India is considered to be the largest democratic country in the world, which is also admired for the safeguards provided by the Constitution for the weaker section (including Dalits). When we observe India in terms of socio-economical development, Maharashtra stands first. The state that has tradition of social reform movements of Shahu Maharaj, Mahatma Phule, Dr. Babsaheb Ambedkar, Annabhau Sathe etc. is generally supposed to be the vanguard for the social revolution. Marathwada region of Maharashtra, specifically Aurangabad, which has been the center of Dalit Movements and also famous for historical struggles of Dalits to rename the Marathwada University after Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, has a place of honour in this revolution.
It is possible that very few people are aware about the atrocities committed, recently, on the Dalit students of Govt. Medical College & Hospital Aurangabad (GMCH) on Feb.9, 2003 by the fascist student organizations- Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and Vaidakiya Shikshan Vidharthi Parishad (VSVP), which are the wings of Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS). The saffronized media has totally ignored this significant episode in their coverage.
A team of Bahujan Students Network (BSN)- members visited the Dalit students and GMCH, Aurangabad on April 3, 2003 to find the facts about the incident. The following is the brief report:
Background of the Incidence:
Dr. Ambedkar Medicos Association (DAMA), is active among the dalit medical students in Maharashtra. In GMCH, association is also involved in cultural activities and also runs a library for the dalit students. GMCH has allotted them office space in the campus.
The annual social gathering of GMCH was organized on February 1, 2003, which was inaugurated by Sindhutai Sapkal- renowned social worker. The function was presided over by Dr. Anand Malik -Dean of GMCH. On this occasion the fascist students organization- ABVP, which is very active in the campus, kept a picture of a "lady holding a saffron colour flag mounting on a lion" as "Bharat-Mata". It is well known that this picture is being extensively promoted by the RSS as an icon for their Hindu-Rashtra. Most of the students and DAMA opposed the use of that picture in the official function and suggested the use of Bharat-Mata holding the National Tricolour flag. The Dean Dr. Malik, who is known to be an office bearer of RSS, ignored the protest of the secular students and DAMA.
On February 6, 2003, the Dean- Dr. Malik invited Dr. Tupkari (local Pracharak of RSS) who inaugurated the Art Exhibition the same picture of RSS promoted "Bharat-Mata" as one of the exhibit. DAMA and other students protested again. But this time the Dean-Dr. Malik scolded the protesting students.
On February 9, 2003, when all students were enjoying cultural night, few ABVP members attacked the Dalit students. ABVP students brutally assaulted one Dalit student. The dalit students reported the incident to the dean and asked for providing them protection. Dr. Malik, not only refused it but also abused them in a filthy language. The dalit students went to City Chowk Police Station, Aurangabad to lodge a complaint but the police did not register it.
ABVP students again attacked some Dalit students and threatened to set them on fire. This was again reported to the Dean but he chose to ignore it as before. Because of this threat the Dalit students left the campus and went to live with their local guardians and friends.
The Actual Incident
On the same night the ABVP and VSVP members went to the student hostels along with some RSS members. When they found the rooms of the dalit students locked, they broke open seven rooms in two hostel buildings. They put all the books, papers, clothes, certificates, household articles, cash, and valuables etc. on the cot and set them fire.
The Dalit students went to the City-Chowk Police Station to report the incident but to their dismay they were informed that a complaint of dacoity was already lodged against 21 Dalit students. Consequently, those 21 students were arrested and they had to incur huge expenses to get released on bail.
The incident has been reported to the State Human Right Commission (SHRC) and an application asking for justice has been given to the Chief Minister Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde and the Home Minister Mr. Chhagan Bhujbal. But even after two months there is neither any enquiry nor any action. None, including the Police and the State Human Rights Commission have bothered to even take statements of these hapless students.
Prejudiced Dean and Police intervention
During the interaction with the Dalit students and other social activists in Aurangabad, the BSN-team learnt that the Dean was openly promoting communal activities in the GMCH campus in association with the local RSS- Pracharak, Dr. Tupkari.
At present the Dean has been removed from his post but he is the Head of one of the departments. DAMA has demanded his suspension and transfer because he has openly displayed his bias against the dalit students. He can no more be relied upon for fair assessment of their academic performance in future.
When the Dalit students went to lodge a First Information Report (FIR) on February 11, 2003, the police did not take it but when ABVP students lodged a false case against Dalit students for dacoity of Rs. 300 and a wristwatch, the police swung into action and arrested 21 dalit students. The incident clearly demonstrated the police bias against the dalit students and leanings towards the influential saffron brigade.
Current Problems of the Victims:
1. As all the belongings in the rooms including important certificates, books and notes were burnt, the dalit student have suffered considerable financial loss. The loss is in tune of Rs. one lakh each.
2. Due to mental trauma, all the Dalit students were unable to attend the lecturers till one month after the incident and are consequently facing academic loss.
3. They are scared that the goons of ABVP and VSVP may attack them in future.
4. They were unable to prepare for examinations that took place recently due to scare in their minds and loss of books and notes.
5. As this case is in the court, they are burdened moreover with legal expenses for their defense, which they cannot afford in any circumstances.
What We Can Do:
1. As all the victims are the poor Dalits students, we appeal to Dalit individuals, organizations, professionals, academicians to contribute money for meeting their legal expenses.
2. We appeal all the secular citizens to condemn the fascist onslaught of the ABVP, VSVP and RSS on the dalit students.
3. We demand that the dean Dr. Malik be suspended and transferred form GMCH, Aurangabad.
BSN IS DISCUSSING THIS INCIDENT AT DIFFERENT LEVELS TO FIGHT THIS BATTLE SO PLEASE WRITE YOUR SUGGESTIONS TO FOLLOWING E-MAIL Ids OF SHIRISH ATHAWALE AND B. SACHIN.