Count down to Durban
Report by a team of Antyodaya Sansthan, New Delhi on atrocities committed by the school teachers of Kadipur village, Gurgaon on a Dalit girl and her father
A team of human rights activists consisting Mr V.B.Rawat, Than Singh Josh, Mr P.Ramesh Kumar went to Kadipur village, Gurgaon, met the victims and on 21st April 2001 and filed this report.
Nirma Rani, a 14 years old, class VIIIth student, in Government High School, Kadipur on Pataudi Road, Gurgaon, had never imagined that the discrimination level against Dalits would be so severe that she had to face it the same way as her forefathers faced, the tyranny of Hindu uppercastes. Delhi is the heart of India, India's metropolitan capital with booming middle classes who are pained even if nothing happened to them, who claims that they do not believe in caste system and it is the Mandal Commission that created caste in India in 1991. The Children belong to this section rarely go to the government school and barely apply for government jobs. These children go to the public school often complaint why reservation is granted to Dalits. They often scoff that they don't know their castes and all are born equal and hence all should get equal opportunity. But this incident February 26th, 2001 have shocked all those who believe in equality and fraternity and that such thing can happen in the very capital territory of the country, where the government is claiming that there is no violence on Dalits and only vested interest have been doing this. So we decided to look into this incident and expose an anti dalit administration in Gurgaon, how they manipulate with evidence and frustrate the attempts to get justice. It is important that this year when the government of India is all out to block, the issue of caste being declared as race violence in the coming World Council Meeting against Racism to be held at Durban in September this year.
On February 24th, 2001, Nirma Rani had left for school in the morning along with other friends and her brother Anup who also is a class VIIIth student for her school. As usual, she greeted her teacher Mr Bhagwan Sharma with a Namaste. This Namaste was the matter of provocation for the upper caste Brahmin teacher who shouted at the girl and slapped her angrily: " I don't take namaste from Churas and Chamars", he said and beat the girl with pipes. This was an obvious reference made to the girl who belong to Valmiki community, the lowest among the dalits. Nirma was shocked at this and immediately came home crying to tell her father about the incident. Her father, who works with the Airport Authority of India, then went to school to speak with teacher, which led to an altercation as Satbir Singh, girls father, objected to the terminology used for his daughter by the teacher. The gang of teachers were aware of this fact and wanted to teach them a lesson. They invited Satbir to the office of the head mistress for 'talks' and locked him inside. There he was beaten mercilessly with rods and dandas, shoes and whatever available at that time. Satbir Singh fell unconscious and could be saved only as the villagers along with his wife had arrived in the school. They had clear plan to beat him to death. Satbir Singh was then taken to local Kalyani hospital where his medical was done and then doctor referred him for a better hospital in Delhi. The doctors at Kalyani hospital clearly mentioned that his 4th and 6th rib on the chest was broken and he was feeling pain at stomach and chest. His nose bleeding profusely. The medical report confirmed that he was beaten with rods, pipes and shoes.
The doctors had advised the family to transfer him to a better hospital in Delhi so that his life could be saved. Fortunately, Satbir Singh was an employee of Airport Authroity of India and hence the authority managed his medical expenses and he was admitted to South Point Hospital in Greater Kailash, New Delhi because his ribs were broken in the incident. With the help of local people he could be taken to hospital in Delhi immediately. Satbir Singh said that when he was altercating with Bhagwan Sharma, the teacher who had slapped the girl, other teachers were planning to kill him including PTI of the school Ms Shakuntala Pokhar, Mr Murari and Mr Mahipal Sharma. The teachers were repeating their derogatory remarks against the Dalits and particularly against the Balmikies. It is alleged that Mahi Pal Sharma live in the nearby locality. While everybody in this case is out there to save the upper caste Hindus by changing their stand. The head mistress of the school Ms Usha Madan, in whose office this incident took place claims she was out of office. But Nirma told us that the madam was there and did not intervene. My father was just telling that ' you cannot do that. But Bhagwan Sharma maintained that he would never take namaste from the Chura Chamars and if they dare do this they will face the action." Soon, Mahi Pal Sharma, called Satbir Singh for a discussion, it seems that he might have been angry with Satbir and wanted to teach him the lesson. With the help of Shakuntala Khokar and Mahi Pal Sharma and Munni Lal, Bhagwan Sharma nearly lynched Satbir Singh at the school office.
Satbir Singh said, " I was just telling SriBhagwan Sharma that he should not use such foul language and we also have right to educate our children, but he was so antagonistic that he said " Chude Chamars don't have any right to educate their children in the school, their only work is to sweep and clean. Get your ward out from the school."
No action against the culprits: Over three months have passed and so far no action has been taken against the culprits. It is the sorry state of affair of the administration that despite lodging FIR immediately against the culprits, the police did not arrest them. On the contrary, the police and the administration has been calling the girl and her mother to come as witness on the house of Sarpanch which against violate the basic human rights. It is constitutional unlawful to force women come for witness at some other place, but definitely the upper caste policemen would never want to come to a Balmiki house for taking note of their statement. In fact, the police tried to intimidate the family against lodging the FIR and finally FIR was lodged on 26th Febrauary 2001 after much efforts by the local organisation of the Balmiki Samaj. Satbir Singh clearly said that SI Rajpal of sector 10, Chowki in-charge, did not file FIR for four days and had to file it only after when the people threatened indefinite Dharna at his office. Ms Mayadevi, mother of Nirma and her dadi as well are frightened women. They told us that the schoolteachers had brought some gangsters to teach them a lesson but due to high alert of village people their attempt was foiled.
On March 4th, 2001, Indian Express in its Express Newsline published this incident and its correspondent Sumant Bhattacharya spoke to SSP Gurgaon Mr Kuldeep Singh who said, " The police are taking action as per rules. I have not seen the case file and I can comment only after seeing it." Now months have passed and no action has been taken on the issue.
Nirma's elder brother Azad said that the police did not file the FIR properly and got the teachers bail easily. They should have been arrested under the SC-ST Atrocities Act but the police did not filed its report under this section. Mr Shankar Lal, district chairman of Bhartiya Balmiki Dharm Samaj also told us how the administration continue to harass him since he has been trying to get them justice. " When I went to DC's office, the reader asked his colleagues to throw me out of the office. Again when I tried to met the DC, then I was told that the SDM is doing the inquiry. But so far we have not received any information and any action against the culprits, said Shankar Lal Kharaliya.
Family Background : If a dalit and that too a Valmiki is asserting his self respect and honour, the Hindu upper caste will never tolerate it and that seems to be the main reason of the assault on Nirma and her father Satbir Singh. Due to working with Airport Authority of India, Satbir decided to get his children educated in nearby government school and were living in their house no 298 Kadipur,Gurgaon. His children are not in the Safai business, nor is Satbir doing the same at the airport. He has a better living standard comparatively to his community. His daughter Nirma is a bold girl and perhaps good at study. Wearing a T-shirt and half pant with small hair, she looked like any other middle class girl in the public school. Like any other good student they too learnt manners to greet teachers and parents. She might not even have been aware of the fact that the oppression level of her community was so high before this incident. They are two brothers and two sisters. Her dadi is here and mother is also a housewife. Her father got her elder sister and her elder brother married during this period even when he was in the hospital for nearly two months. The mother told us that she has lost faith in law. " The teacher is sending the goondas to teach us a lesson, said her mother Maya Devi and added that "Our MLA Gopi Chand has been non co-operative and the sarpanch Madan Lal Yadav also has been non co-operative though he knew everything and his son was instrumental in taking Satbir Singh to South Point Hospital in his Maruti Van. But they all are big people with enough money to scuttle the evidence. We only want justice." Perhaps because the issue has now to save the upper caste tormentors. That they can do no wrong and how law is being twisted for their favour.
Government High School, Kadipur is about 500 meters from their house on the Main Pataudi Road. It is a co-educational school where about 600 students from the nearby locality come for study. It is a double shift school. Nirma, Anup and a number of other students told us that there was a clear demarcation line for the Dalits students and other students. No upper caste student would clean the floor, sweep the school, and do the dusting and clean utensils of the teacher who used to cook there. But these things were clearly meant for them. It is also reported that a lady teacher belonging to Dhanuk community also face caste based discrimination and cannot share her food and water with other teachers who are upper caste dominated by the Brahmins. Due to fear of loosing her job this lady teacher does not come openly against the discrimination she faces. At the school there are separate water for the Dalits and non dalits. This incident of beating of Mr Satbir Singh has been witnessed by many students. Many students clearly vouch how mercilessly the teacher slapped Nirma when she did Namaste to him. A number of Dalit students from the school have given in writing to us about this incident and asked for strict action be taken against the guilty teachers.
Role of Administration:
An important thing also has come to our notice. The administration asked Satbir to come for Gavahi to the DM's office and he had gone there thrice but nothing happened. The letter addressed to him never mentioned his name as Balmiki and they are automatically delivered to Satbir Sharma in the nearby locality and they always pass it when the due date cross over. At the school, we are told that an inquiry was going on but that too to cover up the entire episode. Whenever the officials come to school for inquiry, both Nirma and Anuj were asked to leave the school. Telling them that they can go home. Once her mother asked the teacher as why these two are send to home when the entire school is there, the teacher could not reply. Basically, the attempt are being made to foil an independent inquiry by treating them as antisocial elements who never care for the dates and that by showing the girl and boy as absentee the culprits want to get rid of the punishment.
It is clear from this incident that such happenings are not isolated in nature. As long as the Dalits are succumbing to the old tactics of Brahmanical nature, nobody would ever question them but as soon as they question the social order and assert their rights as human being, they are assaulted mercilessly. Gurgaon incident is the reminder that on the one side when the Dalit parents want to send their children to schools and get them good education, good clothing, the brahmanical forces will be there to thwart such attempt. This is the general conetmpt. It is definitely because Satbir was unlike other community people, send his daughter to school and all of them were relatively living better life, could cause deep anxiety in the mind of upper caste Brahmin teachers and neighbours and the result was harassment of the child. We can understand that now the Dalits are asserting and want equality for their children and nobody could deny them this right granted in the constitution of India. If we see what is happening after 50 year's of our constitution then this is a shame for the country. Our government has no right to speak against apartheid at the UN if theycannot get their laws implemented here. We cannot change the caste system nor we are interested in it. Our concern is that the rule of the law must take its course and anything uncivilised and racist in nature must be severely punished with so that the teachers don't become Dronacharyas.
1.. The teachers who have been discriminating against the Dalit students must be punished immediately, so the message goes clear for others that such unconstitutional act are to be dwelt with severity.
2.. Action should be taken against the police officials who delayed in filing the FIR.
3.. Compensation to be given to girl and her father for the trauma and mental disturbance they faced due to this.
4.. The girl must be given scholarship for further study and ensure that the school does not discriminate against her.
5.. The Commission must issue a show cause notice to the Gurgaon administration for their antipathetic attitude against the victims by harassing them.