News Update 09/11/2003
DALIT POWER TO THE FORE
- No political formation in UP has the foresight to craft a broad
The author is an independent political analyst and researcher
The collapse of the fifteen-month-long coalition government led by
Mayavati may have been abrupt. But there was little love lost between
her Bahujan Samaj Party and its post-poll ally, the Bharatiya Janata
Party. The chief minister may have chosen the time at which to move
on, but there was never a meeting of minds, let alone a union of
hearts of this rather odd couple.
The two parties first joined hands in 1995, when the rift between the
Dalit- led party and the Yadav-dominated Samajwadi Party brought
things to breaking point. The shortlived minority government lasted
barely six months but it enabled Mayavati to virtually double her
share of the popular vote. The BSP has never looked back since then.
Once the rung to power for the upper castes and then for the backward
classes, the Dalits of Uttar Pradesh had finally learnt to play one
off against the other and emerge with the trump card in hand.
The next time they joined hands, the scales were tilting in the BSP's
favour but its leadership failed to anticipate the rifts in its own
ranks. Despite its Dalit image, the party has always reached out to
significant groups of the Mandal castes, especially those that are
lower than the Yadavs in the social scale. Kalyan Singh split the
members of the legislative assembly on caste lines in 1997, and the
Hindutva party took office without actually having a popular mandate
for administering the country's most populous state.
Every time the BSP has been stung in this manner it has actually
bided its time and hit back. In April 1999, its five members of
parliament played a decisive role in the Lok Sabha in enabling the
ouster of the second Vajpayee government.
Over the last few weeks a similar drama was played out in Lucknow,
only the stakes were even higher for the chief minister. With the
courts closing in on the issue of the Taj corridor scandal, the inner
circle of bureaucrats and ministers close to the chief minister was
coming under ever-closer scrutiny. Even earlier, she was put in her
place by the central leadership of the BJP when she tried to encroach
on the prime minister's prerogative of who ought to serve in the
The downsizing of Mayavati saw the state unit of the Hindutva party
in a rare mood of exultation. Even as the central leadership talked
of a seat sharing arrangement for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls,
the two parties behaved less like partners and more like rivals. This
adversarial relationship was only made worse by the fact that the BJP
legislative was now smaller in size than the BSP, 87 to the latter's
The state unit was already downcast. It was bereft of able leaders
after the expulsion of Kalyan Singh and the humbling of Rajnath Singh
in the 2002 state assembly elections. A pre-poll accord with a
powerful BSP would have been the last straw. Yet this loomed larger
than ever in the gameplan of the national leadership as well as the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
The BJP's backing of a Dalit woman chief minister would put all lower
caste critics of Hindutva in a quandary. Mayavati, in turn, kept the
heat on Mulayam Singh Yadav, a possible fount of resistance to the
BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The deep rifts over land issues and the
struggle for power between the Dalits and the Mandal classes helped
the upper caste dominated Hindutva party. In turn Mayavati would gain
access to liberal largesse from the Centre and entrench her party in
power through use of patronage.
But the plans fell through on more than one count. True, the two
parties worked together to defeat the Samajwadi Party in the
byelection for the assembly seat of Chiraigaon. But there remain
serious doubts about the open mindedness of the savarna Hindu voter
of the BJP mindset. Will he or she bow to Mayavati's leadership and
stamp on the elephant symbol come election time?
All the evidence suggests this was never quite the case. The most
rapid growth of support for the saffron party in the state was in the
late Eighties and early Nineties. The upper caste voter turned from
the Congress to the mandir platform to keep lower caste assertion at
Already by 1989, the Bahujan Samaj Party had polled nine per cent of
the popular vote. This went up marginally during the poll accord with
Mulayam Singh in 1993. From the mid-Nineties, it has more than
doubled and now stands at around 24 per cent. The latest break with
the BJP should suit the Dalit party. Over the years, it has competed
with the Samajwadi Party for the support of the minorities and the
lower backward communities. It will now campaign that its leader was
being made a scapegoat in corruption cases, much the same way that
Laloo Prasad Yadav has done in neighbouring Bihar. Its electoral
machine is in order and ready to face the test of another election.
The question really is whether this latest break will bring about a
major change in UP politics. At present, this does not seem likely.
Neither the Samajwadi Party nor the BSP is about to fade from the
scene. The BJP, though a shadow of its former self, still remains a
far larger presence than the Congress.
This three-pronged struggle for supremacy among the three large
political formations has polarized and divided the state. None is
able to impose its will or has the foresight to craft a lasting and
broad social alliance. Post-poll accords are also fraught with
tensions and contradictions.
A divided and polarized UP where the Dalit and other backward classes-
led formations are the major players will also affect the options
before national parties. No wonder a section of the BJP was willing
to gift the state away to a Dalit-led party in return for the lion's
share of seats in the Lok Sabha. And no wonder the Congress is unsure
about whether to ally with or oppose Mulayam Singh Yadav. Either way,
its options will narrow down. To win more seats, it may have to
resign itself to playing second fiddle. On its own, it is not able to
make it past the fourth spot in the race.
The real turn of the tide will come if and when the BJP's vote bank
in UP begins to fragment and decline. It is in expectation of such a
process that the Samajwadi Party and the BSP have both dropped sharp
anti upper caste rhetoric. Each is busy wooing different interest
groups among the upper castes, promising them a share of patronage in
return for a subordinate place in politics. The wheel has come full
Ethnic minority accuses India's movie industry of land grab that has
brought poverty, hunger
BOMBAY, India, Sept. 8 — A tour of the 500-acre site finds imposing
courtrooms, glittery shops, a church, a mountain forest, even rickety
But it's a movie lot, and nothing here is real. Except the
poverty and hunger, its former owners say.
Hundreds of villagers from the Warli ethnic group say
farmland their people owned for centuries is being taken
by ''Bollywood,'' India's bustling Bombay-based movie industry,
leaving them struggling to get by.
Across the hills of Film City — the sprawling hub of
Bollywood — there are 16 studios where thousands of technicians work
each day at dozens of lavish sets that are routinely built and
There are also wide swathes of empty land and, in pockets, a
few remaining Warli villages.
''I was born here. My ancestors lived here. Now the film
people want to take it all away,'' said Narayan Lothde, a gardener
and one of just six men with regular jobs in his 300-person village
in a corner of Film City.
The Warlis are the largest group among the estimated
200,000 ''tribals'' living in the suburbs of Bombay, which is also
known as Mumbai. They say they have been forced from much of their
land by real estate firms and gangsters who have ties to India's
movie business, whose annual output of 800 films trails only
Hollywood in worldwide reach.
The Warlis are far more frightened of losing their livelihoods
to government-backed movie executives than of the tigers that roam
the hilly area at night, beasts that killed four Warli children and
injured 11 last year.
The Film City site, along with stretches of forest that were
cut down and became part of the city, once belonged to the Warlis.
''The tribals did not go to Bombay. Bombay went to them,''
said Vithal Lad, who heads Jaag (Awaken), an aid group fighting for
the rights of India's often victimized indigenous ethnic groups.
''Now they are in danger,'' he said. ''They are being evicted
from their lands where they have lived for centuries.''
S. Vimla, joint managing director of Film City, agreed to
respond to written questions about the dispute, but did not respond
to The Associated Press.
At Film City, almost everything is make believe — courts, a
huge jail, a shopping arcade, a police station, a church, a
shantytown, a log cabin, a thickly forested mountain, a hospital, a
helipad — even a lake that sometimes doubles as the revered Ganges
Fancy cars cruise in on tree-lined roads to deliver stars.
Other actors dressed as doctors, beggars and police officers take
smoking breaks or have lunch at crowded canteens.
A few miles away, Devi ka Pada village is another world.
Shirtless children chase roosters along narrow paths. Most of
the men are away during the day, chopping firewood they sell to buy
their families' evening meals. Women wash clothes in dirty water in
cow dung-caked homes.
There is a hand pump, but the water is salty. The fresh water
well has gone dry.
''The film stars go every day down this road. Our children
love them. But they have given us hunger and taken away our land,''
said Usha Kiran Dewde. ''Maybe they will soon ask us also to leave
our homes and go away.''
Mahesh Bhatt, a leading filmmaker who visited the Warlis with
a local volunteer group to bring donated food, expressed shock at the
''There is starvation in the entertainment capital,'' Bhatt
told AP. ''There is a virtual world and, right there, there is
starvation and apathy. It is a study in contemporary India.''
On his wedding day, a 22-year-old Warli, Ankush Lakhma Gorakh,
painted the walls of his shack using leftover pink paint from a movie
set. It was a day of rare celebration.
Musicians played. Streamers of mango leaves fluttered in a
colorful tent pitched for the guests. Asked how he would support his
wife, Vanita, Gorakh said: ''I don't know yet. I will sell firewood.
I will look after her.''
A few feet away stood a shanty with four pillars and no walls,
a reminder of a terror-filled day earlier this year when authorities
sent a bulldozer to the village.
''The bulldozer first rolled over our farms across the road.
Then the men brought it here,'' said Shankar Sonu Gajmal, 35. When
people protested, an official ''asked the policemen to drive the
bulldozers over us, too,'' he said.
''We used to pay taxes, but when we showed them the papers,
they just waved their hands and said, 'Go away, we don't recognize
this,''' Gajmal alleged.
That official, who has transferred to another government
department, declined to comment. So did her successor.
At Film City, one part of the land once tilled by the Warlis
has been converted into a permanent movie set — of a tribal village.
'Tortured' tribal girl commits suicide
WARANGAL: A tribal youth, Boda Shouri (20), committed suicide by
consuming pesticide after alleged harassment by Excise officials on
Tuesday morning. Shouri, an orphan belonged to Babunayak tanda of
Mahbubabad mandal, died while undergoing treatment at a hospital in
the mandal headquarters.
Her aunt Boda Mali said when Excise officials raided the tanda five
days back, Shouri, along with two others escaped.
But on September 4, MPTC Bhukya Lakshmi took Shouri to the station,
but could not meet the officials. Shouri was asked to come on the
next day, but she did not turn up. Mali said officials demanded money
from Shouri and warned of sending her to jail, she said.
Meanwhile, Excise SI Naidu denied the charges.
Sex scandal slur on Diggy regime
- By Sudhir K. Singh
Bhopal, Sept. 10: A sex scandal involving dalit officers of the
Madhya Pradesh government (including at least four of the Indian
Administrative Service) and a self-professed journalist has muddied
the image of the Digvijay Singh regime. Among the officers is Mr Maan
Dahima, a spokesperson of the MPCC who quit the IAS sometime back for
a full-time career in politics at the invitation of the chief
minister.Complaints of Mr Dahima's sexual misconduct had been made
twice in past years.Though the racket was privately known by local
journalists and others, it became public after the correspondent of
the Delhi-based Mid-Day newspaper, Mr S.S. Asthana, was recently
arrested by the city police following a complaint by a woman. The
lady alleged having been systematically raped for six years by Mr
Asthana, who also shared her physical delights with his cronies in
the Indian Forest Service and the IAS, especially Mr Dahima. Filed
later before the National Women's Commission was an affidavit in
which she formally named five officers and some others. The woman
also alleged that Mr Asthana threatened to release some objectionable
photographs in case she failed to comply with his wishes. Copies of
the affidavit had been handed over to the governor and the chief
minister. The matter was even brought to the knowledge of AICC
general secretary Ambika Soni. Predictably enough, she thought the
BJP was behind the charges. Though publicly exposed for his many
sins, Mr Asthana had the cheek to hold a press conference on Monday
in which he said he and his friends had been targeted by the woman
after he failed to honour her demand for a mobile phone, among other
things. On Wednesday, it was Mr Dahima's turn to plead innocence
before mediapersons. He said he swore on the "last ounce of blood" of
his grandchildren that he wasn't involved in the dirty business, and
was ready to face any inquiry. Asked who was behind the "conspiracy,"
he said he suspected a grand design by some "powerful political
elements" who wanted to discredit the chief minister's dalit agenda.
Not surprisingly, Mr Dahima's theory found no takers.