. But having failed to unleash an army of local leaders on the ground, they are hoping that the targeting of the state’s Muslims and its Dalits will make for at least a last-minute partial miracle.
On the Muslim front, reports from UP continue to be mixed. Many are talking about the Peace Party, led by a former doctor called Mohammed Ayub, which is also hoping to target the state’s Muslims.
As for the Dalits, a Congress leader told IRT that two of the party’s best-known, north Indian Dalit faces – P.L. Punia, member of parliament from Barabanki in UP and a former chairman of the National Scheduled Castes commission, and Ashok Tanwar, member of parliament from Sirsa in Haryana and a former student leader with enormous grass-roots political experience – had been asked to identify and mentor a hundred Dalit leaders in UP.
“The Congress knows that the Most Backward Castes will stay with Mayawati, but we hope to wean away some of the Backwards from the edges,” the Congress leader said.
Meanwhile, Ms. Mayawati’s 2007 magic seems to have considerably faded. And despite her dismissal of both Rahul Gandhi as well as her more serious opponent, the Samajwadi party, the truth is that somehow both have got under her skin.
The BSP’s website, in the Hindi news section, liberally displays stories from the UP Hindi language press. But note the selection: Out of 15 top posts, the Congress party was being targeted in 10, including Rahul being directly named in three of them, while in another post, Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav’s drinking habits were being discussed.

Dalits launch a capital enterprise

Growing up in the 1990s in small town Rajasthan, TR Meghwal, son of a Dalit farmer, was not allowed to touch the ‘lota’ from which upper caste boys drank water. When he was thirsty, upper caste students would pour water into his cupped palms. Ten years down the line, Meghwal has joined hands with a Brahmin from Rajasthan, Rupraj Purohit, to start a multi-crore construction company.
Meghwal was one of 50-odd Dalit entrepreneurs from across India who attended the inauguration of the Delhi chapter of DAICCI (Dalit India Chamber of Commerce and Industry).
Dressed in suits and ties – the trademark of Dalit messiah Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar – their message was loud and clear. They were celebrating the arrival of the Dalit capitalist. A couple of decades ago, the term itself could well be considered an oxymoron for a community synonymous with poverty.
The event, a cocktail-cum-dinner party at India International Centre on Saturday evening, was not simply a celebration of Dalit wealth but a recognition of the struggles the community has been through. The function heralded the arrival of a new social order. Take for instance Sharvan Singh, son of a labourer in an Agra shoe factory, who now heads his own shoe business. He acknowledges the fact that doing business as a Dalit is no easy task. For starters, he points out that despite a government policy on no-guarantee loans for Dalits, most banks insist on collateral.
The gathering included the likes of Shishupal Singh, a Delhi-based garment exporter with clients in France, Spain and Italy, as well as Mumbai’s Dalit czarina Kalpana Saroj, who runs Kamani Tubes Limited.
”By showcasing Dalit entrepreneurship, we are sending out a message to society that, despite all odds, Dalits can succeed,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, Dalit activtist and author.
DICCI started its Mumbai chapter earlier this year. The Delhi chapter is the fifth of its kind across the country. ”In another six months, we hope to have 25 chapters across India,” said DICCI chairman Milind Kamble, who founded the organisation in Pune in 2005.

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