Facelift For Bodhgaya, Ajanta Caves


New Delhi, Dec 7:

Union minister for tourism and culture Jagmohan is promoting tourist circuits other than the traditionally popular destinations of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Efforts to develop the Buddhist circuit of Sarnath-Bodhgaya-Rajgir-Nalanda are on the fast track. Similar steps are being taken to revamp the Ajanta-Ellora-Aurangabad circuit.

A super-fast road is being built to connect the Buddhist-circuit sites. The hospitality infrastructure is also being improved. Hudco has been appointed as consultants for preparing an urban development plan for Bodh Gaya.

The Ajanta-Ellora-Aurangabad circuit will also witness good roads that will stop at a T-junction a few kilometres away from the caves. From the junction, electric trolleys will take tourists to the heritage sites. This will protect the sites from vehicular pollution.

Inside the caves, the illumination will be “cool lights” achieved through optic fibre. Considerable attention will be paid to destination management with increase in the availability of rooms and other facilities.

In Delhi, Jagmohan has taken steps to improve heritage sites like Lodhi Gardens and Lal Kot, the remains of earliest Delhi. He has formed a committee to coordinate matters relating to the upkeep of these sites. Chaired by him, the panel also includes the chairman of the New Delhi municipal corporation and the director general of the Archaeological Survey of India.

Jagmohan said: “I have a passion to weave our own history and heritage in our urban fabric. At the same time, I want to make it relevant to our own times.”

Move to end child labour in Bellary



ELLARY: Deputy Commissioner Jawaid Akhtar appealed to all the departments concerned to identify child labourers in the district.

At a meeting arranged in Zilla Panchayat conference hall here, he said the Karnataka government is committed to root out child labour but it requires dedication and hard work from the officials in identifying the child labourers and persuading their parents to stop sending them to work.

Quoting UNICEF, the deputy commissioner said ``children under the age of 14 and those deprived of education but go to work to earn are all child labourers''. ``On these lines, the Karnataka government has decided to root out this evil practice from the state,'' Jawaid said.

``Though difficult, but the officials must identify the child labourers and should make efforts to persuade their parents to send the children to school. If the parents are not in a position to send their wards to schools, the department must make arrangements to send the children to rehabilitation centres.''

The state government has given approval to construct 10 rehabilitation centres in the district.

He directed the officials of Social Welfare Department, Women and Child Development, Backward and Minority Development, Revenue and Labour Departments to complete the identification of child labourers by January 10, 2002.

Deputy Labour Commissioner Nanjundappa, Gulbarga, stated the central government had identified 51 industries where most of the labour came from hapless children and similarly in Bellary district, 21 such industries existed and many children have been appointed for various works.

Besides this, many children were working in hotels, commercial establishments that were detrimental to their health. He appealed to the taluk-level departments to prepare a list of such children and compare it with the Chinnara Angala list prepared by the taluk education department.

He advised the officials not to miss a single child as that would deprive that child of the benefits offered by the government.

Bellary District Labour Officer Muniyappa said the teams constituted for the purpose, will be reviewed again and deputed to enlist child labourers in every taluk.

Zilla Panchayat Chief Executive Officer K.H. Aswathnarayana Gowda urged all the officials concerned to ensure child labour was eradicated from Bellary district. ``The responsibility lies upon everyone,'' he added.

In Bellary, the District Child Labour Committee has already been constituted which is headed by the deputy commissioner. Chief Executive Officer of ZP is the vice-president and head quarters assistant to the deputy commissioner is the secretary of the committee.

STF medical camp for tribals

By Our Staff Reporter


COIMBATORE, DEC. 9. In a bid to win tribals' confidence, the Special Task Force, in association with the Bharathi Institute for Hill Tribe Development, organised a medical camp for them at Chinnampathi today.

As many as 150 persons from Ayyampathy, Murugampathy, Chinnampathy and Pudupathy on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border attended the camp. The Superintendent of Police, Coimbatore rural district, Mr. K.Sokkalingam, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, STF, Mr.Sundarrajan, and the president of the Bharathi Institute, Prof.A. Devaraj, took the initiative in conducting the camp.

Mr.Sundarrajan told reporters that the camp was organised to get closer to the tribals who had distanced themselves from the STF.

The STF also planned to publicise the messages on cash award to be given to the tribals, if they provided useful information to nab the elusive forest brigand, Veerappan, he said.

Education & poverty


"Education is not a way to escape poverty — it is a way of fighting it.''

— Julius Nyerere, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania

POVERTY IS much more complex than simply income deprivation. Poverty entails lack of empowerment, lack of knowledge and lack of opportunity as well as lack of income and capital. Despite increased access to education, the poor — disproportionately women, socially disadvantageous groups, the physically disabled, persons in remote regions — are often deprived of a basic education. And when basic education is available, the poorest are unable to avail of it because the direct and opportunity costs attached to it are quite high for them.

Poverty is thus both a cause and an effect of insufficient access to or completion of quality education. Children of poor families are less likely to enrol in and complete schooling because of the associated costs of attending school even when it is provided "free''. The cost of uniforms, supplies and transportation may well be beyond the means of a poor family, especially when the family has several children of school age. This means that choices have to be made, and the choice is often to drop out of school or, worse yet, to deny schooling to girls while enrolling the boys thereby contributing directly to maintaining the inferior status of women. And as poor children who are enrolled grow older, the opportunity cost (their lost labour and the forgone income it may entail) becomes greater, thus increasing the likelihood of abandoning school.

Furthermore, dropping out of school because of poverty virtually guarantees perpetuation of the poverty cycle since the income-earning potential of the child is reduced, not to mention overall productivity, receptivity to change, and capacity to improve quality of life. Lack of education perpetuates poverty, and poverty constrains access to schooling. Eliminating poverty requires providing access to quality education.

The relationship between education and poverty reduction is thus quite straight and linear as education is empowering; it enables the person to participate in the development process; it inculcates the knowledge and skills needed to improve the income earning potential and in turn the quality of life. Moreover, education of girls and women helps in improving the number of other indicators of human development.

Education thus helps to lay the foundation for the following pillars of poverty reduction:

Empowerment, human development, social development and good governance.

Basic education empowers individuals as:

* It opens up avenues of communication that would otherwise be closed, expands personal choice and control over one's environment, and is necessary for the acquisition of many other skills.

* It gives people access to information through both print and electronic media, equips them to cope better with work and family responsibilities, and changes the image they have of themselves.

* It strengthens their self-confidence to participate in community affairs and influence political issues.

* It gives disadvantaged people the tools they need to move from exclusion to full participation in their society.

* It empowers entire nations because educated citizens and workers have the skills to make democratic institutions function effectively, to meet the demands for a more sophisticated workforce, to work for a cleaner environment, and to meet their obligations as parents and citizens.

Social and economic gains

Investing in women's education results in substantial social and economic gains.

* Educated women have fewer children. In South Asia, women with no education have seven children on average; women with at least seven years of education have fewer than four children.

* Educated women have healthier children; in Africa, one out of five children dies before the age of five if the mother has no education; the probability is more than halved for children whose mothers have seven years of education. Educating women has a stronger positive effect on children's health than educating men.

* Mothers are also much more closely involved in the immediate care of children and in the critical decisions about food, sanitation and general nurturing, all of which influence children's health and development. Longer spacing between births leads to healthier children.

* Education provides women with greater opportunities for employment and income, and raises the opportunity cost of their time in economic activities compared to child rearing. Such economic gains motivate families to have fewer children.

* The vicious cycle of high birth rates, high maternal and infant mortality and endemic poverty has been transformed into a virtuous circle through investment in human capital-enhancing labour productivity, reducing fertility and mortality, raising economic growth and thus securing domestic resources for further investments in people.

Social development

* Education is an important means of facilitating and directing social change. Children (and adults) who attend school are exposed to new ideas and concepts and attitudes that form part of the basis for social change.

* The socialisation obtained by attending school includes such values as punctuality, following instructions, managing time, planning work, focusing attention, adhering to rules and receptivity to new concepts, thus helping to develop persons better suited, function effectively in a changing society.

* Education also plays an important role in cultural transmission. Transmission of culture, appreciation of cultural heritage, understanding of national history, inculcation of cultural values are all increasingly left to the schooling process as traditional societies change.

Education is a powerful tool for introducing members of a society to the system of government and the concept of governance. The school curriculum always includes considerable attending to the essential ideas of nationhood and government and to the operation and structure of government. Participation by children in classroom committees and school government lays the foundation for participation as adults in local government. Educated persons are more likely to vote and participate in local and national government. They are more likely to demand better and more accountable government, thus creating demand for improved governance. Education is linked to empowerment, and a major manifestation of empowerment is the demand for better governance.

The continuing challenge for education is to ensure that all people have the knowledge and skills necessary for continuing human and economic development and for breaking the poverty cycle. The linear relationship between education, poverty and empowerment is, however, governed by the circumstances of a country and within a country in a particular region. Education, thus, influences and is influenced by the context in which it is developed. This synergistic relationship implies that education must be in a constant state of change as it responds to changing social and economic needs and that education in itself is a force for social and economic change as people become more empowered and more productive.


Member, Planning Commission

Ambedkar moves HC against panel system



UNE: The Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC’s) February-2002 election continues to be embroiled in one controversy or another. Interestingly, every affected group is moving the Bombay high court to make its point.

After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, it is the turn of the Bharatiya Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) to move the court. The party led by Prakash Ambedkar, MP, has challenged the panel system being introduced for the first time in these civic elections. Speaking to reporters here on Saturday, Mr Ambedkar held that the panel system was unlawful and unconstitutional.

The system empowers a voter to cast his or her vote not just in her municipal ward, but also in neighbouring wards, in order to elect a panel of corporators.

Mr Ambedkar referred to section 14 of the Maharashtra Municipal Councils, Nagar Panchayats and Industrial Township Act, 1965, which states ‘No person shall be entitled to vote at the general elections in more than one ward, notwithstanding that his name may appear in the list of voters for more then one ward. If any person votes in more than one ward, his votes in all wards shall be void.’ Mr Ambedkar insisted that even the state government was not empowered to carry out any amendment to the said act, without seeking the views of the general public and that of the election commission

Flames of Kambalapalli carnage to light up silver screen

Director Sendilnathan teams up with Kannada filmstars Devraj and Prema to highlight dangers of society divided by caste

MYSORE: The gruesome carnage of Dalits in the tiny hamlet of Kambalapalli, which drew the attention of the President and the Prime Minister, and even had Congress chief Sonia Gandhi pay a customary visit, is being canned for a silver screen presentation.

Kambalapalli, an obscure village in Kolar district, shot to nationwide notoriety after seven Dalits there were burnt alive.

The infamous incident will be filmed by Vrashabadri Productions which has tentatively titled the project as Kambalapalli. The producer proposes to recapture the gory details of the carnage and ``educate the masses'' by exposing the politician and affluent class' role in dividing innocent people on lines of caste for personal gain.

The shooting of the film, with Devraj (starring in the lead role), Prema, Dodhanna, Mukyamantri Chandru and others began at Mandya Koppal and it is scheduled for an early release, probably in February 2002.

Devraj, who played the lead in hit Kannada films like Veerappan, Uthkarsha and others, says that he finds the lead character of Kambalapalli ``interesting'' and ``sensitive''.

The star points out that Kambalapalli is not an isolated incident. ``There are many such instances in Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and the other states,'' he feels.

Devraj is playing the role of Malanna, the lone survivor of the Dalit family which was burnt alive by caste Hindus. In the cinematic version of the tragedy, Malanna, turns into a rebel and forms a revolutionary group, but is targeted by the police and the powers-that-be.

The story proceeds with Mallanna trying to educate the common folk in the village about the nefarious gameplan to divide society on the lines of caste. The reigning queen of Kannada filmdom, Prema, starring opposite Devraj, is an educated girl who falls in love with Malanna for his social commitment.

Producer Muni Rathanam says he has closely followed the Dalit carnage and its aftermath through newspapers and television and got Liyakath Ali Khan to pen the script. The movie, he says is a must-viewing for a ``caste-ridden society where there are doubts on who would finally survive if mindless violence take place repeatedly.''

Rathanam is confident that the censor board would clear the film and its title, arguing that they have cleared other films on explosive social issues such as Hey Ram, Bombay and Bandit Queen.

However, the bold producer felt that this venture is not half as ``sensitive'' as a film planned on former underworld don Kothval and another on the notorious Dandupalaya gang that terrorised Bangalore.

Sendilnathan, who has directed more than 30 films in Tamil including hit movies like Pundota Kavalkaran, says he gave his ``nod as there is a need for such stories to educate the rural masses.''

The ace director says that they could not shoot the film in Kambalapalli village where the people are yet to come out of the trauma. ``I visited the village and was shocked when the villagers raised objections to shooting the gutted house,'' he says speaking of the difficulties faced in making the movie.

Despite these obstacles, Sendilnathan is confident that ``the movie would be accepted by the people as vested interests are exposed.''

The play way:
Street theatre that gets children to raise the curtain on social issues


Friday, December 8, 2000 (New Delhi):

Mahak, a street theatre group for children in the Capital has been actively involving children in socially relevant leisure. The children are encouraged to improvise their ideas on what's happening around them. And the fun-filled interaction gets translated into a street play.

The nukkad natak group was born in Ambedkar Nagar five years ago. Its director is 24-year-old Raju Verma was picked up by a theatre group as a child. Today, he gives creative expression to his ideas with his own band of children. The cast of children regularly assembles for rehearsals for their evening performances.

Amit, a young participant, says, "Raju bhaiya and we live in the same gali. In front of his house live two children who were asked to find out from their friends if they were interested in performing theatre. So, we got involved. Bhaiya said would you like to perform. We can raise awareness among people. Give birth to a new consciousness."

Mahak's plays are usually based on social issues. Raju Verma maintains, "When we talk to the children, we find out what they want, what they think, what is happening around us. We discuss the issues and then we divide the roles among ourselves. We prepared a play on health. That there is garbage everywhere, So, our play spoke of how people should keep their surroundings clean and should throw their garbage into bins."

Currently, the group is rehearsing a play on child labour. Amit, one young participant, says, "I pointed out that in rich homes, the children go to good schools, but they make small children work for them. They scold them and do not give them enough money." Another enthusiastic member, Minu says, "I play the aunt of a girl. The girl is studying and I rebuke her. What is the point of your studying, you'd better work. You will have to sweep and swab in your in-laws house."

Later in the evening, Mahak performs on the streets of Ambedkar Nagar. Raju Verma points out, "It's very important that the message is given through a child. There are so many people lecturing you on so many things, that it has become jaded. So, when a child speaks, there is some level of curiosity."

Effective laws to empower women on anvil


In a bid to legally empower women, the Government has initiated moves for determined enforcement of as many as 39 Central Acts which have remained dormant all these years.

Proper implementation of existing legal provisions could be enough to protect women's rights. But legal experts, at the same time, recognise the need to update archaic laws to place women at par with men. The Central Govt. is planning a few fresh legislations and amendments to several existing Acts to meet the demands of the changing times.

Among the Acts, the Government intends amending are: The Indian Succession Act, 1925; Married Women's Right to Property Act, 1874; Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Indian Divorce Act, 1969; Hindu Succession Act,1956; Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 and Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987, Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1977 , Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique's ( Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act,1994 , Hindu Disposition of Property Act,1916 ,Hindu Inheritance ( Removal of Disabilities) Act,1928 , Parsi Marriage Act,1936 .

The Forgotten Children of God

by Zalan Alam

The causes of poverty in India, are deeper then they appear; just ask the 'Children of God' How would you feel if you lived in a World where you and your family were forced by virtue of birth, to work in a certain job and deliberately deprived of basic facilities and rights?

For Radha Bathran, that was the world she was born into and is now campaigning against in India. Radha is a Dalit, according to the caste system in India, Dalits represent the lowest caste in the Hindu caste system, the word Dalit literally means 'the oppressed'.

When I caught up with Radha Bathran, at Manchester University while she on tour, organised by Amnesty international, of UK Universities , this fiery 23 year old student of Journalism and Mass Communication from Bharatiyar University, she told listeners of the bitter disappointments and discrimination her 240 million strong community endures every day in India. From a family of four, her father used to carry bags, while her Mother sold fruits on the streets to pay for their children's education. Radha never forgot her Mother's warning ' never tell your friends, you are a Dalit' a point brought home to her when she started actively campaigning.

'Dalits are not allowed to enter villages, they are left in the slums outside the village, in most areas we are not allowed to share tea cups with upper caste people'.

"Consider if caste is not an international issue (and all the cruelty associated with it), then what about poverty or illiteracy or are they internal issues to?" Radha told the Asian Leader.

The United Nations conference on racism, was the centre of another controversy for the Dalit Community when it refused to condemn the caste system.

Despite the passage of numerous laws against oppression of lower caste people, as well as the establishing a quota of 22% in all government sectors, deliberate discrimination and grinding poverty have kept the Dalit Community deprived of their rights. The scale was illustrated by one example, when in the recent Gujrati earth quakes in India, relief funds were confiscated by upper caste villages, who refused to allow Dalits to claim any share.

'I am often asked, if I am against Hinduism? I am not. My people are the target of countless tortures and endless human rights violations. How can I observe my religion, when I have been deprived from entering a temple?'

Radha also stated: 'this tour is an opportunity to alert young people, we need them to show solidarity with us, helping us show that Dalit rights, are human rights'

In 1991 alone 61,000 attacks against Dalits were reported.

Dalits are not allowed to wear shoes; if they wear them, Dalits will have to take off their shoes at times they meet a higher caste person. In the rural areas, Dalits are not allowed to cycle through the village streets in which the higher caste people live. Despite over 22% Quota's, Dalits represent only have 8% representation in Indian Embassies and 5.76% representation in Public Sector jobs.

Mahatama Gandhi in an attempt to help the Dalits, used to call them Harijans 'Children of God'

One of the more confusing mysteries of India is her caste system. The caste system, which has existed already for more than 3000 years, has been developed by the Brahmins (priests) in order to maintain their superiority. Eventually, the caste system became formalised into 4 distinct classes (Varnas).

At the top are the Brahmins, the priests and arbiters of what is right and wrong in matters of religion and society. Next come the Kshatriyas, who are soldiers and administrators. The Vaisyas are the artisan and commercial class, and finally, the Sudras are the farmers and the peasant class. These four castes are said to have come from Brahma's mouth (Brahmin), arms (Kshatriyas), thighs (Vaisyas) and feet (Sudras).

Beneath the four main castes is a fifth group, the Scheduled Caste. They literally have no caste: these are the dalits.

Author's note: I am a journalist. This article is being published in the Asian Leader, the newspaper I work for, in Manchester, UK.

Law students launch campaign

By A. Subramani


CHENNAI, DEC. 10. Students of the Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College here today launched a campaign demanding ``justice;; and action against police officers ``responsible'' for last week's attack on the inmates of the college hostel. There was a show of support and solidarity from other colleges in Chennai and across the State. Students of about 30 colleges abstained from classes.

The First Bench of the Madras High Court, comprising the Chief Justice, Mr. B. Subhashan Reddy, and Mr. Justice K. P. Sivasubramaniam, directed the Government to shift all 30-odd injured students from the Kilpauk Medical College Hospital to the Government Hospital for further treatment.

The KMC Dean has been asked to submit a report on December 18, when the court will consider demands such as action against erring police officials and compensation to the injured students.

Besides the High Court order, submission of a memorandum to the President, effigy-burning and examination boycott were other developments. The students expect that the issue could snowball into a strike.

A positive development was a 45-minute visit by the Chief Minister, Mr. O. Paneerselvam, to the hospital late this evening. He heard the students and assured them that examinations would be postponed and protection given to them.

Over 200 members of the Madras High Court Advocates Association, led by Mr. S. Prabhakaran, sent a memorandum to the President, the Chief Justice of India, the Chief Minister and the Chief Justice of High Court, seeking withdrawal of all cases registered against the students. They wanted disciplinary action taken against the police personnel who had trespassed on the hostel premises and also against the college principal.

On their part, more than 250 law college students staged a sit-in protest on their institution premises, before spilling on to the busy Parrys Corner raising anti-police slogans. Boycotting an examination for the day, they also burnt the question paper and a `police effigy'. The return of about 35 students, who were lodged in the Vellore Central jail after having been remanded to judicial custody, pepped up the spirits of others. They released a litany of charges against some police personnel.

However, the presence of a large posse of policemen had a deterrent effect on the student-demonstrators, who refrained from blocking traffic.

Schemes for Dalit students yet to get off the ground

By Radha Venkatesan


CHENNAI, DEC. 10. Announce new welfare schemes for Dalits with fanfare in the Assembly, and silently dump them later. At least, this is what the Adi Dravidar Welfare department did to most of its much-touted schemes this financial year.

The Adi Dravidar Welfare Minister, Mr. V. Subramaniam, came up with a slew of attractive schemes for students during the budget session in September. Three months later, the schemes are just gathering dust in government files.

One of the announcements was free education for postgraduate SC\ST students. Till date, no order has been issued and the students are desperately knocking at the doors of officials.

Enquiries reveal that the department may just shelve the scheme as the budgetary allotment of Rs. 64 lakhs has not reached it as yet.

Another special incentive scheme for girl students is hanging fire without a government order. The scheme envisaged reduction of the drop-out rate among SC\ST girls in elementary schools, particularly between standards III and V, by providing them with an incentive allowance of Rs. 100 per month.

The third scheme-scholarship for Dalit students to study in foreign universities-too has not got the Finance department nod. As the scheme requires a minimum of Rs. 30 lakhs, it has not taken off as yet.

Even the State's share capital towards the TAHDCO to the tune of Rs. 3.30 crore has not been released. Not just that. The Government has released only Rs. 6 crores out of the Rs. 19- crore special assistance fund allotted by the Centre for SC\ST empowerment.

Enquiries reveal that only eight per cent of the budgetary allocation to the Adi Dravdidar Welfare department for the current financial year has been released so far.

Amid the stagnation, the only exception is the free cycle scheme for Plus-Two SC\ST girls. The Government has pedalled in, distributing cycles to most of the 80,000-odd beneficiaries.

Karnataka State SC/ST Unemployed Engineers’ Union to felicitate state govt

DH News Service


In the wake of the Karnataka Government deciding to fill up the nearly 25,000 backlog of vacancies, the Karnataka State SC/ST Unemployed Engineers' Union (KSSUEU) has decided to felicitate the State Government on December 16, at Gulbarga.

It may be recalled that, the KSSUEU members, under the leadership of its then president Mr Madani, had staged an indefinite hunger strike in Gulbarga a few months ago, demanding the State Government to fill up the backlog of vacancies. Bowing to the pressure, the State Government had decided to fill up all the backlog of vacancies.

KSSUEU President Nagamurthy Sheelavanth said here today that the union, which was formed in 1995 to pressurise the State Government in filling up all the backlog of vacancies, had undertaken agitation through these years at different stages. Then, the State Government had brought out a Government Order (GO) on November 21, 2001, for filling up of all the backlog of vacancies, he added.

Stating that the State Government had also instructed all the departments to fill up the backlog of vacancies, Mr Sheelavanth said, the departments had also been directed to finish the process of filling up the backlog of vacancies by January 31, 2002. Welcoming this GO, he also stated that through this, around 15,000 backlog of vacancies would be filled in the first phase.

Mr Sheelavanth said that, already the Education Department, all the universities in the State, and the Transport Department had issued advertisements calling for applications to fill up the backlog of vacancies. Thereby, he stated that the KSSUEU had decided to felicitate the Karnataka Government on December 16. Stating that the function would be held at the Veerashaiva Kalyan Mantap at the Public Gardens in the City,Mr Sheelavanth said, Social Welfare Minister Kagodu Thimmappa would be inaugurating the function, which would be presided over by Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge. He said, Gulbarga Mayor Dasharat Vanti, Public Works Minister N Dharam Singh, Environment & Forest Minister K H Ranganath, Housing Minister Qamur-Ul-Islam, Gulbarga Zilla Panchayat President Allamprabhu Patil (Nelogi), Gulbarga MP Iqubal Ahamad Saradgi, and Malavalli MLA B Someshakhar would be the chief guests.


Meanwhile, the recently formed All-Karnataka SC/ST Unemployed Youth Federation has decided to observe December 16 as a black day, charging that great injustice had been meted out to the SC/ST unemployed youth by the GO.

Mr Sunilkumar Hosmani of the federation charged here today that the GO of November 21, 2001, had done a lot of injustice to the SC/ST unemployed youth. He said that, according to the GO, first preference would be given to those whose age is between 29 and 40 years. The remaining backlog of vacancies would be filled up with those who were below the age of 29, he added. Mr Hosmani said that by following this policy, almost all the SC/ST unemployed youth would be left out from the recruitment process, he adding, as there were nearly 2.5 lakh SC/ST unemployed persons between the age of 29 and 40 in the State, the entire backlog of vacancies, numbering around 25,000 would be filled by them only, without leaving a single post for those below 29 years.

Stressing on the fact that the agitation for the filling up of the backlog of vacancies had started from Gulbarga itself comprising of unemployed people from all age-groups, Mr Hosmani said that the present policy being followed by the State Government would not enable any SC/ST youth below 29 years age to get the employment. The federation has demanded a common entrance test for the recruitment of backlog of vacancies and plans to observe December 16 as a black day.

Buddhism Bait In Fight For Dalits



Mumbai, Dec. 9:

Ram Raj is doing what the likes of Kanshi Ram have failed to achieve: using conversion as a political weapon for the Dalits.

“The BJP government through its anti-poor policies has spelled doom for the Dalits. The longer it stays in power, the more Dalits will embrace Buddhism,” said Ram Raj, an Indian Revenue Service officer who rattled the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government last month by converting tens of thousands of Dalits to Buddhism in the face of strong protests by the Sangh parivar.

But Ram Raj, who changed his name to Udit Raj along with his religion, says his fight is not just against the right-wing parties but also those who claim to represent the Dalits.

“What have these Dalit leaders done for Dalits?” he asked, referring to Bahujan Samaj Party chief Kanshi Ram. “They have never addressed the real issues.”

Dalit leaders have survived by “mouthing” what B.R. Ambedkar had said on the pitiable living and social conditions of the Dalits, he said. “They did nothing but criticise the Hindu upper castes. Their sole aim is to rally the Dalits behind for votes and not to solve their problems.”

Had these Dalit leaders done their “jobs, I would not have been here today”, Raj said. “There is a big vacuum and I am trying to fill that.”

Like other Dalit leaders, Ram Raj, a joint commissioner of income-tax who has the photo of Ambedkar embossed on his business card, too swears by Ambedkar, but says he is different.

“What sets me apart is that I never indulge in what they do. I do not criticise the Hindu upper caste people. I am fighting an ideological and cultural battle for the Dalits,” he said.

The 1988-batch IRS officer got into Dalit politics in 1997. “I don’t know how it all happened. But I am a product of circumstances.”

Four years later, he is chairman of the All India Confederation of SC and ST Organisations and president of the Lord Buddha Club, an organisation of neo-Buddhists.

Ram Raj says he wanted to wipe off the caste system from the face of the country, but also wants reservations to continue.

“Reservation should actually be extended to private enterprises, since under the new economic policies, there will be fewer government units in (the) coming years,” he said.

“I have definite agenda, unlike other Dalit leaders,” he said, adding that he was working out a plan to improve the lot of the Dalits through education.

After the “success” of the November conversion in the capital, he says his job as an income-tax officer meant nothing to him and that he was ready to quit. “I have been on leave for the last four years. I will leave my job any time. I cannot go back there and betray my people,” Ram Raj said.

He has no plans of launching a political party but wouldn’t like to speculate on the future. “Only (the) future will tell my future,” he said.

Dalits, BCs may get greater role in Travancore Devaswom Board


KOLLAM: Cultural Affairs Minister G Karthikeyan has said that the Government will consider giving more representation to Dalit and backward communities in the administration of the Travancore Devaswom Board.

Inaugurating the State leadership training camp of the Kerala Dalit Federation at Kottiyam yesterday, he said that the Government was also willing to rectify the errors in giving representation to the Dalit and backward communities in the cultural institutions under it.

He said the appointments in the cultural institutions would be handed over to the PSC.

Presiding over the function, KDF State president P Ramabhadran flayed Transport Minister Ganesh Kumar for his reported comments in favour of economic reservation. Swami Saswatheekananda delivered the key-note address. N K

120 bonded labourers rescued

Nidhi Mishra Azad Our Correspondent


Phillaur, December 10

It was search for livelihood that brought them to Hamirpur district in Himachal Pradesh, all the way from Chhattisgarh. But with expectations having fallen flat, they broke free from the shackles of bonded labour.

This is a story of about 120 persons, including children, who till recently worked at a brick-kiln owned by Kuldeep Kumar at Chowki Churan village in Nadaun tehsil. They were allegedly paid far less than what was agreed upon, and were not allowed to work anywhere else. The story came to light when some of them managed to approach the People’s Vigilance Committee on Bonded, Child and Migrant Labour at Phillaur. The committee filed a complaint before the Shimla Human Rights Commission, which sent a police party to the village for investigation. But as no action was taken after that, the committee contacted the SHO of the area concerned, Inspector Nathu Ram.

“We asked him to intervene to the matter, with a warning that if he failed to do so, we would complain against him for not taking any action on the labourers’ complaint,” said Ms Poonam, a committee worker. After this, the SHO pressured Kuldeep to let the labourers go away. All of them reached the committee office on Saturday morning.

Looking perturbed, Ashok Kumar, a labourer, said, “We moved to Hamirpur about six months ago. However, we were not paid according to the union rates there. Though I, along with my pregnant wife, used to make about 1,500 bricks per day, we were paid just Rs 300 weekly instead of around Rs 1,750. Moreover, electricity charges at the rate of Rs 300 per month and clay charges at the rate of Rs 8 per 1,000 bricks were also imposed on us in the form of debt.”

Ashok Kumar added, “About two months ago, my wife had to be hospitalised a few days before her delivery. When I asked my employer to give me some extra money for medicines, he refused. On Kuldeep’s assurance, I borrowed ration but he did not give me any money. When I asked for it, he beat up me and my brothers.”

Unable to find a decent job in his home state, Suraj Joshi, a postgraduate from Guru Ghansi Dass University, Bilaspur, migrated to HP along with his wife and daughter about three months ago. He said, “My employer never allowed me to sign any papers, forcing me to put my thumb impression instead. Recently, I was pressured to put my thumb impression on a letter stating that the “jamadar”, who brought us from Chhattisgarh, was instigating us against him.”

Ved Ram had been going to Chhattisgarh since the past six years to bring labourers from there. “Kuldeep Kumar often gave me a meagre amount for the purpose, with the promise that the balance would be paid later on. I even had to sell my land to arrange for the money, but he never refunded it. He beat me up many times for demanding the payment,” he alleged.

On being contacted, the brick-kiln owner denied all the allegations against him. “The labourers owe me more than Rs 1.20 lakh. They hurled abuses at me after drinking heavily at their function about one-and-a-half months ago, and stopped working after that. However, I am ready to compromise with them if they return to work. I’ll also let go of my money,” said Kuldeep Kumar.

The Hindu”, 11 December 2001, Tuesday

Police torture of Dalit : CHRO plea to Antony

(By Our Staff Reporter)

The Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (CHRO) has submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister, Mr. A. K. Antony, urging him to withdraw a writ petition filed by the Chief Secretary in the High Court on October 8 this year against the orders of the National Human Rights Commission to pay a sum of Rs. 3 lakhs as compensation to a Dalit boy, alleged tortured bythe police in 1996 at the Poonthura, Kovalam and Thiruvallom police stations.

Addressing a press conference here today, the secretary general of the CHRO, Mr. Mukundan C. Menon, said though orders were issued by the NHRC in January last year for providing compensation for the Dalit boy, Rajesh, on the basis of a complaint given by his mother, Ms. Lalitha, no action had been taken by the then LDF Government. Though the NHRC had asked the Government to take action against the police officials involved in the incodent, no action was taken. He also alleged that the LDF Government made a false plea before the NHRC.

After ascertaining the facts from Rajesh and his mother, the NHRC, again directed the State Government in March this year to provide compensation. The NHRC issued final orders on August 14, 2001, directing the State Government to pay the compensation within three weeks rejecting the plea made by the Principal Secretary to the State Government. However, a stay order was obtained on the basis of a petition filed in the High Court by the Chief Secretary, he said.

He said that the Dalit boy had lost his memory due to the alleged torture by policemen when he was kept in illegal custody for 13 days at the Poonthura, Thiruvallam and Kovalam police stations during 1996 May and June.

Mr. Menon said they had also submitted a detailed memornadum to the Chief Minister quoting the international laws on “immunity and compensation to torture victims”.

http.//humanrightskerala.come Ph. 0471-476262 E-Mail: chro@rediffmail.com CONFEDERATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS

3, Rams’ Cottage, Ambalathumukku, Pettah, Thiruvananthapuram-695 024, S. India

December 8, 2001

To: Mr. A. K. Antony
Chief Minister of Kerala

Dear Mr. Antony:

Sub.: Police Torture : Plea to withdraw Kerala Government’s petition in High Court against NHRC order on compensation to Rajesh, a juvenile victim of police torture

Ref.: 1) NHRC direction to Chief Secretary, Kerala, on August 14, 2001, No. 359-A/11/98- 99(FC), to pay compensation of Rs. 3 lakh to police torture victim, Rajesh, in 1996.

2) OP (No. 30749/01 in CMP No. 50053/01) filed by V. Krishnamurthy, Chief Secretary, on October 8, 2001, before Kerala High Court against the NHRC direction.

We highly appreciate your earnestness in giving orders to police officers to strictly comply with the directions of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at the high-level conference of senior police officers summoned by you on November 25, 2001, in the wake of unprecedented police torture, atrocities and lock-up deaths that took place last month.

However, contrary to your above statement, the Kerala Government had repeatedly expressed its unwillingness to implement NHRC directives in police torture cases. The most recent glaring example is the petition filed by the Chief Secretary before the High Court referred above in the case of Rajesh, a juvenile Dalit boy, who was kept in illegal custody in three police stations of Thiruvananthapuram city for 13 days and subjected to heinous torture, in which the NHRC had given repeated instructions (on January 17, 2000, March 12, 2001, and August 14, 2001) directing the Kerala Government to take action against the errant police officers and to pay a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh to the torture victim. However, both the former LDF Government and the present UDF Government led by you refused to implement these repeated orders from NHRC on Rajesh torture case. Ironically, your Chief Secretary had moved the High Court challenging the NHRC directive in Rajesh case a month before you asked the Senior Police Officers to obey the NHRC directives at the November 25 high-level conference.

As we are steadily following this case since 1996 to help the poor rag-picker Rajesh and his mother Ms. Lalita to get justice, we would like to draw your attention to the entire case as briefly summed up below:-

1) Based upon a petty theft case (No. 71/96 u/s 454, 380, and 461 IPC of Poonthura PS), a minor rag-picker Rajesh (s/o Ms. Lalita, Chemanvilaputhen Veedu, Menilam, Thiruvallom, Thiruvananthapuram) was arrested and kept in illegal custody for 13 days at three police stations of Poonthura, Thiruvallom and Kovalam during May-June, 1996, and was subjected to severe torture. He was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Thiruvananthapuram, on June 10, 1996, and after release on bail, was admitted to General Hospital to undergo treatment as a result of the police torture.

2) Based upon a complaint moved by Rajesh’s mother Ms. Lalita, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued the following directions to Kerala Government on January 17, 2000 :-

i) “To initiate criminal prosecution against the errant police officers found guilty of the vcarious acts of high-handedness, I.e. illegal arrest, detention and causing physical and mental torture to Rajesh in unlawful police custody and for implicating him in false case of theft; and

ii) “To pay a sum of Rs. three lakhs to the victim Rajesh, i.e. Rs. One lakh by way of “immediate interim relief” for his suffering at the hands of the police officials and Rs. Two lakhs for his rehabilitation and settlement for leading a meaningful life.”

3) The Kerala Government refused to pay compensation to Rajesh. The Government heavily depended upon the investigation report of Asst. Commissioner of Police, Crime Detachment, Thiruvananthapuram, dated August 16, 1997, to reject NHRC order on the ground that since Rajesh did not complaint to the CJM about ill-treatment by police when he was produced on June 10, 1996, his complaint to NHRC on torture was false. The ACP’s report, howeved, admitted that Rajesh was wrongly implicated in the theft case and that his name was deleted from the accused list in the charge-sheet.

4) The NHRC summon both Rajesh and his mother Ms. Lalita to New Delhi on March 12, 2001, to take their version in person by a four-member NHRC Coram headed by its Chairman Justice J. S. Verma and “for examining to ascertain whether they at any time resiled from their complaint and said on their own free will that Rajesh had not been beaten by the police while in its custody or that they did not wish to pursue this complaint” as claimed by Kerala Government. Through a Malayalam interpreter, both Rajesh and Lalita reiterated their earlier complaint of police before the NHRC. The NHRC proceedings of 12-03-2001 said : “…the police officers threatened them, particularly Rajesh, not to make a grievance before any one, including the Magistrate, before whom he was produced, under threat of further torture ; and, for this reason, the victim did not make such a grievance before the Magistrate… In view of this specific assertion of the victim before us, it is not possible to accept the plea taken (by the ACP) that the victim did not complain of any beating or that he and his mother did not wish to pursue the complaint.” Quoting the ACP’s report of 16-08-1997 “that the victim Rajesh had complained to the ACP of criminal intimidation and ill-treatment by the police”, the NHRC said that this “is consistent with his (Rajesh) version before us as noted above”. The NHRC also termed the ACP’s finding “that there was no evidence to implicate Rajesh in the crime of which he was accused” as “significant”. Rejecting the Kerala Government’s letter of July 6, 2000, requesting the Commission to recall its earlier recommendation of 17-01-2000, the NHRC’s second order of March 12, 2001, said that “there is no ground for recalling any of its recommendations”. The NHRC also issued a show cause notice to Kerala Government on March 23, 2001, asking to comply with NHRC’s order of 17-01-2000.

5) In reply to this show cause notice, Kerala Government’s Principal Secretary Mr. Babu Jacob wrote to NHRC on May 02, 2001, (wide letter No. 15069/SSA2/2000/Home), reiterating its earlier stand of rejecting NHRC recommendation to pay compensation to Rajesh on the ground that the Kerala Government “do not find adequate justification for the payment” of compensation. The Kerala Government had spelt out the following grounds : 1) No material, other than the complaint of the victim, has been relied upon by the NHRC to make the order of issuing compensation; 2) Mere deletion of Rajesh’s name from the accused list as mentioned in the ACP’s report may not be sufficient to pay compensation; 3) The NHRC “has not given adequate opportunity to the police personnel involved to substantiate the allegation of human rights violation alleged to have been committed by them in respect to Master Rajesh are incorrect”; and 4) The City Police Commissioner has reported that a case has already been registered (Cr. No. 122/2000 of Poonthura PS u/s 323, 342 and 220 IPC) of which the Poonthura CI is the investigating officer.

6) Rejecting this contention of Kerala Government, the NHRC issued final directive to Kerala Government on August 14, 2001, to pay the Rs. 3 lakh compensation to Rajesh and to send a compliance report latest by September 24, 2001. This final directive from NHRC said : “It is sufficient to reiterate that the award of “immediate interim relief” depends son the existence of a strong prima facie case of violation of human rights by a public servant ands the same has to be paid by the Government even without the further requirement of identification of the individual delinquent directly responsible for the violation of human rights. The Commission has explained the nature of "immediate interim relief" awarded u/s 18(3) of the Act in several earlier orders of the Commission. It is, therefore, not necessary to reiterate those reasons again and mere reference to them is sufficient. This being so, the fact that a crime has been registered for investigation against the delinquent police officials is itself sufficient to prove the existence of strong prima facie case for the grant of “immediate interim relief” u/s 18(3) of the Act and the conclusion of the investigator of the offence or successful prosecution of the delinquent public servants is not a pre-requisite to the award of “immediate interim relief”. The reason given in the letter dated 2nd May 2001 of the Government of Kerala, Home (SSA) Department), seeking the withdrawal of recommendation for payment of “immediate interim relief” had, therefore, no merit. The earlier recommendation to the above effect is, therefore, reiterated for prompt compliance and report within six weeks.”

7)The Kerala Government moved the High Court against this final directive of NHRC on October 8, 2001, and got a stay from paying the compensation amount to Rajesh. The case is still pending before the High Court and we are giving legal assistance to the victim in the High Court as well.

Plea for Compensation:

The torture victim, Rajesh, was a literate, having studied primary school classes, when he was arbitrarily arrested and subjected to police torture for 13 days in May-June 1996. However, as a result of torture he had lost memory and is became illiterate now. After five years of undergoing the torture he has become a physical wreck now and he finds it difficult to earn livelihood by undertaking daily physical labor to support his family. His mother, Ms. Lalita, who is also illiterate and a daily wage-earner, is a TB patient.

Since the Kerala Government itself had paid compensation to torture victims as per NHRC directive earlier, repeated rejection of the NHRC directive to pay compensation to Rajesh as an arbitrary and vindictive action on the part of your Government.

Apart from the grounds raised by NHRC in its repeated orders favoring compensation to Rajesh, we submit the following points governing international law on immunity and compensation for your consideration :-

1) The “Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power” of the U.N. General Assembly states : “Victims….are entitled to access to the mechanisms of justice and to prompt redress, as provided for by national legislation, for the harm that they have suffered.” It also states : “Where public officials or other agents acting in an official or quasi-official capacity have violated national criminal laws, the victims should receive restitution from the State whose officials or agents were responsible for the harm inflicted.”

2) The Human Rights Committee established to monitor compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has repeatedly asserted that “State Parties must investigate summary executions, torture, and unresolved disappearences; bring to justice those who are responsible; and provide compensation to victims”.

3) Article 14 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment says : “Each State Party shall ensure in its legal system that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible. In the event of the death of the victim as a result of an act of torture, his dependents shall be entitled to compensation.”

4) Article 6 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination provides : “State Parties shall assure to everyone within their jurisdiction effective protection and remedies, through the compentent national tribunals and other State institutions … as well as the right to seek from such tribunals just and adequate reparation or satisfaction for any damage suffered.”

5) Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) hold States as obligatory “to ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognised are violated shall have an effective remedy”.

6) Describing the content of the ICCPR in the context of torture and cruel treatment, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated : States may not deprive individuals of the right to an effective remedy, including compensation and such full rehabilitation as may be possible”.

7) The UN Commission on Human Rights has reaffirmed in 2000 that “pursuant to internationally proclaimed human rights principles, victims of grave violations of human rights should receive, in appropriate cases, restitution, compensation and rehabilitation”.

(For details see South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC) submission to the National Commission for the Review of the Working of the Constitution, entitled “Eliminating Sovereign and Official Immunity in Fundamental Human Rights Cases”, pp. 16-18).

In view of the continuing police torture and custodial violence going on in Kerala, as witnessed in November 2001, the CHRO view with serious concern the repeated rejection of Kerala Government to comply with the NHRC orders in Rajesh torture case. We, therefore, urge you to take immediate steps to withdraw the petition filed before the High Court by the Chief Secretary on October 8, 2001, and to pay Rs. 3 lakh compensation amount to Rajesh as per the NHRC directives detailed above.

Yours sincerely,

Mukundan C. Menon
Secretary General (CHRO)

BSP Elects State President


BSP Karnataka State Executive Committee on 05-12-2991 unanimously elected Mr.D.Gopal as the President of Karnataka State BSP. Mr. Gopal is a very dynamic leader. He fought with the Government and successfully distributed 100 acres of Govt. land to the poor. He helped in getting car/van loans from the Karnataka State Financial Development Corporation for many youths to make them self employed. He is a good orator and organiser of camps to educate the Bahujan Samaj to empower them. It is hoped that under his able leadership BSP will grow faster in Karnataka.

On 09-12-2001 BSP conducted a mass Rally to submit a memorandum to the Chief Minister of the problems faced by the Bahujan Samaj in Karnataka.

The Hindustan Times

9 December 2001

Propaganda as history won't sell

Romila Thapar

The recent deletion of passages from the NCERT History textbooks, by the NCERT and the CBSE raises many important questions that concern matters relating not only to the teaching of history, but also to questions of ethical norms and the rights of authors as well as the handling of knowledge in education.

The action of the NCERT and the CBSE is a contravention of the agreement that was made with the authors of the History textbooks. The contract stated that no changes were to be made in the books without the permission of the authors. In the past when changes were suggested by various agencies, and even if these were marginal, the permission of the author was required. Where permission was not given, the text remained unaltered.

The book on Ancient India for Class VI was used from 1966 and was revised by me in 1987. Periodic revision became necessary with advances in knowledge. The objection, therefore, is not to revising the books but to making changes without the consent of the author. One expects government institutions at least to honour agreements and not infringe the rules of copyright.

The passages axed are based on historical evidence and cannot, therefore, be described as one-sided history. It is said that the most offensive refer to the eating of beef in ancient times. Yet these are statements drawn from well-known sources, as for example, the Shatapatha Brahmana; and the Vasishtha Dharmasutra 4.8., which mention honouring guests by serving beef. The Brihadaranyaka Upanisad 6.4.18., makes the interesting statement that if a learned and long-lived son is desired, then rice cooked with veal or beef should be eaten.

The eating of beef is also attested from archaeology as has been discussed by Professor HD Sankalia ('The Cow in History', Seminar, May 1967, 93). Professor BB Lal, in his report on the excavation at Hastinapur, a site that he suggests may, at the lower levels, have been settled by arriving Aryans (Ancient India, 1954-55, Nos. 10 and 11, p. 151), states that the occurrence of charred bones of cattle, buffalo, sheep and pig, bearing definite cut marks on them, shows that these animals were slaughtered for food (p. 14).

Comparative studies of cattle keeping economies point to people generally not eating their livestock indiscriminately, but eating beef on ritual occasions or as a mark of status. The archaeological evidence suggests a more widespread use of cattle for food. The introduction of a prohibition may acquire a religious sanction but the rationale for it may also derive from other factors such as changes in livestock and ecology, or even political demands. These call for historical investigation and particularly in a society where the management of cattle has been an important feature.

The issue is not that there is no evidence for the eating of beef in ancient India, but whether this is something that students at school should know about. Given its prevalence for many centuries followed by the introduction of the prohibition in some Hindu identities of more recent times, it is important for those studying Indian society - as all students of history do - to know the historical reasons for the prohibition. There is a need to understand when and why prohibitions are introduced since such knowledge provides a deeper understanding of social and religious concerns. The sentiments of the various religious communities are not God-given, they are gradually built up through particular beliefs and social practices and often in the context of particular historical situations. If the sentiments are to be appreciated then they have also to be comprehended in their social and historical context.

The same is true of references to the sanctioning of social inequalities through the system of varna/caste. How can varna and caste be taught without discussing which social groups formulated it and how and why; and who were its supporters and when did it become widespread? What were the compulsions in a society that accepted these divisions and was there a protest against them? How can a teacher explain why the policy of reservation is in practice if the teacher is not permitted to discuss the formulation of caste in the classroom? Dalit sentiment would certainly want the inequities of caste to be stated, known and discussed.

The more significant question then is why these deletions are being insisted upon at this time. Are there really objections emanating from religious bodies that are claiming to speak for an entire religious community, or is this a blatant attempt to replace mainstream history by the Hindutva version of history? Recent newspaper reports indicate that pressure from the RSS led to these deletions and the attempt was to encourage state school education to conform to the curriculum of the RSS Shishu Mandirs.

If the Shishu Mandirs are now to be the models for state schools, then the teaching and understanding of history will inevitably be undermined. History in these schools is taught as a catechism - consisting of questions and answers, where the answers are frequently what the ideology dictates with no reference to accuracy or fact. For example, children are taught that the first Ramjanmabhumi temple was built by the son of Rama, Maharaja Kusha; that it was destroyed by Menander the Greek in 150 BC; that it was rebuilt by Chandragupta Vikramaditya in AD 308; and was plundered by Salar Masud, the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni. None of these statements have any historical basis. History in any case, cannot be taught in question-answer form since the essence of good history is that it should reflect and incorporate the many aspects and nuances of human activity.

The sudden rush to delete these specific passages seems also to have a more immediate purpose. It is seen as tied to the coming elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The propaganda over the deletions will help galvanise upper caste Hindu, Sikh and Jat opinion in favour of the BJP. Recognising its potential as election strategy is making parties like the Congress also jump onto the same bandwagon. This is not an attempt to salvage the discipline of history as is being claimed but rather an attempt to mangle it in the interests of election propaganda.

The confrontation is being projected as between Leftist and Rightist historians. The confrontation is not between Leftist and Rightist historians but between professional historians and politicians sympathetic to the Hindutva persuasion. And those who are at the policy-making levels of NCERT echo the politicians. Professional historical writing requires a critical enquiry that includes the application of historical methodology, assessing the reliability of evidence and drawing on logical argument in making casual connections. It differentiates between the invention of a narrative that fantasises about the past and an interpretation that attempts to critically analyse the evidence. History is not an arbitrary narrative where myth can override facts. There is also today the viability of contending interpretations, but each has to be based on accepted historical methodologies. This is evidently not understood by those who are out to undermine history.

The act of changing history through a political command draws no respect from the profession. Politicians can go on attempting to denigrate the authors of the textbooks by referring to them as "the progeny of Macaulay, Marx and the madrassas", but the impact of this ranting remains marginal on the profession. Ironically, it is the Hindutva version of history that draws its inspiration from the Mills and the Macaulays in its definition of Indian civilisation and of monolithic communities dominating history. The hostility of the Sangh Parivar to the madrassas is partly because it is also trying to base its authority on the same kind of educational structures.

The CBSE has now taken on a new role of doctoring the contents of prescribed books. But what is even more disturbing is the directive that there should be no discussion on the passages that have been deleted from the textbooks. Apart from being an infringement of the freedom of speech, that such discussion should be forbidden in school makes nonsense of education. Discussion and the exploration of ideas is a primary function of schooling. And prohibitions, as we all know, whet the appetite for more of what has been forbidden.

This is also an assault on the fundamentals of acquiring and handling knowledge. If knowledge is to progress in any field there needs to be a critical enquiry and analyses of the subject and this includes the exploration of conventional, controversial and sceptical ideas. If this approach is to be encouraged in the sciences, as scientists assert, its dismissal in the social and human sciences is a disaster. The CBSE directive should be alarming for those who support critical historical enquiry, as indeed it should also be for those who are concerned with the advance of knowledge.

(The author is an eminent historian.)

UN: Cannot ignore that Dalit rights are human rights

Dear Friends

Further to the appeal we made for you to write to Ms. Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights (regarding her failure to raise the discrimination and atrocities faced by dalits and other low caste people during the 'South Asians for Human Rights' meeting in Delhi in November), we have been forwarded the following reply from her office by a subscriber who had responded to the Urgent Appeal. Since Ms. Robinson has requested it be circulated, we are doing so without further comment.

Urgent Appeals Desk

Subject: High Commissioner's reply to your Urgent Action UN: High Commissioner must not betray Dalit human rights

"Dear Sir/Madam,

I acknowledge receipt of your message regarding my statement at the meeting of the South Asian for Human Rights (SAHR) in New Delhi on 11 November, during my visit to India from 11 to 19 November 2001. First of all, let me assure you that the situation of the Dalits has been one of my major areas of concern during my official visit to India this November.

The purpose of my statement at the SAHR meeting was to stress the importance I attach to the creation of a sub-regional organisation of human rights defenders, especially at difficult times such as present. It focused on the work my Office is undertaking at the global and regional level, not on major human rights concerns in the South Asian sub-region.

However, during the official part of my visit to India, which started on 16 November, I raised my concerns about the situation of the Dalits in my meetings with the Minister of External Affairs and the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. The situation of the Dalits was also mentioned in my conversations with members of the National Commission on Human Rights and the Bar Association. Finally, I made specific reference to the situation of the Dalits in the press briefing organised in New Delhi just before my departure.

Please be assured that I will continue to raise my concerns about the situation of the Dalits as and when appropriate, including in the context of the follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001.

I would appreciate it if you could distribute this message through your e-mail network

Yours sincerely,

Mary Robinson
High Commissioner for Human Rights"

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