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A Section for Media News on Dalit Issues

 

 

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Dalits protested untouchability, now they have to pay for it 
Mumbai bandh gets violent on Sangre's death
RPI politician injured in protest dies
Minorities offer to protect Peth adivasis
BSP favours political instability: Kanshi
In AP's untouchable village Dalits still thirst for reform
Jaya urges non-interference in quotas for SC/STs
Lawyer chucks his practice to reform Devadasis in a Karnataka town
Now Buddhists claim Ayodhya as their own
Ranvir Sena strikes again; 12 shot dead
Eight SC/ST ministers issue ultimatum to CM
$100 m Budha project in jeopardy
Arundhati Roy speaks at Dalit Sahitya Academi
Angry Dalit villagers heckle Rabri, Laloo
21 Dalits gunned down
Varsities flouting quota policy on appointment of teachers: Study
Bar against reservation

 

 

 

 

 

Dalits protested untouchability, now they have to pay for it
Express News Service/6 April 1999

VISAKHAPATNAM: The upper caste villagers of Pallapu Kumarapuram have given a choice to its 12 Dalit families. They can either starve to death or leave the village. The upper caste farmers in this village in Anandapuram have decided not to hire Dalit labourers. The Dalits are pulling along with the little money they have which will soon evaporate. "We do not know how to manage. We will have to starve," says Aggala Appalaraju, who is doing his second year at the Narsipatnam ITI, and is the only educated Dalit youth here. The economic blockade began ever since Dalits protested against the practice of untouchability. And it peaked when The Indian Express published a report on how the upper caste villagers were not allowing Dalits to draw water from the village well. The upper caste villagers have hit back for bringing a "bad name" to the village by leaking the details of the practice.Today, the Dalits stand ex-communicated. The upper castes, instead of cracking down on Dalits, adopted adifferent strategy. They gave up the village well for the Dalits' exclusive use. The upper caste women are now fetching water from agriculture wells in fields, though they are very far from the village.
The upper caste men have stopped hiring the Dalits for farm operations. Their youths insult the Dalit women and youths for making a fuss over the practice of untouchability. "Every one, including small boys are jeering at us," says Aggala Lakshmi, a Dalit housewife. As if this were not enough, the upper caste men have ordered the Dalits to remove their buffaloes from under a tamarind tree and a thatched house next to it which serves as cattle shed. The upper caste men have sacked a Dalit woman who cleans the premises of the lone Ram temple in the village. They have stopped selling milk to the Dalits. "They want to starve us with the hope that we will
surrender to them," says Tummi Narayana Rao, a Dalit youth.

According to sources, the upper caste men are religiously following the decisions taken at ameeting at Anandapuram to impose fines on their own men if they helped the Dalits. They decided to impose a Rs 100 fine on any upper caste woman if she drew water from the village well, an equal amount on any upper caste man if he employed the Dalits for farm work or allowed them to cut grass in their fields. The Dalits are seething with rage that the upper caste is not selling milk even though they owed money to them. "They are insisting on immediate payment. We have no money as we are not going for work. They would not adjust the money they owe us," says a Dalit woman. But the upper caste people say the Dalits were making an unnecessary fuss. "They wanted to draw water from the well. We gave the entire well to them. Whether we use the well water or fetch water from the farm wells is none of their business.We have freedom to drink any water," Dasapatruni Venkataramana, a village elder from an upper caste community, says. The upper caste men insists that they had been very "nice" to the Dalits andthere were several occasions when they went to their rescue. The upper caste men maintain that they intervened and had the protected water supply scheme repaired when it went out of order. Venkataramana is angry that the Dalits are not considerate to them. "When a calf died in our village, we had to remove it though they do it usually. They wanted to create trouble and that was why they did not come forward to remove the carcass," he says. "What else do they want? Do we have to allow them to live in our houses? Do they want us to give our daughters to them in wedding alliances?" he asks. Meanwhile, the Visakhapatnam Revenue Divisional Officer Ch. Sridhar held an inquiry and took an undertaking from the upper caste not to treat the Dalits as untouchables. The RDO also took another undertaking from the Dalits to the effect that they would not create problems in the village. "There is no incident in the village so far. If they clash, we will have to book them under the law," Sridhar says. Anakapalli MLA DVeerabhadra Rao, in whose constituency the village falls, says he did not know about the practice of untouchability. "I do not know there is such a sharp division between the two groups," he says and promises to go to the village and check on it.

Mumbai bandh gets violent; four injured
HT/Mumbai, 2 April 1999

Four Persons were injured as violence gripped many parts of Mumbai, especially North-East Mumbai, following a bandh call given by the Republican Party of India (RPI) after the death of prominent Dalit leader Bhai Sangare on Thursday. Almost the entire North-East part of Mumbai which is dominated by Dalits had a deserted look as shop keepers downed their shutters following scores of stone pelting incidents. Local buses were also the target of
small bunches of Dalit activists who fanned out in North-East Mumbai.

Armed Dalit activists' groups with chains, wooden sticks, bottles could be seen at various areas in North-East Mumbai intimidating those opposing the bandh. The worst-affected areas in Mumbai on Friday were Chembur, Govandi, Kurla, Mankhurd, Dharavi, Mulund and Ghatkopar in North-East Mumbai, which has the largest population of Dalits.

The other areas that came under the grip of violence included Kandivali and Borivali in North-West Mumbai and Worli in south-central Mumbai. There was a rasta-roko in Central Mumbai as well as a couple of areas in North-East Mumbai. Following the stoning of many BEST buses in Vikhroli, Nadkarni Park, Podar Hospital, Worli B.D. Chawl in Central Mumbai, P.L. Lokhande Marg in Chembur, Powai and some and other areas of Mumbai, public transport
was affected, but to a limited extent.

Trains were plying normally, though attendance was thin, as it was a public holiday and moreover, many Mumbaites chose to stay home rather then venture out. Bhai Sangare, a prominent Dalit activist and leader died at Jaslok hospital in South Mumbai on Thursday after battling severe burns for more then two weeks. Sangare had mysteriously been enveloped in fire last month in Mhad area following his attempt to burn a copy of the Manusmriti. Thousands of Dalit workers have been paying their last respect at his residence in Central Mumbai.

Last week, under intense pressure from Dalit MLAs, the State Government had agreed to a CID enquiry into the fire that engulfed Bhai Sangare mysteriously in Mahad on March 20.

RPI politician injured in protest dies

Rediff on The Net/1 April 1999

Republican Party of India politician Bhai Sangare, 53, died this afternoon at Jaslok Hospital in south Bombay of severe burns sustained while burning copies of the Manusmriti (the rules of dharma enunciated by Manu, the ancient Hindu law-giver) at Mahad in Raigad district last month.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. The last rites will be performed tomorrow at Chaityabhoomi, Shivaji Park, central Bombay, where Babasaheb Ambedkar, architect of the Indian Constitution, was also interred. The RPI has called for a Bombay bandh (general strike)
tomorrow.

Sangare sustained severe burns on March 20 at Mahad when burning copies of the Manusmriti while leading a procession at the historic Chavdar lake on the occasion of the 72nd anniversary of the agitation against untouchability launched by Dr Ambedkar. According to some reports, when Sangare was burning copies of the book, someone from the assembly threw inflammable liquid on him. The dalit politician sustained 50 to 55 per cent burns. After being given first aid in a local hospital, he was taken to Masina Hospital in Byculla, south-central Bombay, and later moved to Jaslok. The state government has already ordered an inquiry by the Criminal Investigation Department. CID Director General M N Singh is leading the investigation that is expected to be complete in two months. The government has also made elaborate security
arrangements to avoid any untoward incident during the strike tomorrow.


Addressing a press conference at the state legislature, Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde, who is in charge of the home department, said directives were issued at a high-level meeting of police officers this evening. State Director General of Police Arvind Inamdar and Bombay Police Commissioner Ronald Mendonca were among those present at the meeting. Munde said there was no reason for any tension in the city and no untoward incident had been reported so far. But as a precaution, the government has ordered all district police chiefs to enhance police
bandobast. Giving details, he said Sangare died at 3.23pm IST. As per his relatives' demand, his body was handed over to them without a post-mortem being done.

The body will be kept at the Bombay Improvements Trust Chawl at Mazgaon in central Bombay from 9am tomorrow for Sangare's followers to pay their last respects. The cremation will take place tomorrow at 4pm.

Minorities offer to protect Peth adivasis
EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE/25 March 1999

NASHIK: The recently set up Adivasi, Dalit, OBC, Minorities Forum,
which has organised an Ishara Parishad in Peth on Sunday, has offered protection
to Christian tribals who have been ordered out of the taluka by Hindu
fundamentalist organisations by March 31.
At a press conference here today, convenor of the parishad, Vilas Sonawane, said
the forum would protect the right of citizens to opt for a religion of their
choice. However, he explained, the forum would instruct the adivasis in
self-protection rather than call for reinforcements.
The forum will also organise a Sanskritik Parishad (Cultural Conference) of
tribals in Devmogra village in June to encourage the tribals to preserve their
animistic traditions. Asked whether their offer of protection to Peth's
Christian tribals did not contradict this belief, Sonawane said tribals even in
the North-Eastern states had maintained their traditions and rituals despite
converting to Christianity.
The forum's Ishara Parishad will be addressed byLeader of the Opposition in the
Legislative Assembly, Madhukar Pichad, Republican Party of India leader and
Member of Parliament, Jogendra Kawade, former Parliamentarian, Zamru Kahandole
(Cong), Fr Francis D Britto, ex-MP, Haribhau Mahale (JD), actor Nilu Phule and
local MLA Harishchandra Chavan.
The Ishara Parishad has been organised to counter the threat of the Dharma
Raksha Samiti, which had ordered Christian adivasis out of Peth by March 31,
during the Vishaal Hindu Sammelan on January 5, 1999. In fact, the saffron
offensive mounted by Hindu fundamentalists also saw the reconversion of 37
Christian tribals to the Hindu fold on the occasion.
The sammelan followed an attack on Christian tribals and damage to their church
at Kayre Sadadpada village in Peth taluka on October 16, 1998. The converted
tribals had refused to contribute foodgrains and money for an annual tribal
ritual, evoking the wrath of their Hindu brethren.
About 500 tribals have converted to Christianity in Peth over the last 14
years.There are no foreign missionaries in the area and the conversions have
been done by Fr Arthur Jebrass, who hails from Tamil Nadu.

BSP favours political instability: Kanshi
EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE/25 March 1999

LUDHIANA: The Bhaujan Samaj Party is preparing for elections in
November and the party will work to ensure that the current political
instability continues after the elections. The party will contest 150
constituencies with the aim of winning them, while in 250 constituencies it will
work to ensure that neither the Congress nor the BJP wins more than 150 seats.
This was stated by BSP chief Kanshi Ram while speaking to the media. He was here
to attend a rally organised by the party.
Kanshi Ram added that political instability was necessary for his party to
cement its hold in national politics. Currently, in terms of votes polled, the
party is the fourth largest after the Congress, BJP and the CPM and it would not
enter into an alliance with any of these forces, though understanding with any
other political party is not ruled out, he said. Keeping these aims in mind,
Kanshi Ram said, the party's strategy during the recent assembly elections in
MP, Rajasthan and Delhi succeeded in jolting the BJP and shaking up the 18 or so
allies holding-up the government. Refusing to elaborate, he said efforts were on
to ensure that elections were held within eight months. The party, he added,
would be taking out a march on the occasion of the Khalsa tercentenary. The
march, termed the Guru Gobind Singh De Garib Sikhan Seeri March, will highlight
the fact that contrary to the aims of the Guru, 300 years after the Khalsa was
formed to give patshahi (rule) to the garib Sikh (poverty-stricken Sikhs),such
people continue to languish as seeri (bonded labourer). He added that in view of
the party's policy of supporting which ever force was weaker, the party would
try and ensure that the Tohra faction was strengthened in the state.
In Bihar, he said, the party was preparing for the assembly elections, due next
March. The BSP, he added, had no faith in the ability of the Rabri Devi
government to protect the Dalits, ``I kept out of Bihar till December hoping
that Laloo Yadav would stand by the Dalits but we kept getting reports that this
was not the case. Since January 1 I have been travelling regularly to the
state.''
Commenting on the decline in the BSP's following in Punjab, he said that it was
due to the lack of local leadership within the party and he had made the trip as
an effort to rectify the problem. During the rally, which was attended by 15,000
people, he criticised the party workers for not being able to mobilise support.

In AP's untouchable village Dalits still thirst for reform
EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE/25 March 1999

ANAKAPALLE: When the world is all set to enter the next millennium,
the Dalits of Pallapu Kumarapuram in Munagapaka mandal in Visakhapatnam district
have to stand away from the village well for someone to draw water and pour into
their pitchers, so that they do not `pollute' the water in the well by their
touch.
Even at the village's lone small restaurant, the Dalits cannot step in to have a
snack in the stainless steel plates in which the upper castes are served. That
will invite the wrath of the upper castes for their audacity. They will have to
hold leaf platters in their hands and ask the server at the restaurant to drop
the snacks into them, like beggars. If they need a drink of water to wash the
food down at the restaurant, they have to proffer the glasses brought with them
and the attendant will fill them. They are barred from using the hotel glasses.
The village restaurant is run by a woman of upper caste. ``She is a kind woman.
But she is afraid of crossing the line drawn by her castepeople,'' says
Nukaraju, himself a Dalit.
The village has a population of 400 people. Of them, 12 families belong to
Scheduled Castes. There is only one well for the entire village. The rest of the
population belongs to an upper caste whose members loathe the very sight of the
Dalits.
The dozen Dalit families have to wait outside the houses of upper caste families
until they come out, draw water from the well and pour into the `untouchable'
containers. If the upper caste people are busy, the Dalits have to wait until
they are free and ready to be generous to them.
Even this facility had been denied to them for sometime when the Dalits gathered
courage and questioned the sarpanch as to why they could not draw water from the
well. The upper castes then decided to offer them a concession -- the upper
castes would first draw water and fill their containers at home and only after
that would they draw water for the Dalits' needs.
Even when it comes to washing clothes, there is untouchability. The uppercaste
families wash their clothes at one of the two tanks in the village which was
intended to serve the needs of the Dalits. Only after they finish the day's
washing, are the Dalits allowed to use the tank water for washing their clothes.
The other tank nearby, the upper caste considers as its own and does not allow
washing there by the Dalits.
Though the Dalit youths resent the apartheid, their parents restrain them from
protesting. ``If we try to do anything to end the discrimination, our parents
and grandparents shout at us as they do not want to annoy the upper caste,''
says Appalaraju, who is doing a course in industrial training.
As the Dalits swallow their self-respect and stay meek before the upper caste,
this heinous practice does not seem to have caught the eye of the district
administration. Which century is this village entering?

Jaya urges non-interference in quotas for SC/STs


Rediff on the Net/20 March 1999

All India Anna DMK general secretary J Jayalalitha today urged the Union government to set right the anomalies with regard to reservation of jobs for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes, as several provisions in the five memoranda issued by the previous United Front regime at the Centre violated their hard-fought constitutional rights.

In a statement, she said the five memoranda issued by the United Front regime had conspired to work against the interests of SC/STs.

The SC/STs have been adversely affected with regard to reservations in government jobs, promotional avenues and relaxation of qualifying marks for recruitment, she said, while pointing out that special recruitment drives for government jobs had been discontinued.

Even those SC/ST candidates who had qualified themselves on merit had been relegated to the reserved category, she regretted.

She urged the Union government to seriously examine the issue of bringing in legislation to make reservations for SC/ST non-justiciable.

Stating that the grievances of SC/STs were very genuine, Jayalalitha wanted the Union government to streamline their service conditions in government jobs by formulating a definite policy of recruitment and absorption as full-time employees, wherever they were working part-time, giving due consideration to the type of jobs they were performing.

She wanted all the benefits extended to the permanent employees to be extended to the part-time SC/ST employees.

Pointing out that large-scale disinvestment was on the anvil with regard to Public Sector Units, she said the misapprehensions in the minds of the SC/STs vis-a-vis job reservations in these units had to be removed.

Stating that the constitutional guarantees given to the deprived classes regarding their fundamental rights could no longer be treated as mere promises, she said the AIADMK was fully committed to the upliftment of SC/STs and ensuring social justice for them.

Lawyer chucks his practice to reform Devadasis in a Karnataka town


The Week/21 Feb 1999

At the Bar Association chamber in Athani's civil court, guffaws drowned the legalese, even as hordes of villagers tarried along the corridors awaiting judicial succour. What tickled them was a postcard on the notice board, addressed to 'B.L. Patil the whore's son', heaping insults on the advocate turned social reformer.

In this laidback town in north Karnataka's Belgaum district bordering Maharashtra, gossip was gobbled like spicy pakoras. When Patil returned home that evening in 1991, his wife and two sons were sombre. They urged him to give up his work, but the thought tormented him all night. At the first glimmer of dawn his jeep trundled towards the abode of Siddalinga Mahaswamigalu at GadagÑhis spiritual crutch.

"Don't give up," the Swamiji told him. "Be like the candle which, even as it melts, leads the way for others." It steeled his determination to save the Devadasis from prostitution. "Sometimes innocent villagers call him 'Prostitutes' lawyer'," said Patil's wife Shanta. "And these days he just smiles in response."

By 1998, Patil was revered in north Karnataka, particularly in Athani taluk. He had touched the lives of one lakh Dalits and over 10,000 Devadasis inhabiting this drought-afflicted region.

What had touched his soul was a lecture by social scientist Sankara Jogan at an arts college in Athani in the early eighties. "Every second prostitute in Bombay's red-light area comes from Athani," said Jogan, son of a 'Jogiti' (Devadasi). Disgusted with his background, he had changed his surname to 'Jogan', and chosen Athani for the fieldwork of his doctoral dissertation on the Devadasi system. He now teaches at Mangalore University.

Patil accepted Jogan as his guru. The disparity in age did not matter-Jogan was on the threshold of adulthood while Patil was in his mid-40s, with two sons.

New horizons: While their children go to school, the reformed Devadasis keep themselves busy stitching garments A tear ran down his cheek as Patil, 50, recently recounted his story to an audience of children licking their ice candies under a swaying banyan tree. Born in 1946 into the Lingayat family of Lakhmagouda Patil in Mallabadi village, he was named Basavaprabhu after the 12th century philosopher-saint Basava. Lakhmagouda, owning 135 acres of farmland, was the village headman respected for his ability to mediate conflicts. "It is said that my father ensured that the disputes in Mallabadi never reached the police station," said Patil. "However, he had one defect; he practised untouchability."

Patil remembers skipping back from school and touching the sweat-drenched banian of their Harijan servant, who was chopping wood. The blisters that his father's walking stick inflicted on his behind still make him wince. "But then, as if to get even with my father, I would go to the servants' quarters and demand water to drink," he said.

When he was 11, cancer snatched away his father, but his uncles, B.H. Patil and N.Y Patil (the first legislator of the town), had a profound influence on his life. "When I was in the ninth standard my uncle presented me Tagore's Geetanjali," said Patil. N.Y. Patil wanted his nephew to be an English teacher and manage his vast inheritance.

During his pre-university years at the local college, Patil persuaded fellow students to donate their old text-books to a mobile library he ran for poor students. By 1972, Patil married Shantamma, graduated in law and started practising. "My mother had arthritis and I married because I wanted somebody to take care of her," admits Patil. When famine struck that year, he visited the nearby villages, listed their problems and sought remedies from the local authorities. He also established 'gruel centres' for the starving villagers.

When the Land Reforms Act came into force in 1974, it was boom time for lawyers. Illiterate farmers milled around their offices, paying as much as Rs 500 to fill an application form.

Braving the heat, Patil ventured into the villages with a folding-chair, filling the farmers' applications for nothing. A board outside his house offered free legal advice to the Dalits and the poor. It was the beginning of his popularity and a flourishing legal practice. In 1981, he was elected vice-president of the Karnataka Liberal Education (KLE) SocietyÑwhich figured prominently in making education accessible to the masses.

It was then that he met Jogan, formed a committee and organised a seminar on the ills of the Devadasi system. The committee, named Vimochana Devadasi Punarwasati Sangha, organised the seminar in Kokatnur village, known for the Goddess Yellamma temple where girls from the scheduled castes are dedicated as Devadasis.

After a month, Vimochana found five Devadasis willing to get married at Kokatnur. Only two surfaced at the marriage pandal; the others feared to break the tradition. With the three betrayed grooms looking on, the two bold girls entered into matrimony, amid music and drum beats. History had been made in Athani.

For the man who had made it happen, it was just the beginning. Besides abandoning his legal career, Patil relinquished positions in several cooperatives to work full time for Devadasi rehabilitation. It led to the marriage of 143 Devadasis. Once he visited a red-light area in Mumbai. "I went into a house run by an old woman named Tangeuvva," he recalled. "My intention was to seek the daughter of a prostitute from Athani as a gift for the school I planned to start." Hearing him call Tangeuvva 'sister', the old woman wept; no one had ever shown her such respect. Although Patil failed to rescue the girl, he returned to perform seven Devadasi marriages that year, despite resistance from society.

"Even educated people condoned the Devadasi system for economic reasons," said Patil. Besides, rehabilitating the Devadasis with government assistance was easier said than done since the aid was erratic. Accustomed to easy earnings, some Devadasis clandestinely pursued their old profession, even after rehabilitation. Patil's hopes lay in educating the next generation.

Patil was virtually ostracised by the society and accused of contaminating the environment with prostitutes' children.

Then fortune smiled. Chancing upon a news report, the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) of America offered to fund Vimochana's proposed school, for which Patil was expected to do a survey of Devadasi children in 73 villages of Athani taluk. Patil and his team were not exactly welcome at the Dalit settlements. "At some places they said that they were quite capable of looking after their children," said Patil.

Patil spent his own money on the survey, including photographing and preparing a profile of each child. The CCF rejected many photographs of questionable quality, said V.S. Manavadi, secretary of Vimochana. Fortunately, Babu Kaka Shivgaokar of the Ugar Sugar Mills helped them out by donating Rs 5,250.

For the next few years the Patils were virtually ostracised for befriending the Devadasis and Dalits. There was also trouble from the state government, which rejected Vimochana's request for eight acres to build the school. Since caste Hindus refused to rent out property, Patil went to Mallabadi, 20 km away, where his mother lived. Here, in his ancestral home, 300 children attended the first classes in 1990.

"I often wondered what my father's reaction might have been if he found a group of Dalit kids learning the alphabet in what was once his bedroom," said Patil.

A few children were lodged in the school, and others in small houses he rented. Caste Hindus accused him of contaminating the environment by bringing in prostitutes' children. As swamijis, international sponsors and journalists began visiting the remote hamlet, their hostility turned to respect. "It appeared that everybody wanted to be a part of the silent revolution gaining momentum in Mallabadi," said Patil. "Their attitude changed dramatically and other communities also sent their children to my school."

Now the school needed more room. Feeding the children in batches consumed nearly four hours, eating into their study time. Patil's wife donated eight acres she had inherited. He constructed a spacious dining room here, naming it 'Shri Guru Mahanta Nilaya' after the Swamiji, one of Vimochana's main benefactors. Donations for a school building started trickling in.

A piggy savings collector from Dharwad donated his life's savings of Rs 25,000 to the school. "When I gave him the receipt, he tore it up saying that he was making the donation anonymously," said Patil. The donor still sponsors an award of Rs 1000 for the best student in matriculation. A Californian sweeper donated 500 dollars from which the 'Kathleen Garden' emerged. Jewellers Zaveri Brothers of Mumbai chipped in with huge sums for the classrooms. Finally on the recommendation of the Pejawar seer, the government accorded recognition to the school.

The CCF adopted 500 Devadasi children, paying their expenses, and later doubled its support to cover 1,002 children. Today Patil has 325 students in his school, 110 of them children of Devadasis. "We did not want to isolate the Devadasis' kids," said headmaster S.H. Talwar, explaining that the intermingling would help in their integration with mainstream society.

Some time ago, the students went on an unruly hunger strike, angry that the rotis had no ghee. Shouting slogans, they marched towards Patil Kaka's house as he was driving towards the school. He convinced them to return, but felt hurt at the way the kids had behaved. "I realised I should not expect anything in return," he said.

A psychologist told him that rebellious behaviour was natural in kids from difficult backgrounds. The sight of their mothers being sexually used would have scarred their young minds.

The school applies salve on them. Said Radha Nooli, a reformed Devadasi of Anathpur: "My only son Madhar goes to Patil's school. He has earned us respectability in society." Enrolling him in the school has also brought them medical and monetary help from Vimochana's schemes funded by the CCF. The Dalits of Anathpur respect Patil for installing an Ambedkar bust in a playground. "Initially we regarded him with suspicion," said Tukaram Laxman Hanganur of Budhuvada. "We thought this high-caste man planned to sell our kids to the foreigners accompanying him. But after he gave us jowar, buffaloes and houses, we trusted him."

Vimochana trains the Devadasis in readymade garment making at a unit in Athani. The 12 women trainees there get a daily stipend of Rs 20 and they compulsorily save Rs 5. After the training, they receive a sewing machine. Vimochana also has a nylon rope-making unit at Lokur.

At Kohalli, 20 Devadasis pedal away at their charkhas. They make wool yarn, and occasionally blankets and mats. "We make about Rs 50 a day," said Suvarana Rudrappa Kannal. "I was suffering from cancer and Vimochana paid for my treatment."

Vimochana also trains 40 Devadasis in handloom weaving. Each trainee gets a loan, a loom and a house. "But we are not doing too well here," said Manavadi. "There is no regular power supply, water and raw materials. Most houses have caved in with the rains." He fears that the women might return to prostitution if the government does not rush aid.

A co-operative society, started by Devadasis at Athani in 1992, is making profits. Devatha Kamble, its director, visits the society once a week from Hulagabali, 12 km away. "All of us buy our provisions from here," she said.

Last year, Vimochana completed a family welfare project in six villages. Meanwhile, at Mallabadi, the World Bank has helped conserve groundwater and build overhead tanks for supplying drinking water to the 4,000 villagers. The state government also initiated a Rs 15-lakh project to conserve groundwater.

Patil wants to set up a vocational training centre for his matriculates on an eight-acre plot from the government. "Since most of them do not pursue higher studies, our whole objective of making them successful is defeated," said Patil.

Patil's wife Shanta has stood by him in all his endeavours. She recalled an incident of 1980, when their newborn twins died following medical complications. Even before he had washed after cremating his children, two boys were at his door, seeking money to pay examination fees. Patil forgot his tragedy and emerged with a few hundred rupees. He sat down with the children, gave them a fistful of peanuts to munch, and asked them to come to him if they had any doubts in their lessons. "That day I saw the greatness of my husband," said Shanta.

At the 85-acre farm, Shanta single-handedly supervises the workers. "All the rations for the school kids goes from here, absolutely free," she said.

Patil's older son Sadananda, studying for a commerce degree, plans to continue his father's work. His brother, Manjunatha, just out of a technical training institute, has set his sights on Bangalore or Pune to make it big. Patil's adopted daughter Sarla is the warden of the school. "Without him I don't know where I would have been," she said. "I want to spend my life taking care of the children, but he doesn't listen." He wants her to get married.

Meanwhile Patil is trying hard for grant-in-aid from the government to take care of the teachers' salaries, but it says no school opened after 1986 is eligible for the grant. "Despite this our salaries match that of government teachers," said Patil. "It is ironic that an institution which has received the national award has not been recognised by the state government."

The construction of a boys' hostel, which started in 1994, is underway. "We hope the CCF funding (amounting to Rs 50 lakh annually) continues," said Patil. "If they stop, I'll go insane."

The children keep him sane. Beneath the banyan tree, the kids show him their new toys. Picking up a musical instrument, Patil says: "I will tell you a new story." This time there are no tears in his eyes.


Now Buddhists claim Ayodhya as their own


Rediff on The Net/ 15 Feb 1999

Demanding that Ayodhya be rechristened as 'Saket', the World Buddhist Council has demanded large-scale excavations at Ayodhya to prove their contention that it was a Buddhist city.

President of Apna Dal, Sone Lal Patel said the council adopted these two resolutions at its two-day conference.

Patel said a Pali Academy would be established on the lines of the Hindi and Urdu academies.

Other resolutions included inviting Buddhist intellectuals from foreign countries, abolition of taxes currently in force in various sacred Buddhist places, establishment of a Buddhist property board like Muslim waqf board and a Buddhist Act on the lines of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act and rebuilding of dilapidated Buddhist stupas.

Dr Patel said three major Buddhist conferences would be held in the near future at Sarnath, Chitrakoot and Haridwar.

Ranvir Sena strikes again; 12 shot dead
HT/11 February 1999/ Gaya

ABOUT 60 armed members of the outlawed Ranvir Sena, an upper caste army of landlords, raided the Harijan tola of Narayanpur village under the Sakurabad police station last night and mowed down at least 12 persons, including four women and two children and injured seven others.

The marauders, who were all in Army uniform, also raised slogans like "Ranvir Sena zindabad." According to eyewitnesses, the Sena men entered the village at around 9 p.m. yesterday and started indiscriminate firing. On hearing the gun shots, the villagers started running helter skelter and a few of them managed to escape. Those who were spotted by the ultras were immediately gunned down, the witnesses said adding that the marauders did not spare even women and children.

A three-month-old child and her mother received pellet injuries along with six others. All the injured were brought to the hospital here this morning.

The condition of two of the injured is stated to be precarious. Gaya District Magistrate Amrit Lal Meena reached the hospital and directed the authorities to provide all medical facilities to the injured. Despite the ongoing strike, the Professor-in-charge of the special ward, Dr M.L. Agarwal and the medical officer, Dr K.K. Sinha themselves raised funds from among their colleagues and managed to depute required staff from outside to conduct operation and other necessary medical treatment.

Besides, the District Magistrate also provided staff for the smooth functioning of the casualty ward. Hospital superintendent C. Chaudhary told this correspondent that there was no dearth of medicines and the patients were being treated properly.

The injured who have been admitted at the hospital include Sidheshwar Das (28), Shiv Das (15), Bhagalu Das (60), Bidio Das (17), Jai Prakash, Girja Devi (30), and Subedar Das. Giving an eyewitness account of the incident, Sudamia Devi, who had come here with her injured grandson, told this correspondent that she would be able to identify at least three of the marauders, who she said were members of the Ranvir Sena.

She pointed out that one Ram Nandan Kahar of Mathia village along with two more ultras, Narsingh Singh's son and Ram Briksh Singh of Narayanpur village entered her house after breaking open the doors. She caught hold of Ram Nandan and prayed to him to spare her grandson, who was was later shot at by other assailants.

Narayanpur Village is a Bhumihar dominated village having over 70 houses of the upper caste. At a stone's throw lies the Harijan tola of 40 houses of the Ravidas families. All the Harijan families are landless and they earn their livelihood by working on the farm of the landlords of Narayanpur. "There has been no enmity with the Babus," said Ramkrit Das, who lost his son, wife and nephew in the massacre.


Eight SC/ST ministers issue ultimatum to CM


GO on promotion for SC/ST employees
DH News Service/8 Feb 1999/BANGALORE

EIGHT Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Ministers of the J H Patel Ministry today warned the Chief Minister of ''drastic steps`` if the Government doesn`t immediately withdraw the order converting 18 per cent vacancy-based reservation in promotion for SC/ST employees to post-based reservation in all cadres and departments.

Describing the February 3 order as 'suicidal`, the Ministers said it was also a flagrant violation of the decisions taken at the Cabinet meeting.

They said that taking advantage of the order, many departments were issuing overnight promotion orders ''unscrupulously``. Hence, the order should be withdrawn forthwith and directions issued to departments not to issue promotion orders on the basis of this GO, they said.

The joint decision is understood to have been taken at a meeting last night held at the residence of Forest Minister D Manjunath.

Signatories

The signatories to the warning letter forwarded to the Chief Minister`s secretariat are Revenue Minister B Somashekhar, Mr Manjunath, Food and Civil Supplies Minister G Basavannappa, Health Minister H C Mahadevappa, Minor Irrigation Minister Thippeswamy, Minister of State for Medical Education Dr M Shankar Naik, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry B B Ningaiah and Minister of State for Excise P S Jaiwant.

The Ministers said that the Government had betrayed them by deviating from the consensus arrived at the last Cabinet meeting to restrict ''vacancy based`` reservation in promotion to 15 and 3 per cent for SC/ST employees respectively in all cadres.

In the Order, however, the reservation has been changed to ''post based,`` they noted and added that it was issued even before the withdrawal of the strike by non-SC/ST Engineers. The Cabinet decision was to issue the GO only after the strike was withdrawn, they said.

The Ministers said that they were very much disturbed by the GO as vacancy based reservation system was in vogue since the inception of service conditions in the State.

SC/ST employees of all Government departments would be affected by the GO, they noted and added that this would have a far reaching effect on them.

SC/ST engineers claimed that 200 backlog vacancies in various departments had been cancelled as per the new GO.

Legislators' meeting

It is learnt that around 40 SC/ ST legislators are meeting on February 10 to discuss the issue. The Karnataka SC/ST Engineers` Welfare Association has urged ministers and legislators to resign in protest against the GO.

Meanwhile non-SC/ST engineers, under the Joint Action Committee of Karnataka Engineers` Association (KEA) and the Karnataka Engineering Service Association (KESA), suspended their agitation only today.

Their contention is that the Government had failed to peg reservation for SC/ST at 18 per cent, resulting in excessive promotions for SC/STs.

The new order has made a provision for 18 per cent reservation for only the lowest category of Group A posts while rejecting the demand for such provision for all cadres including the post of chief engineers.

''The rule has not given justice to general category, other backward classes and minorities``, KEA Chairman M Nagaraj alleged.

Substantiating his argument, he said that out of 142 assistant executive engineers (AEE) grade II in PWD, 115 belong to SC/ST amounting to 80.9 per cent, out of 1,492 AEE grade I, 268 belong to SC/ST (18 pc), out of 272 executive engineers (EE), 62 belong to SC/ ST (22.8 pc), out of 92 superintendent engineers 30 belong to SC/ST (32 pc) and out of 24 chief engineers five belong to SC/ST (20.83 pc).

He said that even after implementation of the February 3 GO, which according to the Government would rectify the injustice, there would be 62.38 per cent representation for SC/ST in executive engineer, 70 per cent in superintending engineer, 36 per cent in chief engineer and 100 per cent in engineer-in-chief posts by the year 2010

$100 m Budha project in jeopardy


HT/Patna/2 February 1999

The proposed world's tallest statue of Lord Buddha, which forms a part of the $100 million mega 'Maitreya Project' may never come up at Bodh Gaya - the place he attained enlightenment - thanks to the apathy of the Bihar Government.

The State Government's indecision over a lease of 11.63 acres of land, has now forced the project officers to think of shifting outside the State. When contacted, Revenue Secretary D.P. Maheshwari said, "The government is still considering the project actively.'' But he failed to give a deadline. Project officers made many trips to the State Capital to speed up things, but of no avail. The proposal is hanging fire despite the government's assurance. The project officers had planned to build a 152.4-metre high statue of Buddha. The statue was planned in such a way as to last at least 1,000 years.

The project also includes meditation halls, fountains, a children's park, a monastery, guest houses, teaching, medicare facilities and charitable activities. The thrust will be to inspire, educate, entertain and to promote peace, harmony, kindness and compassion in the world. Former Governor A.R. Kidwai had discussed the project with its officers also and had wanted its early completion.

But it remains a dream now. The indecision on the part of the State Government is baffling in the wake of unanimous approval of the project by the Gaya DM, Magadh Commissioner, the then Revenue Secretary and the concerned Minister. A lease price was fixed well above the market rate by the concerned authorities. Then a memorandum was submitted to the Cabinet for its approval after getting clearance and concurrence of various Government departments. Despite this, the file is still pending for the last two years.

Project sources said today that they were forced to think of shifting this project following pressure from impatient international donors. The sources said that if the Bihar Government does not take up the matter seriously, they would be compelled to shift this project to Delhi or Sarnath. Earlier a tangle over 11.69 acres of land had caused inordinate delay in implementing the project. After this was resolved, the government decided to go slow. The said land belonged to Mr Sachshidanand Prasad Singh, former Chief Secretary. But later it entered the account of the State Government by some mistake.

Mr Singh filed a title suit in the court of Munsif Magistrate-II at Gaya in 1991. Following persistent requests by the Maitreya Project officials, Mr Singh withdrew the title suit and donated the land to the project with the condition the government withdrawn its claim of it.

The State Government agreed and the land was donated to the Maitreya Project a 99-year-lease. The matter was reported to the Revenue Department, which sent it for Cabinet approval.

The proposal is yet to be approved. The project officials had met Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, the then Chief Minister many times in this regard, but to no avail. Interestingly, the proposal has already been cleared by the Finance Department, Law Department, Registration Department and the Tourism Department.

The director of the project, Mr Marcel Bertel, is fed up with the red tapism in the State Government.


I give you my book in memory of Velutha


The Hindu/30 Jan 1999

This is the English original of Arundhati Roy's translated Malayalam address to the Dalit Sahitya Akademi at Kozhikode on January 15, 1999:

WHEN Mr. Prabhakaran and Mr. Mukundan came to my home in Delhi to invite me on behalf of the Dalit Sahitya Akademi to Calicut, I was delighted and accepted their invitation at once. I cannot tell you how flattered and honoured I am to be here. Flattered and honoured enough to be making the first speech of my life. I promise you that it will be a very short one.

My book, The God of Small Things, has had a very noisy journey into the world. Like other books, it has been praised and criticised, loved and sometimes hated. Amidst the din of this peculiarly 20th century personality cult around authors, people often remember the writers and forget their books. The reason that I am thrilled to be here is because I'm sure that this will not be the case with you. I know that you share the anger and outrage which lies at the heart of The God of Small Things. It is an anger that the "modern" metropolitan world, the Other India (the one in which I now live), tends to overlook, because for them it is something distant, something unreal, something exotic. But you, better than anyone else, know that there is nothing unreal or exotic about barbarism.

I have come for a very simple reason. I believe that the Dalit struggle for justice and equality in a society wracked by caste prejudice is going to be, and indeed ought to be, the biggest challenge that India will face in the coming century. It cannot be ignored, it cannot be disguised or given another name or re-fashioned to fit some pre-existing theory. It must and will be recognised for what it is. I am fully aware that this particular war will be an immense and complicated one. That it will be waged in all sorts of ways, by all sorts of people, in all sorts of places. I'm here to enlist.

Here we are, poised to enter the twenty-first century, arming ourselves with nuclear bombs and medieval values. It's 1999 and we still read of whole villages where Dalits have been annihilated - shot, or burned to death. It's 1999 and we still have people persecuted, even beheaded, for marrying outside their caste. It's 1999 and we still have words in our vocabulary like 'scheduled tribe' and 'backward caste' and 'untouchable'. We use them with equanimity. Only yesterday someone said to me quite casually: "Actually he's not an untouchable - he's a backward caste man." This is just a piece of your everyday friendly neighourhood bigotry - so easy to ignore or get used to.

Amidst all this current talk of national pride it remains to be asked whether these are the values and traditions we need nuclear bombs to protect and defend. And it remains to be said that no military arsenal, however formidable, will ever be able to shield us from the shame of what we do to one another.

In recent months, because I was among those who protested against nuclear tests in Pokhran, I have been labelled a 'peacenik'. I'm not a peacenik. I merely have strong views about wars and the manner in which they should be waged. Let me make myself clear, I believe in this war, but I do not believe that violence is the way to win it.

For myself, as a writer, the challenge has been to journey through anger and bitterness, to try and mould beauty from rage. To fight by creating instead of destroying. That is what has made it magical for me. That is why I'm here today, speaking - and, more important, being heard. When the journey through rage to beauty remains incomplete, when the traveller opts out and takes a short-cut, then that journey becomes an ordinary journey. The war becomes an ordinary war with ordinary consequences - terror and death and ugliness. I believe that when a war is won by means of violence and destructiveness, the victory will be temporary, and before long the victors will turn into the monsters they thought they had vanquished.

I am not advocating tolerance, or acceptance. There has been more than enough of that. I'm advocating a war of noisy beauty, of voices raised, of stories told, of songs sung loudly in the streets. A war of raucous celebration in which victory will make those of us who fought, truly, deeply and marvellously untouchable. But I haven't come here to preach. I've come to help a dream along. To do what little I can.

In Kerala The God of Small Things has been loved a little, but also vilified. I don't mind. I didn't write it for any particular person's or party's approval. I have been called (among other things) 'anti-Communist': I'm not anti-Communist, I'm far from anti-Communist, but I believe that nothing, and nobody (and that includes myself and my book), is above criticism.

Having said that, if, taking into account all the complex, convoluted politics of the times we live in, I had to choose one constituency whose approval I would cherish the most, it would be this one - the one to which all of you who are gathered here today belong.

The God of Small Things is my book, but in some ways, because it grew out of this place it belongs to you too. The rage and the beauty is yours. I want to share it with you in a real way. In a pragmatic, practical way.

I've thought long and hard about what I can do in a world where all the avenues seem to be blocked. Where the historically privileged own everything - the newspapers, the magazines, the airwaves. The easiest thing for me to do would have been to make a financial donation to the Dalit Sahitya Akademi. But somehow that made me uncomfortable. It would have been the quick, arrogant, patronising thing to do. And neither you nor I believe in aid or charity. What I have decided to do is to entrust to the Dalit Sahitya Akademi a part of the most precious thing that I possess. The God of Small Things.

I would be honoured if you will publish it in Malayalam, if you will. It's yours - along with its strengths, its secrets, its faults and flaws. This is not a gift. It is an invitation to enter into a working contract with me. I hope you will publish it, sell it and use the royalties from the Malayalam book to help Dalit writers to tell their stories to the world. I promise you that I will be as difficult with you as I have been with every one of my other publishers. I will insist on the best possible translation. I will interfere with the design. I give you my book in memory of Velutha.

Angry villagers heckle Rabri, Laloo
HT/27 Jan 1999/Shankarbigha

Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, her husband and RJD chief Laloo Prasad, and top officials of the state were heckled, vilely abused and left speechless by an angry crowd here yesterday.

The CM's entourage landed here following the killing of 23 Dalits by upper caste Ranvir Sena activists on Monday. "We want arms and bullets, not your dirty money," the VIP visitors were told. "We want revenge, not your sweet words. What have you done for the victims of Bathe ..." The litany was long and vociferous. Leela Verma, one of the more articulate of the protesters, had an eyeball to eyeball confrontation with Rabri Devi, pointing out to the CM that the oppressed castes were being arrested "by your police" for possessing a sickle or a stick, but "your police" allows "those killers to go scot free even after guns were found in their possession".

The reaction of this traumatised village must have come as something of a surprise to Laloo. In November 1997, the survivors of the Bathe massacre mutely suffered their trauma and deep sense of loss. The State Government's compensation package, announced yesterday by Rabri Devi, was met with derision. "Bring Babban Singh before us and hack to pieces before our eyes. Only then shall we believe that your Government exists," Surendra Sao, who is among the village's latest batch of widows, told the CM.

Taken aback by the intensity of the outburst, Laloo assured the crowd that though the summary justice that it demanded could not be arranged for, "the State Government will act firmly." It is becoming increasingly clear that the failure of intelligence agencies and the local police had contributed to the trail of blood that the Ranvir Sena left here on the ever of Republic Day. The villagers believe that the carnage could have been prevented had the authorities acted in time.

In the three weeks leading up to the killings, local papers were peppered with interviews with Barmeshwar Singh, the founder of the outlawed private army of Bhumihars, who boasted that a massacre of Dalits was on the cards. Evidence of his absolute contempt for the law of the land and confidence in his own abilities was provided when he publicly boasted that the die had been cast and all that remained was to pick a Dalit village and fix a date for the killings. All this was recorded in cold print, but the authorities clearly thought a hollow threat was being held out. Barmeshwar is a mukhiya of Bhojpur, and if the media could reach him, villagers here pointed out, there is no reason why the police could not.

21 Dalits gunned down
HT/26 January 1999/ Shankarbigha (Jahanabad)

Heavily armed members of the Ranvir Sena yesterday attacked this nondescript village, some 100 km south of Patna, killed 21 Dalits and scores of others wounded and traumatised.

Seven children and four women are among the dead. The oldest among the victims was a 55-year-old man, the youngest was a 10-month-old. The death toll could have been vastly higher had it not been for the intervention -after hearing the incesscent and arbitrary gun fire - of armed groups from neighbouring villages.

The carnage had tell-tale DNA prints of the dreaded Ranvir Sena, an outlawed militia of the Bhumihar community. The strike came at 8.30 pm, around the time President K.R. Narayanan was delivering his pre-Republic Day address to the nation in which he appealed for, among other things, halting atrocities against Dalits. The attack lasted 15 minutes. Survivors say there were at least 100 Ranvir sainiks, believed to have come from upper caste-dominated Dobibigha village. The village gained notoriety in November 1997 when hordes of its residents attacked the Dalit village of Lakshmanpur Bathe. Sixty two lives were snuffed out in that attack. Lakshmanpur Bathe is a scant 2 km west of Shankarbigha, the target of yesterday's attack.

As the village was mourning its dead, the cavalcade of official visitors began trickling in. Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi and her husband Laloo Prasad Yadav were the first to arrive, at the stroke of 4 pm. Their entourage included state Home Secretary R.K.Singh, and DGP K.A.Jacob. An ex-gratia payment of Rs lakh to the next of kin of each of the 21 dead was announced.

The IG of the local range told villagers converging on the CM's convoy that six of the 23 persons named in the FIR, including prime suspect Babban Singh, were arrested by 3 am, a little over six hours after the attack had ended.

Eyewitnesses, particularly those who were lucky to escape with gunshot injuries, told The Hindustan Times that the marauders used powerful torches in this electricity-less village. A bomb was exploded to signal the beginning of the attack. Jagmohan Sao, a secretary of the CPI-ML Liberation Group, his wife and three daughters were among those killed.

Significantly, the bloodbath comes two weeks after Ranvir Sena founder Barmeshwar Singh, a mukhiya in the Bhojpur area, had publicaly said that his banned private army would soon avenge the Rampur Chauram incident in which 7 Bhumihars were killed. The police however believe that yesterday's killings may have been 'provoked' by the murder of Nawal Singh, a mukhiya of the Tekari area in Gaya, by Maoist Communist Centre activists three days ago. The dead man had been accused by the MCC of aiding the Ranvir Sena with arms and men. Residents of this village said that there has been no confrontation over land or wages between them and the landowners.

 

Varsities flouting quota policy on appointment of teachers: Study
HT/ 20 Jan 1999/New Delhi

A STUDY conducted by Delhi University's Forum of Academics for Social Justice has reported that universities across the country are guilty of flouting the reservation policy on appointments of teachers.

The president of the forum, Mr Hansraj Suman, has urged the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to review the situation. The report says whereas there were 1,500 posts reserved for SC and ST candidates in Delhi University, only 25 lecturers, one reader and three professors are drawn from this category.

Countrywide, of the estimated three lakh teachers recruited by different universities each year, not even two per cent are SC or ST. Mr Suman alleged that liaison officers of the universities do not even register the protests of the SC and ST candidates.

Bar against reservation
HT/New Delhi, 18 January 1999

Meritocracy and no quotas in appointment of judges in the higher judiciary. That seemed to be the predominant view of the Bar members while those in the Bench, including two former Chief Justices of India, preferred reticence on Monday over a raging controversy on the President's note to the Law Ministry virtually seeking reservation for backward castes in the Apex Court.

The publication of the note in the latest issue of a newsmagazine brought the subject into sharp focus. "It is axiomatic that in the higher judiciary there has never been any quotas and reservation. Merit has and merit remains the basis of appointment", said Mr A.M. Singhvi, a senior Supreme Court lawyer, told The Hindustan Times.

Mr Kapil Sibal, another prominent lawyer said "It is an issue that the higher judiciary will have to address. If there is a consensus on reservations, then it has to be decided whether it will be introduced gradually or in one stroke." A number of those contacted reserved comment on the subject.

This category included former chief justices A.M. Ahmadi and J.S. Verma. Former Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj, said "It is unfair to drag the names of two Constitutional heads into the controversy. The appointment and transfer of judges should be strictly in conformity with the answers of the nine-judge bench on the Presidential reference on the consultation process in recommendation of the names."

Opposing reservations in general, he however said that there was nothing fundamentally wrong in the President's stand. If the government wants to change the present system of appointing judges, then it has got to amend the Constitution.

"The President is always free to make his suggestions for the Court's consideration", he added.