Caste-based discrimination for cremating those who pass away in this North Gujarat village

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The piece of land, currently being used by Dalits for cremation

Kantilal Parmar, a senior Dalit rights activist, has written a letter* to Gujarat revenue minister Kaushik Patel, insisting on the need to allocate land for a separate cremation ground for the Dalit community of a village in North Gujarat.

Text of the letter:

We belong to a Scheduled Caste (SC) community, are citizens of India, and live in Gujarat. We believe in non-violent struggle, and want to establish rule of law in the country for our Constitutional and basic human rights, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and Parliament.

It is in this context that we want to bring to your notice the problem of a piece of land, which we need for cremation in Hansapur village, Patan district. It is most unfortunate that, in this village, we face caste-based discrimination for cremating those near and dear ones who pass away and go to the heavenly resort. There is, in fact, no peace to even those of us who die. They too are being subjected to untouchability.

We have been waiting for a piece of land in Hansapur village, which is situated in Patan block of district Patan of Gujarat State. There are more than 50 houses of SC community in the village. We seek to live peacefully with other communities, without in any way disturbing the peace of the village. Most of the SC community adults work either as small farmers or agricultural labourers in the village.

The SC community of Hansapur has been using Survey No 23 as cremation ground for the last more than 50 years. This is because there is no separate piece of land allocated made available by the local government authorities to us for cremating/burying SC persons who die in the village. The main reason for this is caste-based discrimination and untouchability practice faced by the SC community.

The Hansapur Gram Panchayat had even agreed to allocate a land of piece to the SCs for cremating our dead.  It passed Resolution No 48 on dated 16/01/2013, which has been endorsed by the village council, which has ‘’no objection’’ for a separate piece of land for the cremation to SC community people. The Hansapur Gram Panchayat also passed Resolution No 82 on 30/03/2013 for Survey No 375 A/1 P, which is in fact a wasteland. Yet, this land has till date not been allocated to for cremation purposes.

Kindly note that the Hansapur Gram Panchayat has under its possession two acres of land,  Survey No 23, which is grazing or gauchar land for the cattle. It has turned this piece of land into cremation ground for dominant community people. Taking this into account, the SC community people demanded for a separate cremation ground in the village in a letter to Mamlatdar, Patan taluka. He told us that that the Supreme Court has barred allocation of gauchar land for cremating SC people.

Yet, the fact is that, if the Gram Panchayat can allocate gauchar land for public interest as cremation/burial ground for the dominant community people, how can there be any problem in allocating a similar piece of land for the SC community? The Patan district collector has the authority to allocate the land to the SC community people in public interest, and there is no any bar by the Supreme Court in this regard. Please see the Supreme Court of India Civil Appeal No 1131/2011@SLP(C)No 3109/2011 (arising out of Special LeavePetition [Civil] CC NO. 19869 of 2010).

As per the land revenue code 1879, the district collector, Patan, can allocate a piece of land for cremation/burial in Hansapur village. Hence, we demand, through this urgent appeal, to allocate a piece of land of piece to the SC community people in Hansapur village, Patan block,  Patan district. Not doing so would be construed as constitutional and human rights violation of SC people.

*Copy of the letter sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, and Gujarat governor Om Prakash Kohli

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