Tuesday, April 23, 2002 (Jaipur):
For several years, Rajasthan has recorded the highest number of crimes against women in the country. In a recent incident, a young Dalit girl was kidnapped and raped for three days, allegedly by four upper caste men.
On the night of April 5, when this girl stepped out of her home in Jaipur's Guda Vaas village, she was kidnapped by four Brahmin youngsters of her own village.
"They forcibly grabbed me and took me away. They threatened me with a knife and stopped me from shouting for help. I was totally scared as they said that if I shout, they would kill me," narrated the traumatized girl.
Conspiracy of silence
The rapists finally dumped her outside her village on April 8. But upper caste groups in the village prevented her family from even filing a report by threatening them with a social boycott.
Chottu Lal, one of the girl's relatives, said, "The village elders said we must not file any report. They said if we did so and tried to fight a case, we would not be allowed to stay in the village. They said they would not maintain any relations with us and would not allow even our cattle to drink water from the village sources. They threatened us very badly."
However after pressure from some women's groups, the police have finally registered an FIR. But with the entire village involved in a conspiracy of silence, the police are finding it tough to collect any evidence.
A G Ram, In-charge, Ramgarh Police Station, Jaipur, said, "Our big problem is that since the incident happened many days ago, we can't get any medical evidence now. And the villagers are just refusing to say anything about this episode."
Worse still, the girl's marriage had been fixed last month, but her in-laws have now cancelled the wedding. Her tragedy is a grim reminder that in rural Rajasthan, the traditional fear and terror of upper castes continues unabated even today.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002 (Unnao):
Several Dalit women were assaulted and nearly all members of their village beaten up by upper caste landowners over a wage dispute in Uttar Pradesh. The Dalits were refusing to work for a wage of Rs 10 - which is much below the daily wage fixed by the government - when they were brutally assaulted in Bhaktakheda village in Unnao district of the state.
Rajaya Pal is inconsolable as he leaves the office of the Uttar Pradesh commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. His complaint alleges that the big landowners - mostly Yadavs - in his village Bhaktakheda in Unnao district killed his brother or March 31, physically assaulted two Dalit women and brutally beat up almost every Dalit in the village for their refusal to work as virtual bonded labourers.
"We were given Rs 10 for our labour daily but that was of no help. After we refused to work on the farms they beat me up and killed my brother. They hit everyone and said not to leave the harijans," says Rajaya Pal.
The assailants broke down doors, dragged the men, women and children out of their houses. No one was spared as virtually every adult in the village has suffered some form of injury.
Kusuma, whose husband works as a rickshaw-puller in Kanpur, was attacked inside her house and her infant child thrown on the ground. Her sister-in-law received the same treatment as she tried to save her.
"I told the police that I had been raped but they dismissed it by saying that I was there only to create trouble. They said there was nothing and refused to register a case," says Kusuma.
Oppression of Dalits is a tradition here. A few years ago, the daily wage was just Rs 5. Among the other regular indignities, Dalits are not allowed to use the village well and they have to vote for those favoured by the upper castes. Now Dalit men like Rajaya cannot even return to their village.
"We are setting up a temporary police post there. As far as the issue of not registering the rape case stands, we have transferred the SHO of the police station," says Poornima Singh, superintendent of police, Unnao.
Just two moths ago, candidates of all political parties walked through the lanes of Bhaktakheda promising social justice. Most of the Dalits say that the March 31 incident is also a reprisal - because during the elections they voted for a candidate of their choice.
Rules of a democratic set up has little meaning in a place like Bhaktakheda where every election - be it local, for the state assembly or a parliamentary poll - only brings more discrimination and violence.
"In every election that takes place, whether it is local, for the assembly or Parliament elections we have to vote for their people otherwise they will kill us," says Rajaya Pal.
By Kalpana Kannabiran
The situation in Gujarat foregrounds the urgency of forging a broad- based alliance that brings together all marginalised groups.
THE VIOLENCE in the rural areas of Gujarat took on a very different form from that in the cities, especially Ahmedabad. In eastern Gujarat, the violence — looting and arson — was largely carried out by Adivasis against Muslims.
Chhotaudepur town is surrounded by 48 villages that have been directly affected by the violence, of which we visited two and met people from several other villages. There are 2,300 people in the relief camp, all of whom moved here over a month ago from villages where Adivasis constituted a numerical majority.
Panwad village has a population of about 11,000 of which Muslims number about 1000. There are Muslims, Adivasis, Baniyas, Lohars and Prajapatis in the village, Adivasis being in a majority. Muslims were engaged in vehicle businesses — renting trucks, tempos, jeeps etc. — brick business and a few families were engaged in agriculture. Around Panvad there were several villages with two or three Muslim families. As the trouble began on February 28, these families started coming to Panwad for shelter. At 2.30 p.m. on March 10, Adivasis from neighbouring villages began gathering in Panwad. Then the attacks began. Local leaders — all non-Adivasis — were issuing orders. The police offered no protection to the Muslim families. Two trucks and six jeeps were parked in the police station compound for safe custody while five vehicles were stationed in front of the police station even before the trouble began. All these vehicles were burnt even as the police watched. Panwad's Muslims were forced to leave the village that day. When we visited the village on April 3, the devastation was shocking. The houses were all burnt and reduced to rubble after being looted. In the soot on what remained of the walls were slogans declaring "Hindustan" to be the land of the Hindus in abusive language. We were told that there were instructions from Kiritbhai Shah that nobody should take photographs without his consent and that there should be a written permit to do so. All the Hindu houses in Panwad had a small picture frame of Radha and Krishna possibly to identify them as Hindu houses.
Fifty-five houses were destroyed in Kadwal. The village mosque was razed to the ground and the books in it were burnt. "Jai Siya Ram" was inscribed on the ground among the debris. We met the Mukhia of Kadwal and some women from the village at the relief camp in Chhotaudepur. One woman said: "After the Sabarmati Express was burnt, we didn't sleep one night. Adivasis had been given money to do this eight days earlier. What do they know of the difference between a mandir and a masjid."
Kawant village has a population of approximately 10,000, of which 1,200 are Muslims. Although there was no trouble there initially, every day the pressure on the Adivasis of the village mounted with one or two families being attacked. On March 11, the police told the Muslim families that they must move to a safe place if they wanted protection and sent 900 of them to Bodeli town, 40 km away, with escort. The 300 Muslims who remained in the village were shifted to Baroda, 115 km away, on March 12. The looting went on for four days. The village mukhia (headman) told us that the police in Bodeli put pressure on them to leave because they felt they were creating problems. So 900 of them took off in different directions. An Adivasi schoolteacher in Joj said: "Adivasis are innocent. They were given liquor and money and forced to participate in the arson. We later spoke to the Adivasis who took part. They said they had been used. There were young boys and men. No women. The women stood and wept silently, watching the destruction. One woman from the blacksmith community asked the rioters to stop the violence. Her house was also burnt down." Some of the Muslim families asked to leave had lived in the village for 38 years. The village sarpanch is an Adivasi member of the BJP. While we did find that Adivasis had in fact been involved in the looting and arson in large numbers, the people affected by the riots did not hold the Adivasis responsible for the violence. They also recognised that the Adivasis did not really have the choice of refusing and were threatened and coerced into participating in the arson by VHP activists supported actively by the police. Where in the country is it possible for Adivasis to muster up gallons of petrol, set fire to vehicles in the presence of the police and get away?
In the village hierarchy in this entire region, the Adivasis were the most disadvantaged and were to a great extent economically dependent on the Muslims, largely money lenders and traders. The goodwill between the two groups was largely one between patron and client and had an economic base that went back several decades. This, together with the traditional positioning of the Adivasi communities, leads us to clear patterns in the violence in the tribal areas. With one exception, no Muslim was killed in the violence in the region. The involvement of Adivasis was limited to economic crimes — looting and arson. No rape or assault on women were reported from these areas. Muslims in the relief camps were emphatic in their assertion that the Adivasis did not touch them. In the case of a woman named Bilkis, an Adivasi family offered shelter and gave her clothes to wear, while Hindus of her village allegedly raped and killed all the women in her family. In Panwad, while the Adivasis were responsible for arson, the affected people in the relief camp in Chhotaudepur named three non- Adivasi Hindus who gave orders during the looting. This was further borne out during our visit to the village when we were told quite menacingly that Kiritbhai (one of the three) had said that no photographs should be taken of the village. The person who accompanied us to the village and showed us the aftermath of the violence was an Adivasi activist from the village.
Against this history, the reasons for the turnabout by the Adivasis could have two facets. One, the relationship of economic dependence is a class relation that has the clear potential of being exploitative. And here the community identity of the person with economic power is largely irrelevant — the baniya and the Muslim moneylender fulfil identical needs in the village economy in an identical manner. This potential conflict can then be channelled in any direction. A very important trend in the mobilisation strategies of the Sangh Parivar that is critical to understanding the violence in Gujarat is the mobilisation of Dalits and Adivasis against Muslims and their recruitment into one or other of the organisations of the Sangh Parivar at the lowest level, paid and mobilised to attack Muslims in village after village.
That we have even allowed this poison to penetrate this deep is a matter of serious reflection for all democratic forces in the country. The situation in Gujarat foregrounds the urgency of forging a broad-based alliance that brings together all marginalised groups and the progressive political formations that mobilise these groups into Gujarat, because we need now, more than ever before, to find strength in numbers.
NEW DELHI, April 23 (PTI)
Over 28,000 incidents of crimes, including murder and rape, were committed against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes across the country last year, the Lok Sabha was informed today.
While 24,792 cases were reported against Scheduled Castes, as many as 3,691 crimes were committed against Scheduled Tribes, Minister of State for Home I D Swami said in a written reply.
The maximum number of 4,892 cases against Scheduled Castes were reported from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh topped the list in atrocities against Scheduled Tribes with 1643 cases. Police: Over 68,000 complaints were received against police personnel in the year 2000 alone, but only 26 of them were convicted, Swami said.
Women: Nearly four lakh incidents of crimes were committed against women during the last three years, Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi said.
In 1999, 135771 cases were reported, 137492 cases in 2000 and 125152 last year, as per the data compiled by National Crimes Record Bureau. Modernisation: The Government is in the process of creating a Police Modernisation Division in the Home Ministry, Minister of State for Home I D Swami said.
Institute: The UGC has approved the proposal of the University of Pune for the establishment of an Institute for International Security and Defence Analysis and has paid a total grant of Rs 5 crore as seed money for its establishment, Minister of State for Home Rita Verma said.
During the current year, the UGC has also approved the establishment of Centre for Human Genome Studies and Research at Punjab University, Centre of Biomedical Magnetic Resonance at Lucknow, National Centre for History of Sciences at Mysore and Centre of Applied Human Genetics at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, she said.
Nutrition: A whopping 74.3 per cent of children under three years of age were suffering fron nutritional anaemia while 47 per cent were underweight, according to the latest National Family Health Survey conducted in 1998-99, Human Resources Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi said.
As regards women of 15-49 years, 35.8 per cent suffered from chronic energy deficiency and 51.8 per cent from nutritional anaemia, he said. The Government proposes to start a National Nutrition Mission to prevent malnutrition amongst women and children though the details have not yet been finalised, he added.
Abolition: The Government has already abolished and has identified for abolition 12,200 posts as per the recommendations of the Expenditure Reforms Commission, Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie said.
By Aarti Dhar
RAIPUR APRIL 23. In keeping with the age-old tradition, over 3,000 child marriages are reported to have been performed in 1,021 villages of Baiga and Marrar tribe-dominated Kawardha district of Chhatisgarh on `Ramnavami' last Sunday. One hundred and twenty-seven child marriages were reported from six villages on that day.
The District Collector, K.S. Kehari, said he had no information but the matter would be looked into. According to him, reports of some child marriages came to him on March 24 following which he had asked the gram panchayats and zilla panchayats to ensure that no child marriage was conducted as it was against the law and even violation of the rights of the child. He said pamphlets were distributed among the villages as part of an awareness campaign.
The huge number of child marriages was brought to light by a human rights organisation, Forum for Fact-finding Documentation and Advocacy (FFDA) that visited six villages on Sunday, while they were being solemnised. The children were in the age group of 4 to 13 years and many did not even know the name of their spouses or what exactly was meant by marriage. Since the literacy rate among men is just 30 per cent and women and children largely unlettered, distribution of pamphlets would not have served the purpose anyway.
According to Subhash Chandra Mohapatra, project executive of FFDA, the forum conducted a survey of villages in Kawardha district from March 7 and April 22. On March 17 and 18 five villages — Bhaisadbara, Chaindad, Kamthi, Taliapani and Bodoura — saw 67 child marriages take place. The survey was extended to 11 more villages dominated by the primitive Baiga and Marrar tribes where 223 cases came to light. The highest number was reported in Pandaria block, where 127 child marriages were solemnised in 287 villages. ``Going by an average of 20 marriages a village, the number goes up to about 5,000 in the entire district. We have claimed only 3,000 such marriages,'' Mr. Mohapatra said.
In an tape recorded statement, the Collector said that he had no information about the marriages. ``The Chhatisgarh Government is committed to checking such violation of child rights.'' However, the villagers had a different story to tell. They alleged that the sarpanches had sent prior information to the Collector about the proposed marriages but no action was taken. Even after March 24, when policemen went to the villages to tell the people that child marriage was illegal, they took money and asked the villagers to go ahead with their customs.
Mr. Mohapatra said that child marriages had played havoc with the women's mortality rate in these villages. Women hardly survived until the age of 40. The members of the fact-finding team could spot very few women aged more than 40 years. ``The girls are sent to their in- laws' house as soon as they attain puberty, following which they conceive at the age of 12 or 13. The child mortality rate is high and women often die of various diseases.''
India is a signatory to the Child Right Convention of the United Nations and the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, prevents the marriage of a boy before the age of 21 and that of a girl before 18. The next day considered auspicious for marriages is May 15, when again a large number of nuptial knots will be tied.
FROM ANAND SOONDAS Bhaktakheda (Unnao), April 23:
It was early morning when 250 Yadavs, high on country liquor and communal hatred, descended on Bhaktakheda, a predominantly Dalit village populated by Chamars and Pasis.
As the 15 trembling families ducked under cots and hid behind trees, they could never have imagined the heavy price they would have to pay for Rs 5.
Soon began the rape, torture, murder and loot. By 8, an eerie calm had enveloped the village. Three women had been gangraped, an old man murdered, 18 persons seriously injured and a two-year-old girl knifed.
As the youth fled the village, violated women lay on the paddy fields, screaming for help. Most of the older lot had been beaten into submission, their limbs fractured and minds terrorised. Police later found 180 empty liquor bottles littered around the village by the feudal lords who wanted to teach their bonded labourers a lesson.
Victims and eyewitnesses say the police and the local administration tried everything to cover up the crime, committed by a group of moneyed, landed Yadavs on March 31. The landlords were enraged that the Chamar and Pasi families had the audacity to ask them to raise their daily wages from Rs 10 to Rs 15.
It was only after 25-year-old Usma, who had been gangraped by three men that morning, came to appeal before the SC/ST Commission that the case came to light. Usma's 28-year-old sister-in-law Kalavati, too, had been raped by two men in the same hut.
"We have been waiting for weeks but no one has come to our village," Usma said between sobs. When she went to the circle officer of Auras police station that day to complain, the policewoman had shouted: "Tum Chamar log sab chinaar ho, bhago yahan se nahi to thane me band kardoongi aur balatkar karwaoongi (All you Chamar women are prostitutes, get out of here or I will lock you up and get you raped)."
Rajay Pal, whose brother Shiv Pal was killed, was shooed away with the threat that he would be hanged and his family imprisoned for life. The four main accused, Anil Pratap Yadav, Girish Yadav, Om Prakash and Pramod are absconding, a month after the assault took place. Though the SC/ST Commission and the police say "no one will be spared", few are ready to believe them.
Atrocities against Dalits were reported to have gone up seven times in the last five years. Besides, not a single annual report has been filed by the commission since 1997.
Poornima Singh, SP (Unnao), said she has posted a PAC picket at Bhaktakheda and that the Dalit village is "now safe from external attack". She added that the circle officer has been transferred and three constables suspended for dereliction of duty. "We will hunt the culprits down soon," she said, adding that "the police are doing everything to protect the villagers. They are fine now."
But in this deserted village,men have not dared to return and women still shiver at the sight of strangers.
Ram Dulara, an 88-year-old blind woman who was kicked and punched, is unable to speak. She just shows her frail, wrinkled legs to anybody who bothers to see and starts crying.
Sonarani still clutches her eight-month old child whom the rampaging Yadavs threatened "to throw into the Ganga". Nankauno, 78, can't walk. His legs have been crushed. There is fear and pain everywhere. More so after the local Samajwadi Party MLA, Sundarlal Kureel, announced that the Pasis and Chamaars who voted for the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate should not be spared and that he will "look after the Yadavs".
But even as the elders are cowering with images of the nightmare, Munna, the only Pasi graduate in the village, is ravaged by a sense of helplessness and rage. "You know, I am a graduate and know how to articulate my community's problems but there is no one who will listen to me because I am a Dalit," he said. "There is nothing anybody can do until the government takes us seriously. I don't know how long we will be raped, beaten and subjugated like this," Munna said