News Update 09/16/2003

Police turning a blind eye to atrocities on Dalits: AIDWA
By Our Staff Reporter

THENI SEPT.15. T he All-India Democratic Women's Organisation and
Dalit women have urged the Government to constitute a committee to
review the performance of the Protection of Civil Rights wing of the
police and the Adi Dravida Welfare department to enable the Dalits to
get justice.

Speaking at a regional conference at Andipatti today, the general
secretary, U. Vasuki, said peace committees formed in any village to
solve any Dalit-related issues were so far used only to suppress the
basic rights of the Dalits.

It was an open secret that untouchability, the two-tumbler system,
prevention of the Dalits from wearing chappals, entering temples and
drawing water from wells were prevalent in most southern districts.
How come the PCR wing and the Adi Dravida Welfare department were
unaware of them, she asked.

In many cases, the departments informed that they did not receive any
complaint. The Government should ask for reports from them, which
could be monitored by the committee.

Speakers urged the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, to take steps to
eradicate untouchability, a practice prevalent in 19 villages in her
own constituency.

A survey conducted by the AIDWA alleged that untouchability and
atrocities against the Dalits were rampant at Thimmarasanaickenpatti,
T.V. Ranganathapuram, Bomminaickenpatti in the Andipatti constituency
and Iyyampatti, Margayankottai, Pallavarayanpatti,
Kondamanaickenpatti, Pulikuthi and Narayanathevanpatti.

Not even drinking water was being served to Dalit children studying
in a government school at T.V. Ranganathapuram, she said.

The Dindigul MLA, K. Balabarathi, said the Government demanded
detailed reports on Dalit issues raised in the Assembly. Therefore,
it was the duty of the officials to give detailed report on
complaints lodged by people.

The AIDWA vice-president, Mythili Sivaraman said the Chief Minister
should eradicate untouchability in her constituency before she
converted it into `Arasipatti'.

Many Dalit colonies in the constituency did not have proper approach
roads, drinking water or shelter.

The conference condemned the failure to take action against those who
assaulted a panchayat president with chappals during Independence Day
celebrations at Sivaganga. She criticised the ban on animal sacrifice
in temples.

Inter-caste love forces Dalits to flee villageIANSHARSOLA: Seven
months after they fled their homes, hundreds of poor Dalits have been
living in the open following tensions sparked by an inter-caste love
saga in this village.

Many of the nearly 270 Dalit families are living in shanties they set
up along a highway in Kaithal district, 150 km from state capital

Others have sought refuge in a temple.

They all worry about their homes, crops and animals that they left
behind in haste in February-March. The place where they now stay is
20 km away from their village.

Trouble started when a Dalit girl started living with a boy of the
upper caste Jat community in Harsola.

The Dalits, who claim she did not marry the boy, asked the girl's
parents to complain to the police. They claim the girl's father
refused because he thought she had moved up the social ladder.

Alleged Balbir Singh, a Dalit farmer, "We asked the girl's father to
lodge a police complaint as the girl was being forced by the Jats to
stay with that boy. When the girl's father refused, we boycotted him

"Then an angry mob of armed Jats attacked us during one of our
meetings, and we had to flee with our family members."

Added another Dalit farmer, Bidama Singh, "After the attack in
February, in which 19 Dalits were seriously injured, police arrested
14 upper caste men and some of us were told to return to Harsola.

"But the arrested men came out on bail in March and attacked the
village again. That's when most Dalits had to flee."

They fled their homes, leaving behind their crops, which were ready
for harvesting.

Bidama Singh said, "We were about to harvest the wheat and mustard
that we cultivated as sharecroppers. The rich landlords harvested the
crops, depriving us of our share. Our animals either died or were
taken away by the Jats."

Ladoo, an 85-year-old Dalit woman, said she and the others were now
forced to long distances to fetch water.

"Being women, we cannot sleep in the open and at least 15 of us take
shelter in small shanties at night. It's unbearable when it rains and
water trickles in."

Another woman, Nanni, who has five sons and four daughters, said
tearfully, "I do not know how long we have to stay here and how to
feed my children. How long can the temple afford to feed us?"

Nearly 30 children of these families are also suffering because they
have not been able to attend school for seven months. Said Sushil, a
Class 8 student of Government High School, Harsola, "I could not
appear for my yearly test. We left our books when we fled and cannot
study here." Some Dalits are trying to make leather footwear, while
others look for work on farms. But the going has not been easy.

Said Pritam, "There is hardly a market for footwear here. Getting
casual jobs at farms is also difficult as we are considered outsiders
in this area."

The villagers said the district administration was turning a blind
eye to their plight.

Complained Karamveer, president of the Haryana unit of the
Confederation of Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes: "Officials
blames the Dalits for leaving their homes, but is not prepared to
ensure their safety."

A police official, however, said, "We have repeatedly tried to
convince these villagers to return in vain.

"The situation in Harsola village is totally peaceful now. During the
last seven months no untoward incidents were reported.

"Many villagers are willing to go back but their leaders, who want to
politicise the issue, are preventing them."

Handloom marvel change tribal lives
TORENKEL: An all together different kind of handloom from the State
has been making waves across the country and far away lands. Woven by
Dalit weavers in this nondescript village, who had inherited this
occupation from their forefathers, the design is uniform and the
product no different from any other handloom fabric available in the

An economic marvel, this feat was accomplished in one and a half
decades when two German-born missionaries Deiter Hecker and his wife
Ursulla Hecker's NGO, Freundichizis Chotanagpur, and Abhas
Chatterjee, Managing Director of the Bihar State Export Corporation,
entered into a deal with weavers in 1975.

There were the usual bottlenecks: disunity, lack of capital and tepid
market response. Heckers and Chatterjee, a topper of the 1966 batch
IAS, did what they could. With the fund provided by Heckers, the
Nivucha Weavers' Cooperative Society was set up in 1988.
Subsequently, the Society began to export its products to Germany.

Four years later, Chatterjee quit IAS to come to Torenkel on a full
time basis alongwith his wife Milicent and their son Pathikrit in
1996. The same year, 20.05 acres of land and two buildings - one
housing the office and another equipped with looms - were acquired by
the Society with Rs 15 lakh earned from the exports. Alongside, a
primary school was set up for the weavers' children.

Today, children of 55 odd weavers have become fully literate and the
Society is the pride of Jharkhand. Moreover, it now has the Tata
Steel Tribal Promotion Society (TSTP) and the Xavier Institute of
Social Sciences (XISS) promoting it. TSTP has held its exhibition in
Delhi, Jamshedpur and Mumbai.

It has been selling its product worth Rs 10-12 lakh on an average
every year.``Of this 30-40 percent amount was earned from exports
during the past five years,'' said Society's assistant Yadunath
Swansi. But the Society suffered a twin jolt when Pathikrit (22), a
mining engineer, died in a road accident in 1998 to be followed by
the death of Chatterjee (61) due to Malaria last year.

Their ashes lie buried in the Society's premise. ``They were our
saviours'', is in every weaver's lips. But Milicent, in absence of
her son and husband, is determined to carry forward the Adivasi and
Harijan weavers' cause. Living with albums carrying hundreds of
photographs, Milicent sobs: ``They have left behind a legacy. Taking
inspiration from their deeds, I will keep working for them as long as
I am alive''.

Three tribals dead, 15 ill after drinking contaminated water
PTISHIVPURI: Three tribals, including a child, died and 15 others
took ill after consuming contaminated water in the forest near
Daurani village in Pohri sub-division of the district, in Madhya
Pradesh a senior official said.

Collector V L Kantarao said the victims, identified as Kewalia (32),
Munna (8) and Ram Pal (24), died of ailments caused by consumption of
contaminated water inside the forest where they had gone to collect
forest produce.

Those taken ill are being given treatment, he said.

14-year-old SC girl raped in Chittoor SC girl
raped in Chittoor
Chittoor, Sept. 15: A 14-year-old Scheduled Caste girl belonging to
Burakayana Banda village and Sadum mandal was allegedly raped by one
Narasimhulu, while she was herding sheep. Though the incident
occurred on July 15, officials and villagers tried to hide it till
date.According to the District Tribal Officer, Narasimhulu, a
drunkard of Moravapalli hamlet, raped the girl. When Chinnabba,
father of the victim tried to lodge a complaint at the police
station, some villagers called him for a compromise.When he refused,
villagers assaulted him with a warning not to complain to the police.
Pressure mounted from all sides on the victim's family members. When
District Tribal Officer Rasheed came to know about the incident, he
rushed to the spot and held an inquiry. Then he submitted a report to
the District Collector for necessary action, 10 days after the
incident. Sadum police has registered a case under SC/ST Atrocities
Act. District Collector G Sai Prasad directed the Sadum MRO to submit
his explanation over the incident. 

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