(New Delhi, May 6)
Tribals are being used as cannon fodder in Gujarat's communal war. On February 28, shortly after the Godhra train tragedy sparked off riots, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a meeting at Torda village of Bhiloda taluka in Sabarkantha district and called the tribal youth to teach Bohra shopkeepers a lesson. The youth responded almost instantaneously by looting and burning shops belonging to Muslims in the area.
A similar meeting held earlier in Kushalpur village of the same taluka issued a similar call to tribals, who attacked about 70 Muslim homes in Mudeti village of Sabarkantha.
On March 1, Muslim landlords in Munai village of Bhiloda taluka were attacked by tribals.
In Thalawada and Mankadi villages of Danta taluka districts of Banaskantha, hundreds of tribals looted the Bohra businessmen. While some of these instances could pass as spontaneous reaction to provocative circumstances, most appear to be designed to terrorise minority communities. Gujarat's track record over the past 13 years points to a sustained effort at social engineering. A study by the Indian Social Action Forum observed that the Hindutva forces have for long used tribals as a 'shield' to carry out 'ethnic cleansing'.
The state has witnessed a systematic infusion of communal hatred since the late eighties. The Sangh Parivar had first mobilised a large number of tribals for the Ram Janaki Shobha Yatra to draw support for L.K. Advani's Rath Yatra in 1989.
Soon after Advani's arrest at Samastipur in Bihar during the last leg of his Rath Yatra, some tribals had attacked Muslims in Virpur, a town between two tribal districts of Sabarkantha and Panchmahal. Encouraged by the response to the Shobha Yatra, the Sangh Parivar moved into the tribal areas of the state in the 1990s through outfits like Vanavasi Kalyan Parishad (VKP) and the Vivekananda Kendra. The Sangh Parivar adopted a two-pronged strategy of containing the Christian missionaries in their area and communalising the tribal mind. Educational institutions were set up for tribal children, offering an alternative to the Christian missionaries operating in the areas. With the Congress hold weakening among the tribals, the BJP scored on the political front too. In 1998, it wrested both the Lok Sabha seats of Mandvi and Valsad, reserved for Scheduled Tribes.
By Our Special Correspondent
Women leaders, representing different organisations, vow to unite and fight communal forces at the inauguration of the 16th conference of the National Federation of Indian Women in Chennai on Monday. — Photo: N. Balaji
CHENNAI May 6. With the Gujarat carnage, especially the assault against women looming large in the background, women's organisations and groups today vowed to unite and combat communal forces. The 16th conference of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) which began here today, called for a joint fight to make ``Gujarat a testing ground'' to re-establish secularism and combat ``forces which wanted to subvert the Constitution''.Condemning the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi's role in the carnage and the Centre for the situation, the meet wanted a ban on Hindutva organisations. Tamil Maanila Congress MP, Jayanthi Natarajan, said women's groups should not rest till the Defence Minister, George Fernandes was dismissed for his remarks about the incidents of rape in the Gujarat riots.
The NFIW's president, Dheena Pathak and general secretary, Amarjith Kaur said the Centre's role in globalisation and the Hindutva groups' role in spreading communal hatred had to be seen as inseparable forces, targeting weaker sections — the poor and the women.The globalisation agenda sought to uproot people from the path of independent development, robbing it of its traditional knowledge systems and majoritarian communalism sought to challenge the Constitution and India's composite but diverse cultures. Women suffered either way.
``People who had not accepted secularism as a basic Constitutional premise were now ruling at the Centre.And after their henchmen lost the elections in five States, their basic agenda is to divide the people on religious lines, so that we will not fight their economic agenda unitedly,'' Ms. Kaur said.
The All India Democratic Women's Association general secretary, Brinda Karat, who termed the RSS as ``the Rashtriya Sarvanash Samiti'' said the Gujarat carnage was ``unprecedented in history''.Only three FIRs had been registered for ``cases of rape'' in the state till now. Ms. Karat said there was a subversion not only of law, but even of the judicial process there.
Ms. Jayanthi Natarajan accused the Union Government of ``trivialising the Gujarat situation during the Parliamentary debate''. The state which symbolised the nation's unity during last year's earthquake, had become a symbol of shame because of the ``state-sponsored genocide''. She expressed concern over the Hindutva forces brainwashing women and mobilising them for the ``religions fight''. During the riots, women's groups had encouraged the ``sevaks'', she alleged.
Justice Prabha Sreedevan of the Madras High Court, said women had to challenge the patriarchal models that depicted women as weak, needing protection.Women were seen only as a wife, mother or sister from this point of view.
Instead, there was a need for women to realistically evaluate their self worth and contribution to society.
A woman should see her role and person as precious. It was not as if she needed to seek power, because women was power herself. Nafisa Ali, social activist released the conference souvenir.
By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI MAY 4. F inancial institutions should substantially enhance lending to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in a concerted manner to further uplift these communities to enable them to join the national mainstream as equal partners in the country's economic growth and prosperity.
A strong recommendation in this regard was made today by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) on the basis of consensus that emerged during the broad-based consultation which it had with the heads of financial institutions from all over the country. The consultation was in the form for a workshop hosted by the commission on `Role of Financial Institutions fo
r Economic Development of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes'. Briefing mediapersons at the end of the workshop, the Chairman of NCSCST, Bizoy Sonkar Shastri, and the commission member, Veena Nayyar, said the banks had as a first step been asked to meet the target of a 10 per cent lending to weaker sections in accordance with the guidelines of the Reserve Bank.
From Subodh Ghildiyal
DH News Service
LUCKNOW, May 6
Late morning walks with sun belting down hard are just not recommended for adolescents. So, when Ms Mayawati chose to play the doctor and walked 26 hectares in the sweltering heat, it upset the health of many ageing officials. Yet, they thanked their stars to have survived the session. It was the maverick's inimitable style to convey that her ideological moorings were firmly in place. What if she heads a hotch-potch alliance of 'manuvadi' outfits.
The dalit leader remembered her dream project, Ambedkar Udyan, on the first Monday of her third innings as chief minister. She went to inspect the Udyan the state had abandoned after she withdrew from the ruling alliance five years ago. She returned smiling. Having resurrected an unfinished dream.
On the hot, sunny morning, the files could wait. The chief minister, with advisors and officials in tow, drove across the Gomti. At 10 am, as Ms Mayawati was taking her first step inside the ostentatious park made of granite, marble and some greenery, the engineers stood lined up by her side, with prayers on their lips, fearing the worst. It was ominous. The granite at the entrance looked like coming off. "What's this?" came a shrill query. The officials left it unanswered. The pain and anger in the voice was evident.
Here was a lady who had upset the entire uppercaste clan with her adamance on erecting an expensive structure of "dalit assertion" right in the heart of an upper middle-class locality. That it was conceived next to the five-star Taj only rubbed it in. Ms Mayawati is an order-and-compliance person. But inside the Udyan, she played a perfectionist to the hilt, surveying the minutest detail. She dug her eyes deeper and found the base of fountains rusty. Her eyes turned to a corner to spot the dumped garbage. The face was grim. The granite floor had cracks filled with cement in a hurried patchwork.
Craftsmanship is not ok," was her verdict. The engineers stood like dead. A few steps ahead and she recognised the Ashoka tree. A smile appeared from nowhere. "It has really grown up!" she joyously remarked.It was hot and sunny. But hardly anything to deter young couples. Few grew curious and chose to find out what had brought disorder to their quiet abode. There were a few singles. Within minutes, a motley crowd was witnessing the drama. The CM moved on undistracted.
The statue of a serene Gautam Buddha smiles at visitors from a height. Ms Mayawati climbed the 20-odd steps only to surprise all and sundry by turning to the Lord's back. "It is not smooth like the front," was the complaint. "Ma'm, its in the glass case," humbly pointed out an engineer.
"I think the glass cover can be opened," came the retort. The instruction was clear. The BSP leader offered flowers to the Lord. Next was Dr Ambedkar's statue. The stone-finishing on the steps was not to her liking. "Why should you need a CM to point out the faults," she wondered.
Unsure of the night lamps, she asked her principal secretary PL Punia to get them checked. Pushpanjali was offered to the architect of the constitution. Some distance and she reached a small bridge on a pool. The overzealous securitymen sought to stop the onlookers but she asked them to walk on with her. "Let's check if it is strong enough," she laughed.
It was a long walk under the unrelenting sun. Ms Mayawati was unfazed. But officials were ill-prepared. One by her side lost his balance and almost fell off his feet when Mayawati showed her sharp reflexes and held him straight. "Bachke Munna (careful Munna)," she smiled to an embarrassed red face. Few words were necessary. "You may not realise but it is history for coming generations," she underlined the importance of her project. That she has mellowed down showed when she added, "Greatmen of all communities should be respected." They all nodded in unison. At 11.26 am, the inspection was complete and Ms Mayawati had demonstrated her priorities. "I will come every week to see the progress," was her parting shot.
DH News Service
AGARTALA , May 5
The Tripura police are still groping in dark over the mysterious appearance of Tripura Autonomous District Council's (ADC) Sridam Debbarmma kidnapped by suspected National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) militants on Friday night. The incident attained sensation amid reports that the kidnapping of the tribal leader was an offshoot of recently surfaced rift in the leadership in the newly formed Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT). The INPT which is governing the ADC is blamed for maintaining a secret nexus with the NLFT.
The entire episode has assumed a significant turn with the arrest of senior INPT leader Mebar Kumar Jamatia, the sole witness to the kidnapping. Mr Sridam Debbarma accompanied Mr Jamatia in the Gurudayal Para under Takarjala police station, from where he was kidnapped by ultras. Mr Jamatia was arrested for his alleged involvement in the incident and was sent to 5 day police remand yesterday.
The INPT, however, flayed the arrest saying that the police has been acting at the behest of the ruling CPI (M). The party says the police is in the process of manipulating the kidnapping incident and divert attention. Justifying the arrest top police brass are of the strong opinion that Jamatia had a role in the incident and he could bring light into the investigation.
During interrogation, Jamatia reportedly repeated the same "eye witness account". He said both of them were proceeding towards Gurudayal Para on foot when three armed militants intercepted them and asked them to follow. After a while, they let him off, but took the Executive Member into the forests.
The incident was a mystery for a number of reasons. First Sridam Debbarma left his vehicle and two personal security officers (PSOs) at the Jampuijala market and moved towards Gurudayal Para with his accomplice Jamatia. Second, Jamata and the PSOs returned from the area to Khumlung, ADC headquarters in the night without informing the concerned Takarjala police station of the incident.
Moreover, Sridam did not inform his movement to the area special branch police or the Takarjala police station - which has been a common practice by the top political leaders and office bearers. The PSOs reported the incident to the Jirania police station, near Khumlung, several hours after the kidnapping occurred. Giving the facts and circumstances, the kidnapping continues to be a case of mystery.
But the popular theory emerged is that Sridam's kidnapping was direct fallout of utter differences in the INPT. The investigation is now concentrating on this. Recently Mebar Jamatia was removed as president of the tribal students federation (TSF), a wing of the INPT. The man replaced Mebar was a close associate of Sridam. Senior leaders in the party were also gripped in rift over posts and policies. A number of leaders objected to party's change in stand on contentious issues like the demand for a "autonomous state within state". Many leaders representing different political parties are blamed for keeping close ties with underground militant groups
DH News Service
BANGALORE, May 6
Karnataka Slum Clearance Board Chairman C Narayanappa today urged people belonging to backward classes to give up inferiority complex and make use of the facilities extended by the government for their welfare.
Inaugurating the 111th birth anniversary of Dr B R Ambedkar organised by the Dalit, Backward Classes and Minorities Committee, Bangalore district here, Mr Narayanappa advised the backward classes people to exploit the opportunities given to them by the government and progress in life. They should also alert the government when it fail to perform its duties.
Ms Nirmala Venkatesh, MLC, the chief guest on the occasion observed that active participation of women in development activities would help in safeguarding the welfare of oppressed people. Mr A Narayanaswamy, MLA, Anekal and Mr Ravi Kumar, Chairman, Social Justice Committee, Bangalore urban zilla panchayat were felicitated on the occasion.
Hyderabad, May 6: The pitiable plight of children in the State has become a matter of serious concern for the Unicef.
"All must move beyond rhet-oric so that children in Andhra Pradesh experience a brighter reality," State representative of Unicef William R Thompson told reporters on Monday.
Speaking on the eve of a special session for children, which would be held in the city from May 8 and would coincide with the UN General Assembly's session on children, he said six out of 100 children in the State die before they reach one year.
Thompson said there was tremendous disparity in the chances of survival with infant mortality rate reaching 37 per cent in urban areas compared to 75 in rural areas. Thompson said only 32 per cent children have their births registered and 38 per cent are malnourished. Twenty-three per cent babies are severely underweight (below 2.5 kg).
He said 72 per cent children suffer from anaemia and only 59 per cent are immunised. Just 49 per cent boys and 31 per cent girls complete primary education and child marriages are rampant with 49 per cent girls marrying before they touch 15 years.
He said, "Is this the visage of the child that we wish to see in AP. Is this present legacy of the child the one that we wish to bestow on future generations." Stating that the situation prevalent in the State was not acceptable to anyone, he said, "We must act resolutely to address the problems faced by children."
Visakhapatnam, May 6: Preparations have begun for the construction of Bouddha Vihar project at Bojjanna Konda near Anakapalle, said Maha Bodhi Society president B S Chalam.
Addressing the society's meeting held on Sunday, Chalam said the project would cost around Rs 25 lakh and the process is on for collecting donations from Buddhist bodies, voluntary organisations and important persons of the city. So far Rs 25,000 was collected and the project would be completed within four months.
Buddhist monks from all over the country would visit Bojjanna Konda in December this year, he told the participants of the meeting. Two-acre land was needed for this project and the land alone would cost Rs 36 lakh, as per the current market rates. The project will have restrooms for the visiting monks and a meditation centre called Vipasana would be constructed.
Chalam said two monks would permanently stay at the shrine and run a school. He appealed to the city-based Buddhist organisations to come forward and pool up additional resources.
Noted lawyer and Buddhist writer M V S Appa Rao said the spread of Buddhism was essential for maintaining global peace and the Buddhist shrines needed better infrastructure to expand their activities. Former NSTL scientific officer and a Buddhist preacher Prachand said a small percentage of income sourced from the foreign tourism should be earmarked for development of Buddhist shrines in the district. Later the committee elected new office-bearers. M V S Appa Rao was elected as president, B S Chalam vice-president, Gandhi Naveen as secretary, Bora Venugopal Gautam and G Babu as joint secretaries, Ambati Sarveswara Rao as additional secretary and Alli Musalaiah as treasurer.
Kurnool, May 6: The district administration's move to emancipate and rehabilitate child labourers, received a severe setback on Monday when parents of a group of rag-pickers put up stiff resistance as officials attempted to take away their children.
Members of an official team which went to the Joharapuram area to take into custody a group of rag-pickers, were confronted by their irate parents who vehemently opposed the move saying they did not want their kids to languish in the so-called rehabilitation centres which were worse than their present homes.
When the officials tried to take away the children forcibly, the parents attacked their vehicles with sticks forcing them to take to their heels and leave the children behind.
Reacting sharply to the ghastly incident in which two children were made to work as bonded slaves (they were even put in shackles) by the owner of a beedi unit in lieu of the money he had lent to their parents, in Kurnool district, the State government had directed the district administration to take steps on a war-footing to put an end to child labour menace.
This prompted a series of raids on beedi units and other factories besides cement quarries and hotels. At least 326 child slaves were set free by the officials.
Monday's raid near Joharapuram village was headed by Mohammed Isak, project director of the department for Child Labourers' Rehabilitation and field directors Omkar and Pratap Reddy besides the convenor of the Association for Child Labour Eradication Jamma-laiah. Even as the team members tried to take into custody a group of about 18 rag-pickers, the children raised an alarm attracting the attention of their parents.
The parents said even they wanted their children to study but were forced to send them to work due to financial constraints. Attempts to explain that the kids would be sent to rehabilitation centres where they would be provide facilities, proved futile as the unrelenting parents quoted incidents of children running away from such centres.
(New Delhi, May 8)
What makes the tribals such soft targets for socio-political experimentation? While successive governments in the country have done little to improve the lot of tribals, conversion to Christianity has afforded them some dignity.
Some tribal communities, especially Oraons of the Raigarh-Ambikapur area, went in for mass conversion to Christianity about a century ago to escape the oppressive feudal rule. Churches proceeded to build community-based welfare institutions, says Vinayak Sen of Chhattisgarh Lok Swatantra Sangathan.
'Reconversion', as practised by the Sangh Parivar, is based on political definition of Hindutva, which considers tribals a part of the Hindu stream.
Depleting forest wealth and changing conservation laws uprooted the tribals from their natural habitat. Also, the abdication of political and administrative responsibility by successive state governments in MP, Bihar and UP facilitated the advent of Naxalites in the tribal pockets.
Political expediency apparently forced Sangh Parivar's militant arms like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP to hardsell the re-conversion theory and lend momentum to the BJP's forward march.
While in Chhattisgarh and MP the communalisation of tribals was directed against the Christians and yielded "moderate political success", the anti-Muslim edge imparted to the campaign in Gujarat caused a bigger upheaval.
It was perhaps due to the economic scenario of the area and political spadework by the Sangh Parivar that tribals could be enlisted for such an intense battle.
With their newfound 'Hindu enlightenment' the tribals were easily turned against the Bohras, perceived as liberal Muslims. The VHP and Bajrang Dal also expanded their base in the eastern and northern tribal districts of Sabarkantha, Panchmahal and Dahod. They co-opted tribal youngsters into the 'Hindu fold' by offering them honorary positions in the village units of their organisations. These 'positions' gave the tribals a semblance of upward social mobility, especially as they could play a role in the use of development funds under the BJP rule. The BJP is apparently counting on tribals for electoral support.
Patna May 8. In a second strike within 48 hours on Dalits in Bihar, six more were gunned down by the proscribed People's War Group in Patna district late last night, police said. PWG cadres of the Jaynandan Yadav faction, armed with sophisticated weapons, fired at Bhadaura village killing the six, including two women and two childrenAn additional company of Bihar Military Police was rushed to the villagein Masaurhi police station area. A combing operation was underway.
By Ram Dutt Tripathi
BBC reporter in Lucknow
A group of lower caste Hindus, once known as "untouchables", are set to throw a new challenge to India's three-thousand-year-old Hindu system of social hierarchy.
They have completed a three-month intensive course on Hindu rituals and will soon be ordained as priests, a profession until now the exclusive domain of upper caste Brahmins.
The course was run in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh by the central human resources ministry.
Many of the trainees came from the lowest rungs of the caste system, officially described as the scheduled castes.
India has 160 million dalits and, despite laws banning discrimination, they suffer from it in some parts of the country. Training
The training course was considered to be another attempt to integrate the dalits into the social mainstream.
The students were admitted after a rigorous and open competition. All entrants were required to be proficient in the ancient Sanskrit language.
During three months of training, they studied ancient texts, learned to perform complicated Hindu rituals like marriages, child-naming ceremonies and death rites.
Many of the trainees said the course had boosted their confidence. New society
Goverdhan Lal Meena is a proud man.
He is looking forward to embark on his new profession. He is a dalit and says his parents had never imagined that he will be a Hindu priest one day.
Mr Meena says that Hindu society is going through rapid changes and social discrimination will soon be rooted out.
His colleagues and trainers are optimistic too.
They said non-Brahmin priests would symbolise the changing face of Hindu society.