Archive for the ‘Dalits’ Category

scBy Rajiv Shah

The National Sample Survey Organization’s (NSSO’s) report, “Key Indicators of Situation of Agricultural Households in India”, released in December 2014, has indicated that there is much incidence of marginalization of the scheduled caste (SC) households in rural Gujarat in comparison to other social groups – scheduled tribes (STs), other backward classes (OBCs), and those falling under the “Others” category. The data put out by the NSSO show that there are in all 4,55,300 SC households in Gujarat, out of which 1,52,700, or 33.54 per cent, are involved agricultural activities. (more…)

A few dDSC00666ays back, Navsarjan Trust activist from Surendranagar district, Gujarat, Natubhai Parmar snapped photographs suggesting the existence of manual scavenging and dry latrines in the municipal areas of several towns of the district. Based on these photographs, Navsarjan Trust’s programme director Kirit Rathod wrote a letter* to Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel to act quickly against the existence of the despicable practice, called “shame of the nation” by Mahatma Gandhi. Contents of the letter, attached with some photographs, are reproduced below:

Recently, the country’s Prime Minister and former chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi began his Swachh Bharat cleanup campaign on the Gandhi Jayanti Day, October 2. In Gujarat, too, the campaign received considerable support. However, it is a sad commentary on Gandhiji’s Gujarat that even today Dalit families are being made to work as manual scavengers, cleaning up human excreta, in state’s local governing bodies. Latest photographs attached with this go to serve as an example. These photographs are of: (more…)

AHRC-ART-091-2014-01By Avinash Pandey*

No, the man pictured here has not entered the gutter as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much hyped Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or “clean India campaign”. Unlike the ad rush that shows posing with the broom, he could not have entered the gutter to preach the country about the virtues of cleanliness.

He is, in fact, indulging in a practice outlawed time and again by both the legislature and the judiciary of the country, most recently on March 27 this year. The Supreme Court had outlawed manual scavenging yet again and ordered all state governments to strictly enforce the provisions of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act passed by Indian parliament in 2013. Yet the practice continues as exposed by this photograph taken by M. Srinath of The Hindu in Chennai, not some nondescript village tucked away in remote areas. (more…)

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Manjula Pradeep with Dalits in the village

By Manjula Pradeep*

On November 2, I visited Malavada village in Kheda district, Gujarat, where 60 Dalit families were attacked by the dominant caste Sarpanch (village head) and her husband along with a mob of almost 600 dominant caste people of the village. The attack was to create a fear amongst the Dalits who dare to speak out against untouchability practices, discrimination in access to water. The dominant castes have also defiled the well which the Dalits were using for everyday usage. Innocent Dalits both old and young were attacked. Their window panes which were of glass were destroyed. The bicycles, utensils, motorbike, sewing machines, chairs, etc., were destroyed. Their property was looted. Some of the Dalit families have fled the village. (more…)

gandhiBy Subhash Gatade*

It is cleaning season in India. Country’s prime minister has gone to town with a broom. He started the campaign to clean India by sweeping a Dalit neighbourhood of erstwhile untouchables, seemingly breaking many caste barriers. There are very few public defenders of caste system nowadays. After the affirmative action for lower castes in educational institutions and government jobs has begun to show some results, upper caste men and women, whose ancestors only three generations ago fought tooth and nail to not yield even an inch of their caste privileges, now cry and organise under the slogan of equality. Are we witnessing the spectacle of caste being swept away into the dustbin of history?

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caste1Reproduced below are minutes of a meeting on Annihilation of Caste in Ahmedabad on September  12-13, 2014, where participants* — senior academics, activists, scholars and scribes — expressed concern over dilution of Dalit identity because of overt stress on entitlement-based policies. The meeting advocated for alternative strategy based on vulnerability index, in which manual scavengers, especially women, are the chief focus of attention:

The one and half day meeting on moving from caste based discrimination to annihilation of caste, taking cue from the famous treatise of Dr BR Ambedkar, began with a note of concern that Dalit identity is getting diluted because of overt concentration of entitlements based on reservation to those who have been identified officially as scheduled castes (SCs). While not denying the importance of reservation as a means to empower certain sections of Dalits who are above than other Dalit sub-castes, the meeting believed that there is a need to go beyond reservation, violence and discrimination, towards an approach that takes into account the aim of complete demolition of the caste system, as it exists in India as also in other South Asian countries. A well-planned strategy should be worked out by identifying important factors that keep the caste system alive, keeping in mind both short-term and long-term goals.

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gandhi mahadev desai

Mahadevbhai Desai with Gandhiji

Controversy surrounding Gandhiji’s views on Varnashram Dharma continue following well-known writer Arundhati Roy’s Mahatma Ayyankali lecture at Kerala University, Trivandrum, on July 17, 2014, where she, for the second time, sharply criticized the Father of Nation for “favouring” the “most brutal social hierarchy in the world known as caste system.” Soon after Roy’s lecture was made public, social activist Nandini Oza in her blog quoted from Gandhiji’s aide Mahadevbhai Desai’s dairy to say how the Mahatma favoured removal untouchability even as maintaining the caste hierarchy (click HERE to read). Oza, in her second post in her blog, has now dug out more quotations from Desai’s diary. We reproduce: (more…)