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Saturday 23 February 2013

Dalits ‘barred’ from taking part in temple function

Dalits Media Watch
News Updates 21.02.13
Dalits 'barred' from taking part in temple function - The Times Of India
Dalits denied water, NHRC issues notice to Bihar - IBN Live
Sonia panel for Dalit act review - The Telegraph
Even minor offences against dalits may invite harsher penalty - The Times Of India
The Times Of India
Dalits 'barred' from taking part in temple function
ByKshitiz Gaur, TNN | Feb 21, 2013, 02.17 AM IST
AJMER: The old and evil order of casteism and untouchability refused to die down and recently reared up it's ugly head with dalits being prevented from taking part in a yagna for a temple inauguration, for which they too have contributed.
The incident happened in an interior village, Dhaulat Khera, of Pisangan block in Ajmer district on Wednesday. Daulat Khera has about 450 households dominated by Jats, Rawats and Nats. There are also 25 houses of Meghwals and three from the Raiger community. The village is mostly dependent on rain harvesting and cattle farming.
When the need of a Tejaji temple was discussed, the villagers decided to collect contributions from every household and each house has to pay Rs 2,500. "We contributed for the temple and therefore we too have the right to participate in every ritual there," a member of the dalit community preferring anonymity said.
The inauguration of the temple was organized Wednesday morning and when the members of the dalit community reached there to take part in the yagna, they were denied entry by the powerful groups of the village. "They told us that only 51 couples will sit in the yagna and that we would not be allowed in it," he added.
Congress MLA Mahandera Singh Gujjar and other local representatives participated in the inauguration but said they were not aware of such an incident. Sub-divisional magistrate Rajesh Goyal went to the spot upon receiving the information and asked the community members to come out to register a complaint but none came forward.
"I have no idea if any member from the dalit community was banned from participating in the yagna," the Congress MLA said.
Even sarpanch Chagan Lal Prajapat denied any orders on banning anyone from participating in the yagna. "It is a tradition that only those who give money for sitting in the yagna are allowed and the dalits had not paid of it," he said.
Meanwhile, a meeting was also called in which it was decided that a police complaint must be made but no one agreed to stand against the powerful groups of the village. "I got the call from the village of the ban and rushed to the place. I told everyone that if they had any problem they could contact immediately but no one came forward. I even asked them to come to a nearby government school if they are afraid of speaking in the village but in vain," said Bewar SDM Rajesh Goyal.
Goyal had deputed patwaris and other officials in the village to look into the issue. "I have told them that if anyone comes forth in this regard, he or she should be brought to my office for further action," the SDM added.
Officials said if any dalit has a complaint regarding inequality, action will be taken as per law. "There is anxiety in the village and we are trying to convince people of the community to speak out so that action can be taken," said Ramesh Bansal, coordinator of the Dalit Rights Center.
IBN Live
Dalits denied water, NHRC issues notice to Bihar
Bihar, Posted on Feb 21, 2013 at 04:15am IST
New Delhi: The NHRC on Wednesday sought a report from the Bihar government over the denial of water to Dalits by upper caste people in Kishanganj.
"A notice has been issued to the chief secretary of Bihar and the district magistrate of Kishanganj," National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in a statement.
"Reportedly, higher caste people, including the panchayat head, issued a diktat ordering Dalits not to use village water as they had complained that money meant for welfare schemes was being siphoned off by the panchayat members," it added.
The NHRC also said children of Dalit families were warned of dire consequences if they attended the village schools.
"Children of Dalit families were warned of dire consequences if they attended the village schools," it added.
The Telegraph
Sonia panel for Dalit act review
New Delhi, Feb. 20: The Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) has sought a review of the Dalit act and suggested strengthening existing provisions and including new offences.
A set of draft recommendations, put up by the panel on its website for comments, explains why changes are needed in the SCs and STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, popularly known as the Dalit act.
"Over 20 years after it was enacted, its implementation shows up severe lacunae that must be addressed."
The proposals have been framed by a sub-group of the NAC on Dalit issues comprising Farah Naqvi and Mihir Shah. The duo have said many atrocities still "common, widespread and systemic" are not covered by the present law.
The sub-group has proposed a list of offences for incorporation. These include forcing an SC/ST person to carry or dispose human and animal carcasses, dig graves or perform manual scavenging.
Offering an SC/ST woman as a devadasi, influencing voting and thwarting elected Dalit panchayat members from carrying out their duties should also be brought under the law, the NAC has suggested.
The sub-group has also mentioned other new offences. These include obstructing a Dalit or a tribal from using common resources like wells, roads or springs preventing them from sporting new clothes, witchcraft and other forms of social and economic boycott.
Forcible tonsuring, removing moustaches and garlanding with footwear should also be treated as cognisable crimes, the draft has suggested. Such practices are still used to "teach" "empowered" Dalits and tribals a "lesson" and "show them their place" in the caste hierarchy.
The draft also calls for "defining some offences with strict liability". At present, the law requires an element of mens rea, that is a guilty mind or an intent to act, to establish criminal liability. The draft says that inability to prove such intent often becomes a ground not to register cases or acquit the offender.
In other words, the suggestion implies that a complainant's plea should be mostly taken at face value. The assumption is that given the ground realities, especially in villages and small towns, a Dalit or a tribal requires extraordinarily courage to walk up to a police station and file a complaint against a person of higher caste.
The NAC members have pointed out another serious shortcoming — the act's emphasis on establishing that an offence was committed for the reason that the victim was a Dalit or a tribal. The draft says there are cases where police did not record an FIR unless the complainant was able to establish that his caste identity was the reason for the offence.
In some cases, cops dismissed a complaint simply because the offender did not use caste slurs. "Even if a case is registered, (and the offender) chargesheeted and prosecuted, failure to prove that an SC or ST identity formed the basis for the offence often provides the basis for subsequent acquittal by the judiciary," the draft notes.
The Times Of India
Even minor offences against dalits may invite harsher penalty
BySubodh Ghildiyal, TNN | Feb 21, 2013, 02.51 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Soon, even minor offences against dalits will come with higher costs.
The government is planning to include under the Prevention of Atrocities Act offences that attract less than 10-year jail term, a move that would compound the punishment since offences under the Act are non-bailable and are tried under special courts. Presently, only crimes with more than 10-year term under IPC, with some exceptions, fall under the atrocities Act.
The 10-year bar had left serious violations like rape, kidnapping and grievous hurt out of the purview of the stringent law.
The inclusion of rape and other offences under the atrocities law would eliminate the possibility of police diluting the intensity of the crime by claiming that caste was not the ground for the offence.

According to sources, all the offences mentioned in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, being brought as part of beefing up laws on crimes against 
women post-Nirbhaya case, would also attract the atrocities law if the victim is a dalit.
Union social justice ministry is mulling changes to the atrocities law that were discussed by social justice minister Selja with state ministers on Wednesday. "We plan to bring the amendments in the budget session," she said.
The atrocities Act will now include violations like criminal conspiracy with victim being dalit (Section 120), unlawful assembly to overawe dalits or rioting, disobeying a legal direction to save an accused in anti-dalit crime.
Wrongfully restraining a dalit (Section 341) or deterring a public servant from doing his duty (Section 353) would also attract action under the atrocities law.
Importantly, the Centre is looking to ease the burden on the victim to prove that his/her caste was the reason for being targetted. The police often refuse to register case under the atrocity law by claiming that caste was not the reason for its commission.
New offences that would qualify as anti-dalit crime will include garlanding with shoes and throwing waste at the door or premises. Also, stopping a dalit from entering common property resources like burial or cremation ground, using water bodies like river or well or tank, public conveyance or road.
The government is planning to increase compensation for victims under the atrocities law, a must in all crimes against dalits. Though the Centre had hiked the compensation amount in December 2011, the Centre says it was not enough. Importantly, the compensation will be linked to inflation and be revised annually.

.Arun Khote
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.

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