News Update 07/23/2003

Christian priest arrested in Gujarat
By Our Special Correspondent

AHMEDABAD July 21. A Christian priest at Talala in Junagadh district
of Gujarat has been arrested for allegedly ``damaging'' a Ganesh

The All-India Christian Council (AICC) joint secretary, Samson
Christian, said that it was a totally ``fabricated charge'' and
alleged the involvement of the local BJP and Sangh Parivar activists
to ``harass'' the priest. The priest, Suresh Thackeray, who, AICC
sources claimed, is a distant relative of the Shiv Sena supremo, Bal
Thackeray, having taken to Christianity, was running an orphanage at
Talala under the banner of the Grace Ministry of India, a Christian
organisation. From the current academic year, he had also started an
English medium school in the small town, which, Mr. Christian
claimed, was disliked by Sangh Parivar activists.

He alleged that Parivar activists forced Mr. Thackeray to pay a
certain amount to a driver of his school bus. When he refused they
filed a police complaint against the priest of damaging a Ganesh
idol.When the Superintendent of Police was informed that the priest
was let off. But this afternoon, he was again put under arrest by the
Veraval police on the same charges.

In a letter to the Director-General of Police, Mr. Christian
questioned the presence of a Ganesh idol in the Christian institution
and claimed that the entire issue had been fabricated. The DGP had
promised to inquire into the episode and take necessary steps.

Lower caste woman gangraped in public

SAHARANPUR: A 19-year-old woman belonging to a backward community was
allegedly stripped naked publicly and gangraped by seven armed men on
Thursday.  According to reports, the accused lost their temper when
the victim, an agricultural worker, told them not to throw clay in
the courtyard of her house. The accused, owing allegiance
to ``influential'' people of the area, pounced on the victim. They
also attacked and seriously injured six other women when they tried
to intervene.


'Dalit killings not based on caste conflicts'
PTI[ MONDAY, JULY 21, 2003 01:48:39 AM ]

MUMBAI: A Congress team led by Maharashtra minister of state for home
(rural) Kripashankar Singh has rejected the recent attack on a Dalit
in Marathwada region as a "caste-based conflict". The three-member
team, including state Congress secretary Sunil Dutt and Pradesh
secretary Subhash Chavan, visited the villages in Beed and Jalana
districts on Saturday. Chavan in a statement said the death of
Dadarao Dongre in Sonakhota in Beed was not due to "caste-based
conflict". The inquiry revealed the villagers were troubling Dongre
for the past two years, Chavan said, adding, "The wife of the
deceased complained of harassment to the family from the villagers
and stated same reason behind killing of Dongre." The team would
submit its report to chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde and
Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ranjit Deshmukh. The
growing incidents of atrocities on Dalits across the state had
prompted the Democratic Front (DF) government to declare it would
invoke Pota in one of the cases involving attack on an under-
privileged even as Shinde had offered to step down on the issue.

MP bonded labourers mine own business
Hartosh Singh Bal
Banskhedi, Shivpuri, July 20: From bonded labour to ownership, the 11
Sahariya tribal families settled at this government quarry just 10 km
from Shivpuri have come a long way in the past one year. While an NGO
helped free them from a stone quarry, the Shivpuri administration
gave them the lease rights to a 70-bigha quarry. The results have
been impressive so far and the administration is thinking of pulling
in more tribal groups with NGO backing. ``We are getting more royalty
than ever before. I am on the lookout for more groups of tribals with
an NGO's guiding hand. I had earlier invited SC/ST samitis to run
quarries but thekedars (contractors) set up benami committees and
there are at least 20 such which failed. In this case, NGO Bandhua
Mukti Morcha (BMM) was involved from the beginning and it worked,''
says Shivpuri Collector V.L. Kanta Rao. Siddharth, their mukhiya,
initiated the release. He had been a bonded labour in Vidisha and
after an unsuccessful rehabilitation effort, he and his wife Shyama
Bai found themselves working again as bonded labour at a quarry in
Chaunra, in Gwalior district. But their case was an exception and
that of someone like Bhagwati the norm. Bhagwati had been a bonded
labour for 20 years. ``We started work as ordinary labourers. But we
barely made enough. When our children fell ill we were given a parchi
to go meet a doctor. We became bandhuas (bonded labourers),'' she
says. Siddharth's earlier release had been through the BMM so on July
5 last year he boarded a train to Delhi to meet Swami Agnivesh, the
man behind the NGO. On July 9, the administration pitched in and 16
families were freed. But it wasn't as if that was the end of the
problems. Says BMM state coordinator Jaiprasad: ``It took months of
consistent pressure on the administration to ensure that work began
on their rehabilitation. We wanted this done in Shivpuri as it has
the maximum number of bonded labour — over 15,000 — in the state in
the numerous stone quarries.'' The Shivpuri collector was responsive
and the idea of letting the tribals carry on with work that they were
already familiar with took shape, except that they would be working
for themselves. ``We put together 15 or 16 different schemes for
them. A school is coming up near the quarry, quarters are being
constructed for them and each family has been given a patta of
agricultural land.'' In an area like Shivpuri, where most quarries
are under the control of a few families, the initiative was not
welcome. ``After a while, contractors started refusing to pick up the
stones they had quarried. So now the families have been given a
tractor and a trolley as well,'' says Jaiprasad. The families work
the quarry individually, each getting revenue for the amount of stone
quarried, but certain expenses, such as diesel for the tractor, are
shared equally. They have also decided to use the revenue in common,
such as their share of the royalty, for social events like marriages.
At the moment, working the mine with them are 14 other families freed
from Guna which cannot be rehabilitated because, says Jaiprasad, the
SDM who freed them is unwilling to issue the necessary certificates.

A fine balance

Udit Raj Whatever social progress has been made by Dalits has been
due to the policy of reservations. The BJP-led NDA government has
come up with a perfect arrangement to dilute reservations in the garb
of privatisation, liberalisation and globalisation. Today, no party
worries about the welfare of Dalits and the main reason for this is
the Bahujan Samaj Party. The BSP does not believe in programme-based
politics and simply hankers for votes and money. Many Dalits are
blindly supporting the party, and as a result, other parties have
either become hostile or neutral towards the community.
Unfortunately, the Congress, too, has become a player in the politics
of reservations. In Rajasthan, it recommended that the Centre make
provisions in favour of the upper castes. The Constitution enshrines
reservation on the basis of social and economic backwardness. As far
as the representation of the so-called upper castes is concerned,
about 80 per cent of the top echelons of the bureaucracy are
represented by them. Some members of the upper castes have not become
poor due to discrimination and social backwardness, but because of
factors such as lack of employment, proper education, self-
employment, poor market economy, industrialisation and trade. Thus,
the removal of these causes can be of help — and not through
unlimited reservations. A 1978 judgment favouring affirmative action
was delivered by the US Supreme Court. A litigation was disposed of
by five judges to four that admission in a law school in Michigan
University be given to Afro-Americans. This necessity arose due to a
petition filed by a White student against the university's
affirmative action policy. This may be surprising to many Indians,
but there are reservations for Afro-Americans and Hispanics in the US
army, navy and air force. While the American model of affirmative
action is based on race, ours is based on social backwardness. It is
important to mention here that American Whites have contributed more
for Afro-Americans than the latter themselves. In our country,
however, a Dalit has to fight tooth and nail for his legitimate
rights which are, in any case, denied routinely. The scheduled castes
and tribes have been given reservations of 15 per cent and 7.5 per
cent respectively and their representation in the central
government's Group A and B categories on January 1, 1999, stood at
about 11 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively. The scheduled
tribes have only about 3.4 per cent and 3.35 per cent. In 2000, the
representation of SCs in the IAS, the IPS and the IFS was 10.6 per
cent, 12.4 per cent and 11.4 per cent respectively — much less than
the 15 per cent reservations provision for SCs. This is just the tip
of the iceberg. Dalits must think seriously about the fact that any
amount of awareness and any number of reforms alone will not help
them unless accompanied by specific rights like reservations in the
private sector. It is because of reservations that members of other
communities are represented in government jobs, politics and local
bodies. The Congress remained in power as long as the Muslims and the
Dalits supported it en bloc. The new leadership has lost confidence
among them. With the BJP's anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, the
Congress has sent out a clear signal that Muslims must be
accommodated in strategic positions like the police and the
paramilitary forces. The Congress has supported the cause of
reservations in the private sector which is the plank of the All
India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations. Implementation of this
suggestion must follow. Rajasthan is the only state in the country
where Dalit IPS officers have been reverted. The 85th amendment,
which deals with seniority, has not been implemented in Punjab and in
other states. If the Congress has now suggested that reservations be
made in the private sector, it must carry out this policy honestly.
(The writer is the President of the Justice Party and the All India
Confederation of SC/ST Organisations)

Dalit burnt to death in Maharashtra for using handpump

Dilip ShengdeBHUTEGAON (JALNA): On the edge of Mumbai, in the
Damupada slums of Kandivli where Dilip Shendge (25) grew up, the
first one in the queue always had the right to use the water tap
first. No one asked him what his caste was.

But on May 14 when the Dalit labourer used his cosmopolitan
sensibility to get around Bhutegaon, his native village in Jalna in
central Maharashtra, the upper-caste Patils allegedly burnt him to

A drought-prone village of 1,200 inhabitants, remote Bhutegaon is
home to 20-odd Dalit families who, for a daily wage of Rs 50, provide
labour to tend fields of bajra, cotton and jowar through rain and
winter. In summer, amidst water scarcity and parched earth, they reap
a harvest of atrocities.

Caste barriers run deep here and the Patils' writ dictates that it's
their privilege to use handpumps first. On the day of the incident,
the Patils reportedly tried to get fresh with Lata Shendge (17) for
questioning their privilege. Her brother Dilip intervened only to be
accosted by a group of belligerent Patils in the evening, who
allegedly set him, his sister and his mother ablaze right outside
their mud-walled hut.

"We put the three in a bullock cart, then on a bus for Jalna district
hospital," says Ramesh Shendge (35), Dilip's brother. It was a three-
hour journey through a rough terrain with the temperature at 41
degree Celsius. Dilip died in a hospital five days later, with over
90 per cent burns.

For Indumati Shivaji Bhavare (35), the irony was inescapable _ she is
the first Dalit sarpanch of Bhutegaon. The incident confirmed her
belief that some things never change.

Nearly 450 kms to the north-east of the village, a little over two
months later, the state's first Dalit chief minister echoed the very
same thought as detractors and supporters alike criticised his
government over the kidnapping and murder of three Dalit girls from
Aurangabad recently.

In the Marathwada region, comprising eight districts in central
Maharashtra, Jalna tops with 19 of the total 46 crime cases involving
attacks on Dalits registered in the last six months. "39 out of 76
talukas in the Marathwada region have been declared drought-prone
with an average rainfall of 780 mm. Almost all the crimes have to do
with handpump fights," says an official from the Jalna District
Collector's officer. But this particular obscure village, whose only
link to the district HQ is a 40-km-long power line, has now turned a
political battleground. A ten-feet wide asphalt road has been laid,
thanks to the steady stream of cars carrying ministers.

A new handpump has been installed outside the Shendge residence
although it does not yield water as yet. And last week, the
Superintendent of Police drove down and led Dalits for the first time
into the local temple. "But it happened only one day when the police
presence was strong. We are scared to go there now," says Ramesh
Dhongde (28).

As for the Patils, 16 of them were arrested for Shendge's murder and
booked under the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs Act. Their
clan has sought to defend the outrage with talk of emotions running
high in the face of acute water shortage.

"Four years back, the only source of water was the Dudhna river,
which was a 40-minute walk from here. We got the government to
install these two pumps and now it's only a five-minute walk. These
Dalits can't even give us the right to use it first," says Damodar
Patil (50), a land-owner. Obviously, regret and reconciliation are
still missing.

Cop suspended for not filing rape complaint of Dalit woman
MEERUT: A police official has been suspended for failing to lodge the
rape complaint of a Dalit woman in Badhi village falling under Uttar
Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's constituency of Saharanpur.

The head mohrir of Nakur police station was suspended over
allegations that the matter was ignored for two days while the SSP
was on leave and the complaint was lodged only after the victim's
family met the DM.

The victim's family are the only Dheenvars in the village dominated
by Jats. On July 16 evening, there was an altercation between the two
groups reportedly over throwing of cowdung. Now the Jats allege that
the victim's family is blowing the incident out of proportions.

"Maar peet ki ghatna ko badha chadha kar balatkar ka aarop laga diya
hai (It was the case of a fight but they have gone ahead to allege
rape)," they told police. Police are questioning the victim's family
while seven men have been arrested in this connection.

Preliminary reports say the victim didn't mention rape initially and
the charge was added only later. Victim's medical examination also
could not shed light on the charge. The woman is married and has
several children which makes it difficult to say anything with
certainty, official sources said.

HUDCO to frame master plan for Bodh Gaya temple
PATNA: Faced with an UNESCO threat to revoke the Mahabodhi temple's
World Heritage Site status, the Bihar government has asked the
Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) to frame a master
plan for its maintenance.

Official sources said the decision to strengthen conservation
programmes at Buddhism's birthplace in eastern India was taken at a
high-level meeting held at Bodh Gaya, where the Mahabodhi temple is

"HUDCO has been asked to prepare the master plan by the end of
December," a source told IANS over telephone from Bodh Gaya, about
110 km from here.

Officials of the tourism department, Archaeological Survey of India
and several central and state government agencies attended the

UNESCO, the United Nations' cultural arm, has warned this year that
it would revoke the heritage status for the Mahabodhi temple if the
government continued to flout its maintenance guidelines.

The 1,500-year-old temple was declared a World Heritage Site in June
2002, becoming the 23rd site in India to be so honoured. It was near
the temple that the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment
2,500 years ago.

The Bihar urban development department had assured UNESCO that its
guidelines --including the enforcement of a strict ban on all
construction in a one-kilometre radius around the temple -- would be
strictly followed.

But the ban is being openly violated and new structures are coming up
fast within the restricted area.

At the Bodh Gaya meeting, it was decided to form a tourist security
force with the help of retired soldiers. This force will be equipped
with vehicles and wireless sets.

In May, Bhadant Nagarjun Surai, a Buddhist member of the minority
commission, said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had assured to
help efforts to protect the Mahabodhi temple's heritage status.

UNESCO officials are reportedly unhappy with the Bihar and central
governments for poor maintenance of the Mahabodhi temple.

"UNESCO has asked government agencies to stop the violation of its
guidelines immediately or it may be forced to de-list the temple as a
World Heritage Site," an official here said.

Sources said some powerful people close to top politicians and
bureaucrats were flouting the ban on construction around the
Mahabodhi temple.

They said another UNESCO guideline limiting the height of structures
near the temple to 11 metres too was being violated.

UNESCO's guidelines aimed to create an environment-friendly
atmosphere and to beautify the site by developing a one-kilometre
buffer zone around the shrine.

Bihar drew up grand plans to develop Buddhism's birthplace as a major
tourist destination after the temple was included in the heritage

A building boom followed, even though the state government had agreed
not to allow any construction in the buffer area and to closely
monitor building outside the zone.

Desam MP booked under SC, ST Act
Deccan Chronicle
Adilabad, July 21: A case has been registered against Adilabad MP S
Venugopala Chary in the Bazarhatnoor police station on Monday.The
case was registered under Section 353 of IPC for assaulting a
government servant on duty and also under the SC, ST Prevention of
Atrocities Act, 1989.Bazarhatnoor PHC medical officer B Vidya Kumar
complained that Venugopala Chary and three others had beaten him up
on Saturday evening while using filthy language for his caste. The
doctor belongs to Scheduled Caste. Vidya Kumar wentto the
Bazarhatnoor police station along with five witnesses to report the
Saturday incident.The AP Government Doc-tors' Association's  Adilabad
unit has demanded action against Venugopala Chary and three others
under the SC, ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.Addressing a
press conference, association president S Ashok, general secretary T
Chandu, joint secretary Ra-mesh and treasurer Noor Singh Naik said
the doctors would stage a black badge demonstrations for two days.
Failure to take action against the four accused would result in
intensified agitations, they warned.The association also apprised the
State unit of the happenings and were awaiting further directions on
the issue, they added.Condemning the incident in which Venugopala
Chary allegedly slapped Vidya Kumar which was followed by his
supporters further manhandling the doctor, the association leaders
sought condemnation of the incident by all government employees'
organisations.The doctors said due to the  medical emergency
prevailing in the district, they had deferred direct action.

Dalit couple denied justice
Deccan Chronicle
Guntur, July 21: Guntur is certainly one of the developed districts
of the State. Yet it is notorious for its atrocities on weaker
sections, with at least one case reported daily along with occasional
incidents of homicide on Dalits.One such case from a letter addressed
to the Home Secretary is as follows. Karasala Lakshmi, a Scheduled
Caste woman, of Singesconspet, Yadlapadu mandal was a farm
labourer. She and her husband Kasim approached the bank manager of
Union Bank, Kondaveedu for a letter indicating willingness of the
bank to give a loan. It was sent to the government.Later, the bank
manager turned hostile on June 12, and abused and manhandled her for
coming to him repeatedly. Humiliated by this, the couple complained
to the sub-inspector of police of Yadlapadu. The Sarpanch and five
other upper caste men threatened to kill the couple, if they did not
withdraw the complaint.When the couple stood firm, they were forcibly
taken to the police station, where their signatures were taken on
blank papers, in the presence of the bank manager and the sub-
inspector on June 14.The couple complained to the Superintendent of
Police Ravi Sankar Ayyanar on June 30 and to the Home Secretary on
July 10. But no action has been initiated so far. 

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Published on: July 23, 2003
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