Dalits standing up to landlords in Bihar

http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2002/05/19/stories/200205190135100 0.htm

By K. Balchand

BETTIAH MAY 18. There is a rush among the Dalits to aquire land, for the first time in this feudal district of West Champaran, where Mahatma Gandhi's movement was limited to breaking the British shackles on cultivators to plant indigo.

The Dalits, who till the other day were vassals of the handful of landowners, all on a sudden are showing boldness to acquire for themselves a piece of the land, thanks to the change in the attitude of the Government, which has been implementing the land reforms programme with sincerity.

This is some sort of a movement among the Dalits, who are spearheading the cause without any visible leadership. They are standing up to the landlords for the first time, where less than 50 families controlled over 95 per cent of the land, including that of the Government, illegally in the district.

No land survey has been conducted since 1914. And the incidence of poverty is high with no less than 70 per cent living below the poverty line.

The Dalits are virtually taking over the land. The annoyance among the landlords is palpable. At Sankhar village, one of the upper caste landlords sought to dissuade a Harijan from earmarking a plot for himself: Why are you also jumping into the well like the others? he asked. ``I'm jumping into the well, because you had done the same earlier,'' he shot back pointing to the house that the landlord had illegally constructed on Government land.

The protest by the landlords was weak, unlike in the past, as they are aware the lower level officials of the State Government would no longer go to any length to protect their vested interests. Realisation has dawned on them that the times have changed.

This new found vigour is, of course, the result of the campaign by the State Government to set things right in a district where 98 per cent of the people are landless and where the Dalits are not even paid their minimum wages.

The RJD president, Laloo Prasad Yadav, as a young leader had campaigned against the landlords under the leadership of the late H.N. Bahuguna and the late Karpoori Thakur in 1978 when they were beaten up by the goons of the landlords.

It is a different tale today. The District Magistrate, Parmar Ravi Manubhai, and the two Superintendents of Police, Amrendra Kumar Ambedkar and A.K. Yadav, are acquiring surplus land from the landlords and have thus far distributed over 3,000 acres. This has benefited about 4,200 persons, as of now.

The Dalits are making their presence felt by preventing the landlords from selling off the government land in their illegal possession.

It is a long battle. The administration has taken action in about 80 cases, while more than 100 cases under the ceiling law have to be taken up involving more than 25,000 acres of land. The Dalits in these parts are beginning to fight for their rights. But the million dollar question is: will they be able to sustain it and for how long will they be given protection by the Government?

Pakistani Dalits protest genocide of Dalits, Muslims in India

KARACHI, May 19: The Dalit and Scheduled Castes communities of Pakistan demonstrated outside Karachi Press Club against aggressive Indian attitude and continuous genocide of Muslims and Dalits in India.

Hundreds of youths from Scheduled Castes communities protested and unfurled banners and placards against the genocide of Muslims and Dalits in India.

The demonstration was led by a 3-member steering committee of Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan (SCFP) including Surendar Valasai, Eng. Gianchand and Bherulal Balani, both ex-MPAs in Sindh from Scheduled Castes.

A press release distributed at the demonstration said: "Dalits or Scheduled Castes communities of Pakistan are the successors of those Dalits of united India who chose to follow a liberal Muslim Quaid-e-Azam instead of a secular Hindu costumed in Brahmin wardrobe physically and spiritually 55 years back. Dalits form 70 per cent of population counted as Hindus in Pakistan.

During the period, which India calls independence, 3 million Dalit women have been raped and one million Dalits have massacred. This is 25 times more than number of Indian soldiers killed during the wars it fought after independence. (The Pioneer, 30 Jan. 2000 ) Even today " More than 60 per cent of Dalits are landless. Over 40 million of them are bonded labourers. Dalits are the worst victims of labour coercion." (The Daily Star, Sun. May 30, 1999)

Though heavily underestimated, "The 1991 Government Survey of India states that on an average day, two Dalits are killed, three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits' houses are burned and fifty Dalits are assaulted by people of a higher caste."

The genocide and massacres of Muslims in Held Kashmir and latest bouts of gruesome genocide of Muslims in Gujarat proves that Quaid-e-Azam's two-nation theory at the time of partition was the best available remedy for a peaceful South Asia, free of communal hatred.

The Scheduled Castes Federation of Pakistan (SCFP) feels the monster of BJP is dragging entire South Asia to a nuclear war thus putting at risk the lives of more one-fifth human population of the world. Instead of coming to a dialogue table, the BJP monster and its killer squads like VHP, Bajrang Dal, and Shev Sena has turned blood thirsty. However, we warn the Indian government to stop injecting conspiracies into the Pakistan-India relationships and come to the dialogue table to sort out the issue of Kashmir to finish the partition agenda once for all and divert the sources to human development.

SCFP is concerned about the lives of million of Dalits and Muslims and other minorities and calls upon the world community, especially the United Nations, to influence to stop forthwith the genocide of Dalits and Muslims in India and constitute an international commission to investigate into the horrible Human Rights violations against Dalits and Muslims in India.

SCFP is proud of the decision of the Dalits who followed Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah 55 years ago as their current generations are more safer than of those who went with India.

SCFP makes it clear to India that the people of Pakistan, irrespective of any caste, creed, religion, and ethnicity are united to defend their motherland if India commits any adventure."

They demanded immediate halt to the Genocide of Muslims and Dalits in India at the hands of goons of RSS, VHP, Bajarag Dal and Shev Sena and ban on these fundamentalist organisations.

They stressed for resumption of talks between Pakistan and India on the core dispute of Kashmir and other issues between two neighbouring countries.

'International Development and Dalit Human Rights'.

The Seminar was organised by Voice of Dalit International (VODI) in co-operation with the communities of Raviasia, Valmiki, Ambedkarite Buddhists and Christians of the UK at Shri Guru Ravidass Community Centre, Birmingham on 18th of May 2002.

Ms. Clare Short, the local M.P. and Hon. Secretary of State for International Development was Chief Guest. Over 100 people participated. Mr. Tarseem Lal Balu, the President of the local community welcomed the gathering at 11. 45 Am followed by an 'analysis of Indian situation in Relation to the Dalits' by Ms. Jythi Raj, Director of Rural Education for Development Society, Tumkur, Karnataka, Bangalore, India. The representatives of different UK Dalit population including Mr. Jaswant Rai Chanderh, Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Mr. Davinder Prasad, Valmik Sabha, Mr. Resham Mahy, Ambedkarite Buddhist and Theo Samuel from Christian community presented their experience of caste discrimination faced by the respective communities. Mr. Satpal Muman chaired the session, which became livelier by the inputs from the floor confirming existence of caste discrimination even in the UK as well as raising serious concerns about the inadequacy of governmental, religious and NGO efforts to tackle the issue.

Mr. Eugene Culas, director of VODI chaired the afternoon session. Mr. Brenden Gormley, the Director of Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) presented the subject on the 'relevance of the 'Code of Conduct' in relation to the Dalit Human Rights'. DEC consists of 14 major Aid Agencies of the UK. He elaborated on the major guidelines, including the British Red Cross Code of Conduct for the member agencies to follow. Ms. Ann McFerran, journalist whose article on her visit to the earthquake affected Gujarat, published in the 'Sunday Times' shared her firsthand experience highlighting the discrimination in relief and rehabilitation. This was followed up by input on the 'structural causes of poverty' by Mr. Salail Shetty, the Chief Executive of Action aid, who analysed the need for taking into account of caste issues while tackling the problems of poverty and need for accepting the existence of the problem so that poverty could be tackled effectively and properly with the involvement of all concerned. Mr. Leo Bashyam, Head of Asia Desk who spoke next, presented details about various forms of the International Aid to India and listed a series of recommendations for the International Aid Agencies and other bodies to follow while giving aid to India. Ms. Margaret O'Graddy from the Anti Slavery International spoke next by drawing 'parallels on apartheid and caste discrimination' indicating possible areas of intervention from various quarters so that caste discrimination could be addressed effectively. After that, the release of the book 'Dalitology' by Mr. M.C. Raj was done by Mr. M.C. Sahota, the president of the Central Valminki Sabha -UK by giving a copy of the book to Ms. Clare Short. The community representatives presented a memento to Mr. & Mrs. Raj from India, who have been recently conferred Dr. Ambedkar Award by Karnataka Government in appreciation to their commitment and their services to the Dalit people.

Speaking as the Chief Guest Clare Short admitted the existence of people from different castes in her constituency where the Seminar was held. She drew the attention of every one towards the present world realities of explosive tensions existing - in the Middle East, between India and Pakistan etc. While expressing horror over the continued killings of minorities in India, she mentioned that she has directed her Department to consider caste factor while deciding on aid. The Chairperson of VODI, Mrs. Irene Culas gave the vote of thanks.

Seminar Statement

The following is the outcome of the deliberations in the Seminar on 'International Development and Dalit Human Rights', on 18 May 2002 in Birmingham of Great Britain.

1. We condemn untouchability in all its forms that evolved through a history of ascription which in themselves are violations of the rights of the indigenous people. The Indian government and the dominant caste society all over the world are trying to create a myth that caste system and untouchability are realities of the past. This Seminar asserts the prevalence of untouchability in its worst forms even today in many parts of Asia. The government of India should not any more shirk its constitutional responsibility to abolish untouchability in all forms and manifestations.

2. Among the many forms of untouchability is the prevalence of manual scavenging. Against the Constitution of India and its legal system many State governments are still actively perpetuating this practice. The government of India must immediately take stringent measures to completely abolish the practice of manual scavenging.

3. Dalits are not historically and culturally Hindus. Though many attempts have been made to make the identity of Dalits as Hindus it has been resisted again by Dalit leaders and intellectuals. This has been symbolically and ideologically represented by none other than Babasaheb Ambedkar, the maker of the Indian Constitution. Therefore, the government of India must begin to recognize and use the term Dalits for the Dalit people and must abolish the use of 'Harijans'.

4. For many centuries Dalits have been denied entry into places of worship and a pernicious double glass system is prevalent in restaurants. We demand that entry into places of worship is a social right and therefore, the government of India must see to it that Dalits are allowed entry into all places of worship just as all other human beings.

5. Sexual violation against Dalit women has become a political weapon in the hands of dominant caste men. That Dalit women are triple oppressed is common knowledge. However, whenever the dominant caste society decides to 'teach a lesson' to the Dalit men they rape and kill Dalit women without any fear. This Seminar, while condemning such barbaric attempts of the dominant caste groups in India, strongly remind the Government of India that mere legislation has not protected the dignity and life of Dalit women. Therefore, this Seminar recommends that the Government of India re-look at the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 and implement the same in letter and spirit.

6. Globalization and liberalization are setting new forms of marginalization in India. The most affected victims of the draconian measures of the ruling class in India are the Dalits, the tribal people and women in general. While globalization has become irreversible in many of its dimensions this Seminar strongly advocates to the government of India that Globalization must not lead to marginalization of Dalit people. As an immediate obligation of accepting Globalization the government has privatized many Public Sector undertaking thus jeopardising the employment opportunities of millions of Dalit people. Therefore, the government must introduce reservation in the Private Sector.

7. The Dalit community lacks material resources that can sustain them as communities self reliant unto themselves. No amount of developmental aid will really help the development of the Dalit people unless development funds are utilized for human and material resource building of Dalits. The International Donors must learn from the reports and experiences of working under caste situations and review their Aid Policies and Code of Conducts and ensure that a minimum of 50 % of the allocations to India be earmarked for Dalits and their Development related issues.

8. The Dalit communities are in a resurgent mood in terms of creating a Dalit intellectualism. However, this is being achieved with many difficulties to the Dalit communities at large. The percolation of the intellectualism into the communities has been almost nil. Education of the communities is not done by Government programmes nor do the Dalit intellectuals have the necessary resources to get involved in community education programme. Therefore, the Donors must pay a special attention to this need area in development and allocate more funds for community education and empowerment programmes, especially managed and controlled by Dalits.

9. Community education actually will result in the creation of organic intellectualism within the community. It will be difficult to stop such organic intellectuals from taking up leadership positions on behalf of the communities. Priorities of the Donors must change to include long term, well designed training, exchange and exposure programmes for the capacitation of Dalit young women and men drawn directly from the communities.

10. The attempt to consolidate Dalit intellectualism cannot and should not be confined to the boundaries of communities alone. Dalit intellectualism should be able to take on Brahminism and Capitalism and checkmate them all around. Dalit intellectualism must be taken to the international arena. This seminar recommends that a National Centre for Dalit Studies be established.

11. One of the greatest means of success of Brahminism has been its ability to keep the Indian and international media in its control. It has virtually denied all visibility to the legitimate struggles of the people and has manipulated its own visibility beyond all legitimate limits. Now the Dalit people cannot any more hope for the mainstream media to play a role in their attempts at emancipation. Therefore, there is a dire need to create a Dalit Media Centre in India. All possible financial assistance must be made available to such an effort. The Donors must review their policies if within the present framework they are unable to realize such a Media Centre.

12. Donor Consultants do play a crucial role in terms of advising the policy makers as well as in terms of actual allocation of funds for development programmes. The donors are often misguided rather than guided by the consultants. Since most of these consultants are drawn either from the Brahmin community or from other dominant caste groups the Dalits are often at the receiving end. The irony is that they are denied development fund in their own name. Therefore, this Seminar strongly declares that the Donor consultants must be drawn from the Dalit communities in order to set priorities of Dalit development and due Dalit representations assured in their staffing with Dalit sensitisation opportunities to their existing staff.

13. In this predominantly Brahminic environment in India where the movement is now evidently towards the realization of a Hindu India it is necessary for northern countries to review the utilization of the development aid they give to India. Empowering the dominant caste communities in the name of development will only further strengthen the mechanisms of Dalit oppression. Therefore, this Seminar states that 50% of development aid by the British Government to India be allocated to Dalit development. The British government must prevail upon the Indian government to compulsorily spend 50% of its development aid for the Dalit communities.

14. Discrimination in Britain in the name of caste and race is rampant. Indians in Britain must stop continuing the legacy of India in Britain. Caste system is being taught in Britain to the children. This is an insidious attempt of the Brahminic forces to consolidate caste system with British support. The British population is ignorant about it. The British government must pay a special attention to the discrimination the Dalit face in Britain. Therefore, we declare that the British government enact a law equating caste discrimination in Britain on par with racial discrimination. Both British Government and Aid Agencies spent sufficient time and resources to educate the British population on this 'hidden apartheid'.

15. This seminar strongly recommends to form a UK National Committee of various Dalit communities and organisations as suggested in the London Declaration adopted in September 2000 during a similar Conference initiated by VODI to take forward the implementation of the suggestions and extend necessary support to new and ongoing development initiatives and movements amongst the Dalits in India and other countries wherever the caste system exist.

16. Seminar welcomed the statement of Secretary of States who spoke about giving direction to the Department staff to consider the caste issues while deciding on overseas aid. The Seminar requested the British Aid Agencies also to do the same.

Ancient City,SRAVASTI,DISCOVERED in Uttar Pradesh

In a significant development, the excavation branch of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Uttar Pradesh (UP) and eastern states, has discovered 2,000 year old citadel of ancient Sravasti, about 58 km north of Gonda in UP.

The excavation has thrown light on one of the most important cities of ancient India, Sravasti, capital of Koshal Mahajanpad ruled by King Presanjit, a contemporary of Lord Buddha. Sravasti figured prominently in the Buddhist literature.

The recent excavation has been done inside the crescent-shaped mud-fortified city at the Maheth mound, which had been identified by Sir Alexander Cunnigham in 1861 as the capital city of Sravasti. It was also said to be a place of advanced technology. The excavation has identifed the cultural sequence beginning from the Mauryan period to the post-Gupta period dating back to the sixth century BC.

The excavation has been gradually throwing light on the various cultural aspects of the glorious past of Sravasti, where Lord Buddha has spent "his 25 rainy seasons, known as Varshavas in ancient times".

In course of the excavation, a large number of terracotta human figurines, beads, games men, hopscotch, plaques, seals and sealings, skin rubber, stone weight, copper and silver coins and bone and ivory objects were discovered.

The archaeologist in charge of the ASI excavation branch, Birendra Nath, told Times News Network that during the excavation, it was found that the exposed remains "are in the form of citadel wall, residential complexes, well-planned drainage system, brick wells, ring wells and unique pits for dumping the material of sacrifice or yajna". The excavation has also revealed a huge quantity of potteries and wares having north black polish dating back to the sixth century BC, and signs of potteries having lustrous polish give metallic sound.

All these potteries appear to be made of clay. Potteries discovered earlier were black in colour, but during the current excavation, it was found that the potteries are in different shades like chocolate, pink, orange etc. said Nath.

Apart from this the remains of ancient roads were found in the areas.


Dalit burnt alive, tension brews in Mansura village


KANPUR: Unrest continued in Mansura village in Akbarpur police circle on Tuesday following the death of a Dalit who was brunt alive in his own house by an agitated mob over a petty issue.

Police forces had been deployed in the area to bring the situation back to normal. DIG (Kanpur range ) R R Bhatnagar told TNN that the police had arrested two person in connection with the incident.

According to reports, a Dalit person identified as Ram Pal had an old rivalry with a person identified as Sundar Lal of his village on petty matters. Ram Pal had an altercation with Sundar Lal on Monday evening which further snowballed into an open clash between the two.

The situation took an ugly turn when Ram Pal injured Sundar Lal with the help of a sharp weapon. In retaliation, Sundar Lal informed the villagers about the incident and planned to take revenge. The villagers, in a fit of rage, first roughed up Ram Pal and chased him away towards his house. The traumatised Ram Pal ran into his house and locked himself in a room. However, the angry villagers were not in a mood to relent.

The angry mob of locals set Ram Pal's hut ablaze and this turned into a massive blaze. Ram Pal was charred to death in the flames inside the room he had locked himself in to escape the ire of villagers. The police said that Ram Pal did not come out from the burning hut due to fear of the agitated villagers who had gheraoed his hut from outside.

It was also reported that the fire also gutted properties worth thousands of rupees as the flames damaged some other houses also which were located adjacent to Ram Pal's house. Sundar Lal who was attacked by Ram Pal, had been admitted to a city hospital where doctors said his condition was be serious and was under observation.


Bypolls litmus test for BSP-BJP alliance

DH News Service


Non-Congress Opposition has closed ranks to challenge the Bahujan Samaj Party-Bharatiya Janata Party combination. The Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Kranti Party and Apna Dal have decided to come together for byelections to three Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats to stop the Mayawati juggernaut. A weak Congress sticks to the plan of reviving its dead organisation instead of joining the wide Opposition net. But RKP and Apna Dal joining hands with SP carries a message of backward unity, with Kalyan Singh commanding near total command over Lodhs and Apna Dal being a party claiming support of Kurmis. A joint statement claims "the coalition is a bid to expose the anti-backward conspiracy of BSP-BJP alliance".

The efficacy of such a coalition will be put to test on May 31 in byelections to Jahangirganj, Bahedi and Dibai Assembly and Akbarpur Lok Sabha seats. There new-found Opposition aggression will get a fillip if it can make breach the BSP forts. Observers say the results will show the voters' attitude to the alliance between BSP and BJP as also the minority mood towards Mayawati. If Opposition unity of small outfits can make a difference will be another message emanating from the ballot boxes. For the first time, the BSP and BJP will carry out joint campaigning on May 27 and 28, covering all the four seats. Mayawati has her prestige at stake in Akbarpur and its Assembly segment Jahangirganj as both were vacated by her. In 1999 Lok Sabha elections, she won the Akbarpur seat by 53, 000 votes, polling 2.59 lakh votes against SP's 2.06 lakh. The BJP finished third with 1.82 lakh votes while Apna Dal had polled 53, 000 votes. The Jahangirganj Assembly saw Mayawati poll 51, 000 votes against SP's 44, 000 and BJP's 38, 000 votes. After the alliance between BSP and BJP, these elections are being touted as one-sided in favour of the Dalit party. The SP, however, rebuffs the claim and says the anger among BJP cadre against a tie-up with BSP will help them.

Dibai is the first instance of a hitherto cagey SP announcing an alliance with Kalyan Singh. Vacated by the former chief minister, the SP is supporting Kalyan's son Rajvir Singh as RKP candidate. The BJP renegade had made the contest during Assembly elections as one-sided, polling 49, 000 votes while BSP and BJP polling 22, 000 and 20, 000 votes respectively. Despite finishing ahead of BJP in the assembly elections, Mayawati has left the seat for its coalition partner to stress her commitment to a long-term friendship. The contest is said to be "interesting" but loaded in favour of RKP-SP alliance. For SP, its a must to win Bahedi seat. The seat fell vacant after legislator Manzoor Ahmed was senstionally shot dead outside Raj Bhavan. The SP has fielded his widow while BSP has plumped for the man accused of Ahmed's murder. Ahmed had polled 39, 000 votes, 3000 more than BSP while BJP got 25, 781 votes. A victory for BSP-BJP alliance over SP will silence critics who say the minorities were leaving the Mayawati fold for her joining hands with BJP. But a defeat will clearly indicate that she has failed to hold on to minoriities who polled for BSP in heavy numbers in the general elections only three months ago.

Interestingly, the BSP-BJP leaders are avoiding the Kunda assembly where repoll will be held on the same day. The elections were countermanded after Election Commission upheld the charges of "passive rigging" by Raja Bhaiyya, a minister in Rajnath Singh cabinet. He is a Rajnath loyalist and BJP's absence from campaigning in Kunda has raised eyebrows in Rajnath camp.


12 child labourers score first class


CHITRADURGA: Twelve child labourers rehabilitated by the Ekalavya Samsthe here have secured first class in the seventh standard examination, Viswasagar, the director, has said.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said out of the 42 child labourers being rehabilitated, 15 have secured second class, and another 15 third class.

Ramiza and Vijayakumar, who used to beg for a living, secured first class.

Gangamma, Marappa and Sarita, stone cutters, have secured second class, he said.

He also said that 300 such children being rehabilitated at Adona Ba Shale, Bharamasagara, Chili Pili Shale of Davanagere, Nakshatra Shale of Channagiri and Kanasu-Nisarga Shale of Chitradurga had cleared their second and sixth standard exams.


Govt misusing SC\ST Act: SP


LUCKNOW: The dismal condition of the Arabic and Persian madarsas and the imposition of the SC/ST Act on some small-time farmers of Kanpur Dehat figured prominently in the proceedings of the Vidhan Parishad on Wednesday.

The issue of the SC/ST Act was raised by the SP members who said the tehsildar Rajwali, the naib tehsildar Manoj and the amin Gangaram along with some policemen ruthlessly beat up family members of Anup Singh, a resident of Kanpur Dehat, over the issue of payment of `lagaan.'

The members, who included Ram Saran Das, Vijay Singh Rana and Om Prakash Singh of the Teacher's group, flayed the high handedness of these government officials and said the fact that a receipt had been given indicated that the payment of the `lagaan' had been made.

Despite this the revenue officials had unleashed a reign of terror as a consequence of which the villagers were now afraid to go back to their homes. The speakers alleged the officials had booked many villagers under the SC\ST Act simply because they belonged to the Yadav community.

Pro tem Chairman Manvendra Singh directed the Leader of the House Swami Ram Maurya to collect the relevant information and ensure that small farmers were not harassed.

The Teacher's group drew attention of the Chair to the dismal state of the Arabic and Persian madarsas where students had not appeared for exams since the last three years.

Panchnan Rai stated the students had lost three valuable years of their lives for no fault of theirs. The reason was that there was no regular post of a registrar for the Board.

He said if a varsity for Arabic and Persian language had been set up some kind of regularity could have been brought in these institutes. In his reply, Maurya said the relevant information on this count was being collected.

Sarvshakti Kumar Singh of the Congress raised the issue of Satish Kumar, resident of Sultanpur who along with his wife was a victim of the Godhra carnage. The Chair directed that information on the count be collected and placed before the House.

Post lunch a discussion was held on Governor's address. Om Prakash Sharma said governor's address gave ample indication that government was moving towards a capitalist society.


Mayawati's steps to eradicate polio


LUCKNOW: Chief minister Mayawati while admitting that the polio was severely affecting the children of poor families, said that from now onwards the polio eradication programme would be launched launched on war-footing.

She was talking to Dr Bruce Aylward, chief, global polio eradication programme of WHO, who called on her at her residence here on Wednesday.

The chief minister said that the participation of divisional commissioners and district magistrates would be ensured to make the programme a success.

She said that the responsibility of DMs and CMOs would be fixed in the areas affected by the dreaded disease after December 2002.

Stressing upon the December 2002 deadline set for the eradication of polio from the state, Mayawati said the programme was of national importance and everyone's participation in it would be ensured.

Bruce informed the chief minister that WHO was emphasising the need to eradicate polio and to achieve this target it was providing financial support as well.

Dalit, OBC and Muslim relations

By Kancha Ilaiah

Muslim intellectuals must learn from Christian missionaries and work among Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs so that a relationship of trust is established.

THE PARTICIPATION of Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backward Castes (OBCs) in the Gujarat carnage has raised several questions with regard to the unity of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, OBCs and Muslims. The Hindutva forces have succeeded in making such a unity very difficult to achieve. More so after the Gujarat carnage and the formation of the Mayawati Government in Uttar Pradesh with BJP support. The Muslims unlike the Christians do not know how to understand the caste question and handle riot situations. The persisting unfriendly relations between Muslims, Dalits and OBCs, mainly in the urban areas, are worrying.

After the BJP came to power and Christians were attacked by the Hindutva forces in several places, Dalit and Adivasi participation in those attacks was all most nil. The Dalits and Adivasis have close relations with the Christians but not with the Muslims. The OBCs have ambiguous relations with the Christians but they too have inimical ties with the Muslims. The causes for this situation need to be probed by Muslim intellectuals. Otherwise, the Hindutva forces will continue to use the muscle power of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the OBCs against the Muslims. Since almost every riot ends up in more killings of Muslims, Dalits and OBCs, the inimical relations increase. This mode of constructing an enemy image among the oppressed communities is a desired agenda of the Hindutva forces. This diverts attention from the basic economic, social and political issues haunting the oppressed.

Following the attacks against the community in Gujarat and elsewhere by the Sangh Parivar, India's Christian intelligentsia launched a global campaign against the fascist nature of the Parivar damaging its credibility in the West. The VHP's attempts to get the United Nations to accord it NGO status were also thwarted. All global NGOs and Government bodies received full information of the attacks and even the U.S. Congress and the European Union Parliament took note. The Sangh Parivar is now planning to install P. C. Alexander as Rashtrapathi.

The Muslim intelligentsia failed to establish a rapport with the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the OBCs at the ground level. Though there are a number of Muslim intellectuals who can document the atrocities against the community and place such facts before the U.N. and other human rights bodies, they never did so. They remain inward looking and have adopted the tactics of mass defence and politics of retaliation. This is unfortunate because the U.N. as a global body gives more credibility to the voices of the victims. Instead of allowing the Muslim community to indulge in retaliatory politics, U.N. involvement may reduce the scale of violence in India. The responsibility for not taking the Gujarat carnage to the U.N. lies entirely with the English-speaking Muslim intelligentsia of India.

The Muslim intelligentsia must also be held responsible for an indifference to the issues of caste and untouchability. Historically, before the British came, the Muslims rulers and scholars did not bother to understand the caste question. A visiting scholar like Alberuni threw a cursory glance at the question but no Indian scholar or poet wrote at length on these issues. Quite surprisingly, they took no social or educational work to the Dalit-Bahujans. Because of the influence of the Brahminic ideology, the Muslim scholars thought that caste system and untouchability were spiritual and that they should not interfere.

Before the Bhakti movement, a few Sufi propagators mingled with the Sudras/Chandalas of that period. But in the modern era, particularly, in the post-Independence period, no Muslim intellectual worth his name has worked among the Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs. No Muslim intellectual stood by Ambedkar when he started the liberative struggle of the Dalits. Following the Mandal movement no Muslim scholar wrote even one serious book formulating an Islamic understanding of caste and untouchability. How do bridges get built among communities? They get built only when one oppressed community gets the support of another and each relates to the other on a day-to- day basis. For that, a theoretical formulation is very essential.

Muslim scholarship has mainly operated within the ruling class feudal ideology. Except for a few scholars such as Irfan Habib, who came under the influence of communism and studied Indian society from a class point of view, no Muslim scholar has done a detailed study on the caste question. Given Islam's literary and educational culture, they should have been the first to fight against caste and untouchability. They should have been the first to write about the inhuman living conditions of the Dalits. However, they remained totally silent. Though the Sufi saints moved into the Dalit and the OBC communities for a spiritual campaign, they too did not build a literary anti-caste, anti-untouchability genre.

Though the British rulers were exploiters they took a keen interest in understanding the caste system. William Carey's "An enquiry into the obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the Heathen" made a serious analysis of caste and untouchability in the late 18th century itself. Many issues that became the concerns of Raja Ram Mohan Roy later were raised in his report. During the Mandal debate, many Hindu scholars went to the extent of saying that the British invented caste.

The Muslim intellectuals know that in the Hindu system, the Dalits and the OBCs were forcefully stopped from getting an education. The Christian missionaries introduced education to them irrespective of whether they embraced Christianity or not. Jyotirao Phule and Ambedkar have acknowledged the service of missionaries in their writings. However, such constructive work never came from the Muslim intellectuals.

The educational and health services the missionary activists rendered to the poor masses made their activity a socially integrative one. Even during the attacks on Christians in Gujarat and other places, the missionaries were able to defend their activities in India at all world forums. Even the thoroughly communalised State machinery of Gujarat had to balance its governance between the Hindutva forces and Christian missionaries. The Muslim intellectuals did not take up the social causes of the Adivasis, Dalits and OBCs and hence there are no deep sympathies for them.

In the case of Islam there is not only no investigative tradition, there is no social service tradition with a sense of social interaction before someone embraces Islam. Muslim intellectuals must learn from Christian missionaries and work among Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs so that a relationship of trust is established. All oppressors must learn to work for each other's liberation and build social bondages among them. That is the best way to prevent another Gujarat.

Bangarpet tense over damage to Ambedkar's statue

DH News Service

BANGARPET (Kolar), May 27

Tension prevailed in Bangarpet town and in surrounding villages when some miscreants disfigured the statue of Dr B R Ambedkar at Ambedkar Park on the Bangarpet-Kolar State Highway this morning. Police rushed to the spot and contolled the situation. The right hand, nose and face of the statue were damaged.

On receiving the information, hundreds of activists belonging to various Dalit organisations assembled near the market and sought the arrest of the miscreants. The movement of vehicular traffic between KGF and Bangalore remained disrupted for some time. However, no untoward incident was reported from any part of the town, according to the police. Deputy Commissioner D M Naik held talks with the senior citizens and Dalit leaders and assured that steps have been taken to replace the statue with a bronze statue from Chennai at a cost of Rs 2 lakh.

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Published on: May 29, 2002
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